Continued: Linda Lerner / Review Big Hammer # 20
There’s the “angry white Man” (titled poem, p.115) the gun crazed person let loose; mass shootings begun toward the end of the last century, have been multiplying into this new one. Ed Galling writes about the Great Depression, men “…defeated by an / enemy over whom they had no /control” and the depression of those who are still homeless, “don’t have a warm room / in the richest nation in history” for whom dates like 1929 or 1990 mean nothing. (Albert Huffstickler, (p.238)
Included are many poems about poems both acting as a reflection of where we are, and as a guide to what poetry can do, if the poets don’t get led astray, as David Church warns: “Bastard poets don’t sit at the typer everyday / with tea and Mozart” (29). When Lamont Steptoe says “This poem / is homeless / lives in no book” he gets closest to the way a lot of people are feeling (20). “Perhaps there are only dead languages / and we are the loneliest accident and the luckiest” referring to the real poets (Cabral 12).
The first direct reference to the 21st century is on page. 262, “21st Century Elves” by Ken Greenley: this new century is starting “on a bad note.” The elves are those who “never heard of Auschwitz” who know nothing of the past, the young” who sneer and make a face /when you ask em to do something.” A current reference is made in “’Maga’s’” Demented Fallacy” by Mary J. Dacorro and a feeling of despair: “Here lies our hopeless state…” with no one to listen, “no matter how justly loud our protestations be” (300).
We are given much to think about in this anthology whose poems go back and forth in time to where we are, were, and could be. Art by Jen Dunford Roskos, Michael Shores, Angela Mark both supplements and adds significantly to the written word.
The striking cover art by Jen Dunford Roskos depicting people diving into a sea of some sort, surrounded by images from different time periods is like a surrealistic Noah’s Ark, and a perfect metaphor for this anthology. A caption reads, “it’s after the end of the world.” Off to the side is a woman photographing something she sees and we don’t in the distance.
Big Hammer is edited and built by Dave Roskos who made the following statement: I put out #1 in 1988 in New Brunswick NJ. It grew out of the poetry series called Proletkult Poetry Circus, which my friend Chris Aubrey and I started at The Court Tavern in New Brunswick NJ in early 1987.) Since then he’s published over 50 chapbooks and full-length collections by over 25 poets & writers including 4 books of essays by the late Harvey Pekar.
A draft of this review was written a few months before anyone ever heard of the Corona virus, but the cover art by Jen Dunford Roskos evokes an apocalypse, as does some of the work included in this anthology. What is approached and backed away from, exploded in ways they couldn’t have imagined at the time. (March 27th 2020)