Poet and writer Chris Bullard is blessed, or maybe tormented, with a brilliant and surrealistic muse. In his new chapbook Continued, Bullard graces us with a comedy of lost souls and a range of humorously morbid imaginings.
The poet delivers his meditations and perturbations in a range of quirky and hybridized forms perfectly paired to the content. The prose poem “Cartoon” satirizes a New Yorker-type cartoon of a person stranded on a desert island. And if being shipwrecked were not bad enough, the cartoonist draws himself a hole and plummets through it into the sea. In the flash fiction piece “Miracle,” a man runs over a herd of migrating abalones as he drives to a job interview. He hides this awful secret from his wife who is sympathetic to the mollusks and later turns into an abalone himself, much to his delight. Bullard’s humor is so desperate that it becomes hilarious. I laughed aloud at his crossword puzzle poem “Down,” the word “down” evoking both the direction of the crossword clues and the speaker’s mood. Sample clues include “4. A slipping away of consciousness” and “9. The phenomenon of chaos.”
The list form is one of Bullard’s favorites. “More Prompts for the Writer” is a send-up of workshop exercises, and each evokes the tormented mindset of the instructor. Number 13 invites the writers to “Imagine a car, a ship, a flying saucer, anything for chrissakes, taking you away from here forever.” Some of the pieces in Continued are more morbid, some more hilariously absurd. I often found myself laughing aloud at the author’s deconstructions of normalcy and the self. I could go on tantalizing you with snippets of Bullard’s work, but I think you should explore these comic and disturbing poems for yourself.
Continued by Chris Bullard. Grey Book Press, July 2020.
Reviewer bio: Lynn Levin’s most recent book is the poetry collection The Minor Virtues (Ragged Sky, 2020).