This book is a document of a particular world, real, wrenched from the poet's life, as if written with a gun to his head or a spike through his heart. Reading it is like opening a damp newspaper wrapped around a big fish just caught, fins glistening, scales shining, one rhymed eye open and looking right at you, daring you to eat the whole thing.
The Dead Eat Everything, Michael Mlekoday's furious first collection, is a cypher of old-school curses, elegy, and wordplay that snaps like gunplay. It is a revelation of sonics, as relentless and unforgiving as a Minneapolis winter. The book begins with a deft self-portrait when "summer was one wet weapon after another" and doesn't stop. Not for a power outage or Catholic mass. Not for a "four-finger ring that says DOPE" or for city streets that repeat like breakbeats looped in the head. Mlekoday works lines like Hart Crane if Hart Crane listened to Rakim. And when the speaker says, "Scientists have proven that the mouth is the last part of the body to die," we understand that mouths hang on to speak poems as vital as these.
It's easy to forget—because of the brute beauty of the language; because of lines like "I have made gods / of my skinned hands"; because of the whiplash brilliance roped through these poems—that deeply, ultimately, this is a book of mourning, of sorrow, of loss: for a dad, a Baba, a city, a home. But, to boot, Michael Mlekoday's The Dead Eat Everything is a book of magic: watch sorrows be converted to music. And music, don't forget, makes you dance. Makes you move. Moves you.
The Dead Eat Everything is a haunting—an unsharpened visitation of memories. Each poem unfolds itself as if we are just now remembering stories told to us long ago, simultaneously new and exciting while comforting in their familiarity. Mlekoday's debut collection glows. Let it. Let it light the way home.