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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Book Recommendation: DOWN THIS CROOKED ROAD: Modern Poetry From the Road Less Traveled (Edited by RD Armstrong & William Taylor Jr) Lummox Press, San Pedro, 2009 (153 pages)


INTRODUCTION

I recently came across this old book  & found it interesting and entertaining to read and discovered some new poets working from the streets. In his Introduction writer and editor William Taylor Jr. says he was approached by Lummox guru RD Armstrong and was invited to solicit work from a handful of his favourite poets with the possibility of creating a book. It didn’t take Taylor long to draw up a list of writers and he says that they are not from any particular region or school of poetry:

“What connects these writers in my mind is obviously not location, or even style of writing, but more a spirit that I feel shines through in the work of all involved. All the poetry contained here is accessible without being mundane, well crafted without being academic…Poetry for people who might not realise they like poetry.

“It is my belief that your average reader can pick up this volume, open it to any page, read a bit, and think: This makes sense to me. This is a fellow human sharing their vision of what it is to exist, and it inspires me. Or, it could well be they’ll think something more along the lines of: This is some cool ass shit! That works too.”

The title poem ‘Down This Crooked Road’ is taken from Christopher Cunningham’s poem of the same name. It speaks of the uncertainty and daring of striking out on the road. The poem concludes:

we
are almost ill-prepared
but
there
is madness
and daring
in our eyes
as
we cut ties
and

stare back
at
the abyss,

laughing.


The collection includes seven poets:

Poet
pages
M.K. Chavez
11-28
Christopher Cunningham
29-48
Miles J. Bell
49-70
William Taylor Jr.
71-96
Christopher Robin
97-116
Father Luke
117-133
Hosho McCreesh
134-151
Bios
152-153

In this short summary of the book I will provide a brief overview of each poet’s work and will provide some links to their latest work, if available.

M.K. CHAVEZ


Chavez is the only female poet in the collection. As it says in her bio, she “writes about the beauty that can be found in ugliness.” ‘Ode to Methamphetamine’ is her strongest poem but ‘Mission Street Love Story’ and ‘Everything that I needed to Know about Writing I Learned from Being a Stripper’ are also highly impressive.

Her latest book Mothermorphosis (Nomadic Press, 2016) can be purchased here: http://www.nomadicpress.org/store/mothermorphosis

CHRISTOPHER CUNNINGHAM


Cunningham is a highly observational poet who compresses everyday experiences to often make metaphorical comments on life. The title poem ‘down this crooked road’, ‘GO’ and ‘bending, but not the other’ are some good examples. His writing is pared down, exceedingly clear and excellently conceived.

Find an old post on NYQ Poets: http://poets.nyq.org/poet/christophercunningham


Blog: Upright Against the Savage Heavens 2006-2012: http://savageheavens.blogspot.com.au/

MILES J. BELL


Bell is an English writer and is probably best known for his 11 page poem ‘Icarus Rex’ which appears in this collection.

Some of the other poems represent threshold experiences which prompt the speaker to make a realisation, such as, the need to move beyond the expected & to surprise yourself, that feelings like pain and love are fleeting and “will eventually fade to shadow” and the like.

Find some of Bell’s work online:



WILLIAM TAYLOR JR.

Taylor who lives in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco, is the best known poet in the collection. In these poems he wanders through the local bars and cafes in the search of  sad woman and material for his writing. My favourites include ‘Slow’, ‘The Strangest’, and in particular, ‘It is Enough’. The poems are highly observational and chronicle the passing of time, in which Taylor shapes his experience to make some subtle but profound metaphysical statements about life.

His latest book To Break the Heart of the Sun (Words Dance Publishing, 2016) can be bought here: http://wordsdance.com/to-break-the-heart-of-the-sun-by-william-taylor-jr/

Follow William Taylor Jr.’s latest  writing on Facebook:

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN

Robin brings to us the world of food stamps, of women with kids with foetal alcohol syndrome, of bathrooms which haven’t been cleaned for six years. He describes in blunt detail those who live at the bottom of the food chain. His best poems include the brilliant ‘Freaky Mumbler’s Manifesto’, ‘Infinite Joy In Spite Of’ and ‘Slingshot’.

Robin is a labourer from Santa Cruz, California. He has published  three chapbooks and is editor of Zen Baby zine, a self described “pseudo-literary train-wreck in print form since 2000.”


FATHER LUKE

Father Luke Miljevich from his 2009 bio describes himself as a person who “waits with a woman he loves for a perfect world.” He writes about the pain and loneliness of living on the fourth floor of an old hotel in an up-beat, often humorous way.  His best poem is ‘With A Seagull For Company’ about the death of  Little Bob, his aquarium crab.

