REVIEW OF LUCAS RESTIVO'S 'FUCKO'
BY BRYAN WILLIAM MYERS
I first came across Bullshit via social media, I guess. I’m not much of a scroller, and after the 2016 U.S. presidential elections—I decided that almost everybody on social media was totally full of shit. But Twitter seemed to be a useful tool for finding writing opportunities. In the full spectrum of my shitty writing experiences, there had to be some light out there. At least I’d find out what my voice might be. There could be good writers. You just had to know where to look.
And that’s what drew me into Bullshit. I noticed the no-bullshit way the editor approached publishing, and I was even more surprised to find out she was in her early 20s. There was an endless output of new writing. While most writers complained or got cliquey or showoff-y, somebody was doing the dirty work in the trenches. That’s how you notice good writing, as a reader, as a novice, truck driver, kitchen employee at some dumb fucking job you hate, etc. That’s what writing always did for me. It got me through all the ... bullshit ... of life.
Including my own!
I reached out to Veronica just to say hey. You. Are kicking ass. She reminded me of a friend’s younger sister, a pastry chef, who had this innate ability to create no matter what went on around her, even if it was chaotic. She created her own chaos by diving headfirst into her desires and ambitions.
Those types of people create an orbit around themselves that’s neither hollow nor phony. So I offered to maybe do a review or something for the lit mag since I’d got rejected once or twice. Well, shit. If I couldn’t get into the magazine, maybe there might be something I could do to help.
As the days turned into weeks and months, I got busy with life and traveling the world, and working as a freelance copywriter in marketing and writing for two clients. I’d decided to buy one of the books at Bullshit—and I chose FUCKO by Lucas Restivo. (Recently, I’d submitted a 4,000-word story about my “travels,” and Veronica said ever so politely, thanks but no thanks. And it’s not SICKO.)
I’d mistaken the title of the chapbook. That was like a reminder of how far off the path I’d gotten as a “writer.” We wait so long for things to happen, and we leave our creative pursuits for Money. I felt like an idiot.
So I sat down to do what I said I would so many months ago, when I’d begun reading FUCKO from, I believe it was somewhere in Malaysia...
I’m currently in Bali. And there’s a restrictive environment across Muslim countries where a cover of a dude drinking from a wine bottle might ruffle a few feathers. And isn’t that the point of literature?
Again, the honesty of Bullshit drew me in. (But the outside world continued to pull me away.) Right away, the honesty of Restivo’s poetic voice cuts through the page—no bullshit. (Not even his own.)
His problem, he says, is his heart “and the only path / of appreciation / is loneliness.”
It took Walt Whitman decades to surmise that, to live it, and express it through verse. In FUCKO, it’s Restivo’s third, fourth, and fifth lines.
By the next poem, “Absolute”, Restivo is already mic-checking and spitting at his haters (since creative people want to do something they love, while most people do not, a poet’s always going to have naysayers). He’s “so lonely” but “swagalicious.” I’m terribly appreciative of writers who invent their own words, especially on Page 2.
In “Slicer,” he’s “microdosing CIA devices,” and the title of the fourth poem, “Love is Easy (For a Deli Man),” got me to laugh out loud.
In “Long Day,” there’s more attention to his perceived loneliness, but it’s a light reference since he’s clearly not alone—why? Because even if it’s a shitty day at a shitty job, he’s got the sense to write about it and enjoy life while you can—and that’s the ultimate role of the Poet in America. Or anywhere in the world, for that matter.
In the next few poems, Restivo’s powers of observation are on display which he tames by being self-aware. A perfect example from “Thy Neighbor”: “Most days I’m grateful / to be ignored.”
He gets abstract in “Strangers We Might Be” when all he wants to do is say Hi.
In “Muse,” he discusses, in the most unique way possible, what any poet needs to say about love and sex, that private world which requires a delicate undertaking, and reflecting back a counterpoint: “you bring me out of me.” Is that where this chapbook comes from?
It’s possible that without his muse, or possibly because of his muse, Restivo reflects on being a FUCKO. There’s an ancient poetic charm in that approach to this chapbook.
“It’s Us” reads like a Jackson Pollock painting. In “Soup Poem”, I once again laughed out loud: “In the middle of slicing a dead pig into lunch.” He writes poetry like a ruthless, self-effacing comic.
“The Recipe” made me laugh and grin. His finest work, and it’s only two lines.
In “My Hangover is Now Your Problem,” he says at first, “I want to be boiled alive / in love.” And later: “don’t overthink it.” To me, these are the two most important phrases of the chapbook—you cannot be “boiled alive in love” if you’re overthinking it. Those phrases could’ve saved F. Scott Fitzgerald from drinking himself to death.
Two short poems, and then “Language Died and I Killed It” acts as a juxtaposition for the death of the Self. That makes Restivo a good writer and a unique, one-of-a-kind poet.
“Survival of the fittest should only be about dope outfits.” Indeed—a new way of looking at things.
And then, a few poems later, he wonders: “She made nothing harder than love / which is the easiest thing on earth. / Where in your heart do you hide me?” I’m starting to think I’d keep this chapbook away from my girlfriend. She might leave me for Restivo.
His experimental poetry continues, culminating in a one-word poem called “I Hate Word Play.” Then there’s “Politics,” the overriding word and theme of the American way of life over the last decade.
Here’s one to share with your political-obsessed friends: “the federal investigator concluded that the inventor / of A Group Of Men Talking Is A Podcast / could be held responsible for genocide.” Those are some of the best few lines in the chapbook, and they could be turned into Wes Anderson’s next film—everybody’s distracted while the world turns to shit.
Again, Restivo leans on his poetic conciseness like a haiku-obsessed man in the mountains whose loneliness gets compounded by his jovial nature. He simply loves to write and be alive, but it’s a world that doesn’t understand what it means to enjoy anything other than themselves.
“One day everyone will feel real fucking stupid / for targeting ads at everyone / and I’ll be as happy as you can be.”
Then he begins to contemplate death, his own. Could he one day turn into a tree? And how much longer does he have?
For me, FUCKO reads like a poet who could just as easily turn out another chapbook in any style he chooses or a novella or even a really good novel that keeps readers enthralled with the easy way he describes anything and everything without seeming pretentious or unkind.
It felt like sitting beside a non-stop talking Kerouac while driving back and forth across the country, with Restivo turning the lights of the world off and on again, not out of rudeness or confusion, but just wondering when everybody else was going to wake up.
Just to recognize we’re all human and the non-human creatures around us mean something too.
Give this chapbook to anybody who takes themselves too seriously.
Bryan William Myers traveled to 12 countries in 2019. He spent the pandemic in Vietnam writing poems, stories, plays, a screenplay, etc. He's self-published 15 books. He published in various lit mags, including Poetry Potion, Wine Cellar Press, Versification, Eremite Poetry, Storgy, Mineral Lit Mag, WriteNow Lit, and Whirlwind Magazine. His first chapbook of poems, "Empty Beer Cans: Quarantine Poems from Da Nang, Vietnam," was released in May 2022 by Alien Buddha Press. (BryanWilliamMyers.com // Twitter: @bryanwillmyers // IG: @bryanwilliammyers)