Jeff Bridges made this thing called Sleeping Tapes . It was a promo album for Squarespace, a soft and motley collection of nonsequential tidbit stories, rhythmic chanting, field recordings of Bridges just tromping around his backyard with a boom mic, etc. The thing he made is a good thing. I like it. Sleeping Tapes is what I’m listening to from the shower, volume cranked above the plack of soap, shower water, as I consider Donora Hillard’s new book of Jeff Bridges-themed poetry. It’s called Jeff Bridges . That’s all it is called. The thing she made is also a good thing.
Not many people seem to know about Sleeping Tapes when I mention it. From the compendium of Bridges’ work, Tron or The Big Lebowski are well known. Maybe some people also remember him from Iron Man, those short villainous scenes, or True Grit. But plenty of Jeff Bridges fans have, you know, at least heard about Sleeping Tapes — and plenty more might have slept sweet and delighted to it already, or half-slept rolled into their sheets like human burritos, soaking Jeff’s pepper-and-chunk voice up slowly, weirdly calm. It eventually becomes part of the nature of a fan to know Jeff Bridges bit by bit, as fans soon discover their knowledge of him never seems complete or — heck, or even containable. I rinse my hair and imagine Hillard mouthing every track of Sleeping Tapes, memorized just so, while she scribbles her poems onto coffee filters, the backs of shared marketing mail pieces, a steno pad. Hillard’s book, Jeff Bridges, contains more of The Dude than Jeff Bridges perhaps knows he contains, himself.
And that’s why these poems work, why they are good and why I like them: Jeff Bridges — and we’re talking not only the entertainer, we’re also talking the personality concept he’s portrayed across his career, the man’s mythos and ethos — operates as a free-floating marker for various events in Hillard’s life. He is ever available as steady grounding, or as comforting voice; he is, as often as his depiction renews for Hillard in a poem, an existential sense-maker to all senselessness. Talk about uncontainable. The Dude is a balm for The Poet.
Hillard’s first poem in the book invites readers into Jeff Bridges-as-balm with zero questions asked. It slaps that balm on you before you realize. And the balm absorbs easily into the parts of you that you didn’t know had been so dry, peeling. Read it slowly:
You have 14 minutes
and then Jeff Bridges.
He lets you win at air
hockey and soaks your
diamonds in No More
Tears. He even holds
your hand after you are
fired for being small.
Happy. You will be happy
and he will give you the
last airplane cookie.
You will look down at the
weird tundra lights,
your America, the thing
with wheels for eyes
growing ever closer.
This poem begins the cycle of Hillard’s nameless, semi-narrative and illustration-juxtaposed conversation. On the other side of the page is the first of the illustrations, a rendering of The Dude by artist Goodloe Byron . It’s this combination of Byron’s sketches and Hillard’s film-reference-drenched poetry (in this case, some of 1993’s Fearless) that gets a thematic momentum rolling for us, and by the next poem we’re ready to be balm-baptized once-over. Imagine how Jeff Bridges might explain his career to you over a drink: every story recalled would bite and soothe at the attentions, draw you in, the order unimportant. Hillard, adorned in grungy Dude bathrobe, pulls a bar stool up to you the same, and just details what comes to mind until you’re nodding along. Topics, no matter the initial shock or awe, drift in and out with restful sway. It’s a momentum to be admired.
Much how Sleeping Tapes hypnotizes me into restful sway, Hillard could read me equally hypnotic with her book  — high praise from a fellow, and deeply-entranced, fan of the man, to be sure. Jeff Bridges, like Sleeping Tapes, is correspondingly a soft and motley collection of nonsequential tidbit stories, but instead of the entertainer walking us through his own mind before bed, he walks Hillard through hers, hand-in-hand, before she can even lay her head down. He calls her Baby Sister and looks up from playing his guitar as though paying half-attention, half-asleep, to dispense a saying that will stick. He cares. It’s, in a way, what every fan wants.
Baby Sister, he says, why?
Remember me in FEARLESS.
My hair was so long
and I wasn’t afraid
of any strawberry.
I stuck my head out
the window like a beagle.
I yelled at God,
‘You want to kill me but you can’t.’
So let it go. Let’s drive our
Volvo into a brick wall to make
Rosie Perez feel better.
Let’s buy presents for the dead.
And that’s the beauty of this book. Hillard has picked the stickiest sayings, the half-sleepiest, and said them into her life again and again until she couldn’t distinguish life from Jeff. For us, and for Hillard, Jeff Bridges is Jeff Bridges being wonderfully himself throughout her book — strange, zen-like, and brim with the necessary friendliness of the moment.
I blow-dry my long beard, bathrobe-wrapped, post-shower, and try to think about The Dude the way Hillard has thought about The Dude. I imagine him suggesting I put less stuff in my hair, maybe go for that more natural look. I imagine him patting my shoulder and smiling his thin, pastoral smile.
I put nothing in my hair and start my day.
 You can hear Sleeping Tapes here.
 Jeff Bridges is available directly through Cobalt Press in both print and epub format.
 Wouldn’t it be cool if Jeff Bridges read an audiobook version of Jeff Bridges?