BOOK REVIEW: ‘Everything Used to Work’ by Robert Spencer

everything used to work book review
Everything Used to Work book cover

Moving and gritty, elementary at its core, poetry caressing the realities of sexual vulgarity, romantic nostalgia and existential questions, in a sort of Johnny Cash way. Robert Spencer’s book of poems Everything used to work has us looking deep into the rust and gut that made his life his own.

As in “Gut Wiser”:

It would be wise to burn your life map

and make explosives to blow potholes

in the road you’ve chosen.

Kick father time in his crotchety old

crotch and steal a few minutes to do

what you want without repercussions.

Sometimes you come across strangers you connect with, more than with any other human who’s known you for years. Where you will have the most honest conversation about life, reflect a moment and never see them again. That’s the sort of feeling one can get when reading Spencer’s words; on some level, it is like having a conversation with your reflection in the mirror.

A nursery rhyme meets film noir as shown in “Perckerhead Jones” with lines such as:

Peckerhead Jones was a lover of knives.

First he practiced on the hogs.

Then he gutted his wives.

We are not sure whether to hide this poetry from our children or sit the kids down for a lecture.

Life lessons or truth at its core? This question grows stronger as we get soaked up in Spencer’s ruthless world regarding subjects on life, silent wounds, death, and sex, to name a few. In “Love at first sight” the following words leaves us absent of romanticism :

“When our eyes locked it was love at first sight.”

Oh, what a magical romantic story

that is.

In truth your daddy wanted to fuck

your momma on the spot right

there on the floor.

Until we dive deep into the poet’s many layers with these thoughts found in “How did hell get in a half shell?”:

When’s a killer truly a killer?

What makes a kite burst into flames

and nosedive into a dead tree?

Why do bees kiss you on the stomach until

honey drips out of your bellybutton?

Can’t a mosquito drive a finishing nail

through the foreskin of an elephant?

Isn’t it logical that a rat’s tongue be used

to scour the dirty pans in the sink?

These are questions commonly asked

in the grand scheme of life.

If we all pull together we can make it

happen y’all.

His amusing way of using metaphors shows what a modern day and grandiose poet Spencer truly is.

Fortunate for the rawness he shares with us, Spencer is an American poet for the witty and life experienced. If you want to read something that is without ribbons and flowers, have a read and feel the coarse bark of this living tree of life and find a piece of yourself within the verses.

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