Photograph: Sean Joseph Patrick Carney.
I saw poet Andrew Durbin read in a light drizzle in the backyard of Essex Flowers, a ground-level flower shop on New York's Lower East Side with an artist-run gallery in its basement. Despite the crappy weather, the patio was packed and I felt lucky to be near the stage with a decent view.
Next-Level Spleen (which was published last year in online magazine The Destroyer) took about 20 minutes to read aloud. Durbin's voice began with a casual cadence, his pace quickening during certain passages—not because he was rushing, but because the text required urgency. The poem begins as the narrator gets ready for a movie night (code for sex) with a FWB at the unoccupied apartment of the friend's father. The narrative setup suggests a sort of New Sincerity/Tao Lin-esque intoxicated banal hipster casual romance scene, but breaks that promise when the plotline of Clueless, which plays on loop on a television screen in the bedroom, becomes the central focus of the piece.
(For readers over 40, under 18 or clueless, Clueless (1995) stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher, a rich, popular high school girl in Beverly Hills, California who falls in love with her unfashionable older stepbrother, played by Paul Rudd. Cher's seemingly shallow and materialistic persona is itself proven only superficial as she sees past the importance of designer labels and social status to recognize the inner beauty of Paul Rudd's supposedly average-looking, but caring, character.)