Find Father Luke on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Father.Luke.Miljevich/

HOSHO McCREESH

In this collection McCreesh writes grand philosophical poems about the inevitability of death, the lack of purpose, our loss of innocence, the snuffing out of the light & the approaching darkness. He likes using long-winded titles which emerge into the poem, such as, ‘You Never Want To Say That/ We Owe It To Ourselves/ To Be Happy As We Can Possibly Be/ For All The Many & Nefarious Ways It’ll Be/ Taken Out of Context, Be Co-Opted/ By The Greedy., The Self-Important, The Gluttonous, & Idiotic & Insatiable…’ and ‘As Madness Abounds, As Brutality Trumpets & A Cold, Hard World Gets Colder, Harder, & The Death Of All That Might Save Us Increases…’

Hosho McCreesh hails from the American Southwest and more information about his writing can be found at his official page for his books of poetry: http://www.hoshomccreesh.com/poetry/



For more information about purchasing Down This Crooked Road contact Lummox Press: http://www.lummoxpress.com/lc/

Friday, August 5, 2016

What's New on BM


You probably didn't notice, but there is some new shit on Bold Monkey:

(1) I have reintroduced the weekly featured post after accidentally deleting it a month or so ago. I dredge up posts from the bunker which hopefully are worth your consideration.

(2) Having asked many writers about their work, I have now compiled an easy access list of many of the interviews on the right hand side bar under BM INTERVIEWS.

(3) I don't get paid jack-shit for any of the writings on this blog & will never allow any commercial advertising (unless you are a generous & discrete philanthropist).

Anyways, if if you want to receive future notices about new posts on the blog, there is a new icon "Follow by Email" at the bottom of the right-hand side bar, just above "About Me".

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book Review: John D Robinson WHEN YOU HEAR THE BELL THERE'S NOWHERE TO HIDE. Holy &Intoxicated Publications 2016 (84 pages)


John D. Robinson is one of many dozens of poets who operate just below the mainstream radar & who publish books of their own work. Robinson's poetry can be found widely on the net and some of the poems in the collection have previously appeared in magazines such as Red Fez, Mad Swirl, Your One Phone Call and the recently defunct Dead Snakes. Robinson, 53  is an exceedingly polite, working class bloke who has an interesting story to tell through his raw narrative & portrait poems.

This collection consists of 29 of Robinson's free verse narrative poems which recount in an unembellished, confessional way his take on some of his ‘every day’ experiences, such as having a day off work, being pulled over by a motorcycle cop, having a piss in a public urinal, waking up from an alcohol induced blackout & the perils of hitchhiking at 4 am in the morning.

As keenly observed are his portrait poems which focus on his study of eccentric & underclass people he comes across. ‘Getting To Know Each Other’, ‘One Of The Family’, ‘The Forgery’, ‘A Poem For Laurie’, ‘A Snap-Shot of Joanna’, ‘Hide And Seek’, ‘I Imagine’ and 'Neil and the Kitty Cat Scratch' are all clear & highly competent examinations  of crazy, often fucked up & drug dependent outcasts.

In John Grochalski's Foreword he notes, “John D. Robinson writes these poems with the experience and nerve to back it up. He passes no judgement on himself or his subjects, but just presents this cruel existence as it is lived in tough, plain language that hits you like a punch to the gut." Further on he writes, "What has always struck me about a Robinson poem is how stark and honest the language is, the grit that comes off the page and the life that is distilled into each line."

The poems in this collection are easy to read, and are often humorous, despite their bleak, down & out subject matter. They get you thinking about your own mishaps & follies & the dodgy people you have occasionally met & have tried to avoid ever since.


Here is a selection from John D Robinson's collection:

