Labradoodle: An Essay on David McGimpsey, Chapbook, Marcus McCann, above/ground press, abovegroundpress.blogspot.com, $4
Labradoodle’s subtitle, An Essay on David McGimpsey, may be accurate from a certain perspective, but it’s a tad misleading from most angles. This is certainly more of a poetry collection than an essay — Marcus McCann calls these “chubby sonnets” — and it’s more in the style of comedic writer David McGimpsey, than “on” David McGimpsey (save one biographical poem).
Anyone familiar with McGimpsey’s poetry, or his “Self-Esteem Workout” column in Matrix Magazine, will know his jokes are typically a smokescreen for discussions on insecurities and tragic flaws. It’s a distinction that McCann suggests readers tend to miss: “People say, /Oh, David McGimpsey, he’s the guy who writes / funny poems. Which is a little like saying, / Hey, he’s the guy with the really funny cancer” (from “A primer on David McGimpsey for those who have never heard of David McGimpsey”).
McCann’s collection straddles the same border between levity and tragedy. He finds a one-word note to himself on his BlackBerry, for example, that reads “Cocktapus,” and spends the greater part of a poem (“Three years ago, I was not quite ready to use the word labradoodle in a poem”) struggling to remember what it means, invoking Transformers and coming to terms with his immaturity. “Every day is a David McGimpsey poem,” he concludes, “and it’s half golden lab, and half whatever / ‘doodle’ stands for. It is not good news.”
Labradoodle is a quick read — there’s little in the way of subtext — but its bemused attitude justifies multiple re-reads. (Scott Bryson)