review of “cognitive-behavioral therapy”

2 05 2010

Was feeling lonely/bored yesterday, went to Quimby’s and bought Tao Lin’s 2nd book of poetry, cognitive-behavioral therapy. Read it in one sitting at Filter Cafe. It made me think and it made me feel and it made me laugh. I think it is a brilliant, cohesive, very moving book. It seems to have 2 consistent themes/preoccupations: the poet’s personal philosophy of life, and the emotions of a relationship (perhaps one that is ending). There are many reoccurring words, characters, and phrases, but 1 crucial one is the concept/word “distance(s).” This refers to the distance between people, between a poet and her words, the length/expansion of time and space, and [other things]. “Distance” is also crucial to the titular process, cognitive-behavioral therapy, in that it takes time to replace an irrational or negative thought process with a more positive way of thinking and acting (and Lin seems to be accepting of this requirement of time, of distance; furthermore, he seems to, by implication, recommend this process of change). I could ramble on about Lin’s philosophy, about how it makes me feel less alone and hopeful, and about how the book is playful and post-modern and honest and at times astonishingly rapid/fluid in its (poetic) logic, but instead I will direct you to the first poem in the book, “i will learn how to love a person and then i will teach you and then we will know”; I think this poem sums up the book, and gestures at our existential predicament, the passage of time, the need to learn and to try harder, the desire to love another person. Here is the poem.

I highly recommend this book. It is beautiful.

Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
“the secret of life is that i miss you, and this describes life”
“Bruce Lee is a rare species of hard-muscled hamster capable of insane destruction.”
“the distances i have described in my poems/will expand to find me/but they will never find me”
“do nice things for people/and tell people ‘i love you'”
“to distill the essence of any argument or rhetorical situation/pretend you are speaking from an enormous distance/and the audience doesn’t exist/and you are not the person who is speaking”
“the brain observes nothing from no distance/therefore everything is going to be OK”
“my favorite emotions include ‘brief calmness in good weather’ and ‘i am the only person alive’/without constant reassurance i feel terribly lonely and insane”
“if i could just get you to cry tears of joy one more time”




3 responses

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[…] by Tao was his second poetry book, cognitive-behavioral therapy. I loved it. My review of it is here. I felt like his poetry was beautiful in a way with which I was more familiar. The movement of the […]

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