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Between poetry and stand-up comedy.
Either Way I’m Celebrating
by Sommer Browning
Birds, LLC, $16 (paper)
There’s a structural kinship between lyric poetry and stand-up comedy, and Sommer Browning exploits this similarity relentlessly and to brilliant effect in her debut collection Either Way I’m Celebrating. Her poem “Officer and a Gentleman,” for instance, is a rambling, unlineated paragraph written as the monologue of someone trying to guess the correct answer in a game of charades: “Next part of the fourth word. Your head again, your whole body, your groin, aroused, penis, scrotum? Is it scrotum? Balls, um . . . you’re going to make me say it? Your taint. Is it your taint?” Yet as talky and hilarious as her approach often is, Browning also uses her raunchy wit to explore loneliness, alienation, and anxiety about how to remedy them, as when she ends the poem “The Opposite of Love” with the couplet: “I’m worried how many more times I’ll tell the story / about peeing in a cop car before someone loves me.” Browning is also an accomplished comics artist—much of her visual work can be seen at her Web site, asthmachronicles.com—and several of her rickety, David Shrigley-esque drawings are interspersed among the poems, contributing to the book’s exquisite timing and overall sense of absurdity. The long middle section comprises a sequence of interconnected prose poems called “Vale Tudo,” “a Portuguese phrase meaning ‘anything goes,’” which, in the context of the series, refers to “a Brazilian mixed-martial arts combat fighting style,” but which could also apply to Browning’s style as a poet: candid and striking, punchy and profound.
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