English, Department of


Scary, No Scary

Zachary B. Schomburg, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Document Type Article

A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: English; Under the Supervision of Professor Grace Bauer
Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2009
Copyright (c) 2009 Zachary B. Schomburg


Scary, No Scary, the follow-up to my first collection of poems, The Man Suit (Black Ocean 2007), is a continuation of my experiment with a new American surrealism. These poems are born from my interest in French Surrealism, particularly the poetry of Andre Breton, Pierre Reverdy, and Paul Eluard, and are an attempt to write within that tradition and place my poetics within their lineage. Specifically, the section called “The Histories,” is a direct extension of my scholarship on the French Surrealist poetics of absence, a concept I studied extensively for my comprehensive exams. “The Histories” challenge the readers’ expectations of logic and reality when every object introduced within the poem, a chair for example, is immediately taken away when the reader is informed that “there is no chair” (44). More generally, these poems achieve a new kind of Surrealism through a liminal world of dream-logic, informed by its own myth and folklore. Scary, No Scary navigates a post-apocalyptic dreamscape teeming with dazzling mutants--two-hearted wolves, bears with no legs--each poem a makeshift shack in a forest where “the trees / are blood-stained / and look like old / gigantic leg bones” (21). The intended affect is the spark, to use a term of Breton’s, when emotional sincerity is juxtaposed with the quirk and humor born from the subverted reality of dream-logic. These poems sit bravely in the place made when real sadness and real strangeness overlap. Scary, No Scary also operates much like a singular manuscript of poems, like fractures of an epic poem or prose-poem novella. Instead of a collection of like-minded poems, Scary, No Scary reads like one long poem which uses repeated images of lava, blood, a pond, jaguars, people turning into trees, an abandoned house on the horizon, and a black hole behind an abandoned hotel. The use of an index, which is a continuation of the index represented in The Man Suit, indicates the manuscript’s single-mindedness. There are recurring motifs, themes, and characters. It is a book about loneliness, isolation, fear, and, above all else, the illusion of choice.