‘Hold It Down’ by Gina Myers
“This is my life”
In her second collection of poems, and first since 2009’s A Model Year, Gina Myers continues her idiosyncratic investigation into the nature of a 21st century “confessional” poem. In A Model Year, Myers aligned herself with a New York School lineage—David Shapiro (who supplied a blurb for the book), Barbara Guest and Ted Berrigan were all alluded to or name-checked, and various poems in the book were of a somewhat diaristic, “I do this, I do that” nature. But in Hold It Down, Myers makes clear that this had more to do with her living in New York during a substantial portion of that volume’s gestation and creation and less to do with her aesthetic impulses and tendencies as a poet. In voice, tone and thought, the poetry in Hold It Down stands alone and is recognizable as the unique work of an author writing in a manner and idiom entirely her own. Comprised of the serial poems “Hold It Down” and “False Spring,” as well as a medley of shorter poems, the poetic landscape that Myers immerses the reader in with Hold It Down is one of unfettered emotion and interiority. The speaker in these poems—which, due to the volume’s personal nature, many readers will no doubt take to be a stand in for Myers herself— is simultaneously fraught with sorrow and optimism; she implicitly understands the way the world works, yet writes in order to prod, poke and ultimately question that understanding. In its entirety, “Lament,” a later poem in the collection, reads:
Everything broken is still broken.
Fuck making the best of a Monday.
I’m not saying the things I set out to say.
But when night comes I know one thing
to be true: I will be able to fall asleep
or I will not be able to fall asleep.
“Lament” is not sunny or gleeful. Yet, the joy in reading Myers’s work lies in its steadfast adherence to American working class detail. Myers’s poetry is less concerned with the imagined and more concerned with the tangible, the real. Weather often shows up in her poems, as does the stumble and bumble of everyday, 9 to 5 life. “I Like All the Predictable Songs” asserts, “In my life I make all the predictable moves: / date the wrong men & develop all the obvious / addictions. The ordinariness of it is tragic, / I think to myself as I sit at the bar…”. In our beguiling youth, we all plan to be iconoclasts. But by the time we reach our late twenties and early thirties, the nature of tenuous jobs, unpaid bills, unpaid loans, and wishy-washy significant and not-so-significant others have a forceful way of rearing their proverbial heads. The instinct of many contemporary poets Myers’s age (33) is often to run from such realizations and sequester themselves in ethereal modes of surrealism, absurdism, and the like. Myers, on the other hand, accepts them, even if she does not embrace them:
Unexpected doctor’s appointment has me
sweating next month’s rent. I’ve never learned
how to get ahead. In Saginaw, there are people
working to make it better, community organizing,
planting trees…trying to battle the perception that this place
isn’t worth anything. That a life here isn’t worth
anything. Still, I feel more disconnected
each day. Always dreaming of running away.
These very accessible lines speak to the difference between the speaker’s unconstrained dreams and desires and her actual, alarm-clock-set-for-6:45-every-morning lifestyle. Hold It Down is that rare collection of poetry that wholly actualizes for its reader the sensation of getting into an author’s head, stepping into her shoes. And in Myers’s case, at least, this prospect is, at its core, pure, entirely lacking dilution. It elucidates the vision of a poet who, above all else, is concerned with the concrete, the actual, the ordinary of the real—and the extraordinary poetic consequence of such a reality.