Book Report: I Can’t Fight This Feeling edited by David Cassidy (2002)

I bought this book at A Clean Well Lighted Place for books in San Francisco. It was on the discount table for $4.98, and I thought I would get enough mockery out of it to make it worth my fin. I was probably wrong.

The full title of the book is I Can’t Fight This Feeling: Timeless Poems for Lovers from the Pop Hits of the ’70s and ’80s. The book collects a bunch of lyrics from 1970s and 1980s pop fare, imposes arbitrary and dare I say “Random?” line breaks upon them, and calls them poetry. When coupled with music, some of these songs are enjoyable, potentially meaningful three minute vignettes into poetry that I laughed at in high school. Ah, high school, when I worked as editor of the school literary magazine, whose mockery would keep bad poets out of print; now that I am an adult, the only person’s poems that I can keep out of print are my own and I can only do that by submitting them to every poetry magazine from Poetry to Highlights for Children. What was I talking about?

Oh, yes, this book. The introduction is not from the editor, but from some obscure pilot, Fred Schnieder of the B-52s. He explains that these really are poems. The rest of the book refutes his assertion. Because, folks, let’s just face it: poems use images to evoke emotional response. Pop songs like Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” or “I Honestly Love You” or Orleans’ “Still the One” or Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” or Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine” don’t rely on images so much as testimony from the poet-narrator. Actually, of all those I listed, “Bad Medicine” comes closest since its very conceit is a metaphor (your love is like bad medicine). Oddly enough, this would mean that Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is one of the poetical highlights of the book.

The only song of the 35 that would stand alone as a poem–that is, it relies on imagery and has a good internal consistency in its dreamlike surrealism–is “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper. Perhaps “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass would fall into the poem category, seeing as it’s a traditional ballad that tells a story and actually includes images (a braided chain made of finer silver from the north of Spain, etc., etc.). However, unlike other songs in the book I can hear within my head as performed by the original artist, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” comes with a visual. A former co-worker, soon-to-be the head of the Technical Writing department, admitted that she had been a pom-pom girl in high school, and that after a couple of glasses of wine, she’d be likely to re-enact a routine based on the song. So, gentle reader, I must diss Looking Glass simply because the song can make me imagine a drunken Peggy smiling and kicking and waving imaginary or improvised poms. Although the imagery is the most vivid, I don’t think Looking Glass intended that particular image.

So, I would certainly not recommend this book for you, gentle reader, unless you can find it at a garage sale for a quarter and you can enjoy the absurdity of sharing these poems, read aloud with full Shatner-inflection, with your loved one (or ones, Utah readers). My beautiful wife has taste for poetry and distaste for cheese, so I don’t think I got a full verse of "poetry&quot out before she told me to stop under threat of bodily injury. I don’t the heart, or perhaps other masculine anatomical features, to tell her this was supposed to be her anniversary gift.

Bonus: The only laugh out loud line came from John Waite’s “Missing You”:

stop this heartbreak overload!

Come on, the line’s something best mumbled over when singing the song, which I adore; however, seeing it in print, with an exclamation point, sent me into near hysterics.