Bio: Matt McGuirk teaches and laughs at his puns by day and scribbles somewhat coherent words nightly. He lives with his family in New Hampshire. BOTN 2021 nominee with words in various lit mags. Debut collection with Alien Buddha Press called Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities isavailable on Amazon and Lulu.Twitter: @McguirkMatthew Instagram: @mcguirk_matthew.
A Review of Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities (review done by Matthew da Silva)
https://amzn.to/3GPbIX6 for Matt’s book
Mixing poetry and prose McGuirk creates a space like ones experienced in childhood and there’re also speculative stories, such as ‘Imitating Dopamine’, a pessimistic prelude to the future of augmented reality corporates like the supposed Meta (Facebook, whatever) which will recreate something like Second Life, a now defunct arena where people would represent themselves with avatars and type conversations with their clacking keyboards (hands raised like Michael Jackson dancing ‘Thriller’ as they made words to communicate with other avatars among the strange planes and angles of virtual reality). Or they would teleport to digital houses in an endless landscape so that, unlike in the real world, they could inhabit dreams beyond diurnal imagining or nocturnal visions.
Different personalities awaited their endeavour. But never fear, you can do far, far worse than reading such engaging stories as ‘In the Weeds’ and ‘Mac the Pirate’, garish and bold sorties into escapism. Some of this review was written on a Friday. Where would we’ve been, in lockdown, without Netflix?
‘Just Leaves in the Wind’, a longer story in the collection, suggests McGuirk watches streaming TV in his free time, but when he’s not imagining a chemically enhanced future, McGuirk’s bursting imagination transports the reader to places everyone who’s had a happy (?) upbringing can relate to. When I was reading ‘Ray and the Frog’ I was back in the park beyond the back fence at 110a Hopetoun Avenue, the house I grew up in from when I was a waddling infant until I was seven years old. Down the back, near the gate, we had a swing set. From the balcony upstairs you could see, to the southwest, the trees galloping away over leafy suburbs where the houses sit right up against the welcoming hollows and bays of the harbour.
If we went out the gate it was only a minute’s walk to the Rock With the Hole in It. McGuirk’s two friends are just as cruel as we were, or just as heedless. When us kids used to play in the creek that wended its way through the park we’d be watching the fish. They were tiny, no more than an inch-and-a-half long. I recall a delicious stab of pity and regret when I’d brought one of the little wriggling bodies out of the clear stream onto the bank where we played our games, it lay on the grey sand opening and closing its mouth as it tried to get the oxygenated water it needed to flow over its gills so that it could survive. I didn’t really understand how fish breathed in those days but I do remember the pathos of the sight of this tiny creature dying because of an action of mine. And the feeling of shame that came with it has rested among my memories ever since, a plunger over the drain of time.
You can see how this sort of feeling (I imagine McGuirk felt something similar to me when, as a child himself, he’d hunt) might transfer itself to a feeling of pity at what is to come.
An author finds a kind of salvation in writing, as though by putting words down, laying down letters one after the other in a dogged sequence – like ants out of the broken head of a dead man on a beach – you were able to process the world more efficiently, with more compassion (the word we all use these days is “empathy” but I’m not sure I endorse its antiseptic pallor) to make poems or stories to understand who you are.
In ‘The Day the Little Mermaid Died’ we’re once again ten years old. Walking over sand dunes. The beach has a competent chronicler in McGuirk but he also does well in suburbia, as in his story about the computer salesman who decides to get a digital implant in order to escape from life. SThe book ‘Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities’ is a hybrid and contains free-verse poetry as well as short fiction, but the idea of bionic implants is as trusty as that worthy TV drama, which screened in the seventies, ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’. I’d watch the show with my brother – who used to go with me also into the park to play at the creek – on the TV downstairs during the weeks when granny was at home.
My brother still reads sci-fi but I’ve largely moved on. Unless, of course, a book like this comes along. I see the appeal, though these days the number of dystopian fictions is almost like a set of waves that threatens to overwhelm Amazon and Netflix, Acorn and Prime, even Binge (who thinks up these names – are we being asked to do something?).
It’s almost as though, to escape the deluge, you have to take time out by watching the evening news where you’re confronted with a rotating crop of senior police officers or the Minister announcing another spectacular, million-dollar drug bust in another crappy suburban street. The news crew interviews neighbours but where does the fiction stop and reality start? It’s hard to see much difference between the raid on the perpetrator’s hideout in the OTT police procedural and the raid broadcast on the 6pm news and that takes place in an outer-western suburb when police seized $20-million-worth of precursor chemicals.
“Meth.” “Death.” We use our TVs – another box – to escape from the boxes we construct to contain our errant personalities. McGuirk writes about these boxes in ‘Walls that Make up Boxes’: “Aren’t we all looking for walls around us and / a box to keep us safe from those scary things, / the cold things, / the things that try to get in when the world is dark? / We all have our walls and our boxes, / unless we don’t.”
The paradox is that the demand for escape is never ending. If you read McGuirk’s work you’ll find something more expansive. It’s time for a different kind of poetry to preside, one that asks you to think.