The Republic of Naught is the first book of poems by the Poet, Jay
McLeod. The poetry is the undertoad of the New Age dream, the gritty reality of
the North American junk wind diaspora. He writes laconic, funny, angry poems
about his struggle while working in dead end service jobs.
Borrowing from the counter-culture themes of the Beat Poets, he is the New Age version of disallure, a young Charles Bukowski with a laptop, as if caught up in a struggle that should have been won long ago. The American kitsch of Charles Bukowski, someone who kicked around, slept on park benches, a brawler, companion of whores and bums, came from an impoverished background who became “Poet” the persona, the personal experiences blown into the aplomb of pulp-fiction hero. Although the poetry of Jay McLeod is too fresh to be cast in archetypes he is a more sophisticated take on the Hobo Poet. I cast him as “Kid Joe Schlep” some comic strip character anti-hero.
“To the Dictator’s Daughter” – “A King’s ransom in crow/You can’t hold down what you never found/Imelda Marcos/Pleased to meet ‘cha/They’re coming for me/Hoser of fortune/ Going to knock down my spider-hole/I’m feeling charitable/Down and out at the Laundromat/As free as a roll of American quarters” or “Last Time We Talked” – “Romances dead languages/Feels slighted by the world at large/The years yet to be spent/Paying down his loans/Trying to make the rent/Goes home once per year/Right around Christmas . . . Falls asleep on the train/Imagines the Atlantic as the Mediterranean/ Nearly burned through his twenties/Shoe leather and credit . . . Dreams of less lackluster days/Job interviews in Toronto/And women fascinated by his mind/Without regard for his career/Thus far unable to penetrate/The closed casket of the Canadian cultural industries/ The years spent chafing at the bit/The world of ideas/A bit like Raskalnikov just before/He off-ed that old lady/Considers a career in the military/But can’t do the push-ups/Speaks Latin when the bill collectors call/”Atlenuo accipio argento”/That is to say/I have no money”. The poetry is an illustration of the New Economy before Mazetlan, the unemployment, the large student loans after college, the illustration of “what’s left me”.
“Rateshock Shoppers” – “he’s from Florida, of course/which I have always imagined/as a trailer park next to Disney World/beside a golfcourse/all the ching you can snort/a piece of Paradise Pie/but for the occasional serial killer/or hurricane. The humor blows in like a dry wind, deadpan delivery with a mix of disdain and dismay. Sometimes endearing, the hope of youth – “Planes, Trains, and Dishpits” – “the walk home seemed/even longer/this was usually cause I’d stop/frequently to sit on benches and/stare at the stars and the river/and occasionally nothing in particular”. Occasional flights of fantasy present themselves embedded in the heavy presentation – “Things To Do Before I’m Thirty” – “Become a bilingual sales rep/Inherit one hundred grand/In Brazilian Reals/And then fake my own death/in a phone booth/Go down to the states/Get deported/Rob Peter to pay Paul”. He describes/characterizes himself as the “Seldom laid/Never paid kind of writer” . . “That girl he worked with/From the fast food restaurant/ They used to be tight/She said,/Let’s put this movie/Out of its misery/Now she is a medical student/He pushes a broom/Full-time/They have coffee every once in awhile”. The disconnected connections with women, perhaps the blunt violence of serial relationships with “A flock of wide cunts/Several spare embryos” in the poem “The Republic of Naught”.
He writes poetry vignettes of people in Rosemary, Artie, The Rime of the Ancient Chimney Sweep and puts the serial sexual parade scene into sendup in “Saturday, 2007” – “They interfaced beautifully/All over the bar:/Lawyers in love,/Cyborgs on the sauce/They exchange fake names/And then they get off/ Every nights’ a brand-new/Cold call/She says “Let’s go back to my coffin”/It’s never been so crowded./He’s hedging his bets/Laying down in traffic/He’s from the South but likes the North’s chances./Collection agents in love/It’s Christmas in the meat market/Questions like presents/Shimmering baubles/Fanatics without ideology/Pack the boozer to the rafters without regard for nation/Or century”. The lines of poetry have a bullet delivery, the rhyming is subtle and not noticeable, with varied capitalization, there is not a lot of punctuation and only one period on the last poem, a good example of protest poetry. The disaffected apathy of youth in the New Economy struggles into light and flowers in The Republic of Naught, occasionally funny, often angry and biting on reality, a brilliant read from the Canadian outback. Available at OBOOKO; Philistine Press; Barnes and Noble.
