Book Reviews, Poetry

Notes From The Bonfire Review: Matt Nagin’s poetic account of battle with Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic shook up the entire planet. Now, as cases are rising more than ever in New Delhi, India, the situation is grim. With the nation battling for something that we all took for granted for way too long- Oxygen- it feels like we are all in a nightmare. In such dark times, the only solace we can find is in words, of each other. Words that resonate and make us feel like we are not alone in this journey. Like everything else, this too shall pass.

While we battle Covid-19 with all that we have, I chose to read Matt Nagin’s Notes From The Bonfire – Poems in the age of Coronavirus. The book begins with a prologue in which Matt describes his own battle with the virus, how it affected his mental health, and how he dealt with it.

“I hope these poems can be of some help to others. Perhaps
they can even provide new ways to process what we’ve all
been through. Regardless, I felt compelled to write them.
They are records of my attempt to deal honestly with the
sense of loss and powerlessness, to search, among the
shadows, for the briefest glimmer of hope,” writes Matt.

The first poem titled The Virus That Hunted The Sun talks about how the world has changed ever since the pandemic hit us all. Not only has it been aptly titled, but also wonderfully articulated. Confined to our homes, all that we can do is listen to the ‘neighbour banging on the godforsaken wall’ as the ‘ceiling collapses’. The most heartbreaking lines in the poem are, “a tire lady starts selling her cough instead of her sorrow.”

The second poem is titled Postcard (we haven’t really gotten them for a while now, have we?). Most of us miss the good old days, no, I am not talking about the summer of 69 but the summer of 2019! When we could freely hit the beach, go to the movies, shop for groceries without those masks, greet people with a smile and a hug, and countless other things that we took for granted. Who knew that one day, the very basic things of life would become luxuries.

Matt writes, “just know this
life feels too short…zzzzipp zzzaap…
it’s over in a cinch, see? You got nothing
to show for it but maybe a plot of land
where you can be buried and some
writings no one will ever read, hahaha.”

‘Writings no one will ever read’. As a writer, this line hit me particularly hard.

One of the poems in the collection is titled Death to Matt Jr. It is about abortion and the sheer pain of having to end a life before it even begins.

“You could have made me so
goddamn proud.
I’m sorry I’m not ready.
I’m sorry I’m taking the easy way out.”

While the poem is yet another brilliant piece, it does feel tad out of place in the book which is about Poems in times of Covid 19.

In Time Left, Matt regrets how he used to think that he had all the time in the world to do things when infact, he didn’t. That is the case with most of us.

Read the following lines and I am sure you will agree that it is perhaps these are relatable:

“And it’s sad how little time is left,
how we pretend this is
not what is going on
as the dreams implode
wild accomplishments fade
and all of it
just so quickly
slips away.”

The poem that stood out for me in the entire collection is the one titled I Lost. It is an honest piece of work that makes you want to rethink the choices you made and ends on a positive note, reminding you that it is never too late to ‘turn things around’. We all mess up, we are all humans and we all take the wrong road at some point of time. But nobody said that we couldn’t turn it all around.

On this uplifting note, I conclude the review and urge you all to read this wonderful collection of poems by our talented author.

Kudos for another brilliant piece of work, Matt!

Grab your copy of Notes From The Bonfire at Amazon by clicking here.

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