A while back, I made a goal to read all the books in my possession that I have started, but not finished. As can be expected by my past track record with goals, I have not gotten very far. This weekend, however, I finished one of them.
I borrowed “Destruction Myth” from a friend on New Year’s Day this year. Took me long enough to finish it, right? This friend is an English Major and we always have fun talking about the books that we’ve read in classes. “Destruction Myth” was assigned for one of his poetry classes. It is a collection a poems by Mathias Svalina. Each poem is a creation myth, except for the last one, which is a bunch of destruction myths compiled into what I will call a segmented poem.
Svalina has an interesting sense of humor. In each poem, he presents a different story of how the world began. “In the beginning everyone looked like Larry Bird.”, “In the beginning there was nothing, but nothing smelled like bacon.” Each poem is titled “Creation Myth”, so there is nothing to distinguish them except for the content. To me, this seems to have been done so that each could have it’s own sense of authority. Each and every poem is to be seen as not “a” creation myth, but “the” creation myth. After all, societies take their creation myths seriously, and are not often open to other theories of how the world began.
Many of the poems start with “In the beginning” but then mention the existence of things like cell phones, businesses, and other modern conveniences. This bugged me a bit, but I’m sure that Svalina was making a point about the impossibility of there being a beginning because there was always something. Or maybe he was making a statement about how it’s hard to imagine a time when the things that exist now did not. Either way, it was a minor distraction, but an inevitable part of the concept.
Most of the poems had an anonymous tone, as if they were just fact- there was no real narrator. Occasionally though, there would be a random paragraph or stanza where there was a sudden “I”. “There was another guy who I didn’t like much.” These added to the overall random tone of the collection, which is full of voids talking, buildings springing from bullets, and people having cornfields instead of reproductive parts.
When you finally get to the destruction myth, you are met with predictions of how the world will end. Like the beginnings, it often refers to things that wil happen after the end. I like this sense of eternity. It gave me the idea that it was saying “everything goes on, even after it’s over.” Many of the lines in the destruction myth refer to the preceding creation myths, which gave a feeling of continuity. It reminded me of when comedians will bring back a joke from earlier in their routine. When done right, it is a great way to drive home a point or get a bigger laugh.
Overall, I enjoyed the nonsensical tone of the collection. The main reason it took me so long to read was that I’d read a couple poems, put the book down, and then forget to pick it up for a few weeks. I don’t see that as a flaw in a collection of poetry. Some of the humor wasn’t really my style, and some of the poems were downright odd. But it was interesting and full of surprises, and I’d definitely recommend it to my friends, so that they’ll understand some of the random things I will probably reference now.