Broetry: a book of poetry, but for ‘bros’.
Penned by ‘voice of the Everyman’ Brian McGackin, Broetry is an attempt to reinterpret what McGackin considers to be an effete, rapidly-shrinking form of literature with ‘little popularity’. It is an attempt to make poetry accessible to men, who according to McGackin, find poetry of little relevance in the modern-day world.
Spurious assumptions aside (I will come to these later) the premise behind Broetry would seem to be quite a good one. Broetry takes us on a free verse journey through the life of a ‘typical’ young man as we follow ‘The Bro’ through high school, to university and later to unemployment and the protagonist’s ‘Quarter-Life Crisis’.
As an observer of human life, McGackin takes us to places most poetry simply doesn’t take us, with poems ranging from ‘Ode to That Girl I Dated for, Like, a Month Sophomore Year’ to ‘Final Final Fantasy’, ‘The Clown Outside the Department Store’ and ‘Morning Sex’. The titles alone give a good impression of what Broetry is all about and it’s fair to say you will either ‘get it’, or you simply won’t.
So we come to the question then, is the book any good?
The answer, I’m afraid, is not all that clear-cut. For a start, let me describe myself to you. I am, in every sense of the word, the key demographic this book is aimed at. I’m 20-something, I have no money, I’m in massive debt, I like girls, and I like the odd drink at the weekend. So why then, does Broetry leave me feeling so, well, empty? I don’t think there was a single point during my time spent reading the collection that I thought ‘oh yeah’ or found myself thinking about a particular poem after the event.
Having given the problem particular thought, I have come to the conclusion that the problems with Broetry are threefold.
Firstly, as I alluded to in my opening remarks, Broetry makes a number of sweeping, and in some instances, quite offensive assumptions. Of course there is an element of ‘tongue in cheek’ with the whole ‘Poetry for Dudes’ tagline, but to assume that all men are dumb beasts driven only by money, sex and alcohol is quite plainly wrong. This tacit assumption that we (men) are all simpletons incapable of appreciating poetry, and then to make the bold claim that poetry in itself is both effete and of ‘little popularity’, offends me both as a man, and as a literary critic.
This point links with the second tier of my complaints about Broetry and that is simply, that I don’t think this work, or indeed this ‘form’ of poetry has a future for McGackin. At its very core, the work is flawed.
Ask yourself: why do you read poetry, and more importantly, why do you read a certain poet? A few moments’ thought on the subject should tell you that you read a poet because of their voice; because of the unique perspective they offer; perhaps even because they offer something different to other poets. Clearly at this moment in time, McGackin ticks the third of these three points, but for how long? He has set himself up as the voice of the ‘Everyman’ and in so doing exposes himself to the criticism that essentially anyone with a reasonable grasp of English can do what he is doing.
Which brings us to the final problem I have with Broetry, and that is, simply, that I’m not sure the poems are any good. Obviously poetry is a subjective art-form, and there are doubtless thousands out there who will get some sort of pleasure from the collection, but for me, the poems just don’t do it. The fact they are for the most part free verse certainly doesn’t help. Take the following for example, an extract from ‘Final Final Fantasy’ (p. 49):
I will not spend one hundred and thirteen
hours of my life on a video game
ever again. I will not rationalize,
claiming that it is somehow “research” for
my future career as a comic book
writer. I will not allow myself to be …
As a writer in the games industry, it’s fair to say I know a fair few people who have probably thought, or even said a similar such thing on social media. But to call it poetry? I’m sorry, but from where I’m standing, that’s not the work of a wordsmith; that’s the word of someone doodling on the back of their folder in a lecture hall.
Maybe I’m missing something, but the more I think about it, the more I think I’m right. Quirk Books have taken a risk with Broetry — of that I am in no doubt. I am also in no doubt that the risk will pay off in the short term while Broetry remains a novelty. Long term however, I don’t see the Broetry phenomenon taking off.
Clearly I’m not a Bro after all…