Letters to Kurt: By Eric Erlandson, 159 pgs. By Kurt

Apr 27, 2012

When I got my review materials from Razorcake, the first thing that I saw was this book and for a split second I thought, “Someone wrote a book of letters to me? Ohmygosh!” (My name is Kurt, too.) And then I realized that was impossible and had a good laugh at Todd’s sense of humor for having sent this to me. As it turns out, the author, Eric Erlandson, was the bassist for the band Hole and this is a book of fifty-two prose poems inspired by his friend, Kurt Cobain.

Some of these poems are about Cobain and others not at all. Some deal with celebrity, Erlandson’s own life, and politics. There are a number of pop culture references that kept the poems more engaging and will likely do so for those not as initiated into the world of poetry, although Erlandson runs the risk of alienating those lacking an understanding of these references. (For example: “A serious mess with no exit strategy in sight. Even Darby Crash had his, but Mark Chapman’s bullet made sure his final bid for fame was yet another bust.” This is a reference to John Lennon’s killer, Mark Chapman, and the fact that Lennon and Germs vocalist, Darby Crash, died on the same day.) Much of the content seemed stream of consciousness. The prose form works better for this type of writing, so that was a smart decision on Erlandson’s part. However, the stream of consciousness form also runs the risk of keeping focus on a single topic difficult.

It is interesting to see how a celebrity views certain issues and people, and it was also impressive to see Erlandson’s knowledge of popular culture and his political understanding. It made for more lively reading than most poetry I’ve come across. Yet I’m still hesitant to fully endorse the book (because trust me, Erlandson needs my endorsement. Sarcasm, friends. Sarcasm). Poetry is a tough nut for many people to crack and you either love it or you don’t. And then, within that group of those who love poetry, there are different schools. Erlandson cites Bukowski as an influence—and the dirty old man is definitely my favorite poet—but it was still hard for me to fully appreciate all of what Erlandson was writing. Much of it was simply too fluid and not focused enough. I felt as though I was drifting somewhat and unable to keep my attention. Further editing on some of these poems would have given them more of a punch. Still, not a bad first effort. (Akashic, 232 3rd St. #B404, Brooklyn, NY 11215)