Following the 2014 release of Alchemy, I Admit Nothing is John Yamrus’ latest full collection of poetry from Epic Rites Press. Much like the former work, this collection honours the minimalistic approach the poet is known and loved for; from the first page a precedent is set and the initial poem serves as a statement of intent.
one word long
hell is this
There are, of course, plenty of short-form poets knocking about within the literary scene, but I am yet to read any that consistently pull it off in quite the same way as Yamrus. Perhaps the distinguishing factor is down to his chosen subjects rather than his terse style, or maybe it is more to do with the subject and the style working together so seamlessly. The point is, there is more to this work than mere brevity. This is a book that concerns itself with the here, the now and the conversation at hand. Moreover, it is the conversational tone that makes the poetry so accessible. Daunting questions are asked, and the larger issues are discussed, but they are done so through the conduit of what would otherwise be the unremarkable routines of life.
Yamrus tells a good story, he is adept in short verse, he can be quite humorous and has a knack for surprise, but above all he is a chronicler. His poems are the account of an ordinary man living out his life. These poems are about being, and in this lies the relatable element which sets this book apart. Yamrus is every man, that is why this small press writer has had work translated into multiple languages, used within academic study and has a wide enough appeal to engage with the blue-collar, the white-collar or the no-collar-at-all reader.
the mic and left.
in the audience
what the hell he meant.
Given that Yamrus is a chronicler, and being that he is a prolific artist, it makes sense for a significant portion of I Admit Nothing’s subject matter to be about poetry, writing and the so-called poetry community. This particular theme has – to say the least – an undercurrent of disdain. It seems that Yamrus’ only literary concern is connecting with the reader. He does this by breaking away from literary constraints, academic expectation and the various rules of writing. There is an important distinction to be made here. Yamrus isn’t breaking the rules as an act of purposeless rebellion. In fact, I’d bet a safe gamble that the rules don’t even enter into his creative process. He isn’t one of those tiresome old blowhards who rail against MFA writing, nor is he trying to carve himself a reputation as a literary outlaw. He is simply giving his readers the respect they deserve through honest communication. This author does not keep himself hidden, he is on every page and so is his audience; they meet there, and that is where the poetry takes place.
While the poems are straightforward in purpose and frank in execution they are by no means rigid; in fact it is the poem’s fluidity which allows for reader participation. Time after time Yamrus sets a scene and suggests an atmosphere before ducking out and trusting the reader to draw his/her own conclusions.
looking out a window.
short brimmed hat.
he was good at what he did.
i’ll never know.
In literary review, one of the more common compliments is referring to an author as “the writer’s writer.” Initially, this accolade appears as the highest praise. Upon further thought however, being the writer’s writer seems a somewhat stale title. After all, what forward-thinking artist aspires to connect with his/her fellow artists alone? John Yamrus is the reader’s writer whose poems are built from one honest line after another. I Admit Nothing, again and again, captures the profundity within the everyday trials and triumphs that make up a life. A wholly accessible book; fierce, friendly, urgent, optimistic and long-lasting.
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