Melissa Broder, well-known for her novels Milk Fed and The Pisces and the essay collection So Sad Today, was first a poet. Broder confides in the introduction of her new collection Superdoom that she left poetry for prose to earn a living; she writes, “Let’s be honest, poetry doesn’t make it rain.” Superdoom contains poems from her first four poetry collections, When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother, Meat Heart, Scarecrone, and Last Sext. These poems personify Broder living in the messy world filled with bodily fluids, doubts, and longings while yearning for a spiritual world: illuminated, transcendent.
In the title poem, “Superdoom,” Broder writes, “There are 200 flavors of panic, / the worst is seeing with no eyes.” Broder calls the sensation “SUPERDOOM” and describes an experience at a mall where “the earth kept coming and coming.” To address the panic she tries “to stuff a TV / in the hole where prayer grows.” The linkage of a television with the space of prayer is emblematic of Broder’s combination of the quotidian with the sublime. Her everyday diction is punctuated by surreal images.
Broder notes in the introduction that her poetry contains “the same psychospiritual and mythopoetic themes that inspire my prose writing.” She continues, “We write our obsessions, and mine seem to be — in these poems and now in prose — sex, death, consumption, god, spiritual longing, earthly longing, and holes.” What is so delightful about Broder’s poems are the dramatic leaps that she makes among her obsessions. She punctuates the interrelatedness of daily life with spiritual insight. In “Spirit Fear,” for example, she opens with “The room where I will die is everywhere.” She then continues listening for a signal of death and in lines like this one collapsing the self with signs: “Signal from the dog who is a wolf who is me.” These leaps reveal lines like “I make pockets of darkness so the room looks like heaven” and eventually the poem comes to rest with a concluding line, “Make the dead smell like the dead.”
The poems of Superdoom careen between transcendence and vanishing, an experience Broder ascribes to writing the poems on the subway in New York. She confides, “It would be my joy, reader, if you find in some of these poems a bit of transcendence for yourself. I wish for you only the very best kind of vanishing. If you need respite from the body, I hope you get it. If you need freedom from the space-time continuum, that too.” These hopes are a prayer by Broder for her readers. They contain both aspiration for Broder’s poetry and illumination of all poetry: a moment of reflection, insight, solitude, communal desire. Not rain exactly, but perhaps a mist on the horizon.
Julie R. Enszer is a scholar and poet. She is the author of four collections of poetry: Avowed, Lilith’s Demons, Sisterhood, and Handmade Love, and is the editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker and Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry.