Nick Sturm’s chapbook Beautiful Out isn't about the recent arrival of sunny spring weather. It’s about feelings. It’s one thing to be a confused soul wandering through life, trying to make sense of its frequent curiosities, but it’s another to be perpetually overwhelmed by the simple fact that we actually exist. Sturm crafts an aesthetic of stylistic missteps through a series of poems. The poems are disjointed, broken, spliced mid-line, and crunched together in a way that initially seems to be at odds with the natural flow of language. If anything, though, Sturm has created a language more aligned with colloquialisms and human-speak than with traditional literary conventions.
The chapbook is structured using extra spaces in such a way as to render the reader dizzy, carsick, and cannonballed into some alternate wordy hemisphere in which reality is not linear, memories are not remembered, and words are sometimes nothing but syllabic filler for other words. Here, deconstructed, are five of Sturm’s poems and five complementary Leather Corduroy jams. Check out Beautiful Out in its entirety and follow along here.
Though the title might sound like something taken from Thor’s birth certificate (or some shitty metal band), this poem is a contemplation on movement in thought, attempting to recall the incongruous mental narratives a baby might have. It suggests that we collect throughout life acts as a blockade, crushing our sensitive, delicate freedoms of our natural mind. Phrases like “To get rid of / A few things in favor of keeping more / Avocados around” start and end mid-line, creating a disorienting effect of stuffy immersion-in-consumerism. Maybe 2014 will be the year of the literary avocado.
Pair with: “Bleed”
After some brief opening moans, Kami De Chukwu squawks that he’s gonna “bleed on this bitch,” his cadence squeaking through his gruff flow. There are no avocados here, but “Different dishes and fancy fragrance / My salutations” is the kind of phrase that wouldn’t be out of place in a Sturm poem.
“I Keep Forgetting That Everything You Say Is Connected”
That thesis you wrote in undergrad about Faulkner and the Internet or DFW and your Twitter feed is more appropriate than ever, as the Internet/tech lyfe continues to ail-slash-masturbate modern society with both hands. The line “You with / The what face in the what grass / Who saves who / When information is lacking” is paranoia-fueled self-doubt that forgets and stumbles over its own vowels. Sturm is like your one friend who never really knows what he’s saying but keeps talking anyway. At least he’s self-aware, calling his poems “my silly ass parade / Of synaptic misfires.”
Pair with: “Dat Strong”
This song hits so hard it’s scary. You’ll actually want to duck and perform some Cold War safety position once Kami and Joey Purp start wailing over a beat that sounds like a car braking on a wet road. If modern angst sounds like this, I’m cool with it.
“Upstairs With His Sandwich”
At this point you’re going to want to take a step back and think about today’s lunch. What was it? Double-decker cheeseburger from Shake Shack? Spaghetti? Avocado sandwich? And what is your lunch experiencing now? What is the experience of being lunch? Maybe it will feel like that time Nick Sturm faced the demons of his uncertain manic mind armed with nothing but a handful of bread and bologna.
Pair with: “Irie Trill Vibes”
Heady trap beats and Rick Ross-esque growling make de Chuckwu and Purp’s head-spinning flows palatable. It’s a touch guy tune at its core, which will up your machismo feelings while wading through Sturm’s lyrical consciousness.
“Today I Woke Up Baffled”
“The whole day a possibly wet thing” is the most memorable line in a poem that refuses to take a breath. Sturm’s prose practically hyperventilates as he skids between nonsensical imagery like “A horse inside / A giant cake” and dark prose like “You are not dead / Just trying.” The effect of this is like tripping on air. Your breath catches in your throat, but you’re not sure why.
Pair with: “Nightmare on Chicago Ave”
Like Freddy Krueger, this song is scarred, wears a torturous metal glove, and is generally just terrifying. Just listen to the last verse from Kami de Chukwu, who at one point goes so hard it wouldn’t be a surprise if his tongue flew out of his mouth.
“A Whorl That Ascends”
This poem is the literary version of throwing your hands up in the air and shimmying down to your intimates and slo-mo dancing in the rain. This is the poetic version of Pharrell’s “Happy,” that song in which Pharrell is very happy. Sturm struggles to describe his ecstasy, settling for phrases like “lit up” “a feeling,” “make some noise,” and, concluding, “I am not sure / If there is a better way to say this.”
Pair with: “Quaalude (Interlude)”
This is some Sigur Ros birthed by Jason Derulo shit. I’m not sure if there’s a better way to say that.