Review: But Our Princess Is in Another Castle

Eric Shonkwiler
Jun 28, 2016 · 3 min read

B. J. Best
Prose poems
104 pages
7” x 7” perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN 978–0–9846166–8–8
First Edition
Rose Metal Press
Brookline, Massachusetts, USA
Available HERE
$14.95
Review by Eric Shonkwiler

A child of the mid-80s, I’m familiar with nearly all of the video games mentioned in Best’s book of prose poems, and I’m glad finally to witness the sea change of opinion when it comes to games as a medium for art. Best’s book, obviously, uses video games as the organizing principle at every level in this book — in fact, as one would expect, the book is divided into levels, or “worlds.” Though a poem may barely touch upon its namesake game, there is, nevertheless, a feeling of unmistakable detachment, a remove, on every page. This distance, like that of the glass in an arcade screen, is the distance from which Best seems able to observe life, childhood, adulthood. The reader is never entirely able to traverse this distance, as, in one of the strongest poems in the book, “The Secret of Monkey Island,” Best covers the important subjects but ensures the reader is a little too busy being incredulous at its contents:

It’s not faith. God is everywhere: in the jailer, voodoo charms, your hands […]

[…] It’s not music. You can beat on the table or yodel while swinging from a chandelier. Here’s a note; here’s a chord. Here’s a staff for you to walk through the woods […]

[…] Here’s a secret: about the big things, most people are terrified most of the time. It brings us together, and that is good, little monkey-faced, sweet-muffin, jumping-bean babies of mine.

I. It was, of course, a smash with adolescent boys: you are a teenager, you are a freak, you have superpowers. You love pizza. You must rescue a girl — a girl! — and she will be grateful to you eternally. Her name is April — April, the month of wetness, fertility, and blossom […]

III. […] We are here again, playing the same damn game. We have our girls. We are eating pizza. What has changed?

— God, as impossible as it seems.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Eric Shonkwiler

Written by

Author of Above All Men and 8th Street Power & Light, novels from @mwgothic, and Moon Up, Past Full, stories from @altcurrent.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.