Best Beautiful Young Reader of Poetry

Anthony Madrid

Critics' Picks

If the days of bashful, taciturn poets are numbered, Chicago poet Anthony Madrid sure has the shtick to prove it. He strikes a lofty pose, flicks open his first book, I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say (2012), and begins his weirdo routine. The poems—babe, he has those all memorized. In the same way Tibetan paper-singers hold a piece of blank parchment for dramatic effect, Madrid stares deep into his book, closes his eyes, and gapes or diverts his gaze, meanwhile draping his free arm elaborately, as if caressing the shapes his words make. His quasi-ghazals, in dork-heroic couplets, are jammed with loving, perverted sweetness, and toggle between pompous hotheadedness and self-reproach. Each ends, true to ghazal form, with the poet slipping into the third person, and here Madrid mimes a whipcrack to mark the poem cracking its wit. For his revival of the poetic form, Madrid nods to pleasure addict Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with whom he shares a rationale: "It's all about rhythm and rhyme as drugs. That's their justification; that's their glory. Anything beyond that issues directly from the Devil's anus."