‘Dear Lil Wayne’ by Lauren Ireland

lauren ireland
  • COLDFRONT RATING: three-half
  • PUBLISHED BY: Magic Helicopter Press, 2014
  • REVIEW BY: CJ Opperthauser

“There was some sadness, a tornado, some gladness”

lilwayne_coverPart whimsy, part pure love, part little kid writing to their hero, the meat of Ireland’s poems in Dear Lil Wayne are both new and familiar.

The book’s body of prose blocks and superficially random lines remind the reader of Hejinian’s philosophy on collage – the sentence as poem and movement in a poem as something that should be difficult to nail down. After each block / piece / letter, the reader is left with an earned emotion, generated and constructed from the parts provided. To say that the reader’s emotion is earned also means that few emotions are directly addressed; they accumulate. Over the course of the book, they become greater than the sum of their parts. For example, here’s the entirety of “August 7 2010”:

The universe becomes a fist and then we die. Okay. Naked under Perseids, big deal, the rip. Nothing anyone says matters anyway so just fucking say it. Bats, ocean, cessation of time. Okay, we love each other. Now what.

Throughout the book there is a pushing forward, and it’s not just the dates above each piece nor the simple fact that a sequence is happening. As the poems develop, the reader gets to know this letter-writer and her (assumingly) weird relationship with an unresponsive star. Bad things happen, guilt is admitted, feelings are unearthed:

“44 days. Not much has changed. There was some sadness, a tornado, some gladness” (“September 20 2010”).

“Running fast makes clouds. Was that fire? Yesterday I fell. I fell like this and my body looked just like this” (“July 15 2010”).

Undeniably, though, through whatever thick fog of analysis one can summon, these poems are funny and sharp and pretty. The goofiness in their abstract premise is absolutely not something that leads to a lack of effectiveness or soul, of real feeling or polish. If anything, the desperation of fan mail opens Ireland up to be as raw as the felt connection between a star and a stranger fully invested in someone they do not know at all. To quote from “July 29 2010 (10:01 pm),” “Remember how wet sidewalks smell? I want to feel like that again. So I am listening to music.”

Regardless of the book’s context, the poems are very much concerned with being striking and immediate. Each poem remains strong, relevant and independent. Some pieces, certainly, are much more focused on creating an effect than actually playing up the activity / game of writing to Lil Wayne. Less confessional, maybe, Ireland offers true attempts at connection, with lines like :

Were you very alone? I think about what I would do in a small room by myself: not very much. I guess I would think and sleep, maybe masturbate, maybe cry, probably both. I guess you wrote a lot. I guess you were basically being incredible. You wouldn’t understand, but it’s hard to be boring in a fascinating world.

These lines, the handful of times they raise their collective head, are moving in their static deadness. They are little orphan feelings borne from the honest heart of this silly letter-writer, and damn if we don’t know how that feels. But maybe the extensive and conscientious avoidance points the reader to the main argument behind these poems: connecting and sharing emotionally is tough, if not impossible. Especially artist-to-artist. Or at least this poet artist to this rap artist, at least Ireland to Wayne. It’s so tempting and inviting to identify with or admire or want deeply to connect with celebrity figures, especially the artists who elicit so much from us. However, those attempts at connection are just that, attempts and unfulfilled expectations. Ireland’s Dear Lil Wayne is shining a beautiful bright light on that broken relationship we all secretly or loudly desire.