"ayn rand doesn't / really annoy me / because she's dead / it's her fans who irritate me / a little like jesus," writes CAConrad in his new chapbook, WRITING IN ALL CAPS IS THE BREATH MINT OF THE SOUL, out now from Portland's own Bone Tax Press. I started Conrad's book with trepidation, because some of his writing is the high-concept kind that often makes for interesting scholarship, but not great reading. This turned out to be moot, because—SORRY, AYN RAND FANS!—WRITING IN ALL CAPS IS THE BREATH MINT OF THE SOUL is just as delightful as its shoutycaps title would seem to suggest.
For one thing, Conrad makes fun of EVERYONE in WIACITBMOTS: Jackson Pollock (Conrad prefers the paintings of Pollock's wife, Lee Krasner, and so do I, HIGH FIVE, CACONRAD!), whoever runs Arthur Rimbaud's page on Twitter ("i want him to be MORE Rimbaud on the Twitter / where's the stardust and sodomy / WE NEED MORE STARDUST AND SODOMY PLEASE"), poets who say they aren't really poets ("next time... I'm going to say 'WELL I GUESS YOU WOULD KNOW'"), monotheism ("my answer after being asked / to blame something"), and that refuses-to-die debate over whether or not poetry is dead ("let's start putting all this angry fucking energy into / ending war and poverty").
Also covered: adopting gender-neutral names, the politics of being a man who wears nail polish, the politics of Christina Aguilera's voice being used as a literal instrument of torture, and the unique kindness of people who grew up in cults.
In case it's not abundantly clear, WIACITBMOTS is fun to read, just right for a longish bus ride or lunch hour. It's poetry, but there's nothing frustratingly opaque about it, and its humor and unflowery language make it accessible and unfiltered, like a late-night, drunken conversation with your weirdest, most brilliant friend. Its exultant tone is effervescent and catching, and Conrad's charging self-celebration is way more Walt Whitman exuberance than boring solipsism. And I'm not just being fawning, because if Walt Whitman were alive today, he, of all people, would definitely be WRITING IN ALL CAPS.