Squiggle Dee Minus Dumb

Posted: September 5, 2009 in Poetry Endorsements

Squiggle D
!? Learning to Fall

There are 16 pages in “!? Learning to Fall,” a chapbook by a local poet who goes by the pseudonym Squiggle D, and not one of them should be disregarded. These narratives, which often emulate and exploit the human connectivity of Walt Whitman’s lines, are packed with emotion and, more importantly, words that convey those feelings without saying too much.

Don’t get me wrong, the poems are not perfect. There are clichés and unnecessary language throughout (though certainly not in abundance), but Squiggle D’s attention to story is his strength, which is supplemented by his creative structure and boundless imagination. My favourite thing about his writing is the intensity felt behind words so reserved. It takes talent to accomplish that, and these 16 pages are full of such demonstrations.

It’s an older reading of a poem he now knows by heart and puts much heart into while reading, but the real emotion’s in the writing. Play it again and follow along:

Some Old Manhattan Dreaming
I wasn’t there when you fell in love with Manhattan

But I heard you sometimes through the walls,
Making love to all the street signs and subway maps
And gathered facts like stories buried deep beneath the concrete.

You were always in love with those stories,
Convinced, if you’d just look a little harder, you’d find your own,
Piled in with the rest, and a bit worse for wear,
And a little bit drunk and a little bit gritty
And nevertheless it was never easy, was it?

Because you fell in love with Manhattan, and she doesn’t love you back,
And somehow you get off on that,
Like subway rides to SoHo spent silent —
You told me that, surrounded by so many people,
You’d never felt like that before
And now you can’t help going back.

Because you fell in love with Manhattan, man,
And now she’s dug her claws into you,
And every time you stray too far you feel her tug you back
Like the time when I was twelve and you got pissed
And packed your bags and punched the wall
And turned to me and said through tears,
“I don’t know when I’m coming back.
But maybe we could meet someday,
When I’m older and sober and live in the city
Where I’ve always belonged.”

And it took two more years,
But you finally made it.
You finally got away.

That’s why you fell in love with Manhattan in the first place, isn’t it?
You never meant to stay here long and never found a reason to.
You never loved suburban life the way you loved those flashing lights,
You never saw the neighbors’ yards the way you looked at Central Park.
And making love to Montreal, despite the beauty of it all,
The cute French girls who all say “oui?” —
It never felt like NYC.
Nothing ever could, I guess.

Not now that you fell in love with Manhattan,
Because it’s deeper than love or respect.
It’s something more like symmetry,
Or a subway ride downtown in a stifling silence.

Surrounded by so many people, you told me,
You’d never felt more wonderfully alone.
And that’s why you could never leave her.

You fell in love with Manhattan, Man.

And she don’t even love you back.

The poem that made me fall in love with Squiggle D, however, was a 10-step instructional on how to pick up cute girls that was simultaneously tender, sad, and humourous. Again, it takes skill to weave all those emotions into one poem, let alone delicately balance them as Squiggle Does. But seeing as there’s only 16 pages, and I already copied 2 for you, I’ll say seek him out. He’s generally at Loser Slam at The Inkwell in Long Branch, NJ every Thursday night. His book deserves to be bought as much for your own enjoyment as encouragement for a wonderfully promising poet.


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