cover image Deadbeat


Jay Baron Nicorvo. Four Way (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (92p) ISBN 978-1-935536-23-9

Nicorvo’s wry and seriocomic debut presents scenes, symbols, and durable remarks from the life of his titular alter ego, a figure (like Berryman’s Henry or Mary Jo Bang’s Louise) who both is and is not the author, whose searing and ridiculous misadventures make him sometimes larger and sometimes smaller than life, anyone or everyone, with modern bourgeois problems, unspooling obligations, and a washed-out interior life: “Deadbeat is a closed window./ Reflections in glass.” Elsewhere he’s a dry, sad figure in a cartoony, allegorical story: “Deadbeat spends his life selling balloons/ that sag at his ankles/ like a clown’s sad bouquet./ He can’t make change for anyone.” Like his precursors, Deadbeat interacts with other characters—a wife, a father, a son: “Bride of Deadbeat takes/ his pulse and tells him/ his heart is unusually slow.” Nicorvo, who lives in Michigan, delivers these scenes in free verse with a confident cadence, never prosy but never too far from prose sense. Coherent and memorable in its dry sadness, this sequence may seem too close to its models, but it may also grow stranger upon rereading, its meditations on fatherhood, descent, masculinity, and responsibility giving it something that most of those models lack. (Oct.)