I can always count on my cousin for an off-the-wall book as a Christmas present and he out-did himself with Egghead, a collection of modern poetry by the young comedian, songwriter and performer, Bo Burnham.
The poems range from half a dozen words to two dozen lines which flit with dizzying frequency in tone, style and subject matter; serious and melancholic on one page, or even on one line, and whimsical and absurd the next. Candid, heartfelt, and occasionally surprisingly cynical musings on love, life and loneliness are interspersed with ditties on chameleons riding sex toys, golgi bodies and ant farms.
You never really know what to expect next other than that when the sucker-punch comes it’ll catch you off-guard and startle you in the way it reveals something about human nature.
Each of the poems are complemented by Chance Bone’s deceptively simple line drawings. Some of the illustrations are literal interpretations of the text, others are more obtuse; some echo the frequent non sequiturs in the poetry - they appear to have nothing whatsoever to do with the words on the page and are just little stories unto themselves. The juxtaposition of text and drawing draws your eye across the page whilst also taking your mind off in different directions, again adding to the impact of the punchline or observation.
Burnham’s self-awareness ripples through the book, but it stays very much on the right side of become irritating because it’s just so damn funny and clever in the way it plays with your expectations of him, the idea and the format. In Absurd, he writes “If the poem you’re writing is silly and dumb, / make sure that it rhymes at the end. Bum.” Verging on childish? Perhaps; Clever? Definitely. The self-awareness even extends to the subtitle. You can very well survive on ideas alone – Bo Burnam burgeoning career is proof of that; and long may it continue.
Fans of Tim Minchin will find a lot to love about Burnham's musical comedy.