Nick Flynn's fifth collection of poems is riveting, the verses scalding in their passion. The title piece, "I Will Destroy You," is not just a promise to an unknown visitor, to a traumatic memory felt deep in the bones, but a nod to the incendiary quality of his poetry as a whole. Here is a writer whose intensity owes something both to St. Augustine--whom he name-checks in the final poem--and to the unfiltered Sturm und Drang of punk rock. But Flynn never loses sight of form or intent in his pursuit of artistic (and personal) truth. Works like "Uncloudy Day" and "Saltmarsh" are tightly controlled in their meter and structure, keeping the reader in a state between chaos and discipline. Like many great artists, Flynn (who's also written three memoirs, including Another Bullshit Night in Suck City) is able to hold two opposing ideas within himself and find harmony from this conflict.
That uneasy state is appropriate for I Will Destroy You. The poems collected cross-examine films, dead rock stars, fatherhood and the key memory of Flynn's mother, sometimes interpolating them into rich and unexpected patterns. In the concluding "Saint Augustine," he can't stop returning to his mother's death, unable to stay in the present and with God despite the saint's words. Still, he can find the beginnings of closure within this book and in the relentless work of self-interrogation. It appears that will have to be enough. Ultimately, I Will Destroy You is a superb book that will appeal to fans of Flynn's previous writings while sating the poetry reader who needs some raw power in verse. --C.M. Crockford, freelance reviewer