The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat by Melinda Cochrane is her first book of
poetry. She is from Newfoundland and grew up in the poverty of the welfare
system, the daughter of a single mother. In metaphor she tells the story of her
life and the lives of those on “my island”. The book is divided into 6 chapters:
Inherited Poverty, Walk with Me through Poverty, Hear the Fisherman’s Daughter,
Give Me My Island, Holding on to Heritage, Fishery. This is the second book of
poetry of Poet Cochrane’s I have reviewed the first being
She’s an Island Poet.
Writing partly in the colloquial language of the Maritime Celts the stories of biography, the local people come alive as if some song in the wilderness that says home. The style borrows from the post-modernist school and the renditions of the Beat Poets, the short staccato lines, the violence of bullet delivery and inconsistent punctuation and capitalization becomes a lament and a voice for freedom. There are also two or three poetic prose pieces in the style of the new school of the New Age. In her introduction she describes her experiences, “I grew up around people with jobs, which were transient in nature. I heard uncles express the need for work and leaving, in some cases, their wives behind. I know why my fathers begged and I understood anger mixed with boredom” and how she was to describe herself as “the fisherman’s daughter” which is the voice in which she writes. As if talking to her lost or deceased father in the background the stories in poetry unfold, rich in imagery of ocean, island and magic “her father left once again on/sails meeting hearts in tombs/of jewels/and went down with/five men,/her mother walked the cliffs/weeping sorrow,/Aphrodite heard,/the daughter held the branch/and carried it to the/ocean edge where her mother fought/to keep away/from the cliffs,/while her daughter/grew in a house/of pictures.” Even in the sorrow and misery of loss and waiting on credit and welfare is the story of survival and not only survival, love. In the telling of the story wrapped in the magic of words is the release into truth-telling, peace and celebration “and through the rum/she could see his black eyes/blowing water through her” “told her/beauty/was there for her,/she pulled back to/the black ocean/and could not find blueness,/but/his eyes would/stay on her until/the day they placed/her in wooden planks” and “I wanted to live here in this house with my family’s homemade bread made from my mother’s traditions. I sang my songs. I heard the lyrics of my sweet island.”
Occasionally, the poem is in another voice the voice of an islander, in Toronto Banks – “Banks in Toronto – now d’eres a happy lot – d’ey can keep us where d’ey want us and our homes too – before you owned it outright if you built it.” How the current economy and the loss of the fisheries in Newfoundland has given people sorrow and malaise of the soul, “If I had dat goddamn gun of me brudder, I’d end it right now and take me boat out like a Viking.” Also there is the hint of promise that is to come in She’s an Island Poet with Talking with “The Hag” as if the harbinger sits on her chest, announcing the Poet, “she would stay with the/wolf with darkened teeth/until it was finished,/it slept near my/bed, she combed its mane as babies/played in white/and nuns called me Catherine/as they wore helmuts with spikes/through/Irish soil/ on horses/I could only dream of . . . “ as if announcing the Poet as Oracle in the times of the apocalypse. The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat paints dreams and mythologies, a place where love lives in the New Age.
Available @ Amazon.ca and www.melindacochrane.com.
This tome of poetry by Kay Kinghammer, is a long narrative poem that begins in Seattle and travels. It is the story of the discovery of America in an old refurbished
Volkswagen van, the Poet and her lover, her son and their dog. Immeadiately, I begin to hum “We’ve all come to look for America” by Paul Simon but as you begin to
read the text you realize it is not so much about Paradise Found as the lost America.
