Thursday, February 19, 2009
by Alan Catlin
Platonic 3 Way Press
Copyright © 2009 by Alan Catlin
Review by Zvi A. Sesling ( founder of the Muddy River Poetry Review)
I read Suffering Bastards not long after seeing the movie The Wrestler and the movie missed an opportunity to use some of Alan Catlin’s characters – they are suffering and they exist in the rundown, bar infested sections of cities. Some of the characters are of a higher order – or are they?
Catlin’s bio says he is a retired barman and it is obvious he spent his time doing more than mixing drinks or serving beer. His observations of his customers are dead on descriptions written in verse. The poems made me glad I don’t spend time in bars.
What else is interesting to read are his embedded opinions of the people he chooses to write about. No names, but you have probably run into them at various points of your life. Or, perhaps, read them in Raymond Chandler novels or seen them in noir films. In addition to the title poem there are poems with titles like “The Bar with No Name Revisited,” “The Afterburner,” “The Bruiser,” “Double Rapid Eye Movement,” etc. You get the point. And if you frequented bars – the old fashioned kind – not the ones that serve sushi or lamb chops with potato au gratin or fancy named drinks, but the ones with small, dark porthole windows, smoke curling upward toward dim lights and no big screen TVs either, then you get the atmosphere of a Catlin poem.
In “Suffering Bastard,” the title poem, Catlin’s description is right out of a hardboiled detective novel:
Someone had punched
his clock with a jack
hammer, a shot right above
the eyes that left them
unfocused and as hard as
fired clay in a closed kiln....
There is also this excerpt from “Twenty years of hard drink,”
a stretch in county,
two or three times in the tank
and locked down in a ward
with all the full time lunatics
and all he had to show for it
was two knife scars on his chest.....
Having read Chandler, Hammett, MacDonald and seen (never enough) noir film, I found Catlin’s poems of real life people who many people never get to see worthy of a larger volume of poetic sketches than this small chapbook.