If This Makes You Nervous

Omnidawn. Nov. 2021. 96p. ISBN 9781632430953. pap. $17.95. POETRY
Pushcart Prize winner Byrne (Squander) here communes with the oeuvres of 66 wide-ranging artists, offering not picture-pretty description but a deep plunge into human experience and emotion. Of the three sections, “Rock” tends to address life’s hardships; inspired by Ethiopian American multidisciplinary artist Awol Erizku, Byrne says, “I am certain [the cactuses] came from the sore-same desert they body-dragged my cousin Mark into so as to long torture him.” “Paper” looks more to the personal (“She has since been set free to be the predicate of/ a sentence where fields come into view,” inspired by Mexican video artist Ricardo Nicolayevsky), while “Scissors” feels communal (“Can’t compare this company of painted strangers to only ancestors,” inspired by British painter Jenny Saville).

VERDICT Rich and exciting; poetry fans should grab it.
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