Jamie Mortara’s poetry zine congratulations you are prequalified for the darkness that consumes us all is a stream of consciousness shoulder shrug seeking to encapsulate the crippling awkwardness and self-doubt and overwhelming desire for love and belonging that war in the poet’s mind. These pages show a poet who wants to claw off their own skin while at the same time wants to be held close while wearing that skin.
This small collection is rife with pop culture references. Poems reference the Alien and Terminator movies, the Pac-Man games, Patrick Swayze, and more to great effect. In “game over, man,” Mortara writes:
My love for you is the 1991 movie Terminator 2, Judgment Day
at first you will be terrified by my love for you
but it has been reprogrammed to obey your every command
but when the time comes
my love cannot self-terminate
you will have to lower my love for you
into the fire yourself.
Mortara is also adept with list poems. The tone of these poems are often wry and clever, showing humor and self-deprecation even as the content of their words are grim, as in “some things you should probably know before the love thing:”
13. yes i do know that i’m a chicken nugget made of crazy
14. sometimes i let my phone die and i envy it
Under the insecurity, under the anxiety and dread, there is a deep desire for acceptance, for a utopia where these neuroses don’t have as loud of a voice. In “bagel city,” they daydream with a friend about such a place, where the crosswalk signals are perfectly timed and you always have enough time with the people you love. Still, Mortara knows it is the very imperfection of life, and the wounds we pick up from it, that lend meaning to who we are. This same poem ends with such a realization, after talking about an accident that made someone able to have the emotional release they’d needed: “i guess this is what it’s like to exist. things like that can feel so perfectly horrible and so stupidly necessary.”
Jamie Mortara might be terrified to be alive, but they write about that terror with honesty and humor in a way that anyone with anxiety or mental health problems can relate to. Check out this little poetry zine if you get the chance.