Review: Facebook

T. Kilgore Splake
Poetry
36 pages
5 ½” x 8 ½” chapbook
Order HERE
Review originally published on 8/20/10


I’m from Michigan, and I’ve seen what those cold, cold winters can do to you, up there in the U. P., where it’s frozen for most the year. I’ve seen how it can freeze an old heart into believing there’s no good in technology, but I disagree with this sentiment … and not just because I’m an avid Facebook user … and not just because one day T. Kilgore Splake was my Facebook friend, and then the next day he had vanished, profile and all.

No, not these trivial things, but I do find the things Mr. Splake says about our generation on these pages a tad bit insulting, with the recurring themes of “adult children,” “self-centered,” “nothing to say,” “no talent,” “look at me,” and “soap opera,” to name a few. But I digress. Let’s first discuss the work before we get into the rebuttal of the work, shall we?

This current book, of the many, many books written prolifically by the man who never stops writing, is a comment on our society, a younger generation that communicates online, through the webbings of the Internets, tangled in this profile or that social scene, and keeping conversations going through text, rather than face to face. Perhaps Splake prefers everyone to sit and have a cup of coffee with him in his brisk Upper Peninsula local shop of choice, but as I have no taste for Upper Michigan (except to say that it is beautiful), and I reside quite far away in sunny California, where it is mild year-round and where I can’t even afford a cup of coffee, that seems to be a bit impossible, especially constantly. Ergo, social media: a way that one can stay connected with friends s/he didn’t even know s/he had. Brilliant.

But Splake doesn’t think so, in fact, really quite the opposite. There is so much negativity in this book, that I am quite disbelieving that he could find no good at all in the social device. He comments on it as one of a generation gone by, with talks of Kerouac and Ginsberg, as if my generation should automatically know who those people were, and disregarding that, while those authors are great, this is the now. And we are the now generation that may or may not fit his lines:

adult children
that never ran away from home
circus long gone[.]

That said: the poems. The poems are short, haiku-ish-style, although not following any rules, just following the whimsy of the moment, like they were all inspired by status updates that turned him off. As set in the series, they can read as one continuous poem or as separate tiny vignettes, like fragile sighs of discontentment. Most of them are clearly Facebook-inspired, commenting on people who’ve said too much or too little, who’ve given up information that he doesn’t feel is appropriate or about which he thinks no one cares or should care, uninspired people who give every detail or who think they’re great visionaries:

wannabe visions
narrow and provincial
talkers without frontiers[.]

… Yet, I can’t help finding some hypocrisy in these lines, as I think it may be just as narrow and provincial to criticize those who wish to make their visions known, whether those “visions” are awesomely mind-blowing or just untested conjectures. Just as I can’t help thinking that, as an ex-Facebook friend of Splake’s, these are directly or indirectly faced at me, as well. Not that I’m taking this personally. No, no, not at all, but I think he’s missing the point of the importance of this communication — how we are connected now more than ever in this day and age, how writing a handful of letters or making a couple of phone calls doesn’t compare on the smallest scale to the hundreds of people I can reach, to the hundreds of conversations I can have daily, with just a few keystrokes. It’s true, the personal nature may be different; it may be colder and less affectionate, but these are changing times, and it is not gone. This is communication, and it is important. All of it, even when we don’t understand its importance at the moment.

Okay, so I don’t agree with the message. The poems, however, are enjoyable enough, Splake-style in perfect form, loose and cryptic with repeating mantras and visuals in almost a Beat-style; and the book is put together beautifully with nice, thick, glossy paper, a full-color cover, vellum inlay, and saddle-stitching along the spine. If you’re not a Facebook-fan, I recommend it as a tool to harden your beliefs; if you are a fan, then you may want to have the same conversation with the self-proclaimed “old grey-bearded bard” that I do.