The Reader can feel the frustration of the Poet, they are all in close quarters in the van, it is difficult to be intimate, her partner is enigmatic and not very forthcoming, her relationship with her lover is unravelling, the poem begins badly. In the first stanza, “Stolen kisses,/Starlit caresses,/Forgotten.” sets the stage. And things begin to go awry, they decide to stop for the night in Columbia and “Roaring, shrieking, thundering,/The train runs past in the nighttime/Yanks us wide awake, /We are surrounded by men with guns!/”Private property,” they shout/”Get out! Now!”. As they explore The Ice Caves, ““Careful,” you say as I take/My last step, as my feet fly/From beneath me. My slippery shoes/Provide no grip./My legs extended,/In front of me, invisible”. As if out of sight, out of time they are in a relationship that is not meant to be somehow, existing in darkness struggling for the light, a postcard from the 1970’s. This “Secret battle, this battle that neither,/Of us knows we are fighting, this battle/Between love and expectation, between/Resentment and true affection, this battle/Of the sexes, fought by one man/One woman on a cross country journey,/From not quite paradise to not quite hell and back.” In the background the Watergate Scandal plays out and Richard Nixon is deposed, he is the first president in the history of the United States to ever resign, it is 1974. This poem comes from a place of the 1960’s, the emancipation and Flower child days that somehow went awry, and there is the influence of the Feminist writers. The poem is a narrative, although in a Modernist style (with the first letter of each line capitalized), it is a good example of American feminist poetry and draws from the Beat Poet tradition.
Her lovers name is John. As the poem progresses, she begins to use “you” in place of “John”, as if on the one hand it is an open letter to her ex-lover, as well as regarding the Reader as lover, drawing you into the open faced sandwich repartee. “We’ve agreed we don’t believe in marriage./It’s only a piece of paper. He doesn’t know/I am lying. Somehow, marriage will prove/He loves me, I believe. I believe/Wait for him to understand. The miles/Roll by in silence, both of us/Waiting for something, neither of us knowing/What is wanted, what is needed, or even,/Simply what is.” The perfect description of a sink trap relationship, the emotional scapes of unconscious, alone and traveling. Her view of the American woman, “Women then like women now,/Invisible workhorses,/Or sex machines,/No other options” explores the theme of the War horse America. She tells her son about the vagaries of war, “About one who came home/From Andersonville, never the same again./I want my son to see, to understand,/War hurts, kills real people.”
As they travel, they are taking in the historical sites, and the poem reflects impressions of places, museums, plaques, the natural wonders. They hook up with friends, Jan and Restin, who are traveling in their own van, visit and stay with their families, some of the stays are copacetic, some are not. They do not even attempt to connect with her fathers relatives, like too much stage shift, “Grandparents long dead, my father’s brothers/And sisters don’t know me, wouldn’t like me/If they did. We visited when I was twelve./It was not a happy occasion. I no longer/Speak to my father, pointless to visit his relatives.“ I am always struck by the blunt force of truth, the honesty of bones and the bare emotional spaces of the Poet. As if the American dream has become out of context, a place of love lost through the loss of the Old Wisdom of the Holy Spirit and a fracture in values/geopolitics. As if something alive has died, their relationship reduced to road kill on the highway, people on the road, not at home, without their starcrossed lover or more suited lover, the violence of living in lost or misconstrued spaces.
At the end of the poem is the Epilogue. The short two page Epilogue lives inside the dream of the idealized America, as if a reclamation of places of the heart, it is the original poem in redux but softened through the lens of time, a happier place. “We stop at every historical marker./We learn who slept here, fought here, talked here./We learn when, and if they don’t tell us,/We make up why” . . . “I wish this trip had never ended. These were our macaroni days.” Available @ Melinda Cochrane International and Amazon.ca.
Genre: Poetry, Feminist Literature