Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Bert Stern

Poet Bert Stern

I’d been sitting by the river all afternoon 
and now the sun was going down and Venus 
shone on the horizon.  I’d been sitting 
to watch how the water swirled into braids 
and swirled out again.  I was watching 
a leaf ride the river until, drawn into 
sluggish water near the bank it rested there. 
Evening fell but the full moon made 
the moving water sparkle. 

Quite late a trail took me up the long bank 
and across a rough meadow home. But before 
I climbed the porch steps I stopped and listened 
to distant water and a single owl. 
Above me Orion was still in place,   
so I went in to sleep in a room whose floor 
was earth and whose ceiling was moonlight.   
All night as I slept, in generous swirls 
the river pursued its intricate dance, as if 
it were still learning.

My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean  by Amy Dresner

My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean 
by Amy Dresner 
October 2018 
Hachette Books  
Review by Timothy Gager 
This is an important book, considering the heavy weight of the opioid crisis in this country. It is important because the story and the author are very real in this struggle. It is important because people need to meet people like Amy to understand alot of this crisis. 
Unlike our President’s attempt to placate the African American population by bringing Kanye West to The White House, there are no popular drug addicts invited to wow the Oval Office. Why? Because what we learn in actual recovery holds the key to fighting this crisis. It’s not less drugs on the street, but rather more sober people in recovery willing to help others. 
Amy Dresner was one of the featured guests at the last Dire Literary Series, October, in Somerville, and she was as real as it gets. Her book, My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean, chronicles her struggles with her disease, which included six trips Rehab Hospitals, four psychiatric wards, four suicide attempts, multiple Emergency Room visits, endless rounds therapy, a slew of fired sponsors, and as a cherry, a felony arrest for assault with a deadly weapon. Society doesn’t have much empathy for events such as this. The average citizen (oh, to be average) is not about to rally to battle anything having to do with serious drug and alcohol use and the wreckage in brings. 
But aren’t they? When you read this book, you’re rooting  awfully hard for the author. She tells her story with self-effacing humor, combined with real life terror. It is both frightening and hilarious. She is vulnerable and as some say about alcoholics and addicts when using, an ego-maniac with an inferiority complex. 
The book alternates life before recovery with her court ordered work on The Clean Team (a wonderful double meaning) a street sweeping unit in Los Angeles. The Clean Team, works convicts to beautify the city and to cover the terms of their sentences. While doing this dirty work, Dresner simultaneously was living in a sober house, going to AA meetings, meeting with a sponsor and doing the required work on herself.  Her story reports the importance of what losing everything, and becoming humble really means. These are extremely measurable traits for being and staying clean and sober, according to The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The book though, isn’t about Alcoholics Anonymous, but rather is about a brave and determined journey of one single individual. It is the kind of book which has already helped so many people, and should be on the reading list for those not in recovery, as well, as those who don’t even have a problem with drug and alcohol use. “The book also helps me stay accountable, I mean, I can’t exactly promote it if I’m skyping into readings from my seventh rehab!” Dresner told me.  
My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Cleanis funny, well written, and entertaining, while offering hope. It presents a person who had no hope left, tried multiple times to get sober, only to fail each time, as a strong person who succeeds triumphantly in the end. 
As someone who knows their way around the rooms of AA, Dresner's book took me from, no, not me, to I totally identify with so much of this, but one doesn't have to have these kind of experiences to enjoy this book. My only criticism of My Fair Junkie  came after meeting Amy Dresner a few weeks ago. She is someone who is successful, talented, and extremely alive, but the book wraps up too quickly to give this justice.  I, for one, would like others to see her the way she lives in the world right now, as a strong woman, and a powerful example to those in recovery. We might never see Amy Dresner invited to The White House, but you can read the book in your own house, and learn, first hand, what this crisis really is about.  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Quit This Job And Become A Poet (Out of spite)by Georgia Park

Quit This Job And Become A Poet (Out of spite)by Georgia Park
October 2018
Free Verse Revolution Publishing

Review by Timothy Gager

There’s something wrong with you if these poems don’t speak to you. If they don’t speak to you it means you are not vulnerable. It means you are uncomfortable when someone is completely honest with you. It means someone sitting next to you on an airplane who is about to tell you the most incredible story you’ve heard in your life and is silenced because you are too busy to listen. Truth is, you are not too busy, but you don’t want to listen to the person next to you in the airplane because you are too busy pretending to read the in-flight magazine. You’re a unlucky sap who flips pages about the Taquerias in Atlanta, that you will never eat or speak about. It’s too bad because you have passed on some real life.
Georgia Park’s poems will speak to you admire people who take social risks. If you think the world’s normal is your normal, and you know that your normal isn’t at all what society says is normal…but basically you don’t give a hoot. If you are that kind of creative, sensitive person, you will love Quit This Job And Become A Poet (Out of spite)
In this book, the poet, Georgia Park does a remarkable thing. Her poems expose the inner-editor she has in her head regarding the risks in life, yet seems to shut down the inner-editor having to do with the poetry. In other words, the work all hangs out. This is a gift that Park has which allows amazing lines or phrases to appear like magic out of nowhere.
I want someone as close as
to kiss my eyelids while I’m
and make a cross on my chest
even if it’s just my little dog
who still smells vaguely of

(from the poem Helicopter Tail)
This talent also allows her to stick the closings of her poems like a gymnast ending an outstanding routine. Many of these poems close strongly.
In Quit This Job And Become A Poet (Out of spite), Park writes her truth about being a poet, going to events, making a life of it. While doing this, she is naked within her work, with the attitude of “so what if I’m naked,” which is a necessary attitude and swagger of a poet announcing themselves into the tricky world of poetry and or poetry groups. Again and again, we are treated to these unblinking words, as if, we are forced into a staring contest and we, the reader, will be the one who end up blinking. Yet it is the poet has blinked a few hundred times, but it’s too late, you have already lost the contest, the poet is braver that you are---but as a reader of poetry you are the winner. It is something to admire. In the poem Talk Show Host the reality of no longer working is reflected upon, with humor and desperation.
I am sleeping
far too often
I won’t go out
because I can’t
pay for me
and I can’t feign interest
any longer
unless you’re a
talk show host
or a future
don’t bother

Certainly if Park quit her job to become a poet you certainly understand it---and understand how it can be out of spite. The working world can be such bullshit, but so can the poetry world, which offers other various challenges. The poem, Molotov Cocktail, rings true in this regard:
Molotov Cocktail

I haven’t heard back
from the guy who said
he’d make me famous
except to ask for a blowjob
of epic proportions
which I won’t give
and the texts
keep rolling in
I start to think
it’s not such a bad thing
if no one ever knows
who I am
I’m going to bury
my manuscript
in a garden
and see if I can grow
my own little
Molotov cocktails

it’s better than ending up
in the garbage
with the scrap metal
and home furnishings
of this life
I thought I could live

This book of poetry is a good read, one I enjoyed, and would recommend to poets, readers, and even those who might be stuck working out in the world as dogs being eaten by other dogs.