Mathias Svalina's first book of poems is a series of creation myths, followed by a final long poem titled "Destruction Myth." The collection could just as easily have been titled Deconstruction Myth, as Svalina deftly, with humor and fine-tuned observation, examines both the nature of narrative and the nature of being—and how the two are inextricably meshed. Most of the poems open with "In the beginning": "In the beginning everyone looked like Larry Bird"; "In the beginning everyone wanted to fight to the death"; "In the beginning I was a little thing in the center of a star." Part of what engages and unnerves in this book is investing in the meticulous unfolding of each "creation story" only to complete the cycle and go back to the beginning. This is a project of trial and error, a rendering of what a person must assume, consume, take on, and eventually shed.
This book review originally appeared in American Poets, fall 2010, issue 39.