THE FORGERY

Her name was Clare, she was a few
years older than my I;
Clare had big breasts that
mesmerised me and she
would flirt with me, move in
real close and make me blush
and turn away –
“Would you do something
for me?” Clare asked
of me one day, “I’d really
appreciate it” she said
smiling and thrusting out
her chest.
“Okay” I said.
“Would you go and cash
this script?” she said
handing me a prescription
that was tightly folded
into small square;
as I took the paper from
her hand, her fingers
softly and briefly clasped
mine and she fluttered
her eyes and I looked
at her wonderful
cleavage and said
“Sure, okay”
The pharmacy was
close by, on the way
I unfolded the script,
a blind man could have
seen the obvious added
forgery
for amphetamine;
that didn’t stop me,
I thought of Clare’s
breasts and that
beautiful cleavage.
“It’ll take a few
minutes to process,
please take a seat”
said the pharmacist
smiling and friendly.
I sat down and just
a few minutes later 2
plain-clothed police
officers, a male and
female, approached me
and placed the hand of the
law upon me and took me
down to the station
where I was finger-printed,
questioned, to which I
responded with silence
and then placed into a
cell –
40 minutes later I
heard the wailing and
confessing, screeching
tearful tones of Clare;
On the day of our
court appearance Clare
wouldn’t even look
at me and her mother
believed that I had
forged the script and
looked at me with
disgust;
we received 12 months
probation each.
Several years later I
learnt that Clare had been
involved in an RTA and
was now in a forever
wheelchair,
but
I could only think of
those breasts,
of that magical cleavage
as she dances
free and child-like in
an amphetamine whirl
of sensual
eternal ecstasy.



ONE OF THE FAMILY

A few weeks previous
I had seen him, staggering,
falling and crashing
head-first into a parked
car and then laying upon
the cold concrete and
cursing and shouting and
then laughing as he
gathered himself upright,
blood trickled from his
head and he lurched
forward; all the while
muttering and whispering
to himself;
I crossed the road to
avoid any contact and I
hurt myself to do so;
a university educated guy,
we had many literary
discussions and he always
told me ‘Read Faulkner,’
which I never did;
he worked hard and had
married in the university
town, raised children and
bought homes and cars and
then it all went wrong; I never
did find out what but he
returned to his home-town
and committed himself
to alcohol; he married a
simple woman and fathered
3 children and very
occasionally  I would visit
the family home and
drink with him;
he’d sit and sleep in an
armchair in the lounge;
beside the chair was a fridge;
he never slept for more than
2 or 3 hours at a time,
he’d awake and open the
fridge door and pull out
a can; the tv was always
on silent; flickering;
something to stare at
in the early hours; the
house was sparse, naked
of comfort or
friendliness or attraction
but home for 3
young lives; following the
breakdown of this marriage
he lived alone in rented
rooms and was evicted
again and again until
no landlord would
accept him and he ended
up on the streets;
he was in his early
50’s and
was found frozen to
death one
February morning in
a seaside alleyway;
I never made his funeral
and I know for shit-sure
that he won’t make mine.



4am HITCH-HIKING

“Get the fuck out” she ordered
after I had performed some
insane and dangerous
drunken behaviour within the
speeding vehicle;
I did as she asked and climbed
out of the car, it was about
4am and we had been
hurtling through murderous
narrow, dark country-lanes;
and then she sped away and
I expected her to turn around
after a few minutes but she
didn’t and I watched the
red tail-lights fade and
vanish into blackness;
I was fucked; miles from
town and now I had no
choice but to stagger along
the treacherous roads
thumbing for a ride on a
deserted and lonely road;
but it happened;
a car pulled over and I
stumbled towards the car
and clambered into the
front passenger seat smiling
and feeling relieved;
the driver was a little older
than I and he was pleasant
and talkative and then I
felt something cold and wet
and soft push forcefully
against the back of my neck
and then I heard a low
grumbling growl;
I was startled and my body
tensed in fear.
“Oh yes, of course” the driver
said casually “I almost
forgot about Spartacus,
he’s so quiet, I really wouldn’t
make any quick movements”
“What?” I whispered
“Be still, you don’t want
to startle Spartacus” he
said
“Spartacus?” I said
“Yeah, Spartacus, a 3 year
old black Doberman Pincer,
a nervous and unpredictable
dog sometimes” said the driver.
From out of the corner of an eye
I saw a grin cut across his
face and I sat still, very
still and I felt trapped,
frozen and scared;
I could feel Spartacus’
breath roll across the
nape of my neck but I
could no longer hear the
growling;
“That’s enough now
Spartacus” the driver said and
the dog pulled away and
sank back down into the rear
seats; I relaxed a little and
slowly looked over my
shoulder; Spartacus was a
fine specimen, sleek and
dark and powerful; I breathed
in deep and looked over
at the driver; the grin had
transformed into a loud
laugh and then after a
few moments he quietened
and concentrated silently
on the roads like
nothing had happened.
When we reached the
edges of town he pulled
over, turned and said to me
“Get the fuck outa my car”
I didn’t hesitate and he
sped away and I watched
the red tail-lights disappear
and I began walking and
I thought to myself, there
can’t be too many people
who can claim to have
been told, not once, but twice,
 to ’get the fuck
out of my car’
within an hour in the
sleepy moments before sunrise.


