Making Connections: On Jim Tomsula, the 49ers’ O-Line, and ‘Brain Fever’

By Ryan Henry Joe

I was at the Toronto airport on Sunday, where the local team is the Buffalo Bills. So I couldn’t watch the 49ers at the Pittsburgh Steelers even if I wanted to.

And after a few Twitter updates, I really didn’t want to.

Here are some first half favorites:


At least airport security was pleasant.

Last week, I was treated to some sparse poetry when the denizens of online message boards collectively described 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula:

Tomsula somehow looks like he has just finished but is also preparing to eat a meatball sub.
Jim Tomsula looks like a raiders fan.
Tomsula looks like he owns a failing Italian restaurant.


This week, it’s all about Brain Fever by Kimiko Hahn.

Poetry is something I know whether or not I enjoy, but lack the vocabulary to articulate why. It’s like asking me to write intelligently about pro basketball. LeBron jumps high and he gets the ball through the hoop. Not only is that a good thing, it’s literally all I can tell you.

A few months back, I turned in a Publishers Weekly article about a political poetry collective and my editor had to completely re-write the intro. Such is my familiarity with the format’s rich history.

While I respect the poet’s ability to say a lot with as few words as possible, I often struggle to decode it. That process can be pleasurable, but I often doubt I’m doing it the way the writer intended.

coverSo if you pick up Brain Fever and like me you read poetry as effectively as the 49ers offensive line reads Steelers blitzes (Five times. Kap was sacked FIVE fucking times.), I suggest starting at the end with “Luminour Vapours,” an essay Hahn wrote for The American Poetry Review. It pretty much functions as an afterward and in it, Hahn lays out what she was trying to do.

Basically, she free-associates words or, in many cases, pop cultural or scientific concepts and stretches them to see if they can “be a portal from one meaning to the next.”

In “The Problem with Dwarfs,” Hahn goes from dwarf stars to her mother-in-law and the extent of her own outspokenness. “Porch Light” opens with a pastoral scene, and turns into a rumination from a mother whose daughter has been swept away by a destructive relationship (It uses Hades’ abduction of Persephone as its narrative frame, which was pretty sweet).

I have to admit, I couldn’t always follow Hahn through her portals. Here’s “Encircling a Snail:”

She stowed three hundred in her purse.
She loved to watch them conjugate.

Probably preferred fooling around with clothes wholly on.

I’m missing something here. Maybe it’s in the spacing of the line, or that “Encircling a Snail” is the third poem in a section called “Circle,” so it’s meant to work in sequence.

Whatever connection I’m supposed to be making, I’m not making it.

But you know who’s going to make a lot of connections next Sunday? Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer with wideout Larry Fitzgerald, against the 49ers secondary.

Fuck me.

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