Chester Wilson III reviews Michael Chang's Drakkar Noir

Michael Chang

Drakkar Noir

Bateau Press

In all art, as artists, we give ourselves away. To the world, to our audience, even to ourselves, we give out these pieces as if they were infinite. Whether in public or private, this exchange of the body is an act of giving, for which the author can show their true self. There is a tenderness in this. Michael Chang’s debut chapbook, Drakkar Noir, winner of the Bateau Press 2020/2021 BOOM Chapbook contest, advocates for this expression, this distribution of the self and love. Its poems work with such brutal honesty, and awareness of the world and of the self, that the reader is thrown in and is confronted with the transformation of the speaker.

Michael Chang acknowledges this unveiling of self in poems like “Sean★Lennon”, “We contain multitudes, you know, / lemon drops & melon balls, sweet & sadistic, turkey & ham.” Chang’s speaker he gives us is made up of many conflicting truths, so many that identity becomes messy and warped. The answer is never as simple as we may make it seem. “Is it true that to everything there is a season” as with the changing weather, there is a time and place for the specific and the vague, the necessary and the unnecessary, that identity is but in its infancy and growing, dying, and changing.

...I remember having a very nice, sit-down kind of breakfast,

at a place called Six Furlong, relatively close to a similar,

more formal establishment named the Gallop, where

the waitstaff went unchanged over decades,

& I was reading an English newspaper & having tea

& being bothered that our breakfast trays were too big,

they clearly didn’t fit the table & bumped up against one another...

Growth and change are a necessary part of existence, and what of those who don’t “contain multitudes”, those who remain unchanged? They fit improperly, unassuming and ill-prepared for the change that will take place with or without them.

The mysticism of the body in “Moose Knuckles” follows with this “Adam”, and the biblical and sensual imagery of his “apple-bobbing” and “tongue swimming between my cheeks.”

The body takes on new meaning as the fantastical language translates the speaker’s perception of the body and bodily actions. As togetherness and sensuality take control of the poem, the body becomes malleable, as in “Sophomore Slump”: me your familiar ass