“[C]ivilization on a string // sounds more sinister // than ‘the world,’” Bibbins writes in his third collection, at once a hilarious send-up of contemporary values and an alarm bell of sorts, directing attention to all that is so sinister in our civilization. These associative poems have a frenetic energy and wide range—both in form and subject, dexterously combining the levity of pop culture with deadly serious political commentary about the War on Terror, rape culture, and capitalism. “Apparently // the next Godzilla movie has Godzilla // just running around eating everyone’s // money and it’s the scariest thing ever,” for instance, functions as both joke and indictment. Bibbins’s interest in the monstrous recurs in “Medusa,” a multipart persona poem, as well as the “Pat Robertson Transubstantiation Engine” series, which inhabits (then skewers) the 700 Club host’s evangelical intolerance. Strangely enough, however, Bibbins’s anxieties about the “end times” are not entirely dissimilar from Robertson’s—a sense of dread pervades this book, and Bibbins is the trickster prophet here: either to warn us or to watch us do ourselves in. “Go on, // wax beautiful // about what makes the world,” he dares in an early poem, then later observes “how everyone heads for the shore”: “my country runs to the edge / and throws itself in // when I said beach // I meant cliff.”
This review originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2014.