Review: Welcome to the Last Earth Show by Michael Sikkema

I don’t have many pet peeves when it comes to poetry, but one thing that I cannot stand is when word-salad and vaguely gross imagery is chopped up into something meant to mimic free verse. It’s a trend that’s been catching on, unfortunately – blank verse that has none of the emotional resonance of Rupi Kaur or Nayyirah Waheed, and none of the metaphoric brilliance of Allen Ginsburg or Sylvia Plath, while making pretensions to both.

Possibly I’m being cruel. Michael Sikkema’s chapbook Welcome to the Last Earth Show is certainly striking in its simplicity, and there are ways to use negative space in your favour, especially when writing micropoetry. There’s also some sort of thematic connection going on between some of the micropoems, albeit one that has something to do with mutation and possibly the end of the world. However, printing poems at the top of each page in Times New Roman and leaving the rest of the page blank does not count as an artful use of blank space. Neither can I resign myself to believing that poems like

Pretty
clouds
kill
us slowly

really have earned their own page.

Welcome to the Last Earth Show has some excellent metaphors lurking within its world salad. Lines like “I can hook you up with five gallons of sublime/future for the price of/a working atmosphere” actually have a lot of potential; on their own, or in the context of poetry that actually followed through on their promise, they would make a fascinating chapbook. However, if I wanted to read about dog vomit and breakfast meat, I would read a pet-owner’s blog. They probably won’t waste nineteen pages on something that probably amounts to less than 500 words.

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