Erin Dorney’s brilliant debut, I Am Not Famous Anymore, is a collection of erasure poems sourced from Shia LaBeouf interviews and articles. Yes, you read that right. The poems found in this collection are as inventive as the premise of the book itself—in the seeming banality of LaBeouf’s language, Dorney finds bright patterns, arranging them to create vibrant, introspective works of art. She is “willing to go the strange way” and it has paid off.
The poems are sarcastic, ironic, and often outright funny, though Dorney’s playful premise has a bite—the poems challenge our expectations of masculinity and fame, confusing the real and the imagined in favor of the reality that “lies somewhere between / words and the leash that held them.” “Shot for Shot” asks what it means to be immortalized online, where “your rights / and duties become a portal / for loneliness.” Her poems seem to re-humanize LaBeouf, a symbol of our own “American folklore,” allowing us to imagine his fears and desires, how his identity has been shaped, even erased, by fame: “I am no longer wild. / I watched it happen. / When you have no say / over the mask, / you wake up fake, / crying.”
You may find yourself, as I did, reading and watching the interviews from which Dorney crafted complex poems with layers of meaning. My interest in Shia Lebeouf was reignited—something I never thought I’d be saying. I watched an incredibly awkward “interview” in which Aimee Cliff and LaBeouf silently stare at each other with GoPros strapped to their foreheads for an hour. I marveled and I marveled, which is to say I Am Not Famous Anymore did for me what poetry should do—make the familiar feel strange and encourage wonder—Lorna Pecard