The Day the World Ends – Ethan Coen

Posted 24 April, 2012 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 24 Comments


Ethan Cohen, half of the famed Coen Brothers, has a new book of poetry out entitled The Day the World Ends. When I was contacted by Random House about receiving a copy to review my second thought was “Yes Please!” My first thought was along the lines of–can’t they see that I suck at book reviews these days, but that’s neither here nor there. I’ve been wanting to participate in the Read More Poetry event that Lu and Kailana are heading up, and since it’s National Poetry Month, I figured this would be perfect.

Plus I love the Coen Brothers’ movies.

Unfortunately I did not love this little book of poetry.  I’m not even sure that I can say I liked it. Which makes me remember why I don’t typically review books for others but stick more to my good old trusted bookshelves. The poems started off amusing and I chuckled a bit to myself at the dry and sarcastic wit. But then the subjects moved into the crude and then to subjects I just wasn’t sure I wanted to read about anymore. Let’s just say that I’d give this one a rating above R.

The Day the World Ends is 120 page collection of mostly short poems. Some a few lines and some a few pages. They’re all pretty easy to read and not terribly abstruse. Rhymes and rhythmic. I don’t want to be the one who asks what makes poetry good poetry. ;)

A sample that I’m hoping doesn’t have any hidden offense:


Who is this newborn,
   Time will tell;
The old man dying
   We know well.

For who departs we
   Fit goodbyes;
How greet, however,
   Who arrives?

I could have enjoyed a quick little book like this but the other topics are ones I don’t want to mention by name for fear of the search engine hits. Haven’t decided if I’ll finish or not. Probably with some discretion. If you guys were me would you not have mentioned this little volume at all?

What do you look for in poetry?

On the Blog:
One Year Ago – Sunday Salon 44: The Day Before
Two Years Ago – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Three Years Ago – Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales – Eleanor Bluestein
Four Years Ago – Bookish Babble (my heart cried a little when I saw the mention of Dewey on this post)

24 Responses to “The Day the World Ends – Ethan Coen”

  1. Les

    I’m not much for poetry and this one sounds like something I’d give up on fairly quickly. Thanks for the honest assessment, Trish. :)

  2. I’ve read such mixed reviews on this one. Mostly good, I’m shocked at what you are telling me. But, then again… Sorry this was not an enjoyable read, I like the Coen’s too. I did NOTHING for poetry month, maybe I’ll hit a hallmark store, and say I did. Have a good day sweet thing.

  3. What I don’t like in poetry, especially with modern poetry, is rhyme, with a few exceptions and this, from your example, sounds like one I’d hate. Good assessment. Try Billy Collins. Take a whole staircase up…really.

  4. I passed on this one when it was offered for review to me, I am not good with poetry. I like to try the odd poem every once in a while, but a whole book of them? I wish I could appreciate poetry more, but I think I’m too impatient to stop and think over a few lines of text…

    Anyway, great review!

  5. The choice between negative review and no review at all is always a tough one. In this case, I think you did the right thing – you gave a an honest, well-thought-out review that says this is not your personal cup of tea, and warns other readers who might be offended by the content.

    I was recently asked to review a book and, after reading, could really find nothing positive to say – either about the story or the writing ability of the author – so no review.

    Because poetry is so subjective, others may like this book, but you’ve been honest about the content. Good review.

  6. I’m crap at reading poetry. My brain just doesn’t work in a way that can make sense of it. At least this one doesn’t seem too deep, but poetry with a rating above R? Definitely not for me. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a prude, but I’m definitely a bit of a squeamish when it comes to stuff like that.

    I think it’s okay that you reviewed it. You were respectful and honest. That’s what matters. I’m glad you did. I always like to know if there’s graphic content and you can’t always tell from the blurbs.

  7. That’s too bad you didn’t like this more. I have it, too. (I actually planned to read it, but I get my packages at my mother’s and I handed it to the guy to hold. He has no idea where it went…) I probably still will provided it ever turns up..

    Thanks for participating!

    • Mari – Will look forward to what you think! (and sorry for the delay in response…for some reason this one went to spam?)

  8. Just because you can play basketball, it DOESN’T mean you can play baseball.

    The same goes for writing poetry. I get a giggle out of reading things written by people famous for other things, but it’s usually a practice in masochism, not serious reading.

    And there is a big difference between giving an honest negative opinion and trashing something. (a difference of which many reviewers are not aware)

    I am grateful for an honest assessment, even if it is negative. So thank you very much.

  9. *Les – It started off promising but unfortunately I just couldn’t find myself interested for much longer.

