Matt Forney
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A Second Round on the House by Blair Naso

second-round-on-the-houseReviewing A Second Round on the House, the sophomore poetry collection by my former Return of Kings colleague Blair Naso, puts me in a tough spot. On the surface, this book seems like it’d be better than his previous effort, The Death of Ideology: it’s noticeably bereft of the meandering prose pieces that weighed down that volume, for example. Plus, writers are supposed to get better as they progress.

Unfortunately, this follow-up doesn’t meet expectations.

A Second Round on the House is a decent collection of verse, but “decent” really isn’t good enough, especially considering how well put-together The Death of Ideology was. While the poems in this book are an adequate display of Naso’s talent, the collection as a whole doesn’t hang together as well as his previous release does. The book is worth buying if you enjoyed The Death of Ideology, but newcomers should probably skip it.

Unlike The Death of Ideology, A Second Round on the House isn’t organized into “movements” but is simply presented as a linear series of poems. The verses in this volume comprise Naso’s usual fascinations: college football, evangelical and Orthodox Christianity, relationships, Southern culture and the Beach Boys. The book is propelled by his deadpan delivery and morbid sense of humor, such as in the poem “Otherkin”:

Today I was talking to this cishet girl.
I told her about my sexual orientation.
“Oh, so you’re a furry?”
Shitlord.

While there are plenty of funny poems in A Second Round on the House, the book lacks the visceral impact that The Death of Ideology had. Much in the same way that William Rome’s Heroes and Hedonists came off as a frail competitor to his main poem The Legend of the Great Trek, A Second Round on the House feels like Naso had a bunch of poems that didn’t make the cut for Ideology and didn’t want to waste them.

Despite lacking the weak prose segments of Ideology, Second Round feels much more like filler than that book ever did, even with laugh-out-loud poems like “Christian Lust”:

If fornication is a sin,
Then masturbation is grim.
So every night
When I wait
Five and a half years
To reach around your back
And grab your fat breast,
I get up and take a piss.

Overall, while A Second Round on the House is a decent read, it’s a work that’s way below Naso’s skill level. If you bought and enjoyed The Death of Ideology, this book is worth reading; if not, you should try that book first. Naso is a talented young man and I hope his next effort will be an improvement on this.

Click here to buy A Second Round on the House.

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