Joseph Edwin Haeger reviews I Still Love You, Peggy Bundy by Justin Grimbol. (House of Vlad)
When I was young, I had quite a bit of freedom when it came to watching movies and TV. The Simpsons and Ren & Stimpy were staples in our home. I realize this doesn’t sound all that radical, but I also saw T2: Judgement Day at five and when I was about ten my dad rented American History X because my brother requested it. For some reason—which is beyond me, but I’d wager it had to do with my Christian upbringing and the wide-spanning discomfort with sexuality and intimacy—my parents drew a deep line in the sand about Married… with Children. So, it’s not outrageous to think this was the show my brother and I wanted to watch so desperately.
The Bundy family was elusive and mysterious, and we wanted to see what this family had that the Simpsons didn’t. When our parents left for the occasional night out, we’d check the TV listings to see when we could watch the coveted show. But, here’s the thing: I was never really that big of a fan. It’s probably because I was too young to get most of the jokes, but what kept me watching was the sheer transgression of watching the show in the first place. I was breaking the rules and it felt goddamn great.
The reason I’m telling you this is because I’m reviewing I Still Love You, Peggy Bundy by Justin Grimbol. When I first started reading it, I experienced the same sense of transgression I had when I’d sneak in an episode of Married… with Children. But the best part now is I get all the jokes.
Many of the poems in this collection have hyper-realistic dialogue. When I say “hyper-realistic,” I mean “mundane.” You can feel the awkward silence between each exchange, and it feels like you’re sitting in a coffee shop listening to the table next to you out of boredom. This isn’t meant to sound negative, because it’s not. At all.
For me, poetry should reflect our world and emotions; but it seems instead, most of the time, a lot of poetry tries to be too “elevated,” too lofty in language—they’re poems that are deliberately attempting to force some sense of beauty or wonderment into the world. I can’t help but read them as if they are trying to find an illusory perspective while turning their backs on reality (i.e., the humor, the pain, the monotony of life). Conversely, I Still Love You, Peggy Bundy feels like a pure shot of life. It’s not hoping for anything better, but it’s not dunking on anything either. It’s a direct line into Grimbol’s worldview and receiving it, so untainted, is appealing and refreshing.
Sickness on a dusty Sunday
Vote for the kinda guy looting on Easter Stealing
The minister hid in the graveyard
Reading through this collection also made me think of two poetry collections by Calvero, Someday I’m Going to Marry Katy Perry and I Want Love So Great It Makes Nicholas Sparks Cream in His Pants—if you haven’t read these, do yourself a favor and get them—in that Grimbol is writing about some lowbrow, ridiculous situations and topics, but the further along you read the deeper and more poignant the poetry becomes. He might be talking about someone not masturbating for years, but underneath that is a real human emotion and connection that we are all yearning for.
What else can I say about Grimbol’s I Still Love You, Peggy Bundy … it’s strange, crude, dumb, heartfelt, and so many other things. And it’s all intentional. Even when it shouldn’t work, it somehow does, and I can’t help but be drawn into these poems. I can’t help but read them with a smile on my face because I like them. I can feel them on a deeper level because it’s a life I can understand. And I sure as hell hope Peggy Bundy loves them as much as I do.