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Posts Tagged ‘Walmart’

Michael Robbins on ‘Alien vs. Predator’

March 27, 2012 | by

Michael Robbins.

Reading the poetry of Michael Robbins is kind of like driving around the parkways and frontage roads of America’s suburbs. His poems have a Best Buy, a Red Lobster, a Kinko’s, a Pizza Hut, and a Guitar Center; they reference the slogans of Christian billboards and the bumper stickers of hippies; they offer the choice between Safeway and Whole Foods and between the corporate classic-rock station, the corporate urban-music station, and All Things Considered. The poems are heavy with concern for the elephants, the whales, and the freedom of Tibet. They have a Rhianna song stuck in their heads.

Among poets, Robbins follows in the footsteps of Frederick Seidel and Paul Muldoon in writing about contemporary life using more traditional poetic forms and rhyme. He also references and sometimes even quotes Philip Larkin, John Berryman, Theodore Roethke, Wordsworth, and others. But Robbins is more playful and less grandiloquent than his sometimes-grim forefathers: after reading his first book, Alien vs. Predator, the two things I kept thinking of were not poetry at all, but rather the short stories of George Saunders and the video art of Ryan Trecartin. As Saunders did with marketing jargon and Trecartin with reality television, Robbins congeals his suburban idyll, transforming its vacant vernacular into unsettling poignancy. And sometimes it’s even funny.

I reached Robbins by phone in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We spoke the day after Rick Santorum’s victory in that state’s Republican primary.

Where are you working right now?

I’m a visiting poet at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, which is where I’m staying and just waiting until I get out of this city.

You don’t like it?

The people are great at the university, my students are great, but Hattiesburg is … it’s just like if you opened a university in a Taco Bell, basically. It’s just the ugliest place I’ve ever seen in my life. Read More »

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Fever Pitch

February 15, 2012 | by

Morgan and Taylor, a collage.

Have you seen this video of a three-year-old weeping over Justin Bieber? It became an Internet phenomenon, culminating in Jimmy Kimmel flying the toddler to his show so she could sit on Bieber’s lap. A lot of people thought it was pretty cute. Others found it disturbing, lumping it in with the broader societal problem of the sexualization of increasingly young girls.

This particular example may be a little extreme: she’s three. But there’s a general feeling out that girls are crushing way too hard, way too young, on the boys they see in magazines. Look around, and you’ll find no shortage of six-, eight-, ten-year-olds in the grip of a pretty serious Bieber fever.

I’m here to tell you: don’t worry about it.

Remember Hanson? For about five years of my life, they were my life. Them, and another band, The Moffatts. The Moffatts were the Canadian Hanson: an all-brother band that sang and played instruments and had hundreds of thousands of utterly rabid, scarily desperate young girls tearing their hair out over them. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I spent the years between the ages of thirteen and seventeen doing very little aside from obsessing over these two bands. Or that between 1996 and 2000 I went to more than a hundred of their concerts, television spots, autograph sessions, radio interviews, and other public appearances. That I followed them around most of Canada and a good part of the United States. Or that I spent, in total, probably about sixty nights sleeping in parking lots, on sidewalks, in decrepit motels, and in the back of a minivan. My friends and I once spent four nights in a Walmart parking lot, in the rain, just to be first in an autograph line.

Yes, I had friends. I had a posse, and we were famous in the world of band fans. We were interviewed in newspapers and by radio and television stations everywhere we went. The Life Network did a special on us called The Things We Do for Love. When we showed up at the Sally Jesse Raphael show in New York, to see The Moffatts, the fans waiting outside the studio screamed for us, asked us for our autographs. We were famous for loving famous people. Read More »

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