The above poems have previously appeared in Underground Books, The Clockwise Cats and Your One Phone Call.


Bio: John D. Robinson was born in 63 in the U.K. Many of his poems have appeared in small press and online journals. For information about purchasing John's book contact him here: johndrobinson@yahoo.co.uk



Thursday, July 28, 2016

What Are Very Best of Roald Dahl’s Collected Short Stories for Adults?



Roald Dahl would have been 100 years old on the 13 September 2016 so it is apt time to re-evaluate his work. In this post, I will examine his short stories written for adults.


In 1991 Roald Dahl published 48 of his short stories in The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl. The book collects in one volume his adult short stories previously published in Kiss, Kiss (1960), Over To You (1946), Switch Bitch (1974), Someone Like You (1953) and includes eight further ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (1980). Collected Stories , a hard cover book of his collected stories, was published in 2006 (Everyman’s Library). The stories are presented in chronological order: http://roalddahl.wikia.com/wiki/Roald_Dahl:_Collected_Stories Find Jeremy Treglown’s excellent Introduction here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/sep/09/roalddahl.fiction

Roald Dahl was a brilliant, agile writer who appealed to a mass audience. The obvious question is what are Dahl’s best short stories and how do you go about assessing his work?

Last month I reread Dahl’s short stories and gave each an impression mark out of 10 based on the following criteria:

·      the ingeniousness of the storyline
·      the quality of the writing
·      the ability of the narrative to keep you guessing as to what is to happen next
·      its exposure of human folly through humour/ satire
·      the subtleties &/ or the outrageousness of the resolution


#15 William and Mary (25 pages) written 1959 from Kiss, Kiss

William Pearl, a teacher of philosophy, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is approached by Dr Landy, a brilliant neuro-surgeon, who proposes Pearl leave his magnificent brain to Science. On the surface, this story appears to be a Frankenstein like parody but it is essentially about the strained relations between the hateful, misogynistic William husband and his subservient wife.


A short-lived series ‘Way Out’ (1961) hosted by Dahl featured a short tele-play of the story. William and Mary- Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMDSP8J7lzc

#14 Claud’s Dog (52 pages) from Someone Like You

This story actually consists of four loosely connected sub-stories ‘The Ratcatcher’, ‘Rummins’, ‘Mr Hoddy’ and ‘Mr Feasy’. What I particularly admire about the stories is the credible, social realism which propels these stories. As in Dahl’s collection of World War 2 stories Over To You (1946), he is fictionalising his experiences, rather than immersing us in a total artifice. By far the best story of the four is ‘Mr Feassy’ which takes the reader into the shonky world of greyhound racing.

Roald Dahl Fans.com has overviews of most of Dahl’s stories but contain spoilers. Here’s there’s synopsis for ‘Mr Feasy’: http://www.roalddahlfans.com/shortstories/mrfe.php

#13 The Last Act (26 pages) from Switch Bitch (first published in Playboy, January 1966)

Anna Greenwood’s husband is killed in a motor vehicle accident near the beginning of the story. Her children eventually move away and Anna is left terribly alone. She thinks about killing herself but her friend Elizabeth Paoletti asks her to fill in one day for some sick colleagues at an adoption society and this changes her life. While in Dallas she rings an old boyfriend Conrad Kreuger and they arrange to meet. I like the truthful way this story shuffles to its climax.

A wiki synopsis can be found here:

#12 Katina (21 pages) from Over To You (first published Ladies Home Journal, March 1944)

This story is set in Greece in early April 1941 and fictionalises an experience of Dahl’s as a fighter pilot in the RAF. A young girl Katina is left orphaned after the Germans bombed the village of Paramythia & after she is found amongst the ruins she becomes a kind of mascot for the pilots. A series of amazing anecdotes focussed on the RAF resistance against a much larger German air force is punctuated with a terrible personal tragedy.

#11 The Great Switcheroo (21 pages) from Switch Bitch (originally published in Playboy April 1974)

At a cocktail party at Jerry and Samantha’s, Victor Hammond lusts after Samantha and in a late night conversation with Jerry, Victor tells him about a friend who has an ingenious scheme of wife swapping with his neighbour without the wife’s knowing about it. They agree on their own “switcheroo” and Dahl handles the subsequent events which lead to the “searing paroxysm” with considerable skill, delicacy and riotously good humour.

Short film on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/111316745

#10 Parson’s Pleasure (21 pages) from Kiss, Kiss



9 to 1 will follow



Other honourable mentions include:

Official Roald Dahl site: http://www.roalddahl.com/roald-dahl