Original publication can be viewed here.
Ana Božičević’s third poetry collection, Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) offers a compelling commentary on the increasing isolation of a technologically advanced world. Based on the term FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out, the text offers an alternate though equally noticeable phenomena: the joy of that missing out. In Božičević’s own words, we as readers are thus inside our homes with a narrator who is trying, in unsuccessful ways, to venture into the outside word. She writes, “I’m beginning. Je Commence/The long ascent/out of /the screen—I’m outside!” As such, right in the very title, readers are introduced to the satirical humor of Božičević’s poignant writing, we are in a setting where we love missing out, and yet constantly search for a deeper non-technological connection to the world. There is an acknowledgment that the isolation is not an ideal place, but also an acknowledgment that this isolation is where we often feel most comfortable and want to stay. The tension in the pieces surrounds the lack of desire to go out in the world—the blunt acknowledgment that sometimes the screen is more appealing than going out to see where the images themselves were captured.
When discussing the title with Božičević, the choice itself became even more satirically funny as she wrote:
This title was chosen among a few possible choices by a group of friends at a bar in Berlin while I went to the WC. That was the deal: they would choose and I would name the book that. And I did. Then I had to deserve it. My titles tend to become self-fulfilling prophesies. In case of JOMO, what started as a play on digital life turned into a process of tuning out of academic and popular culture to invest in creating my own culture. As an immigrant at that point I had spent more than a decade working full time while studying and teaching and keeping up with American culture, until my poetry very loudly told me to stop, shut up, and look inside. What I found was a world full to bursting with images, meaning, personal mythology, hybrid languages. There are poems in JOMO that really celebrate this ecstasy of the solitary creator finally unafraid to enter her world. The dark side of JOMO is depression—the black lake of bipolar. I wanted to get that in too, as it’s still a huge deal to talk about this stuff in the open. This week JOMO was added to dictionary.com so now we’ve come full circle—it’s a real word now.
In what I have started to think of as social media diction, this collection is similar to Tommy Pico’s IRL in that the pieces use emojis, the term “lol”, the text symbol for love: <3, and the Facebook thumbs up sign to convey meaning. For instance, in “no filter” Božičević writes what almost feels as though it could be a Twitter post: “so debt few job” and there is something interesting about reading a book that contains language and dialogue normally only delegated to a screen. That being said, the use of this type of diction does not imply or connote that the collection be unsophisticated or non-complex. In fact, the use of such language to challenge technology is at once complex, compelling, and innovative.
The language is as such, not quite colloquial as it is also intimately rooted in technology. It is a sort of online vernacular that uses that very vernacular to question our use of technology as a method of activism and love, to question what happens when we love through a screen? To question is that love real? In “Sent Remotely”, Božičević writes “The industrial revolution will not save us/nor will the digital”. We are thus in a world of tech critiquing the use of tech for love, for activism, for substance.
The text is not divided into sections, and at times reads as though it is one long poem, or one long cry about our new languages of interaction via screen interfaces. While the pieces do feel continuous they also feel complete and almost each poem contained individual lines that are truly challenging and compelling to anyone who lives in this technological world. Božičević consistently includes thoughts that, in the social media diction of her style “shook me”. For instance, when she writes, “who will be the last to text before/ one of us dies.” Readers are forced to confront the ways that someone’s last words might shift through the medium of screens.
The statement is also funny—One of Božičević’s primary strengths is this humor that plays throughout the entire collection. For instance, the title, “The night I fucked William Carlos Williams” won over my sweet punny heart, and then continued to amuse me as a reader as Božičević altered the gender pronouns of WCW. When discussing these specific poems, Božičević stated:
These poems were a kind of reckoning with the 20th century American literary canon—and its cis maleness. As I took in poems I love by WCW in the context of my queer life and loves, in my mind they underwent a queering. And in Pound I found an absolutism that my poem renounces as though trying to reframe a toxic attachment or the very concept of femme fatale or genius. While writing JOMO I experienced an urge to pull what I learned about American poetry into my emotional corpus, transform and play with it, and eventually release. The pronoun changes in WCW signal that new American poetry is queer: it belongs to us now.
The text is an emblem of the future is queer and truly an important and exciting read for this tech world we live in. This text confronted intimate moments in my own life, forced me to reflect on the times my dog begins to snuggle beneath my arm and I in turn open my laptop to compare a photo of myself with a photo of another. In other words, I felt personally attacked in the way I want poetry to attack me. I was challenged, my behavior exposed on an operating table. In the language of social media diction this book had me saying “I can’t” all over my messages app.