The Echo Chamber
From Michael Bazzett, poet and translator of The Popol Vuh, a collection that explores the myth of Echo and Narcissus, offering a reboot, a remix, a reimagining.
“Narcissus was never one to see himself // in moving water. // He liked his image / still.” In The Echo Chamber, myth is refracted into our current moment. A time traveler teaches a needleworker the pleasures of social media gratification. A man goes looking for his face and is first offered a latex mask. A book reveals eerie transmutations of a simple story. And the myth itself is retold, probing its most provocative qualities—how reflective waters enable self-absorption, the tragic rightness of Echo and Narcissus as a couple.
The Echo Chamber examines our endlessly self-referential age of selfies and televised wars and manufactured celebrity, gazing lingeringly into the many kinds of damage it produces, and the truths obscured beneath its polished surface. In the process, Bazzett cements his status as one of our great poetic fools—the comedian who delivers uncomfortable silence, who sheds layers of disguises to reveal light underneath, who smuggles wisdom within “rage-mothered laughter.” Late-stage capitalism, history, death itself: all are subject to his wry, tender gaze.
By turns searing, compassionate, and darkly humorous, The Echo Chamber creates an echo through time, holding up the broken mirror of myth to our present-day selves.
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Praise and Prizes
With a virtuoso deployment of allegory, parable, dialogue, soliloquy, and performance, and via the mechanics of the joke, the poems in The Echo Chamber boom and toll with history and myth, and into the scorching present tense. “I walked down to the 7-Eleven / for a Big Gulp in lieu of coffee / and this ill-considered choice // was history,” he writes in the opening poem, enacting the wry confluences that characterize the collection. Bazzett’s sensibility is satirical, with a penchant for the surreal. War, background noise from the television to those privileged enough not to be in the thick of it, “thrums up through your espadrilles,” accompanied by “seared tuna with lemons, halved / and roasted on the grill.” Indeed, violence, with white needle teeth, seethes beneath the surface of tenderness here, and swirls at the nucleus of myth. Bazzett has a singular gift for ripping off the Band-Aid, rooting and unmasking himself, you and me, and God. The Echo Chamber is a masterwork of truth-telling.
"Michael Bazzett’s remarkable fifth book is a testament of his awareness and hard-earned poetic grace. He is a poet of unexpected observations and dynamic lyricisms, and these often funny, often difficult poems linger on how contemporary mythos is created: by selfies, by repurposing, memeing, and retweetings. This is work that dwells in the complexity and grotesqueness of being seen—and of seeing ourselves—through the fractured mirrors of pop culture and consumption. This beautifully wrought book is a reminder that after all of the likes and shares, the myths we create for ourselves are as temporary as the hashtags we use to boost them."
“In the ancient world, the person who proved most dangerous is the one who couldn’t feel shame—such a different sense of that word than now we hold, and perhaps we’re worse off for it, less attuned to others, more easily drowning in the shallow depths of self, as Narcissus himself might offer witness to. In poems of wide variety and sly ethical purpose, Michael Bazzett does a most unexpected thing: he gives us access to our own hypocrisy. That sounds like a downer; it’s not. The poems are rich in humor, biting in satire, Kafka-esque in strangeness, and tender with human feeling. The Echo Chamber is a book of intervention, placing itself between ourselves and our obsessive self-reflection, which—if I’m as honest with myself as the books says I should be—is just what we might most need.”
“If he's not already acknowledged as such, The Echo Chamber should establish Michael Bazzett as one of our best cartographers of human strangeness. Through time-traveling speakers, tumors shaped like angels, men seeking old testament gods in personal ads, and all our private thoughts written in blood, these poems unleash a powerful imagination to make us see our world in a new way. This book is many things: funny, unsettling, always surprising, and profound.”