Yankee Broadcast Network by John Buckley and Martin Ott. Brooklyn Arts Press, 2014.
Review by Molly Walsh
We occupy a world that is in a constant state of flux between the traditional and the avant-garde. Ideas are fed through cables, up towers, and into the airwaves to be consumed by the awaiting public. In Yankee Broadcast Network, John Buckley and Martin Ott stand before the ravenous media frenzy, intercepting the airwaves, and sculpting poetry for the masses. With a reach that encircles the globe, the TV has become a cultural hub, a form of identity, and a point of exploration that Yankee Broadcast Network investigates. The work as a whole explores our cultural fascination with television and how identities are made, destroyed, and reimagined.
The opening poem of Yankee Broadcast Network, “TV Dinner Theater,” places the focus not on the screen but on the eyes glued to the screen, the new dynamics of the family before the television screen:
Admission is free, for the most part. Families gather
haphazardly, hunched over nuked entrees and
cheese plates, truth told with eyes facing forward.
It is the eyes that are windows to each viewer’s identity. The eyes become a reflection of the images that are being seen on the television screen, and those reflections manifest themselves in the lives of the viewers. Obsessions with sexualized characters and situations, skewed realities of the grass being greener on the other side of the glass, and social pressures of advertising drive this poem.
Rectangles glow in syncopation in the East Quad dorm,
then the bombs started dropping, and the numb students
could not pull themselves up from plastic chairs or text
about the red lights, smoke plumes, soldiers with gas
masks. On HD sets and cable-connected smartphones,
mouths masticate a United Nations of dishes, but no
words are left in any known language to explain how
the bombs taste in windpipes and bellies, in dayglow.
The television allows sight to extend to all corners of the Earth. As technology improves and screens become high definition, how is it that the world has become less than crystal clear in understanding? This is the issue that John Buckley and Martin Ott expose and represent in Yankee Broadcast Network.
However bleak the reality may be, Buckley and Ott bring a punchy humor to the poems that has the reader asking for more. In “Television Through the Ages: A Smithsonian Walkthrough,” classical narratives are reimagined through maimed names of popular culture.
Alfonso XI of Castile chewed his darkened nails during the Battle of Gibraltar,
watching the first hospital drama, Black’s Anatomy, to howl at the other poor
souls suffering bubonic plague and the sexy interns seducing the bloodletters.
It is in the spirit of disfigured popular culture that this poem thrives, taking readers through the ridiculousness of their television fetishes. Through popular culture references intermingling with the realities of historical stories, the poem speaks for itself.
In the end, we are just Neanderthals with TVs and a poetic book of truths.
Molly Walsh is a senior English Literature student at Carroll University. While most of her work, written in a fashion that would make Bridget Jones proud, remains unpublished, she does maintain a blog that embodies her witty and sassy personality.