Matthew Guenette’s Doom Scroll dissolves time by shuttling between the past and the future, almost simultaneously. In the collection, Matthew navigates through past and present tragedies in a way that envisages the future.
The collection opens with the poem “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. In the poem, Matthew contemplates the chaos that engulfs life in general. To do this, he passes us through several happenings, all of which seem to be simultaneously antagonizing themselves, for instance, moving “the upstairs/bedroom to the downstairs bedroom/and the downstairs bedroom to the/curb”; the sun that “is trying to come out” alongside the moon and the cicadas and the lightning; the rocks being thrown inside the lake and the “rocks the lake slowly throws back”; the hummingbird bullying another hummingbird. Apart from all these happenings, what allures me more to the poem is the brief explication on mortgage where he laments “You have the privilege of mortgage. You’ve mortgaged the future with your privilege. There are at least six different kinds of jellies in your fridge”.
While going through the collection, one cannot help but notice the semblance in subject matter shared between the poem “Love will Tear Us Apart” and the poem “Credit card” as the poet laments the insecurity he feels with his social security number. Matthew questions how the average American life of indebtedness, getting married, holding a steady job and “unspecified charges” is similar to that of Jesus who he has been told to emulate. In Matthew’s words “I’ve been told that Jesus who never got/married or held a steady job or kept a/permanent address, would like me to/carry on his image.” Moving further in the poem, he then asks “What could be more biblical than debt?”
One thing that stands out in the poem is the simplicity of language and the style Matthew adopts as he engages varied subject matters such as loss, family, war, memory, anxiety and procrastination. Matthew’s collection is not one that is adorned with lots of flowery language. However, the strength of the collection rests on the precise and deliberate use of such languages in necessary and appropriate places. For instance, in the poem “Sticky Notes” he says;
“When you are awake your mind
is a tongue—
it folds in on itself.
You need help.
If you’re free, it’s because you
Have no problem not getting anything done”
As Matthew navigates through the loss of his parents and what fatherhood entails, he pauses between these poems to contemplate life as an American and how it affects his relationship with his children. Here, Matthew becomes vulnerable as he washes himself into the poems, allowing for us to also experience his ordeals—from the mortgaging of his future to the credit card debts and the “American desires” that burdens him.
What stands out most in collection is the subtlety of the narrative, the approach Matthew employs as he is both conversational and narrative in poems, recounting and recollecting past experiences while switching between the first person pronoun “I” and the second person pronoun “you” as if to call his audience to not just be witnesses or spectators but also actors and characters in the poem.
Matthew Guennette’s “Doom scroll” is an invitation into parenthood, loss, financial uncertainties, debts, anxiety and procrastination but it is also an invitation into laughing flowers, spring and “perfect circles drawn around perfect circles”.