Review: Marty Cain’s “Kids Of The Black Hole”

Cain-CoverTrembling Pillow Press published Marty Cain’s debut book, Kids of The Black Holein June of 2017. A digital supplement is available here and you can also purchase it from Small Press Distribution here. Below is our review by Nathan Livingston.


We are in Vermont. We are in abandoned homesteads. We are curled up with a childhood friend in a water tower, womb-like. We are in a therapist’s office, we are driving through a storm, we are dreaming. We are reading the debut book by Marty Cain, a long poem immersed in the violent nostalgia of adolescence and interlaced with a passionate investigation of poetry’s purpose. On its surface, it is a coming of age poem couched in trauma and existential horror, but at its core is a triumphant story about a form of salvation, a form of love: poetry.

Kids of the Black Hole is a public exorcism. They are the poet’s first words: his fiery testimony and manifesto. This poem is the note tucked into the abandoned baby’s crib, explaining its existence. The reader is treated to a catalog of formative events, filtered through feverish interludes of literary experiments and dreams. The poet is constantly becoming, and being born again and again into a kind of chaos: a world overrun by violence and deep anxiety. But the poet’s voice is defiant, emerging hungry as a newborn bird, and brave enough to begin to fathom the reason for his existence. In this process of finding himself in the poem, the poet justifies artistic expression itself as a necessary part of self-discovery.

There is nothing more exciting for a young artist than to publish their first real work, and for it to be read by others. Readers will trace their own meanings among the words, mapping their own dilemmas and feelings onto the work like an emotional palimpsest. Suddenly, Marty has found himself the conduit of a thousand personal revelations. He is soothsayer to fugitive minds who seek to find themselves in a passionate text, in words that seem to spring from some shared well of understanding. For the poet, nature is that original muse, running through the pages like a cornfield straddling the sides of a highway. The descriptions of field and forest are beautiful, like a dark pastoral landscape hiding in the subconscious of us all.

Marty knows so thoroughly what poetry means to him. He discovered a part of himself through poetry (hiding in his sternum, no less), and is well-positioned to lend us our next dose of poetic self-discovery. This is the experience of reading a probing, smart, and funny work by a poet eager to show us more of who he is on the page, or rather what the page has made him.

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