Ben Mirov’s second book of poetry, Hider Roser, is an eclectic, irreverently funny, and unexpectedly sincere collection published by Octopus Books. Even after the first poem, “Containment Unit for Mysterious Green Vapor,” which begins: “I shouldn’t talk about myself that way./ I also have feelings./ Anger at the cucumber./ Disappointed neon blue./ Running through the pine forest/ from robotic wolves of happiness,” I was instantly hooked on the wit of this collection. Mirov’s sudden twists of language and his voyage into the imaginary often create an absurd and comical collage that is both captivating and seemingly lighthearted. After a more studied read, however, this lightheartedness yields to concerns about poetry, identity, and personal relationships.
Like the windows and masks that manifest as images within Hider Roser, and like the title itself, an anagram that can be rearranged with some effort, there is a guarded sincerity behind each humorous evasion in Mirvo’s collection. This vulnerability comes to the fore in unlikely ways. As Mirov explains in “For Ben Mirror”: “Dreaming is a different matter./ It takes a lot of cocoons/ to make a dream and even then// you’re the only one around/ to appreciate the architecture./ You have no idea who you are.// You think you’re someone/ named Ben Mirov./ Thursday, June 11, 2009” (26). Even in the reflective moments of this book, there is always a surreal underpinning. In this poem and many others, the speaker investigates his own identity. It seems to me that one of the themes that Mirov’s poetry rehashes in this collection is that identity is a sort of lie that we tell ourselves for the illusion of a seamless existence. And of course, in some ways this is true, no matter how much we try to divest ourselves from it. Mirov’s collection constantly points to the absurdity of being a poet, of being a person, of existing at all.
As much as Ben Mirov’s Hider Roser is an exploration into comical and nihilistic absurdity, it is also a deep meditation of what it means to write poetry. For Mirov, one of the tasks of the poet is to render things as they are–either in his imagination or in reality–as acutely and skillfully as she or he can. In this book, there is a never ending play between the real and the imaginary, the possible and the impossible.“I am trying to figure out the secret/ of artificial intelligence,/ how to make something get up and live// all by itself. I believe/ this is possible and my beliefs/ though flimsy and hollow like yellow reeds// bent low against the wind/ down by the black river where dreams/ kneel down to die in peace/ are the only things that confuse me” (20-21). Poetry is an attempt to bring something to life, not just for the poet, but for the reader. In Hider Roser, Mirov has found some ways to make this possible, through humor, through absurdity, and most importantly, through a belief that this can be done.
Buy it from Octopus: $12
Cosmo Spinosa is a poet and critic living in the Bay Area. He holds an MFA from Mills College.