Thank god for the independent press, and thank god for poet Mike Topp. While mainstream poetry (if there is such a thing) remains the province of flowery phrases, musings about mother, and forgotten childhood as embodied by an idly swaying swing on the empty playground, the independent press reminds us that a kid probably fell off of that swing this morning. Poetry interprets how we see and experience the world and the words around us. Sometimes this may be beautiful. But more often than not, it's ridiculous, profane, or tragically, pathetically comic.
Enter Mike Topp. He's been on the scene for a while, and continues to impress with every new endeavor. His mini-book Happy Ending was published a few years ago by Portland's own Future Tense Publishing, and with his latest effort from Unbearable Books, Shorts Are Wrong, he continues to baffle and delight.
A selection of new work paired with some previously published gems, Shorts Are Wrong takes the curious, banal, and absurd and renders them... well, curious, banal, and absurd. With every piece, Topp welcomes you into his head and lets you run around, lifting up flaps and folds to find brilliant bits of understatement, such as "Where We Found You," which reads, in its entirety,
Topp includes the nearly opaque play on perspective, "Shopping":
I bought some invisible tape today, I think.
Then there are the crystal-clear musings that provide an excellent snapshot of the zeitgeist, as in "Fin-de-siècle":
Sometimes/everything /seems /like um, whatever.
And then of course the simply, sparely hilarious, like "Dear God":
Please take my one dick and make it into five dicks so that my underwear will fit like a glove. Amen.
Countless independent and "alternative" writers have found a willing audience in Portland. Some are terrible; some are amazing; some are Mike Topp. What most of us couldn't articulate with any kind of clarity, Topp wrangles and improves upon in 25 words or less. His works are the perfect remedy for our bite-size, sound-bite world—they may only average about five lines apiece, but they'll resonate with you for the entire day.