Thursday, October 01, 2015


By James DeCrescentis
Igneus Press
Canyon TX    $10.00

     Joan Didion has spoken of how writers impose “a narrative line upon disparate images” in order to “freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”  That is to say, writers generally impose a narrative, impose ideas, to create an aesthetic whole.  James DeCrescentis’ recent chapbook of eleven prose poems takes a wrecking ball to that model.  He does away with narrative, or at least with imposed, plotted narrative, to allow the free reign of what Didion calls the “shifting phantasmagoria” and the free play of the imagination. 
     DeCrescentis uses streams of images, many of them surreal, that come fast on the heels of the preceding ones, often in run-on sentences that serve to build the intensity of the poem.  But most images are striking enough to put the brakes on just a little, so the poem does run off the tracks.  DeCrescentis is very much in control of his material.  And though the poems present a shifting phantasmagoria, meaning nonetheless erupts like crocuses in early spring.   A strong moral tone is evident as well in certain of the poems.  In “The Italian Haircut,” a man barred from a neighborhood club in 1948, because of his race. dreams of opening his own club, which he eventually does.  The concluding stanza reads:
     And I’ll make it born into the same year, watching those
     victory gardens burning up one by one the children must
     change racism without money or violence, or catchy bumper
     stickers on foreign cars—-let everybody in.
     The opening lines of the next poem in the collection, “We Put Transistors Everywhere,” also burn with moral fire:

     And forget the places as they get razed by bulldozers
     with cranes flattening to dirt what took so long to be
     born a religion of death so far out of touch flames bring
     candles lining small squares----

     DeCrescentis spent much of his working life as a counselor in psychiatric facilities and his experiences enter into or color several of the poems.  “The Shift” is short enough to be quoted in its entirety:

     I walk up and down the halls of the ward and see a
     two-tone paint job clogging my lungs, which hoard all
     pollutants like back room meetings, terrible colors
     walking the straight line around a bend of ladders on
     fire, even the paintbrush loses direction.  I do this
    long walk because the zombie wants some shuffle.

POUNDING THE DOOR INTO GRAY is a nicely designed chapbook that features a cover painting by the author titled “Wally’s CafĂ©.”   The book is available for $10.00 from Igneus Press, 1301 Eighth Avenue, Canyon, TX 79015 or at

                                                                                             --Richard Wilhelm