This post is part of the Found Poetry Review’s Book Review series. Questions or comments can be directed to the author, Douglas Luman.
Since its inception, a key feature of the Internet has been the relative and voluntary anonymity that the medium affords. While the advent of media sites such as Facebook propose alternative structures for identity on the web, many users still take to blogs and forums under both aliases and real names to share their deepest struggles with faceless strangers. That this takes place on a “web” connotes a kind of connectedness of both information and identity (whether exposed or concealed) that creates roles of performer and audience in which any participant may be a player or even a heckler. The mere expression is a type of theater; that is not to say that it is by any means a spectacle, but that each entry into the conversation is an installment in a global performance of grief. When we see it on a friend’s social media account or blog, we may be tempted to merely pass by it thinking it just another installment in a stream of perpetual depression.
However, in a contemporary iteration of the idea of Artaud’s “Theatre of Cruelty,” Fitterman embraces the potential and compelling need for these performances in No, Wait. Yep Definitely Still Hate Myself, culling together a text from digital scenes of loneliness, sadness, and isolation into a cohesive monologue-in-verse that presents itself without the need for redemptive arc or apology. Fitterman’s character is merely looking to be heard—understanding and resolution are secondary. Rather than entrances and exits, individual speakers or isolated moments of poems, Fitterman creates a singular persona that takes their place on stage without the typical constraints of drama: there are no sets, no costumes, and no character descriptions. This character is not necessarily the literary “everyman,” but many readers will come to see some stage of themselves in the language.
But, more to the point of form that Fitterman has chosen, his use of the poetic line turns the speakers on themselves in intricate and nuanced ways. No, Wait… is able to craft complex moments out of the original blog or post text that turn outward expressions into much keener inner struggles.
In one particularly poignant moment, the speaker laments “How my life got so messed up. I think it must be my / parents’ fault for messing up / Our family. If I could be granted one wish in life, / it would be a ‘reset’ button.” Read as an unbroken line, the text reads as an explanation of one’s fate to the “parents,” but Fitterman’s project is much more inward-facing that this simple attribution. Breaking the first line of the excerpt on “my” makes the line read two ways: the previous unbroken interpretation and its reverse—that the speaker is also implicating themselves in fault-finding. In another segment, the speaker’s “wish” is interpreted as a wish for a “reset button,” but Fitterman’s form, breaking the line after “one wish in life” gives the additional reading that the speaker’s wish is possibly really for “[their] family.”
The patterning of this example is also a key feature of the book, that the syntax of “messing up” is repeated in such a way that the arrangement and repetition of the words creates a rhythm that heightens the movement of the text such that the language becomes compelling. As the text progresses, the line lengths increase and the speed of the book slows considerably, placing even more pressure on each phrase, the self-awareness of this being expressed in lines such as:
I have a surplus. In other words, I can use some time alone to / contemplate life and whatever and still have plenty / Of time to feel shitty about myself. Some people, I imagine / experience loneliness only like on a long rainy day
By affording his speaker more line space, Fitterman is embodying this “surplus…of time” to “contemplate life and still have plenty” of it. Again, the way that Fitterman breaks the lines in this passage repeat his overall goal: to explore all the dimensions and meanings of the thoughts being expressed, here pointing out that the speaker has “plenty” of life remaining, even though the language conveys how this time is filled by the speaker feeling “shitty” about themselves.
No, Wait…is a book that is filled with this constant turning over of thought; it endows what otherwise might be plain language with a charge that many poets attempt to find using florid and often superfluous phrasing through streams of modifying words that do more to distract readers than leave a distinct sense impression. Fitterman is keenly aware of the properties of form and language, a hallmark of his many other collections as well, but uses them here in a much more subtle way. Even the title demonstrates evokes the multi-dimensionality of the book: the end-stopped “No, Wait.” creating a gesture toward another who might be leaving, but also demonstrating speaker that might be turning against themselves when followed by the “Yep.”, an affirmation that the self-fulfilling prophecy of the “[a]dvanced level of loneliness” the speaker feels.
Though it might seem that No, Wait…is nothing but a barrage of negative thoughts, expressions of sadness, dejectedness, and depression, Fitterman is able to find some amazing moments among the many entries that he collected for this book. And, though the text exit the stage on a rather somber note, “Total sadness. Total darkness. Total coldness. Total pain.”, one cannot help but be attracted to the proposition that is being made: that there is a possibility that, even sadness can be a beautiful emotion, a notion that the speaker turns over by addressing their audience saying
Everyone / has a story, I guess, no matter how beautiful / the cover may be
While there is the notion of the “cover,” or the public face that many put up to cover their “Total sadness,” there is “a story…no matter how beautiful” that Fitterman creates out of the otherwise sad and isolated expressions of longing that make up the text of No, Wait…. Of the texts that The Found Poety Review has examined, Fitterman’s is closest to Jeff Griffin’s Lost and in its sense and awareness of these sentiments and emotions. In addition, the style and tone are just as candid, even if the text gathered for No, Wait… was meant for others to read.
If there is another guiding purpose to the book, it is that there is value in the expression of these thoughts as expurgation; to speak them is to rid oneself of them, to discover their own beautiful story amongst the twists and turns of dejectedness and despair, realizing that we are not as alone as we may think we are, but there are moments where everyone certainly feels like it.