about the author

Staff Book Reviewer Spencer Dew is the author of the novel Here Is How It Happens (Ampersand Books, 2013), the short story collection Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008), the chapbook Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (Another New Calligraphy, 2010), and the critical study Learning for Revolution: The Work of Kathy Acker (San Diego State University Press, 2011). His Web site is spencerdew.com.

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Dear Everyone
A Review of Dear Everyone
by Matt Shears

Spencer Dew

“No poetry is not political,” Shears writes in this relentless, largely unbroken pummeling of a book, “despite the facts.” At times snidely dismissing, and riffing off of, the cooptation of political struggle by, say, the summer music festival scene, or the slide from fantasy into pornography and other modes of commodity, or even offering a seemingly nihilistic barrage against all possible options, there is also a voice here insistent on the desire “to create and to create a world with you / in these brief instants of our shared lives.”

But how might such creation work, especially in the context of a poem that reads like a ceaseless but fluid screed, a breathless block of words, at once mimicking the ubiquitous and largely junk-quality “media” of our contemporary society and, by keeping busy with the footwork, engaging in a kind of survival tactic, moving and moving and verging on duplicity. At one moment, sites of mass shootings are recited at another, we’re told “Believe in the power and the glory / of advertising,” and then there’s talk of “password protection” and brochures of information, significance sliding into background static. Can one watch “the anxious, twitchy news” while simultaneously channel surfing on multiple screens? Because that is the feel here, more cut-up than composition, with the direct address always indirect, or directed too broadly, the narrative voice here opting to hit “‘Reply All.’ Dear Everyone” and broadcast “a public service announcement” that, tailored so broad, for such an amorphous public, it says nothing, or merely establishes a possible spectrum of meaning along which it refuses to pin a statement: “Placebo or trauma?” for instance, though simultaneously fingering the hot buttons of a society where the names of victims of police violence are also so much clickbait, where racist presumptions are on par with public constructions of identity via corporate algorithms, where drone warfare and government surveillance are on par with “the transformative power of music, and falling towers,” a stitching together of folk ballad and terrorist attack, just as the role of children as “Collateral damage” is both as passive and active victim, as casualties of bombing, for instance, and as armies of youth mobilized by “the self-righteous and the god-complexed.” Can anyone be guilty in such a sea of information, atomized to ambiguity?

“I definitely like your activities, hobbies / and pics of happy children, your detailed / music and movie selections, your status / updates and whimsical asides,” writes Shears, “but I am also / passionate about destroying dominant / history, narratives and reification and distrust / the trend of fashioning an idealized image / of who I want you to think I am, and / having that simulation embody me. Of course, / visit me at my homepage....” The worm turns and turns: accumulation (of political platforms, of philosophies, of the body, of artistic schools) leads to nullification. “Liking is essential,” but by this Shears also means that it is meaningless, an empty gesture in a virtual world of surfaces that barely masks the deeper world of biology and violence, itself only a platform for the conceptual world, “organized by systems management, / expressions of self-aggrandizement / and market research.” Even our identities are not our own, and certainly we are not our failing bodies (“flaking skin, mucous membranes, / pus, MRSA, staff [sic] infections, abscesses, / and ecosystems.” “Certain anathema / are invigorating,” but others are just confusing, taking up space and running down the clock with so much blank gab and cross-referential double-talk. “Capitalism is / the new slavery? Desire is everywhere!” “Is / experimental poetry still happening / on weekends?”

Meanwhile, “This book is / dedicated to all other victims, to silence, / forgetfulness, unforgivable truths, destroyed / histories, ongoing deaths-in-life: patriarchy,” and we are reminded, as “everyone” of the horrors done in our names and by our representatives. But what of it? No horror stands amidst the onslaught of online marketing, canned delights, beach weekend pics and new tunes. Likewise, no talk of the metaphysics of love, the significance thereof, can be heard over the prattle and hum, the sheer accumulation, the deluge, that is this text. It’s as if, instead of talking to everyone, everyone were talking at once, through corporate platforms, peppered with ads, and the poem takes down what dictation it can, a transcription of ambient noise, a soundtrack drowning out the human in both its tragic and hopeful forms.

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