Not a lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

[Image ID: A Snapchat of the cover of "Not a lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough" by Kyle Tran Myhre with art by Casper Pham. The caption reads: Stories about stories, my favorite kind. End ID]

What can artists do in difficult times? That is the question this book grapples with. 

Dealing with challenging topics through allegory is a very hit or miss thing, with misses more likely than hits in my experience as a long time X-Men fan. Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre, on the other hand, hits and hits hard.

[Image ID: Snapchat of text, "How can I write about social justice issues via characters who do not move through the systems and structures that I move through, or that the people on my planet move through? How can that be done responsibly, in a way that doesn't sand the edges off of the issues that I normally write about?" The caption reads: Fuck, yes. what a mood! End ID.]

I actually don’t think I would want to read this book if the discussions within of authoritarianism, people who refuse to acknowledge trouble if it doesn’t impact them, or who willfully twist meaning, were just straight discussions of the world between 2018 and now. I, like so many, have lived through and been impacted by those things all too closely, but the distance created by the found fiction/quasi-epistolary sci-fi setting opens a door to exploring those topics in a way that feels cathartic rather than painful. 

[Image ID: Snapchat of the text: "Memo: What follows is a collection of poems, conversation transcripts, notebook entries, and sketches compiled by our team regarding the robot Gyre. Frustratingly, they are filtered through a secondary source, Gyre's traveling companion, a human Nar'ryzar "Nary" Crumbeaux. Whether Crumbeaux took extremely detailed notes during their travels across the moon, or Gyre's advanced memory capabilities are responsible for the existence of these writing, we do not know." The captain reads: Reconstructing history through fragmentary evidence my beloved. End ID]

The book opens with what is possibly my favorite framing device in existence: a faux-academic preface explaining what you are about to see: A collection of poems and transcripts that the robot Gyre and his human apprentice Nary, collected over their travels on the moon, which is home to a society that grew from a prison colony of political dissidents from a World that they can no longer remember. Now, generations later, they are struggling despite their founders’ best efforts to subvert what they could recall of their old world’s failings. 

So what are poets Gyre and Nary to do? They look for stories, they tell stories, they share and encourage others to share. Throughout the book I was reminded repeatedly of a line from “The Truth About Stories” by Thomas King, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.”

[Image ID: Snapchat of text: "1. Everyone has a story. No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone has a story, and every story matters. If we're going to survive, it will be because we listen to each other's stories." The caption reads: The truth about stories is that's all we are. End ID]

Stories are important. They are important to connection, they are important to memory, they are important to making sense of the world. At one point, in a conversation between Gyre and Nary, Nary grapples with doubt about the impact that what they’re doing has, because things seem to keep getting worse. That piece, “Do You Think We Have Been Talking About PoetryThis Whole Time?” reads to me an awful lot like grappling with activism burnout. There’s so much that needs to be done, you can’t do all of it yourself, but at the same time, sometimes it feels like you’re never doing enough. 

[Image ID: Snapchat of text:
Nary: I'm tired.
Gyre: Drink more tea.
Nary: You know what I mean. It feels like everything is on fire, and we're still just writing poems, walking from one village to the next, going on and on about the importance of telling our stories and building community through art. And nothing changes. If anything, things are getting worse." The caption reads: That burn out feel, pensive emoji. End ID]

There is so much more to be said about this book, there is more than one theme, though stories are central. A few poems that stood out to me were “Blessing (Circles),” which deals in how stories are not always neat and tidy things and spoke to my experience dealing with purity culture surrounding media, and “Like We Live in a Bad Poem,” which digs into the world building and the repercussions of the original Exiles having had their memories wiped, eg. idioms remain, but their context is lost. It is a book worth taking your time with and revisiting. I am certain it will hit me differently six months from now. 

[Image ID: Snapchat of text: "Don't be angry at a story because it isn't a map." The caption reads: I wish more people understood this. End ID]

Additionally, there is some truly incredible art throughout the book, don’t by artist Casper Pham. My favorite piece is the one that has also been used for the cover art. 

[Image ID: Artwork of a robot leaning back against a pile of cable, it has a hand raised which appears to be damaged, some of the fingers are sparking and smoking. Below the image is the quote: "Just because you don't have the power to run outside and magically 'fix' everything, it doesn't mean that you don't have power." The Snapchat caption reads: The art in this book is stunning. End ID]

If you’re lucky, you might also still be able to get the limited edition postcard prints when you order the book. (The site says they’re for the pre-order, but I got them and didn’t pre-order, so I’m assuming it’s a “while supplies last” thing now.)

Anyway, go get yourselves a copy and I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lines from the very beginning of the book. “Please remember: This doesn’t end in a meaningful way. There’s no tidy conclusion waiting for you on the other side. Think of it more like a circle.”

If you enjoy my content and would like to see more, please consider buying me a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s