Thursday, March 31, 2011

And So it goes...

Some joke.

April Fool’s Day and me reviewing a book of poetry.

But once upon a time…

* * * * *

High school. Mrs. Ticehurst’s English class.

Skeptical, enthusiastic, passionate, crazy Mrs. Ticehurst loved the written word.

With her wild, prematurely graying hair and her peace sign pendant, she defied us to love it too. She turned us on to books. To drama. To poetry. To writing.

But the class held another, more important attraction to me.

A pretty classmate, slim, brunette. Always wore a man’s flannel shirt a few sizes too large.

Wasn’t always good about doing up her top buttons. Boys notice that kind of thing.

She leaned over my desk to read my poetry assignment.

“This is good,” she said. “Really good,” and looked at me with a look I’d never seen before

From anyone.

And so I wrote poetry.

A lot of it. Angsty stuff. Sensitive. But mostly bad. Truly bad.

But she loved it. And sometimes so did Mrs. Ticehurst.

* * * * *

There’s no bad poetry in The Lineup 4.

Bad people, sure. Bad situations. Bad decisions. Bad luck.

But not bad poetry.

A lot of free verse, scattershot rhythms, off-kilter random thoughts and phrases with miles of space in between.

Spaces to fill with dread. Unease. An ominous foreboding.

The telling detail that nails the sucker to your brain.

There are no faerie queens or talking trees here. Just real human beings.

Victims. Victimizers. Humans.

The casual name dropping of Bundy, of Manson, of others, doesn’t shock me.

The off-hand gore and vivisection clamors for attention, but I shrug it off. Adolescent.

But those are few and far between.

And even those have their moments of disturbing beauty.

* * * * *

And so, I may not know poetry after all.

But I know what I like.

And I like most of these poems. These sad, mournful poems.

Of revenge.

Like, “Prayer for the Man Who Mugged My Father, 72” by Charles Harper Webb.

Or the grim beauty of unleashed violence.

Like “The Balance Lost” by Steve Weddle.

Or the point where being hard-boiled becomes simply damned.

Like Reed Farrell Coleman’s “Slider, Part 7.”

And so it goes. This is power and truth and beauty and ugliness here.

Odes to disconnection.

Broken dreams.

Broken promises.

Broken lives.

By Ken Bruen. By David Corbett. By Keith Rawson.

Terrible, adult stuff, that holds a mirror up to us and offers an unflinching reflection.

Of how we live. And how we die.

It will make you squirm, at times.

It made me squirm.

It will make you look over your shoulder.

It made me look over my shouldrer.

But I kept on reading.

These are vignettes from Hell.

But it’s our Hell.

I bet Mrs. Ticehurst would have loved it.

THE LINEUP 4, edited by Gerald So, Reed Farrel Coleman, Sarah Cortez and R. Narvaez, is available from Poetic Justice Press.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Québec's secret influence on Ontario...

Like Ross Macdonald, another lost Canadian, I too feel the pull of the Great White North tugging at me, always tugging. And being a Montrealer (a distinct society within a distinct society within a distinct society) the gravity can get particularly fierce.

That's why I got such a hoot out of this photo my friend Bruce sent me. It was taken in predominantly English-speaking Ontario...

Not from Québec? Basically, French swear words in Québec are very idiomatic, rotted in history and culture, and many of them are based on the sacraments of the Catholic Church. To utter the French words for "tabernacle" or "chalice" or "the host" is just rude, the equivalent of saying "shit" or "fuck" or "hell" or whatever. But with the very real sin of blasphemy added to the mix.

So, just like in English, people uses slightly less offensive euphemisms: sugar, fudge, heck. Stuff like that.

"Câline des bin" is a popular phrase, generally acceptable even in polite company. Sort of the equivalent of "What the heck!" or maybe "Darn!" Literally, it almost translates as "cup of beans", but whatever, it's pretty harmless.

My mom even used to say it, and she didn't even speak French. My dad, who learned his French in the VanDoos, a French-Canadian regiment of the regiment, would use something considerably stronger.

Yeah, it's a long walk for a short laugh, but that picture made my day.