poems by Christopher Robin
a review by Nicole Henares
In a literary era dictated by labels, Christopher Robin defies definition. Who is Christopher Robin? The Evil Dark Overlord of DUH; a half-witted transsexual; a champion of the underdog and the underground; a recovering addict; a Sicilian-American; a day laborer; a clown school reject. Christopher Robin’s latest collection Freaky Mumbler’s Manifesto almost overwhelms in range. However, this deluge is refreshing in the contemporary blight of poets who stridently and singularly define themselves and their poetry.
What’s most refreshing about Robin’s poetry is how he captures the spirit of his influences effortlessly, not in the strained imitations that have become so trite in the underground press. Christopher Robin is not Bukowski, nor Kerouac, nor does he claim so. Robin has experienced Skid-Row realms few escape from, but never does he exploit it for a poem. In “Heckled in Las Vegas,” Robin admonishes I haven’t carried a bedroll in years / What do you want me to do, vomit? / You want me to die? I live in a low-income housing project / I hope to get out someday, if I get well… When he does mention these days, it is profound, never sensationalized. “Wide Open Fool” ends ugly, with a punch, I had sex with a crack dealer / on the floor of my first ever rooming house / while he ordered me / not to look at him.
Alternately Christopher Robin does romanticize, but with a self-effacing affection which never attempts at self-righteousness or glamour. In “Poetry Rats,” Robin gives us a glimpse of a broken realm most would dismiss; inspired hobo pencil asking idle gods for paper for those with drunkenness and untuned guitars / the underdogs who skip like wounded pent-up jail kids / the poetry rats are yearning for solidarity in a new alphabet.
This is not to say that Christopher Robin indulges in feel-good fuzziness; he is not without wry irony. In “Who We Kill,” he reminds us of the animals that weren’t cute enough / the animals that made the mistake of being born delicious / the trannies that can’t hide / the mistake of being born wrong…
Christopher Robin, however, is at his best when he writes about the relationship he has with his family, where he, the child of a Sicilian immigrant and professor of Italian, is the good son / who changed his sex / got himself clean / a tall blonde girl, / and a section 8. Robin captures, without clichéd resentment or anger, subtle familial tensions, commenting, after his nephew’s attempt at suicide, and his father’s questioning, “are you still depressed,” that the fruit from the family/orange tree is bitter/has been for thirty years/my dad eats them/then hands me shiny ones/from Costco/as if I am just a visitor.