The Pink Trance Notebooks

Wayne Koestenbaum. Nightboat (UPNE, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-937658-40-3
This important 18th book from poet and cultural critic Koestenbaum (My 1980s and Other Essays) is not a radical departure from earlier work, but it is a departure in technique. Written over the course of a year, the book looks and feels like the cut-and-paste fragments of a journal. Over the course of 34 sections, these “lines not knowing/ they’re abstract” paint an all-too-realistic picture of the author and his obsessions. The book calls to mind Berryman’s Dream Songs and Ammons’s Garbage, and the similarities in form and auto-psychoanalysis are clear—as are the differences. In plain language, Koestenbaum details gay sex, gay fears, and gay life at the turn of the millennium. Concerned with self, linage, and the context of being gay in America today, Koestenbaum ruminates on the subtleties of the hanky code while asking why iambic pentameter has led to a situation in which “English poetry has spent/ 1,000 years counting/ to ten.” The work also represents a revelatory breakdown of person and process: “I always have/ the symptoms of a/ nervous breakdown.” The book is maddening, long, narcissistic, ridiculous, and amazing; Koestenbaum successfully manages long-form poetry’s requirement to make an epic of the self and shape that into a broader discussion. (Oct)
Reviewed on: 09/21/2015
Release date: 10/01/2015
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