SoFloPoJo: Judy Ireland Reviews Dustin Brookshire’s new chapbook Love Most Of You Too
Reading Dustin Brookshire’s new chapbook, Love Most Of You Too, is an encounter with a poetic voice that is honest, unique, fresh, and often feisty. The poems are confessional and revealing, but they never ask for sympathy. Nor do they ask for forgiveness or permission. Instead, the reader is invited into the lived experiences of the poems’ speakers; the reader is invited to be a sort of confidant as each of the twenty poems unfolds.
The title of the first poem, “Wanting to Come Out”, places it within a tradition of coming-out poems, but there is a doubling in the poem that is unexpected. The urges toward self-harm that are often coupled with the pain of coming out are witnessed by the brother, who wants the speaker to come out of the bathroom before he harms himself. Love is present but unspoken, and as the speaker observes earlier in the poem, “…I realize that’s all we do, / explain our scars to one another / and hope for understanding.”
Gayness can bring condemnation in the poems in this chapbook, often accompanied by religious fervor (be sure to read the villanelle, “Aunt With A Mission”), but it is also a source of humor (“Rule #3 of Sexual Relations”) and a source of defiance and pride. The poem “Faggot” recalls the slur being wielded in childhood but claimed and strategically played in the end: “I deal the word / like a shark in Vegas”.
The title of the chapbook comes from the final poem, “Meeting Judy Blume”. When the speaker tells Judy Blume that the gays love her, she replies, “I love most of you too”. It’s a wonderfully nuanced poem with a lot going on, and it makes a great finale for this chapbook.
Family relationships are explored also, in Love Most of You Too, with complex poems about the mother figure, and the grandmother appearing as a source of love and wisdom (“Losing at Cards”). Friendships are of equal importance, and poetic mentorship is highlighted in the poems themselves, and in the notes and acknowledgments. And don’t forget to read the dedication – it’s almost a poem of its own. It praises the poets’ past English teachers, including one who advised the poet to stop writing poems.
Another thread that runs throughout this chapbook is the idea of fidelity. It is explored in various types of relationships, and features prominently in “Memo”, “Addends”, and “The List”. It’s as if being true to oneself (a hard-won victory) teaches one to be loyal to others and to place a high value on fidelity.
Many poets have remarked on how difficult it is to write poems that appear to be written easily. The poems in this chapbook are so clear, so barefaced, and so honest – they appear to have been dashed off in the heat of the moment. However, as each poem is read and re-read, it is clear that every line was carefully crafted, each poem brought fully to fruition. The scaffolding recedes, and all we see are the exact words the poet wanted us to see, rhymed or unrhymed, formal or free.
Dustin Brookshire has written a delightful book of poems, grounded in the world of humans who hurt each other, but who also love and heal each other and themselves. If you want to laugh out loud, read “I Should Write Soap Operas”. If you want to be moved, read “Furious Cleaning”. If you want to read twenty poems that are completely worthy of your close attention, read Dustin Brookshire’s Love Most Of You Too in its entirety.
Click here to read the review in SoFloPoJo.