by Ben Arzate
Arizona poet Brandon Adamson is the author three prior poetry collections. The Gleaming Crest is his fourth, though technically his first as it’s a re-release of a handmade chapbook created in 1995 when Adamson was still in high school. It’s even designed to resemble the original chapbook with its typewriter font and the intentionally crude looking hand drawings by Mark Shoenecker.
Personally, I want every single poem I wrote in high school to be burned and the ashes buried six feet deep. However, Adamson had some of these poems published in literary magazines at the time, so it seems he was farther ahead in his writing abilities than many other high school writers. Reading the chapbook, I can confirm that’s the case.
Some of the themes of nostalgia and futurism that appear in his later collections are here as well. For example, “Computer Animated Glass Sphere” is a mediation on a commercial for an IBM Aptiva commercial. Specifically, about a young man wearing a beanie who briefly appears in the titular glass sphere in it. It reminds me of the hope for where technology could take humanity which ran throughout his later collection Skytrain to Nowhere.
Some of Adamson’s poetry here is pretty mature for having been written by a high school student. For example, there are poems here about drifting away from friends which are neither whiny nor place any blame. “Three Year Reunion” is in the form of phone conversation. One person calls the other with the intent of reconnecting after years of not seeing each other.
However, it’s clear the person he’s calling has too much going on in their life to be able to take the time to reconnect. This is also the theme of “Cereal Boy,” where Adamson describes meeting an old friend who’s changed a lot as being “like a bowl of ‘Alpha-Bits’ cereal that no longer contains alphabet letters.” It describes these feelings of loss without delving into overbearing angst as many lesser high school poets do (ahem).
There still is, however, an aura of juvenilia around much of the book. “Diamond Poems” is a set of three poems shaped, as the title suggests, like diamonds that are little more than word associations. Some of the rhyming poems, like “The Lonely Beach,” read like the lyrics to a not particularly great song.
The Gleaming Crest does show that Brandon Adamson had talent from a young age. However, this book is really only for those who’ve already read his other works. I would recommend his poetry collections Beatnik Fascism and Skytrain to Nowhere first. If you find those compelling, then pick this one up.