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The Pretend Life, by Michelle Brooks

The Pretend Life channels the lure of the past and a sense of foreboding about the unknowable future. The poems document the mundane landscape of contemporary life — a world in which Jimmy Carter speaks of a spiritual malaise, a landscape littered with dying retail stories, chain restaurants, and malls, one of trash-strewn streets lined with liquor stores and pawn shops. In this neon-lit darkness, the poems perform a peculiar alchemy that transforms the background noise of American life, one of billboards, advertising slogans, and the detritus of popular culture — into a strange sort of beauty. They serve as a guide to what has been lost and the palimpsest that remains.

The Pretend Life suggests that readers look closer by providing a variety of lenses that express the loneliness, isolation, loveliness, and the ways people preserver. A mash-up of the timeless juxtaposed with all that is fleeting, it challenges the reader to consider a variety of perspectives. Like candid photographs of strangers, these poems force you to stop and consider these glimpses into worlds that exist in memory and in objects from those worlds. They also serve as a mirror into our own lives as seen from the future — an elegy for the living.

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