Review: Suicide Porn

J.J. Campbell
Poetry
44 pages
5 ½” x 8 ½” chapbook
Interior Noise Press
Available HERE
$8.00
Review originally published on 2/6/11


Even though the polished, glossy cover with trimmed page edges on laid paper makes this collection of poetry look like a pretty package, the title alone should let you know what to expect from Campbell: raw, gritty, truthful poems from the estranged underbelly of healthy and happy society. This book is not to be read by the flower girls and lovely poetesses of the soft, functioning world, nor by the sick at heart with razors resting nearby, but it should be devoured by those who crave a dark truth.

The poems are fairly dismal, dealing with a lack of direction in life,

“mission accomplished”:
[ … ]
i remember when
i was 13 i never
wanted to grow
up
now in my mid
30’s
mission
accomplished

physical pain, talk of death, questioning of faith, music therapy, being overweight, and other unpleasant dark topics, yet interspersing them with talk of finding love and maintaining quite a bit of wicked humor throughout the hard times. There are many juxtapositions that show the complexity of this often-sad man, such as his apparent sadistic pleasure in not caring about the happiness of his own family, yet caring very deeply with heavy remorse and understanding for a fellow peer who is in distress and also suicidal, as if the mirrored understood pain almost makes it more real and sympathetic to him than his own family’s feelings.

He often uses winter and nature’s harshness as a metaphor for his own cold pain and constant struggle, as in

“seven kittens”:
[ … ]
i’m refusing to
name them until
they make it
through a winter
outdoors
[ … ]
i figure whoever
makes it to march
will be blessed
with a name they’ll
never understand
anyway
[ … ]

and

“like it nearly had a meaning”:
[ … ]
those deep dark pools
of regret
remorse
unrequited love
winter was settling in
the winds bringing the
harsh chill of death to
your door
[ … ]

and uses death in nature and the failing of crops due to unforeseen natural conditions as a symbolism of his own slow decay and human failings in his own surroundings, as in

“lost on the other side of the horizon”:
[ … ]
i’ve watched a
potentially good
crop of corn and
soybeans turn to
dust right before
my eyes
[ … ].

This book also touches on love, sex, women, finding the right partner, the ups

“like a fading kiss”:
[ … ]
she had the eyes
of the ancient
dead greeks
[ … ]

and the downs

“your wall of regret”:
[ … ]
all the while i still
believe my love for
you exists for a reason
but anytime i try to
express that you run
off to swim with the
shallow end of the
gene pool
[ … ]

and the spaces in between where love is concerned. But J. J.’s love and emotions run deep and inconsistent, more human than most poets who write even the greatest words of true love. While many of the topics and words of this book deal with dark, quiet, obstinate pain, you would do yourself a misdeed to mistake the darkness for utter brutality. Because out of that darkness comes a perverse and savage sense of humor that makes the wicked, uncouth mind laugh right out loud in unexpected delight. And that’s where Campbell shine; he has the ability to take agonizing situations and make them realistically, yet inhumanely, funny and charming. I’ll end this review with a few of my favorite humorous, if sadistic, passages:

“within fives minutes of entering the supermarket”:
standing in the beer
aisle wondering if the
imported shit is really
worth four extra dollars
when this attractive
[ … ] woman fell to
the floor
my first inclination
was to laugh
[ … ]
i settled for domestic
[ … ]

and

“up by the big barn”:
[ … ]
do you wanna see it?
the yankees just got swept
i’ve got a stack of rejection
letters and my fantasy baseball
teams have gone to shit
of course i want to see it
[ … ]

and

“deer makes a nice stew”:
every time i mow the
grass out here on the
farm the deer that lives
in the front woods pokes
its head out and stares
at me
the kind of stare that
comes off to me as he’s
asking just who the fuck
am i to disrupt his day
[ … ].

If you buy this book, you might just save J. J.’s life and keep him alive to write another.