Proof Something Happened

Reviewed By Lily Prater

Proof Something Happened By Tony Trigilio, East Rockway, NY: Marsh Hawk Press, 64 pages, $18.00

Tony Trigilio’s latest collection of poems, Proof Something Happened, is based on Betty and Barney Hill’s claimed extraterrestrial abduction, in 1961. If you love science fiction, aliens, conspiracy theories, or want to challenge your beliefs on life outside of our planet, this book is for you.

On September 19-20, 1961, the Hills claim to have been abducted and experimented on by extraterrestrials. The evening’s events started when the Hills noticed a bright light getting closer and closer to their car, as they were traveling back home from vacation. A trip that should have taken about four hours ended up taking seven hours to complete. The question still remains today: what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Barney Hill during those unaccounted three hours? Tony Trigilio’s book is here to help guide you to the conclusion that Betty and Barney’s claims are true; however, the conclusion can only come from you—the reader.

With 30 poems to capture the alleged near encounter of that night in September, Trigilio, a Professor at Columbia College Chicago, will invite you into the wild world where “Men in Black” may be more realistic than you originally thought. Some of the poems’ titles, like “‘What I’m saying is part of me outside the actual creation of words themselves,’” are quotes taken straight from the hypnosis tapes, created in April of 1964. Each poem offers a different point of view, a new part of the story, or digs deeper into the event of the UFO abduction and sighting.

Proof Something Happened was recently selected as the winner of the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize, by Susan Howe. Former winners of this award include Gain Newman’s Blood Memory, Geoffrey O’Brien, and Lynne Thompson. It was pretty clear, to me, why Susan Howe picked Proof Something Happened. Each poem contains such thought in how the stanzas are broken up, to the words chosen, to the placement of italics. Other works of Trigilio include (but not limited to), White Noise (2013), and Ghosts of the Upper Floor: The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood) (2019)—which is the third instalment of his multivolume poetry collections.

My favorite poem, from the collection, is “My soul sometimes floats out of my body. I don’t listen to the radio while driving.” In the introduction of the book, Trigilio shared how he wanted to “deepen the verisimilitude of the book’s historical narrative,” by keeping the language of the mid-to late twentieth century authentic. Not only do I see Trigilio’s influence on the language used, but I also loved the absolute mayhem the poem presented. This poem is the third in the collection. This poem gave me my first true connection to the topic, outside of the context of the first two—which helped set up the collection itself. I am a sucker for sensory details, and this poem presented details in such a fresh form.

When reading Tony Trigilio’s poetry collection, you will feel the anxieties, mysteries, and unsettling emotions of the Hills. Be on the lookout for Proof Something Happened in the near future of 2021; if you become a fan of Tony Trigilio’s, please go check out all of his other six poetry collections. And remember, please continue to support writers and small presses.