Identity is a slippery thing in Ari Banias's excellent debut collection Anybody. Late in the collection, for instance, a speaker says, "Mostly a name feels like the crappy overhang I huddle under/while rain skims the front of me." The declaration serves to embody Anybody's pre-occupation and exploration of identity, its limits, and its grey areas. The pronoun, that gram-matical home of cisgendered thinking, is of particular worry and curiosity to these voices in these poems. Banias's thoughtful deconstruction of gender and desire is made only more meaningful by his vivid settings, filled with details both precise and indicative of late capitalism's junk. In the first poem, for instance, we see that, "in this country, in houses,/apartments, there somewhere is a cabinet or drawer/where it's stashed/the large plastic bag/with slightly smaller mashed-together/plastic bags inside; it is overflowing, and we keep adding." It's a stunning poem, and like many in this collection, it skill-fully balances humor and grief, with both personal and political implications. Ari Banias most reminded me of a Frank O'Hara for this generation. This is a really promising debut collection. Recommended by Danny.
In Anybody, Ari Banias takes up questions of recognition and belonging: how boundaries are drawn and managed, the ways he and she, us and them, here and elsewhere are kept separate, and at what cost identities and selves are forged.