House of Vlad Press
Release Date: July 15, 2020
For years now Brian Alan Ellis has been serving up original voices from House of Vlad Press. Among several other titles he will release over the next year will be his new collection of poetry, Bad Poet. Leave it to Ellis to say a great deal in the title alone. But that has been his modus operandi for a long time; he’s trying to be honest in every word. The first words of Bad Poet follow the table of contents and states simply, “I write bad poetry…” Two pages later, Ellis reminds us this: “…and I don’t care.”
And so begins his new collection.
Throughout the poems, Ellis continues his starkly honest evaluation of himself in all his racked emotions and self-doubts, often bordering on self-hate. But beneath it all there’s this shimmer lying one layer below the dread, there are moments of small hope, hope that flashes just long enough to enable the reader to continue on with this confession.
A perfect example of how the confession becomes a call for strength comes late in the book and reads, “Don’t give up./You need to continue being miserable just so you can give other miserable people/the strength to go on being miserable.” It becomes clear pretty quickly that, despite the self-deprecating wit and charm, Ellis is the big heart floating on a dark sea in search of connection. He says again and again in so many interesting and imaginative ways that to live in this world means to be slowly broken by the general weight of surviving. But not all is lost. Ellis also calls out from the dark sea to say that even death can be dealt with on our own terms, titling one poem, “Dying is pretty goth, meaning we’re all kind of goth in the end.” So, a confession, one fused with Ellis’s own brand of playfulness and goodwill. Such as this poem, included here in its entirety and titled “If your brain still works then there are no safe spaces.”
Perhaps I seem easy going to some,
but inside I’m really just a person trying
to escape a burning building.
With this new collection, Ellis is not only confessing, he is acting as rescuer, a liberator who is battle-scarred and full of insight, a voice to friends in need. His statement that he might seem “easy going” to some of his readers is his way of directly speaking to the possibility that, in the midst of his word play and satire, he hopes his larger message isn’t lost: yes, the world is difficult, life is hard, but you are not alone. Ellis is the host standing in the doorway saying, Come on in, join the club; we have jackets.
And this is more than a poet hoping to share with the reader that he has been through difficult times and was strong enough to make it through. Ellis is too sincere for that to be his only point. He is saying that you can make it through, too. He is saying this in the most grounded and truthful way possible. But Ellis is at his most powerful when openly contradicting himself to reveal his true center, such as with this poem, in which the title creates the underlying point:
Being my own therapist may or may not be going okay
Will someone please tell me
what’s wrong with me,
mainly so I can just ignore them
and continue being wrong?
The body of the poem is straight-forwardly saying the speaker is fine without input from anyone as to his general well-being. However, the title leaves room for the possibility that the speaker may be completely wrong in his self-assessment and may even welcome help if it were made available.
The take away should be this: Brian Alan Ellis is not a bad poet; Brian Alan Ellis does not write bad poetry. His poems cut swiftly to his and our baser instincts with more genuine honesty than nearly anything else being written. In fact, with this collection, he has written his most complex and deeply moving work to date. The result is a collection of poems that question the reality of an easy or normal life while, in the same breath, harboring that small refrain of hope rising up beneath the hurt for the hearts of anyone willing to listen. My advice is to do just that—listen closely, and learn what Ellis is truly offering.
Visit House of Vlad Press and learn more about Bad Poet, along with several other HOV titles.