Review: Butterflies Lost within the Crooked Moonlight : Matt Nagin

This is a cut&paste of a review that appeared on Kindle and similarly on GoodReads.

Butterflies Lost within the Crooked Moonlight      Matt Nagin

Dystopian power in forty-five poems.

five stars

Star counts are one person’s opinion. This book’s title should prepare you for its content, but not for Nagin’s power of communication. So, as always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to the point: Nagin’s work.

For a prose poem, turn to Immigrant Love Story, which begins thus: “Your face is my face and my future is your future and yet your face is kept behind a fence and coils of barbed wire and your face is told it needs signed documents….”

For an interesting piece of social commentary, turn to Outside Hotel Gansevoort, which ends with this: “Every man tries to look away; /seem nonchalant; fixates on /petty, obtuse concerns— uselessly. /These women run the show.” If you think that’s a spoiler, turn to this poem when you have the book.

For a fascinating relationship, turn to Wrong One, which has a surprise ending. For an even more disturbing relationship happening, turn to Night at the Waldorf.

I generally find myself annoyed about writing that’s about writing, but some authors can pull this off really well with an experience that takes you in. Nagin has done this in Report Card, which is mostly about life and other people’s expectations.

Nagin is writing experiences which will happen to you when you read. In Tinseltown Hierarchy you are caught up in a happening between various ‘actors’ and are part of this alien world. Here’s a snippet from the beginning: “The assistant spoke into the microphone /reflecting back the order from the publicist /who signaled to the grip who collaborated with….” It’s impossible for me to give you the speed of this ongoing development. Buy the book and turn to this piece.

Nagin does not live in a perfect world. For an unpleasant self-assessment, turn to Twelve Years an Adjunct Professor.

I have other favourites in this work, but the above should give you a decent feel for what’s on offer here. Now for my star count boilerplate.

My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try hard to be consistent. Nagin stands tall with the best of them, but in his own way: more personal than W.H.Auden (The Shield of Achilles,) more gut-wrenching than Robert Frost (The Lovely Shall Be Choosers,) a bit like Archibald MacLeish (What Every Lover Learns.) Five stars here feels right on; extremely recommended.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

Term Limits?

Canada does not seem to have term limits. This creates career politicians whose lives might collapse if not re-elected. (We’re going to see a lot of this in Ontario, eh?)

Chile’s president can only run for one term. Bachelet has been back repeatedly, but she had a one-term gap each time. This seems to work out well; Chile’s economic numbers look a lot better than Peru’s, for example. Bachelet either has a backup job or wealthy independence. She does not need to be re-elected because she can’t be.

The US President can only be elected twice. There’s also a ten-year limit to cover the case of succession.

I have two examples of long-running country leaders. One is Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Kagame was referred to by Romeo Dallaire as the best general in Africa. He is now, apparently, a despot.

Does this always happen after too many years in power?

My other example is Daniel Ortega. Ortega was the recipient of attacks funded by arms sales to Iran (Oliver North) used to fund the Honduran Contras. Ortega made positive changes in Nicaragua at the start of his rule. He is now, apparently, silencing the media and allowing dissenters to be killed.

Does this always happen after too many years in power?

Flashing?

We need a new word in Ontario, added to the Highway Traffic Act. It should mean ‘flashing’ but only in a special sense.

Our school buses carry signs that they are not to be passed when their signals are ‘flashing.’ This does NOT apply to four-way flashing, only to left-right flashing. Which only school buses and emergency vehicles can do.

I know a very competent bus driver. She once said that she never uses four-ways, as it stops traffic.

I suggest a new word, legally defined in the Highway Traffic Act.

What do you think of ‘flicking?’ Any other suggestions? How about winking? Flinking?