Book Review

Book Reviews...Page 1        ...Page 2            ...Page 3            ...Page 4             ...Fiction                                      ...Table of Contents                      ...Home                                       ...BlogReview              ...Magazine Rack

Deborah Hauser

by George Wallace
NightBallet Press, Dianne Borsenik, Editor/Pubisher,
123 Glendale Court, Elyria, OH 44035,
2014, 40 pp., $10.00

"Riding With Boom Boom" is the title poem in George Wallace's riveting new poetry collection. It also describes the rhythm that pulses through the book which showcases Wallace's prowess as a poet and a storyteller. These poems, and the lives they depict, will stay with you like "sawdust on a working man."

Riding With Boom Boom is an elegy for Lawrence Ports, a local bluesman, who died while in police custody. It's a touching tribute to Ports and a scathing critique of the social pressure to be "rational." It ends with the speaker's pledge of solidarity: "I'll be/riding with Boom Boom./ Getting irrational." Several other poems skillfully tell the stories of musicians, artists, and "angels" who live on the margins and refuse to conform. "Waiting For A Meteor To Fall," tells the story of a graffiti artist in a West Village bar (deftly interrupted by a digression about an art critic) who understands that he is as likely to become famous as he is to be struck by a meteor but that "His death, like a rock star, would make him famous."

There are also many fine poems here for the disenfranchised "ordinary guys" and "assembly line janes" who dutifully "swallow the 9-5 routine" only to be continually dissatisfied when they "don't quite get there." The opening poem, "Second Fiddle," is a catalogue of blue-collar workers who work hard and drink hard and whose "stories don't get told." Wallace realistically and honestly speaks for the mechanic and waitress, but successfully avoids becoming sentimental. The "angels" that inhabit these poems are "dressed in kerosene;" they know how to pluck a man's eyeball out; and they drink until "every glass of beer is a yellow flower." The same "parking lot angels" trying to fill the void with a keg of beer at a tailgate party with "trunks swung wide/wide open in the rain" wake up to find "morning is having itself a good laugh."

Wallace packs this free verse collection with a resounding beat that flows naturally. There are a variety of forms in this collection, but the one stanza poem with varying line lengths is Wallace's signature style. Exemplified in "Dancing In South America" the lines form a word sculpture on the page:

Abra Malaga,
wounds willingly
opened, reached into,
wounds healing each other,
like Che crossing the Urubamba.

These poems should be read aloud to feel the pace and rhythm of the lines. They should be read multiple times to fully appreciate the craft that went into making each poem sound as if Wallace is an old friend just giving you an off-the-cuff riff. To read Wallace is to ride with Boom Boom.

By Bernie Earley and Lisa Neville

Mementos Elegiac:
Greg Weatherby's Approaching Home

Weatherby's collection of 21 poems [Finishing Line Press, 2013] traces remainders: mom's favorite chair, ball jars "gathering dust seals brittle"- images of home life gone south; the poems are a sharp example of "vanishing America" but also support Olson's resolve that "...only love and flesh...carry any sign of their antecedence, that all the rest...has gone down...." ("Human Universe").

Perceptions of familiar objects unsettle memory. Poetry easies some of the discomfort, using free-verse to balance consternation. In "Mom's Chair", mom is portrayed

"doing the Sunday Times crossword
knitting reading
short-term memory
gone to pieces
her drugstore glasses
never quite right ..."

Free-verse also resolves the "nervous paralysis" of inappropriate, traditional form (Ashbery). I.e., in this case, what to do with it all-objects of past life displacing present-just stuff it all in tight boxes? Enjambment rides roughshod over syntax. The run-on-line is paradoxically eloquent as it deals with discard:

"...who/puts away anymore jam jellies
who has the art desire need warming the kitchen
the whole house with aromas of late fall
steaming the windows now nothing remains" ("A Putting Away").

Closing one gap open another:
"... entire towns
legacy stripped bare
nothing to remember by
shards and artifacts" ("The House (watercolor)")....

"The directions we dream our lives into..." fade into oblivion like " bleary lines/ the maps of dreams", but not our work: "what we get done" matters, and such "thought" gives the little book a classical convergence: the notion of the work itself solidifies the book ("Time").

Work displaces grief; time is orphaned absence. The mementos, "obits clipped/to each page" of mors and amor cannot be exiled "tucked away in a drawer" ("Memento"). They traverse the poems like a hiatus that cuts between the reverberant keening of all that has been forgotten and the recalcitrant gratuitousness of all that remains.

If "Approaching Home" is a transliteration of "love and flesh," it complicates the disturbance of Weatherby's personal coming home, "his disposing of himself at his own entrance" ("Human Universe") with the larger dispossession of the men and women of that land, "the litany of names" and the poet "like an outsider/gone all these years/the barns caving in" ("Valleys").

For no poet has the notion of home ever been simple; cobwebbed with the legacy of remainder, the bewilderment of "how much we loved."

Double Vision
by © Aldo Vigliarolo