Wednesday, October 21, 2009
new american poems by
Three Rooms Press, New York
Copyright © 2009 by George Wallace
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
Poets like to be compared to great poets, so when I read George Wallace, the late Charles Bukowski wormed his way into my brain. Fortunately, this George Wallace isn’t the former governor of Alabama, whose non-poetic bigotries are not soon forgotten. Fortunately, the George Wallace who authored Poppin’ Johnny is an uncommon poet who goes non-stop from cover to cover with poems that not only conjure Bukowski, but some of the Beat Generation poets like Allen Ginsberg. So now you know a weakness of mine for Bukowski and Ginsberg and I may well add Wallace after I read more of his 18 chapbooks of poetry and, if I can find them, full length efforts. Maybe he should publish a Selected volume. I’ll bet that would be great reading.
Of the more than 70 poems in this volume my favorite was easily That Girl’s A Chevrolet. For a guy (me) who for many years had a romance with fast cars and the women who liked the front and back seats, this poem has it all. Read it fast, like
a ’58 Impala trying to separate a highway like it’s the Red Sea. Read it fast because that’s the way this poem is meant to be read. Fast. Just try the first few lines:
she’s got celebrity
she’s got greed
she’s got ammunition
& she’s got natural selection
i tell you she’s got erudition
palimony free & easy patricide
she’s got manifest destiny she’s got
motorized magic she’s got the tar & feather
Just the first few lines and I was reaching for the four-on-the-floor, listening for the GlassPaks and the 8 Stromberg Heads. and there are more lines:
[that] girl’s a chevrolet, boy she’s
a chevy she’s a chevy she’s
taking to the streets
There’s also the Bukowski-like toughness of :
I’m Just An Ordinary Guy
I’m Feeling Like Pittsburgh Tonight
i’m just an ordinary guy i’m feeling
like pittsburgh tonight buy me a
beer says choochoo charlie to steel
eyed dick and make it american
he was a little older than dick an
old goat a little bit colder to look
at straight in the eye tough old bird
Ah, read on. This is another poem to enjoy, fast or slow. Nitty-gritty, down in hole,Wallace rips life as if it were a piece of paper, leaving the edges jagged and the paper crumpled like so many lives he observes.
Yes, Wallace writes lower case. Yes, Wallace doesn’t use much punctuation, an occasional comma or period, sometimes in a poem that has no other punctuation, but
it works well. Even though many folks say poetry to should be read slowly, sipped like wine, Wallace is meant to be read fast, like Paul LeMat’s yellow hot rod in American Graffiti.
I’ve read many of Bukowski’s books two or three times; Ginsberg too. I know I am going to go through Poppin’ Johnny few times too.
This is a book of poetry I am pleased to recommend.