by Billy Corgan, reading at Powell's on Hawthorne, 3723 SE Hawthorne, Tuesday October 26, 7:30 pm, free
It's necessary to preface the following review with a number of pertinent admissions. Firstly, I am by no means a qualified critic of contemporary poetry--if memory serves, I haven't touched a book of the stuff since my senior year of high school. Secondly, I am the unapologetic owner of no less than one dozen Smashing Pumpkins CDs.
Not that all of this matters, really--Christ knows, if you've read this far, it's not for some sincere or even-handed critique of Blinking With Fists, the new poetry book by Billy Corgan. Certainly, you don't hand the Mercury music critic a poetry book because you want insightful scrutiny of Corgan's poetic syntax. And you don't read the review because you're actually curious about the book. So let's just get to it, shall we?
In all of the twists and turns of Corgan's sphere--the well-publicized dictatorial relationship with his band mates, the obscene vanity that engulfs all of his works, the recent religious devotion--it shouldn't be surprising that he would dip his toe into the world of poetics. As a medium of such unmitigated indulgence and self-importance, poetry would seem to fit ol' Billy like a glove. What's really surprising is that it's taken this long--and that the book isn't three times longer.
At a paltry 83 pages--that's 56 poems--Blinking With Fists is largely what you'd expect from the former lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins: the words feel ornamental, epic, and relatively impersonal, the sort of obtuse and populist verse as you might expect from a rock star. The imagery is in keeping with that of the latter half of the Pumpkins career--tinged with Corgan's ambiguously gothic fascinations, as well as his liberal mining of Greek mythologies.
In short, it ain't nothin' special, one way or another. And while you're assured a lot of clunkers throughout, what's surprisingly absent are the cringe-inducing one-liners that so often marred the Smashing Pumpkins ("Coil my tongue 'round a bumblebee mouth," "Into the eyes of a jackal I say Ka-boom," ad infinitum). Maybe he's saving those for his novel. No, seriously.