Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World

Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World by Grant Tarbard, Platypus Press, $2.99.

Loneliness is a disease that we all feel, at some point in our lives. It’s an empty feeling that consumes a lot of people, that makes them strive for a connection of some kind, and they’ll do anything to fill that void. Yet here in Grant Tarbrad’s poems Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the Worldhe writes about different types of loneliness and how there are different ways to deal with loneliness. Accepting it, dealing with it, and many other ways. This is a book about loneliness in everyday life, but what makes Tarbard unique is his style and surrealist writing about the concept.

His eloquent writing style really jumps out at you within the very first poem of the book called “Coffee Futures”. Here we have the mundane activity of making coffee in the morning turned into something of a poetic journey to start off the day. It really spoke to me as a coffee lover, sometimes I feel like I can’t focus without coffee and in a strange way he put it into words as he spoke about how coffee is “As black, as melancholy – like shapes trapped in rich, thick goop.” I never really read a poem that describes making coffee in such a surreal way. It also makes for a very good introductory poem to set the tone for the rest of the book.

“Honeysuckle” drew me in with its style, where Coffee Futures makes the routine of coffee making into a surreal experience, here he describes lying in bed with someone, romanticised in everything thing they do. He describes this person in such a sweet a loving way, but in such a unique way that it paints a picture of what this person is like beyond looks. There are many poems like this, but Tarbard writes in a way that you get a sense of what is going on in the moment, with him and his lover, who they are, but not what they mean to him.

My personal favourite from this collection is “How to Resurrect the Dead”, including my favourite stanza “You use my mouth to whisper at the ghosts you leave behind, as we skim the treetops with acorns in out breast pocket wrapped in paper aeroplanes.” This one has a foreboding but familiar feeling of looking at the past and finding reminders of someone one may have forgotten. It was the most engaging, with it’s haunting imagery of a lost or forgotten memory or a person.

Loneliness is something we all go through at some point in our lives, in these are feelings that very few know how to deal with. Tarbrad’s does not have the answer, but what he does showcase is the feeling itself, in various formats or acceptance, trying to cure it, or fighting against it. What truly makes him stand out is his style and unique use of imagery that leave an impression on the reader long after they put the book down.


Mahlon SmokeA SUNY Plattsburgh student who comes from a small Mohawk reservation called Akwesasne. She is an aspiring writer, poet, artist, and hopes one day to travel the world to bring back the experiences shared there. She has published a few poems in her student magazine and has preformed at spoken word events and would like to continue this career path

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