Monday, January 25, 2010
Review of GIVE OVER THE HECKLER AND EVERYONE GETS HURT by Jason Tandon, Black Lawrence Press, Brooklyn, NY, 2009, 82 pages
By Barbara Bialick
It seems to me that the poet takes on the point of view of the new American everyman,
who “heckles” the weird guys in a bowling league as he travels around through obscure towns, and treasures his buddies, dog and girl. He intimates that he may be a black man, but doesn’t seem to make much of race. He also doesn’t seem to make much of high technology for that matter. He doesn’t provide a photo of himself to psych out, but leaves the reader with symbols, allegory, and details that aren’t so much imagery, but the observations of a keen eye, a poet’s eye.
In “League Night” the scary league bowler says, “give up, Heckler…with an air of onions and bourbon/a six-shooter plugs my ear/we end up outside…” (Fortunately the guy parts the circle and the author survives.)
In the next odd scene, “Easter Special”, he records, “In honor of Christ’s resurrection/Mister Donut tops a traditional glazed/with yellow frosting and jellybeans”
as the woman’s “cell phone rings ‘La Cucaracha’…”
And then there’s his dog in a great poem called “Dog Days”: “my dog…with a bout of jazz head,/…with his tongue lolling, eyes half closed, digging the mellow rhythm…”.
Another good one is called “Thanks for Nothing” in which he recalls stopping at a burger joint “north of Albert Lea, Minnesota” where he and his friend Bill neglected to tip the waitress. “She would come up short that day,/worse, get chewed up by her boss, worse than that/asked to turn in her name tag…”He continues: “That meal was the only thing I’ve ever stolen. Except for some time later, back on the east coast in debt…/I swiped two pocketfuls/of spice jars from a Grand Union../indignant/that I should pay so much for flavor.”
Less funny, however, is the poem, “Behind the University”, “It was a confederate flag unfurled/three stories down a brick face/on fraternity row/that took my eyes off the road…I pictured a little girl/praying before bed tonight. I was late to teach a class/and my reason felt like an excuse.”
Speaking of teaching, Tandon teaches in the writing program of Boston University. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he got bachelors and masters in English from Middlebury College, and his MFA at the University of New Hampshire. This is his second collection of poetry.