Wikipedia says it will pass

Wikipedia Says It Will Pass by Diana Salier

Reviewed By

Wikipedia is not to be trusted, at least not entirely. We all know this. (For a brief period in August of 2009 the first sentence of the “Trees” poet—“Poems are made by fools like me/ But only God can make a tree”—Joyce Kilmer’s page read “Joyce Kilmer was the first man to rape a bear”; the picture to the right of this sentence displayed a large black bear, defiantly standing tall next to a Sani-Hut.) And yet it’s often where we turn when we desire information—at least in terms of Internet information. From Joyce Kilmer to hiccups to Aphrodite, a Wikipedia page is invariably the initial entry that comes up when one utilizes a search engine like Google or Bing. Students aren’t allowed to use the site as a source for their papers but—truth be told—it’s the first place teachers turn. Balancing the pain of heartbreak with the joy of traveling and eating and writing and existing, the poems in Diana Salier’s chapbook wikipedia says it will pass thus work within such a Wikipedian ethos: they intuitively realize that stumbling over what’s wrong is often the only way to figure out what’s right.

Salier is a straight ahead, “no ideas but in things” poet and many of the poems in wikipedia says it will pass are narrative vignettes, ones that have staunch beginnings and endings. Her work is furthermore a definite product of its technologically advanced age: some of the book’s titles include “my gmail makes you laugh so hard” and “this poem is a chatroom and you have left the chatroom”; in “what about the dinosaur problem” she writes, “i write poems in my phone and export them via bluetooth” (11). beach boys to walt disney to firefox, every word is in lower case. Punctuation is used sparingly. Yet the content of the work in the collection is—to use an ill-advised word— timeless. The speaker in nearly every poem in wikipedia says it will pass is in love or falling in love or trying to get over the fact that she is no longer in love, and this circumstance provides the reader with appealingly little respite—like the speaker, at the beginning of the collection we are also immersed in the joyful throes of a newly blossoming relationship; at the end of it we are also, tearful, forced to make the statement “when i say I don’t believe in love/ i think i don’t believe in us” (15).

As a result of this some might call Salier a poet too self-absorbed, too concerned with her world (or at least her speaker’s world, a speaker that—a la Frank O’Hara—does very much seem to be a stand-in for herself) and not the world. But to make such a contention would be missing the point, simplifying self-regard (universal) for self-obsession (egotistical). In “i like human as a word but not as a concept,” one of the best works in the short 22 page volume, the speaker reiterates and repeats the poem’s title—“i like human as a word/ i like human as a word/ but not as a concept”—before going on to assert “and not as an excuse.” I’m only human—it’s the easiest thing in the world to say after making a mistake. But in “i like human as a word but not as a concept” Salier makes clear that such an assertion is nothing more than passing the buck; it’s the fact that we’re “only human” that makes us worth knowing, worth kissing, worth loving. And to deny this is to willfully forget what being “human” truly means—or should mean.

Sleeping and dreaming also figure significantly in wikipedia says it will pass but for the book’s speaker both activities are less welcomed releases and more necessary burdens. They remind Salier’s speaker of what was. The entirety of “i found you, ms. new booty” reads:

every morning you’re not here
rapping bubba sparxxx
grabbing my flat ass
to wake me up
i grab it myself
i can’t rap
i don’t wake up (8)

“i wish it was secretaries’ day” begins with the lines, “i had a nap dream: you were selling refreshments at a play/ you stood really far away from me/ and you said i wish it was secretaries’ day/ and I said so, what, are you like a secretary now??… and you excused yourself to go to the bathroom/ and i thought you wanted me to follow you/ like for old times’ sake/ but i think you just really had to pee” (3). What Salier’s poetry lacks in ambiguity it makes up for in universality: we’ve all had this dream. And when woken from it we all feel the same way: tentative, precarious, rolling over on one side of the bed and quickly back again.

The Red Ceilings Press isn’t the biggest or most well-known press in the world and Diana Salier isn’t a household name. But her work—and wikipedia says it will pass—deserves a wider audience. Salier’s poetry captures the minutia and potential desolation of love while at the same time highlighting its giddiness, its euphoria, its fundamental loveliness. And wikipedia says it will pass is an enjoyable, engaging chapbook to read—and reread and reread. It promises greater things to come.


Jeff Alessandrelli lives in Portland, OR. Recent work by him appears/is forthcoming in Pleiades,Redivider, Anti-, Boston Review and the chapbooks Don’t Let Me Forget To Feed the Sharks (Poor Claudia) and People Are Places Are Places Are People (Imaginary Friend Press). This Last Time Will Be The First, his 1stfull length collection of poetry, is forthcoming from Burnside Review Press in 2014. More from this author →