To Frankenstein, My Father
by Cody Todd
Proem Press 2007
Reviewed by Ken L. Walker
Cody Todd’s Monster
In summer 2008 (remember the days?), The Atlantic Monthly ran a cover story investigating whether or not Google is, in tandem with the superficialities of intelligence, making us stupid. In the article, Nicholas Carr took the approach that authenticity, even intelligence, come from growth and actual human effort. The argument’s endpoint established the importance of being human and not mechanical. Agreement, in full.
Cody Todd, an MFA graduate of Western Michigan University and current PhD fellow at Virginia Middleton, risks mechanism in his new chapbook, To Frankenstein, My Father. That’s the title. The opening epigraph is from Sylvia Plath, and the primary poem is titled “Narcissus,” providing a pseudo-subliminal warning that the approaching pile of brick is not out to mime or joke, let alone entertain. It is suffering that is conscious of its own boredom, its own monotonous predictability. Not that poetry has to be a Jerry Bruckheimer production. But it is not a slight bit pleasurable to read a man’s portentous anguish couched in the fashion of “I-care-just-enough.”
There are unsullied flashes: “the plight of a pugilist;/ swearing that I knew you,/I’d known you all along. . .” (“Broken Syntax for the Streets of Economy”) and “Like the nation, the three a.m. bus is split:/two parts of the same arm.” (“Tupac Shakur”). Oddly, the Tupac poem may be the best of all his selections. When Todd throws his heart down enough to step back from it, he sinks into a shiny speakeasy, but when he just stays in his bedroom and listens to NPR and dreams of Orpheus and Eurydice, he is mere mechanic, using only the tools from that red box the university passed out at MFA orientation. Note: use all your tools—especially your late father. Just don’t call him “Frankenstein.”