The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

REVIEW: OFTEN GO AWRY – BRIAN S. ELLIS (UNIVERSITY OF HELL PRESS)

Sam said the gas tank could go on for thirty miles

after the gas light came on so I’m counting

trying to count the miles but the mile markers

often go by without me having time to read them

and I’ve been putting it in neutral

every time I get to a decline but I hate

the way the engine disapproves

whenever I change gears.

       – from “Neutral”

Sometimes our gas tanks go empty, turn to fumes, sputter to a click to a drifting neutral to a stop. But sometimes, gears just need to shift, fumes will sustain, and staying just above the gravelly rock bottom of the road beneath your feet is enough to move from at least point L to E on the road through life. Brian S. Ellis’ newest collection, Often Go Awry, from University of Hell Press is a reminder that we simply need to trust that our metaphoric corporeal car will take us just as far as needed.

The morning is an asshole, 

devoid of wishes.

The earth I crawl under steals my dreams.

In between the candle and the cave walls

I hide from the owners of the world,

while I try to pry my dreams back

from the lies of light.

– from “Movie Theaters”

Ellis’ easy tone allows us to be the sidekick on this speaker’s sometimes sullen, but often reluctantly optimistic approach to life. It’s one move after another. One thing that might go wrong, after another. It’s the life experiences inside to which we relate – sometimes with an all too familiar overtone. We are lost, but we keep working, keep moving, keep doing what it takes, and we can make it – somehow.

When they come for you: expand.

When they fit you with ties and chains:

puff yourself up, stretch the surface. 

In the lockbox: at the bottom

of the pool, surrounded by sharks:

take off your skin.

I have ever known only one joy: escape.

         – from “History of the Straight Jacket”

Escape can be the most comfortable way to exist, and Brian S. Ellis keeps us escaping from moment to moment, in order to simply catch the last train to the next stop, and subside on the fumes that move from city to city, job to job, lifetime to lifetime, and while things my often go awry, the experiences along the way, just might lead you to your actual destination.

Grab your copy of Often Go Awry from University of Hell Press. 

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

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