Review by Kristina Marie Darling

by Aaron Belz


BlazeVOX Books
ISBN: 978-1934289273
77 pp., $14.00

In Aaron Belz's The Bird Hoverer, traditional poetic forms meet celebrities, strangeness, and biblical plagues, setting the stage for a hilarious, fiercely intelligent collection of poems. Filled with wild metaphors and imaginative premises, this book turns tradition on its head while parodying Walt Whitman, Ben Affleck, and just about everyone else who crosses this inventive poet's path. Often juxtaposing delightfully bizarre pop culture references with aspects of more conventional poetry (of which couplets and quatrains, high diction, and mock-melancholy are only a few examples), The Bird Hoverer entertains and engages with these contrasts, keeping the reader laughing out loud all the while.
The poems in this volume do a great job of satirizing research grants, dissertations, and back-cover blurbs, placing them side by side with scooters and Hollywood stars. While pairing the academic with the absurd, Belz's use of formal techniques like rhyme and meter to highlight the subject matter of his poems is impressive. Describing academics puzzling over feather-cushions and rubber kickstands, The Bungee Cord Experiment exemplifies this trend in The Bird Hoverer. For example, Belz writes: "We have failed with the bungee cord experiment./ We have disgraced ourselves in front of our friends./ Yesterday was all cake-making and merriment;/ today our funding inevitably will come to an end" (27). Using a direct rhyme scheme and an elegiac tone to parody the affectations of professors and researchers, The Bungee Cord Experiment amuses with its mix of comic imagery and dramatic tropes. Often using tone, diction, and other formal devices to create fascinating incongruities and hilarious juxtapositions, The Bird Hoverer proves an erudite and entertaining read.

In addition to the bizarre contrasts and novel pairings in The Bird Hoverer, Belz's work is filled with shrewd, funny assessments of contemporary poetry and poetics. Often commenting on the business of poetry, conspicuously somber work, and the hunger for prizes, these poems promote a balanced perspective while effectively satirizing. One such poem, Bruce Beasley!, pokes fun at the figure of the "thoughtful poet" and the aggrandizement of overly serious work. Belz writes, for example: "It was Halpern's blurb/ that scared me most! 'The abundance of phlegmatic/ narrative'! Then there's that black and white author photo!/ You look too thoughtful!" Punctuated as though written by a crazed fan, the discrepancy between the poem's subject matter and its exclamatory tone lend an ironic twist to this critique. Like the rest of the poems in this volume, Bruce Beasely! is thought provoking, hilarious, and altogether original.

Overall, The Bird Hoverer is a fun, unpredictable read. Anyone who enjoys dolphins, swarms of bees, Pushkin, or an innovative and enjoyable poem will be missing out if they don't add this book to their collection. Five stars.



Kristina Marie Darling is an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the author of four chapbooks, which include Fevers and Clocks (March Street Press, 2006) and The Traffic in Women (Dancing Girl Press, 2006). A Pushcart Prize nominee in 2006, her poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in many publications, which include The Mid-America Poetry Review, PIF Magazine, Janus Head, The Midwest Book Review, The Arabesques Review, and others. Recent awards include residencies at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow and the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts.




Note: Reviews may not necessarily reflect the opinions of RATTLE's editors and staff.