These poems, as I’m sure you’ve gathered from the chapbook’s title, are a personal exclamation toward malignancy. The author, Michael Grover, has been told he might have cancer; there is, however, a further diagnosis here that extends beyond the poet’s liver. There are tumours which have spread wild and rapidly as they chew through the hope of a better society.
I’ve been told I might have cancer
There is something on my liver
I think america might have cancer
I am watching it deteriorate, dumb down
Politics is entertainment
(from Fuck Cancer Poem)
And so begins the parallel of a sickness within and an external illness, both of which are unrepentantly parasitic. The above poem is a political piece, a hopeless acknowledgement of malign agenda disguised as banal entertainment. By comparing his own disease to the fractured state of these bizarre times, the poet humanises the fractures and reminds us that we are being hollowed out, dumbed down and nullified by a bullshit, self-serving, cancerous zeitgeist.
There is, however, a strange kind of hope nestled between the lines; an acceptance of insignificance where peace is found.
All of these things mean nothing anymore
The places you’ve lived
The crazy places
The things you’ve seen
The crazy stories
Burned like photographs in the mind
Burn it all down
(from All These Things Mean Nothing Anymore)
The narrator maintains a steady balance as he tells of bleak moments of loneliness and shares serene snapshots of solitude. The imagery here is from an artist who has taken in the world through unforgiving, yet repentant eyes. And as such he presents his interpretation of existence in both bare and beautiful terms.
Wind blows last dried up leaves off
Crinkling as they hit the ground
Despite a consistent theme of defiance, there is a reverence for death’s sovereignty, particularly in the poems which pay tribute and honour those gone but not forgotten. More importantly, these poems of memoriam honour poetry that speaks out against impotency and irrelevance. They draw from the well of poets who spoke with both reason and goal.
I am sitting here getting older
Watching all of my friends die
Watching myself die
I have seen the best minds of my generation
Rotting in trailer parks
What have we done to ourselves
I have seen too much
(from Where Have The Outlaws Gone (An eulogy for Doug Draime))
The aforementioned defiance is often found in a resolution to write. And writing brings forth a purposeful poetry. These poems are not the last words of a self-indulgent victim. They are, again and again, commentary on life, death and the political scene.
Everyone tells me to fight cancer
What does that even mean
…That purpose you were given by someone else
All of those purposes
That tug of pride you felt on nine-eleven
Or was that fear
(from All Of These Things Are Nothing)
There is a tribute toward the end of the book – that any reviewer worth a grain of salt would be amiss not mentioning – to the poet, D. A. Levy. The poem in question is a narrative piece, which chronicles the search of the late, legendary poet’s grave. Here we find our narrator at, perhaps, his most candid, as he questions the validity of such a search. As he questions the necessity of poetry. As he highlights the futility of search itself. As he recognises that, one way or another, we are all subject to the same fate.
We walked around for at least twenty minutes
An endless field of plaques on the ground
Dan looked up a picture online
Said it was by the road
& I found you there
Humble plaque in a field of plaques
Childish mountain scene on it
Darryl Allen Levy
Not famous Poet
It simply read Son
& I guess you were some ones son
I am some ones son
All of these people in this field
Were some ones sons or daughters
(from Finding d.a. levy’s Grave)
Without question, this is a highly emotive read. These poems are perhaps best read by those of us to whom Grover is a stranger. If we knew the man, we may find it hard to appreciate these poems objectively. We would be overcome by his plight, we would be driven to tears at the prospect of a friend’s sickness, and as such we might miss the wider assertions, accusations and compassionate commiseration. The content is rooted in pain, consequently there is an ever-present sense of empathy for those who are suffering. This is particularly evident in the poem, Treatment Center, St. Anne’s Hospital, Toledo, where the author caries a heavy burden of shared sickness, during a hospital visit.
Little rooms, thin curtain walls
Hear tv Droning from each one
Some walk around, iv out of their arm
Dragging that metal thing behind them to hold the bag
Some look like they couldn’t move
I wish this place could be empty
(from Treatment Center, St. Anne’s Hospital, Toledo)
From empathy comes understanding. From understanding comes purpose. Above all else, Fuck Cancer Poems is a book of purpose. Grover is most certainly saying, fuck you, to the cancerous cells he hosts. Moreover, though, his resounding, fuck you!, is aimed at a wider pain; a common pain that the populace plays host to. The pain of loss. The discomfort of playing against the odds. The sorrow of getting older and watching friends die. The frustration of baring witness to money-hungry leaders rising from the ranks of schizophrenic government. These poems are a thoughtful response and a gut-deep reaction. They are the fuck destruction poems. They are, fuck apathy poems. Fuck suffering quietly poems. Fuck loneliness poems. Fuck banal poetry poems. These are the resolute, empathetic, defiant, purposeful words of a man who has looked death in the eye; these are, Michael Grover’s, fuck cancer poems.
Latest posts by Matthew J. Hall (see all)
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- A Review: Fuck Cancer Poems by Michael Grover - November 9, 2017
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