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Monogamy Songs by Gregory Sherl | Word Riot

February 15, 2013      

Monogamy Songs by Gregory Sherl

Review by edward j rathke

Every poem I write starts with fucking or dying.

Gregory Sherl’s Monogamy Songs is a memoir masquerading as novel masquerading as collection of prosepoems or perhaps it is none of those things or perhaps all of them but in reverse. Perhaps it is the first mixtape in his soon to be announced rap career or a mixtape he made from the collected scribblings of a lonely and broken heart meant for friends or new lovers about former lovers. It is a constantly surprising and confounding read, so distinct, even from itself, that there is really no proper way to categorise what it does or what Sherl attempts to do here.

I prefer beer in a glass but I’m not attractive enough to be picky. I miss Z the
most when I imagine her leaning against walls and I’ve thought she
disappeared. I thank myself for writing the Bible. So many virgins converging
on one another, my heart beating inside them.

Written in this drug fuelled [or addled] lyricism, it turns the world of sensation and perception into a maze of thought, reflection, hope, regret, sex, and popculture. If the literature of the new millennium is to take advantage of our ADD internet culture, it probably begins here, with Gregory Sherl spitting life into his notebook, curled up naked, chewing vicodin or valium or some other v– only to rise again, Kanye West blaring over the speakers as the sun comes over the horizon.

Living well is still living so someone fucked that phrase up.

My paranoia ends a laundry list of sad facts about my brain.

Sherl speaks to us through desperation, through crippling anxiety, through the worst of depression’s valleys in language that is both vibrantly alive and terrifyingly dissociated.

Z’s old lovers smell like gasoline. I just made that up, but yesterday I built
forests in my mouth,got bit by snakes before building rainforests without rain.

In some ways, I do not even know how to review this and so it seems best to simply show you what it is like, by flashing lines without context, to show you what kind of world Sherl created here. Oddly beautiful and wholly heartbreaking but also amusing, and the narrator promises us that everything in it is a lie, and somehow that is where we find the truth of our lives, crammed in this little book that may be poetry but might be simply an accumulation of shattered romances.

I am leaving notes filled with past winning lottery numbers under fake rocks so
people will never forget I exist.

Gregory Sherl bleeds into the page and even if it is all a lie, it never is for us, the readers, because this book is so personal, so powerfully about loneliness and love and longing, that it hits us deeply. It is a book you will curl up with, reading late into the night, and though it will move you, it will also keep you at arm’s length, as if giving you so much, spilling all these emotions onto the page is too much, and something must be held back, even if only it is Sherl’s real life.

And truly, when I finished it I did not know what to think of it. I still do not. And maybe words like good or bad are useless here, but if you want to look into the chasm of loneliness and the heartattacks of love, then pick this book up and never let it go.

ejrAbout the author:

edward j rathke wrote Ash Cinema [KUBOA Press, 2012] as well as various short stories online and in print. He writes criticism and cultural essays for Manarchy Magazine and edits at The Lit Pub. More of his life and words may be found at

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