The funniest book I read all year was a book of poems. I didn’t expect to laugh, which is often the best way to embark on said activity, and then I couldn’t help it: Michael Earl Craig’s Talkativeness, which came out in 2014 from Wave Books, is both lovely and hilarious. I haven’t been so bowled over by a poet’s sense of humor since…well, possibly ever. Too often the poems that cross my desk seem like a word salad tossed almost entirely for a hipster luncheon at the We’re All Poets Club (a phenomenon Craig touches on, possibly, in a poem called “Perhaps You See Where I Am Heading”). Such poetry uses words like “diacritical” that are too lofty for the likes of me and tend to make the enterprise of poetry seem more like an intellectual pose than an access to the ineffable. But Craig’s book is clearly 4 All Mankind, as it says, just a tad ironically, on the label of those two-hundred-dollar jeans — which isn’t to say it’s not subtle and idiosyncratic, because it is. I’m not talking Ogden Nash; Talkativeness is never cute. It’s full of wisdom and elegance and beauty, all those good things lined with a comic edge so sharp it made me laugh aloud (as I sat on an airplane this is a completely full flight beside a woman who held on her lap a very large deep-dish pizza).
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