New York poet Peter BD’s debut book, Milk & Henny, came out last year on Inpatient Press. It’s a biting and hilarious collection of short, searing poems that read like if Jack Handey of “Deep Thoughts” fame was part of Black Twitter.
A few episodes back on the podcast (embedded at the end of this post), I got the opportunity to interview Peter just as he was just about to release the Milk & Henny Mixtape, a companion piece to the book. It came out on January 1st as a collection of songs with accompanying videos on YouTube. The full playlist is embedded below.
While I’d love to offer an objective review of the mixtape, that’s just not possible. Not only am I extremely biased in favor of pretty much everything that Peter BD does—from his recipient-specific email narratives that caught people’s attentions years ago, to his effortless reading style that ruins every audience he performs in front of—I am also fortunate enough to have contributed to the mixtape. During our interview, I’d joked that I’d do some sound collages with the songs, and he said he wanted me to just put something on the tape. Right after we finished recording, he emailed me to let me know he was serious, so I put together a short interstitial bit for the end of the collection.
Here’s my absolute favorite track off the mixtape, “Jonathan Franzen.”
The comedy in Peter’s songs, much like in his poetry, is wildly specific. There’s a weird, express kind of cultural literacy required to “get” all of his jokes and references. And yet, there exists an eager and receptive audience. Peter’s got a peculiar ability to create textual and sonic referential bibliographies that resonate with an entire generation of over-educated, economically-precarious artists and writers. We’ve read and dismissed the requisite post-structural theory, we know which popular literature is just liberal wonkery, and we’re in possession of vast vocabularies around issues of social justice. And for all that, we’re six figures in debt and pray for the day when the landlord will accept rent in the form of cultural capital.
Part of what’s so engaging about Peter’s writing is that his sense of humor is somehow at once cavalier and nurturing. It feels energizing to laugh along with him at crusty power structures desperately grasping to maintain their dominance, and also reassuring to recognize that kindred spirits will find all of this comedic for the same reasons that we do. And when Peter’s writing or lyrics hint at real feelings of sadness, or a sense of overwhelming, imminent failure, it’s comforting to know that somebody is out there expressing those emotions for all of us. Both the book and the mixtape offer barbed jabs at so many targets, but they also caution against assuming moral superiority, as evidenced by the companion pieces below.
Knowing Peter BD is a real privilege, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely fucking giddy when he asked me to send something along for the mixtape. If you don’t yet have a copy of the Milk & Henny book, I can’t stress enough how happy you’ll be if you purchase one. It’s something that I’ve read over and over, and some layer I’d missed previously always reveals itself when I revisit it. Purchase it here from Inpatient Press.
Whenever I need to check myself, I go back to this poem from the book:
Thanks for reading. I hope that the mixtape has brightened up your day. Here’s the episode of Humor and the Abject with Peter BD as the guest from December 16th, 2018.