Croland, Michael. “Air to the Throne: A Poetry Chapbook about Air Guitar”, Independently Published, 2020.
In his new chapbook, Michael Croland introduces to Matt “Airistotle” Burns, two-time world air guitar champion and takes us on his journey. Airistotle has been racking up prizes for his ability with the air guitar. He is heading to Kansas City, Missouri for the national guitar competition. He is two-time world champion and four-time US champion and the poems in this collection pay tribute to his life by looking at it through “new directions and alternative perspectives for air guitar and other invisible instruments.” At first it feels as if we are reading a simple chronicle of competitions” but we come to understand that the real themes here are nationalism and the prioritization of winning during the Trump era
Think about what air guitar is. Croland shares that it is “a viable longstanding form of performance art that is generally entertaining” and allows for “meaningful artistic expression”. An air guitar is a form of dance and movement a pin which a performer pretends to play an imaginary rock or heavy-metal-style electric guitar. Playing an air guitar usually consists of exaggerated strumming and picking motions and is often paired with loud singing or lip-synching. It is not meant to be taken seriously. “Air guitar is preferable to there guitar because imagination is uninhibited… a guitar lacking in matter matters”.
Croland divides his chapbook into chapters in which the poems (written between 2014 and 2019) are arranged chronologically. I found each poem to be enlightening and fun to read. Filled with characters who are larger-than-life, we ultimately get the essence of air guitar and what it takes to be an air guitarist.
During the last ten years, Airistotle has been a force at competitions and performances. Croland takes us on the journey he made to get to the top. We become very aware of Croland’s cleverness in looking at important issues in the guise of air guitar. I wanted to include several lines from some of the poems but found that impossible to do since they are arranged in an order that does not easily allow me to pull verses out if. This is a book that is meant to be read in the order that it is published and since line follows line and poem follows poem, I found myself reading the anthology in one sitting. I was immediately pulled in with the first poem and was not able to let go.