Carnival by Jason Bredle

Carnival by Jason Bredle is weird.  In many ways it is like a grotesque and surreal little carnival with the fun house mirrors and the bearded lady — though in this case, the mirror is held by the narrator and the bearded lady is really a werewolf inside the narrator.  There is a self-deprecation and a dream-like quality to these prose poems, but in some cases, it seems like the poems are too weird just for the sake of it.  At other times, the poems are comments on pop culture.

“There’s a carnival in my skull and it’s driving me crazy.”  (page 32, from “The Killing”)

Readers will be taken on a ride in this volume of poems as Bredle creates a mood.  From confusion to frustration, readers will be inside the mind of a crazy person.  But in many ways, the craziness is just a mask for the discontent with the culture that has sprung up around the narrator.  And while some of these poems will take several reads before the meaning becomes clear, there are some great moments and lines that make an immediate impression on the reader.  From “Hole in My Heart,” “It looks like I’ll be cuddling up in the warm, soft arms of depression/against this winter.”  These lines set the stage for the tumbling feeling of loss and the mindlessness that accompanies a broken heart where you walk in a fog for days afterward.

A running image throughout the poems is the narrator’s cat, seemingly always providing comfort or just as distraction from the moment.  Traditionally, cats have symbolized independence or superiority, but it is unclear whether the cat is merely a cat in these poems or a symbol of something greater.  In many ways, this is a collection that should be dipped into from time to time when someone is in need of a good laugh or a bit of just fun, but reading it cover-to-cover it can become a bit tedious.  The cover should establish the mood for any reader who picks it up.  It’s busy, full of life and action, and complete chaos.  Carnival by Jason Bredle is just that, a carnival of busyness and bedlam.

About the Poet:

Jason Bredle is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Carnival, from University of Akron Press. He lives in Chicago.

This is the 28th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.



This is my 87th book for the New Authors Reading Challenge in 2012.


  1. I don’t think I’d like the weirdness for the sake of it but I’m glad you found some good lines here and there.

  2. I don’t think this is for me!