When I went to grad school, I didn’t know anything about poetry. Problematic, I know, as I was going to grad school for poetry. Those first few weeks at new recruit meet and greets, my peers would ask me, “are you narrative or lyric?” I didn’t know there was a distinction, or that the binary was so fractious. I think this may be a normal MFA experience. You don’t go to grad school to write poems—you’re already doing that—but to learn who’s producing work at the time. A poet who’d shown up in town the same year I did took it upon himself to learn me and lent me 10 or so contemporary books of poetry, among which was Mathias Svalina’s Destruction Myth. I remember my reaction: you can do this? Poets can be funny? And sweet? Work can be flooring, heart breaking, absurd, and beautiful? Svalina ended up serving as my primer to contemporary poetry and as I went on to teach in environments where folk didn’t have a background in poetry—underserved kids in New Orleans, inmates in Alabama and Louisiana—Destruction Myth became my go to text. The language was available, approachable. Svalina’s work does this here as well, achieving the incredibly difficult balance of accessible and profound, culturally relevant and hilarious but never cheap.
"Neither language nor its various conditions will suffice to describe the itch Seidenberg is compelled to articulate, and yet there is little other recourse but to mobilize language and the various forms it may be called to assume in order for the author to address the physical provocations he endures under the rubric: Itch..."