My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge

My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge is Paul Guest’s third book of poems, and already the young poet has amassed fans from among the greatest poetic stars of our time. Praise for the book comes from John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, and Mark Strand among others. Although much attention has been paid to Guest’s paralysis due to a bicycle accident when he was twelve, he is not content to let autobiography inform his newest book and has said he "was just trying to lie a lot and to sometimes be more truthful than [he’d] ever been." Biographical or not, these poems mix pain and humor with deft wordplay and a painting of a contemporary American landscape full of motels, Chinese takeout, and the "Geneva Convention in all its charming quaintness." As Robert Hass wrote of these poems, "People will read them for what is fresh, headlong, surprising and alive and bitter and sweet in them—;for their ability to make us see." The final poem in the book ends:

I am saying directly this painful, pained thing,
I am saying it will not last,
my fist for my mouth
plugging up
this hole, this endless, this always, this never.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.