THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY IS ME by Conor Bracken
About the Collection
In his debut collection of poems, Conor Bracken traces the nerves of toxic masculinity—white as maggots but taut as lyre strings—that twitch and fizz inside events as homegrown as school shootings and as distant as the execution of medieval French heretics. Everywhere, though, there are bodies: the stout slouch of Henry Kissinger in a towel, a headless snake writhing in a footwell, a cantor with a beautiful voice and an inexorable need to be touched. And then there’s the body of our speaker: “white and alive and in love” and damaged by the same ravenous appetites he isn’t always able to curb. There is no hero here, only a song that turns towards and away from reckoning with the costs the neo-imperial world order extracts from bodies both supine and thrashing. These poems flicker like fire and billow like night’s velvet curtain, which you can “roughen with one hand / and smooth with the other.”
Praise for THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY IS ME
"Not since Rachel Loden's The Richard Nixon Snow Globe has there been such a paradoxically moving and satirical portrait of the sad dicks of Republicanism. Conor Bracken tangos with Nixon cabinet member Henry Kissinger the way Che Guevara tangoed with Eva Peron in Evita, a dance of fascination, danger, sadness. It's poetry that cuts to the heart of America's sado-masochistic relationship with power, especially extreme and violent power: guns, machetes, pipe bombs...the discharge of bullets that dribble down the front of America's pants. 'Around me fathers and offspring/as plain as stop signs give/each other tips while they reload.' 'The body a little bomb/that pleasure sometimes lights.' Every word a small explosion. All the terror of this forbidden dance wrapped inside the chilling fact of a school shooting; itself wrapped in the history of massacres both internal and external to a country that 'destroys another country on tv' as a national pastime, blood-letting for ratings. In the aftermath of a string of gun-friendly presidents—not just Donald Trump and all his enablers, but every war-mongering precursor and follower—we are invited to search deeply within our culture for the roots of that thirst for bodies laid waste. A complicated, mesmerizing meditation on one very visible symptom of the sickness at the heart of a nation."
— D.A. Powell, author of Repast: Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails
"A greater challenge than using the poem to dissect the fragility of a place, a nation, or a history, is using the poem to dissect oneself. One's role within the ecosystems they operate in. It is difficult to do this both thoughtfully and tenderly, but thankfully, Conor Bracken has arrived at that balance with this book. It is vulnerable and visceral, honest, and at times funny. But, more than anything, it is immensely generous."
— Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance
“In Conor Bracken’s, The Enemy of My Enemy is Me,, inherited violence wrestles like worms within the white male speaker’s identity. Through a ‘damaged villanelle’ and other disruptions of form, Bracken works to convey the intrusions of history—a voice stepping through the speaker’s voice—but also the access that histories of colonization have afforded him. This collection is skeptical of its own attempts to unpack complicity; it never suggests that those efforts are without flaw, or that any person coming from privilege should be pardoned because they are ‘trying.’ Instead, Bracken conveys forgiveness as labor: a ‘buzzard in a dove’s beak,’ a machine, an idea forced to thicken inside the survivor’s body.”
—Taneum Bambrick, author of Vantage
About the Author, Conor Bracken
Conor Bracken is the author of Henry Kissinger, Mon Amour (Bull City Press, 2017), selected by Diane Seuss as winner of the fifth annual Frost Place Chapbook Competition, and translator of Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine’s Scorpionic Sun (CSU Poetry Center, 2019). His poems and translations have earned fellowships from Bread Loaf, the Community of Writers, the Frost Place, Inprint, and the Sewanee Writers' Conference. An assistant poetry editor at Four Way Review, he currently teaches English at the University of Findlay, and lives in Ohio with his wife, daughter, and dog.