Mike Bushnell has been in the internet literary scene for a while, much longer than I, and Traumahawk is his first print book. The story of his history in the scene can be found here. He has had several pseudonyms, but Mike Bushnell is his name.
Traumahawk is a very emotional poetry collection that seems to be inspired by a painful breakup or perhaps by a strained on-again/off-again relationship. The poems are minimal and direct and earnest. The collection opens with a trauma of sorts, an image of a man barely escaping a wrecked car. It also introduces a narrator whose casual vernacular ("'aw heck' I say / 'it was nothing kid / it was nothing'") reminds me of how Bushnell sometimes speaks. With this metaphorical rendering of trauma in place, the collection proceeds with poems addressing the woman he loves and poems that describe his life without her.
Some of my favorite poems in the book, like "It Builds Our Barn," describe overwhelming happiness. "Telling You Makes Me Cry" describes the feeling of finally saying something to someone that you've been thinking for a long time.
Some of my other favorite poems portray loneliness. "Are You Imaginary" is a beautiful poem about loving someone from far away, from a safe distance. Bushnell writes:
my eyes are the eyes
that beg you
to affect my life
like a pinch
or a face slap
In "Reallyreally," the narrator's mind is made up, he wants to ask this woman to marry him:
I don't like food I'm not tired
the house ain't clean but I ain't cleaning
I wish I could ask you to marry me
The book is largely concerned with the narrator's relationship to this woman, but there are poems that reflect on the poetry-making itself and on people outside this intense relation of two. In "Once I Was A Terribleterrible," Bushnell writes, "I am the person that these things must happen to / so that people who can connect may sustain / and have something / to talk about." This struck me as an interesting take on emotionally vulnerable poetry. I like the phrase "people who can connect."
My favorite poem in the book is undoubtedly "Watching Baseball on Mute." Poncho Peligroso, 2011 poet laureate, was visiting when I was first reading the book, and this was the first poem that I read aloud to him (the first of several). It describes a lonely man watching a baseball game on mute and seeing a woman talking on her phone in the stands and feeling like he recognizes her. He thinks about getting up to hug the TV. This is how it ends:
because I watched someone connect
with someone else in the background
and that is just sad
who am I kidding
I kneel next to it
and embrace machine
Here is a video of lovely Ana C. reading one of the poems from the book, "Call Me a Convert Because I Really Do Believe In Love":