Plumbing the Depths

Published June 26, 2015

With all of the blunt meta-sincerity that its title suggests, Nick Flynn’s fourth collection of poetry, My Feelings (Graywolf), is unafraid to claim the mind’s dark and self-destructive corners as its own: “& yes each of us is born with a gun on the wall yes a gun in the / closet yes a gun to our heads.” Best known for his memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, a fearless account of his formerly homeless, alcoholic father and his own battles with depression and addiction, Flynn continues to record the shifting, unsolvable realities of his consciousness. “Who / can tell me where I will fall next, where / the thorn will enter?” The question of just how to deal with the death of his father is the central subject here, but recurrent also are his daughter, his own experiences of fatherhood, the trauma of his mother’s suicide, and elegies to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Lou Reed. Flynn’s savage lines and elegantly unraveling syntax reconcile the personal, the cultural, and the unbearable with the vital, redemptive power of pain.