Fellner has created a can’t-put-down collection that takes a post-confessional, darkly humorous tone and maintains it through poems that attack many of the touchstones of contemporary life including sex, methamphetamine abuse, love, sickness, and politics.
This collection is at its best when it reveals tiny portions of a life that leave the reader curious for more. For instance, “A Love Poem for Paul” begins with the intriguing lines “Who else could make/my trips to the psych ER/feel like first dates?”
With an attitude that nothing is off-limits or too sacred for a smirk, Fellner attacks a wide variety of topics in brief poems full of attitude.
Included in the first two sections are odes to crystal meth, promiscuity, Miss Piggy, agoraphobia, and gay men who claim in their online profiles that they are not into “mind games.” In a more reflective tone, the third section focuses on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie (WY), examining how this event still resonates in the second decade of the 21st century. The quiet intensity of these poems is perhaps best summed up by “Shoelaces,” comparing the use of Shepard’s killers using his own shoelaces to bind him to a fence with tying the shoelaces of a child in a gesture that sends them “into the world safe and protected.” Fellner ends on a hopeful note that society may come together and take action against the horrors of our collective past.
Although the entire collection is impeccably strong, delivering one full-bodied poem after another, the poems co-written with his husband Phil E. Young (“Doctor’s Note,” “Secret Ingredients,” and “Get-Away”) serve as a break from the rest of the collection. These poems tend to be more intensely narrative and lack the level of humor that makes the rest of the collection come alive. Though these poems shine individually, they fail to meld as harmoniously with the rest of the collection as those written by Fellner.
Steve Fellner authored a previous collection of poetry, 2007’s Blind Date with Cavafy, selected for the Marsh Hawk Poetry Book Prize and the Thom Gunn Gay Male Poetry Award. He is also the author of a 2009 memoir All Screwed Up.
Weary World is highly recommended to libraries of all types, particularly those with strong contemporary poetry collections, and to individuals with a love of confessional poetry, memoir, satire, and those who see humor in the darkest of topics.
Reviewer: John Mack Freeman