    *Jenny Girl – I admit that if I do read poetry it tends to be the stuff you would learn in school. Oh well–at least it was a short volume! ;)

    *Irene – I’ve seen this one floating around but haven’t seen any actual reviews. Makes me want to take a closer look at what those people thought!! There were several poems that made me a bit squeamish (to be kind).

    *Unfinished Person – Hilarious as at one point in the volume Coen suggests reading Collins if you don’t like his style. Ha!! Guess they’re pretty opposite? I like rhyming, especially if cleverly done. Not forced (which I didn’t feel this was).

    *Judith – I think you probably made a wise decision to pass on this one. :( Poetry can be a lot of work, huh?! I agree with you on not reading it too often.

    *Tami – I really do hate to send such negativity into the world but…hopefully I was not too unkind. ;) You’re definitely right that poetry is subjective! Hopefully others like this one more than I did.

    *Kristi – I’m not a prude either but the subjects balanced upon depraved. With my limited reading time it’s not something that I’d like to spend my time reading. :-/ It’s definitely one you wouldn’t want to leave lying around the house for someone else to pick up. Oh well…moving on!

    *Kailana – I think that there were some good little nuggets in the volume but too many awkward parts that I just didn’t care for. Maybe I’m being too harsh or maybe it just came too unexpectedly?

    *bermudaonion – Sent you an email outlining some of the content…

    *Snowball – LOL–hopefully I didn’t do too much trashing. I definitely don’t want to do that and I do love the Coen Brothers’ movies. This little book just wasn’t for me. And totally agree about the basketball/baseball analogy. Great way to put it. ;)

  10. I think it’s good that you wrote about it, even if you did not like it. I admit to have not reviewed a handful of books I’ve gotten. I’ve gotten better, but I’m still not great at it. That said, I don’t enjoy poetry and I hate when people are crude for the shock value, so I can’t imagine that I’d have read this.

  11. *Care – Hmmm, I can live with gentle. I think I would be much more ungentle via email but I just don’t want to type the subject matter in the book on my blog. Ha! ;)

    *Lisa – It’s hard to be balanced–and yes, I do think that this one was more for shock value. Either that or he truly is depraved… Yuck!

  12. Amy

    I really appreciated your honest assessment of this book. No one likes everything they read and poetry is a lot different than novels or non-fiction.
    I am in the middle of reading the poems in this book and will review it by the end of the week. I am enjoying most of the poems I’ve read and several have made me giggle and a few have made me laugh outright. I am a fan of the Coen Brothers movies and have read a lot about them. So I appraoched this book expecting it to be offbeat, a little odd and funny. I’ll see how I feel by the end!

  13. Great review, Trish. I considered accepting this book for review but I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t review it. I could tell that it was pretty different. Glad you decided to write about it anyway.

  14. I agree with you in my review, although I did quote some of the poems with the R and X rated words. I enjoy humorous poems, but they’re really hard to do well. His previous poem The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way achieved some of that difficult balance. None of the poems in this volume do.

  15. I like my poetry to make some sort of sense and I don’t like it erotic/rude. Otherwise, anything’s fair game. I like rhythm, but it’s not necessary. I’ve read some wonderful free verse. The poetry book I’m rereading, right now, is one I like a lot. I found that not focusing too hard on the words but just letting them flow over me helped me make sense of it and I ended up loving it so much that I didn’t take notes (hence the reread).

    As to the Coen brothers . . . I like their movies. I don’t love them, but I do like them. They’re definitely offbeat and original.

  16. *Amy – I’ll be on the lookout for your review as I’m really curious to hear what others have thought of this one. I’ve seen a lot of buzz but not much actually about it. I did expect this one to be offbeat but I guess I didn’t expect there to be so much about sex. Maybe I’m becoming a prude in my old age. ;) I do love the Coen Brothers’ movies, though!

    *Vasilly – I think you’ll be glad that you didn’t take this one. Life’s too short–should focus more on uplifting things, right?

    *Jeanne – I’ll need to pop over and see your review. There were some poems in this collection that had me chuckling and I was quite enjoying the volume at the beginning but too many bad things with animals. Ha! ;) Think I’ll stick to their movies…

    *Bookfool – I like poetry to make sense as well but I have to admit that one of my favorite poems “Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” still doesn’t make much sense to me after so many readings. Just love the imagery. :) I like the idea of re-reading poetry and just letting the words wash over you!

  17. Fay

    The opening section of the book is posted free at Amazon, and I read those first poems. Must say, underwhelming. I wrote a short blog post about this book yesterday, if you want to compare notes.

  18. When they offered this to me I offered to use it for my weekely quiz and then pass in on. It was surprisingly vulgar. There were a few I liked, but I really just skimmed through it for the quiz.

  19. *Fay – Thanks for letting me know!

    *Stacy – I was surprised at how vulgar these poems were as well. Guess I should have known?