Confidence by Seth Landman. Brooklyn Arts Press, 2015
Reviewed by Ben Thorpe
Seth Landman’s Confidence is perhaps one of the most interesting compilations of poetry to be published in recent years, and can be described as nothing if not unique. However, it suffers from a large handful of classic poetic hurdles that seem to cling most often to newer poets.
To begin, form and structure are an incredibly frustrating and halting aspect of this book. Consistently, line-breaks and enjambment come over and over, seemingly with no meaning or significant benefit to the language of the stanza or their respective expressions. In fact, the overall vertical stress the three pieces share often causes the reader to backtrack consistently, going over different clusters of lines to discover where the natural pauses and breaks between ideas are, as the complete lack of punctuation does nothing to help the drawn-out and meandering nature of these poems. The few couplets and bunches of well-written lines or beautifully described moments tend to get lost in the absolute confusion of the format. A few pages will most likely be all a reader needs to know they do not have the strength to continue such an undertaking.
An even more frustrating aspect, after all this effort the reader is given to plod through (given the incredibly long nature of these pieces), there is little to no emotional payoff upon completion of any of these pieces. Use of poetic language, descriptive phrases, or even basic forms like similes, exist to almost no degree. Instead, readers are given page upon page of what feels like the diary of a recently dumped millennial, working through memories of not-so-interesting moments with an ex-lover. The capacity of focus required to finish such long, bland writing is beyond the scope of the average poetry fan, unfortunately for Landman. The emotions placed in these poems are entirely too personally portrayed for almost any reader to grasp unto, lacking any sort of general relatability to anyone besides the writer.
Worse still, even after the impossible format and numbingly dull language, the actual stories trapped within these poems are, once again, reminiscent only of the angst of youth. Subject matter between the three poems begins to blend together, all three vaguely concerned with love, failed relationships, emotional turmoil, and other similar concepts. Were the title pages cut from the book, an uninformed reader might even assume the entire book was one mass of prose. Once the first work, Telling You I Love You, is finished, if the reader is not already discouraged and bored, the beginning of the second poem, Confidence, will usually succeed in breaking their will completely.
To describe these works as poetry is to misinterpret them. They are, in their function and final impact on readers, prose, lacking both a myriad of poetic devices and any beauty of descriptive language. Rather, the short, quirky phrases within Confidence make brief, cheap appeals to the shallow romantic sensibilities of the twenty-something, attempting to force empathy and something akin to romantic nostalgia, but failing entirely to even organize itself in a halfway appealing form. Where a reader might find patches of lines they enjoy, those moments of genuine understanding and relation quickly become lost in the white noise of frustration that is Confidence