Book Review : Brian Alan Ellis - Road Warrior Hawk: Poems About Depression, Anxiety and Pop Culture
Last weekend, I had a discussion with a man claiming “kids these days” don’t have any work ethic or attention span. The man in question had two children: eight and seven years old, respectively. I countered by quoting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and telling him it affects all of us. Not just younger generations and “kids these days”. Entertainment used to require effort and decision-making, but it’s now mostly available on Facebook. Free. All the time. Being the people who knew what it was like before, it’s our responsibility to deconstruct its culture of monolithic immediacy.
This is exactly what author Brian Alan Ellis does in his new collection of poems Road Warrior Hawk: Poems About Depression, Anexiety and Pop Culture. He creates something new out of the ruins of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey-sponsored digital apathy.
Road Warrior Hawk is a collection of a hundred poems that don’t go longer than one page. They are shorter than thousands of Facebook statuses. Each of these poems have a title that is more or less Facebook article headline and both have equal importance on the page. The title is ironic, surreal and contains elements of mundane things that really happened. like going to McDonald’s or watching an old VHS tape. The poem gives emotional context to the title and comments on a provocative sentence that doesn’t have inherent meaning. Confused? Here’s an example:
RECENTLY ADDED IN: TEENAGE SOCIOPATHS RUINING PEOPLE’S LIVES WHILE FUCKING TO POPULAR ‘90s MUSIC
I recommend watching the movie
Cruel Intentions on Netflix,
especially if you dig films where
you can’t relate to any characters
but you can still groove to that
one song by The Verve.
You know the one.
Here, Brian Alan Ellis takes a dig at cheap nostalgia and how it’s been rendered meaningless by Netflix because it’s now constantly available. Therefore, it stops bringing you back memories and confronts you to the cold reality that a remake of Dangerous Liaisons for teenagers is kind of stupid. Ellis creates an alluring statement with his title and uses the poem to deconstruct it and build a different meaning. In this case: our memories being so readily available all the fucking time is forcing us to realize our lives are never all that great.
Of course, that feeds into the depression and anxiety issues, which are the other important themes of Road Warrior Hawk. Let me reassure you: Brian Alan Ellis isn’t in the boo-hoo-I’m-lonely business. What he does is basically makes an observation fragments of reality and reflects on their meaninglessness. For example: someone ranting on Facebook because of his faulty 700$ television, sharing inspirational messages on social media and going on pornhub the same day, buying cat litter in bulk on Amazon, etc. Ellis successfully deromanticizes depression and anxiety by looking at what they cause without ever directly looking at what they are.
And what the fuck is the point of reading poems about all that?
Glad you asked, because there are several reasons why you should read Road Warrior Hawk.
1) Microfiction is easy to read and understand. In 2019, it’s the most democratic form of artistic endeavor that can actually be smart.
2) It will reconcile you with your disposable urges. It’s OK to find comfort in an Amazon shopping spree or in a drunken McDonald’s visit at 2 AM. It’s OK because these are the coping mechanisms available to us without having to pay a stranger 90$ an hour to listen to our own private bullshit.
3) It’ll both confront you and reconcile you with the lack of inherent meaning to your life. That you won’t find them in your entertainment either. That people who do that are 1000% sadder than people who claim to be sad. Ellis illustrates that beautifully in a poem where he compares a golden shower to a Golden Girls binge-watching marathon.
4) Brian Alan Ellis talks about the guy diving through the wedding cake in Guns N’ Roses music video for November Rain. It’s important that we keep that guy’s memory alive, because he embodies the point he’s trying to get across in Road Warrior Hawk.
I could go on and easily get to 10. If you’ve ever felt confused and fed up by the constant stream of information vomited by your Facebook timeline, you’ll relate to Road Warrior Hawk. If you still like ‘90s culture, but roll your eyes at people your age acting like the get-off-my-lawn adults you used to laugh at, you’ll relate to Road Warrior Hawk. It expresses profound feelings, but its format is disposable. Because in 2019, everything is meant to be loved for a moment and thrown away because there’s another thing coming ahead. Even opinions about “kids these days”.
Road Warrior Hawk is an elegy to the ephemeral nature of selves built by disposable entertainment. It’s frightening in itself, but it’s also comforting to feel you’re not alone in your isolated bubble of mainstream entertainment.