A Screaming Place by Brian Rihlmann will be available on July 15th, keep your eyes peeled!
Class consciousness is, and has been, the white elephant in American academic poetry, where presenting a middle-class version of life is an obligation if one wants invitations to almost anything on the highway where niceness meets success. In A Screaming Place, Brian Rihlmann establishes a position, a self, from which to speak his poems as a working-class person, from that perspective. The voice is often angry, sarcastic, and stark. I know that voice; I heard it where I grew up. Like the characters in Bukowski’s poems, Rihlmann’s characters are often at war with the futility of their existence, with Rihlmann’s sex no more redemptive than Bukowski’s, just as desperate and futile. No niceness here. No transcendence. And no exit. Rihlmann has not sacrificed his class. He refuses to be pushed around by the academics’ mind-numbing false consciousness. This courage, and Rihlmann’s astonishing discernment, make his poems sure things.
Brian Rihlmann is the real deal. I’ve followed his short and prolific career with great admiration and respect. He delivers courageous poems that are experienced gladiators of the human condition– they are vivid, humble, wise and they never waste your time. The beauty of it, for me as a poet in recovery, is the hope his poems paint for me, unpretentious and always there at midnight with a nice juicy story from the past to heal me from terminal uniqueness. Brian Rihlmann’s poems certainly have a strength that can bench press a dozen of my poems with just one stanza while it rescues them from a house that’s burning down. They all pump with the heart of a brave, dirty, soulful and ordinary humanity that hits the mark every time–beyond our shared experiences with addiction, superb and honest lines abound with a grace who know how to raise eyebrows with a knowing smirk that announces the arrival of more bullshit to let go of. He’s one of the most promising new voices in poetry–he embraces the dark with a humor that truly gets it with a warmth you can feel and that doesn’t fake it because he’s starting to make it. He keeps it real and I need that, and so do many others need that and most importantly, poetry needs that.
—Kevin Ridgeway, author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press)