Things suck now
all right. i've been meaning to write a little about steve caratzas's chaps it will be a train (2004) and the incredulity tour (2005) since i got them a few weeks ago, but have been waiting for the opportune moment to write a formal review. when one (me) waits, i tend to procrastinate forever, and as regards to formality, i've never been one to stand on ceremony. the best way to do, is to sit my ass down and do.
and so, caratzas's poems are full of a kind of bitter humor that at turns can run a bit flat. but at their best, and he is near-always writing the hi-octane kinds of shit i love, his poetry is funny, vicious and necessary. take for example the title of my ramble, which is the first line of the poem 'there is something to be said for not saying something' from his '04 chap train. i've must've read this poem a couple of dozen times by now. it is not slapstick, or sitcom-like, that one might expect from its title and opening line, but rather a kind of beckettian (sam that is) black humor to open the fucked-up beauty of our world. another example is the 7th stanza of the same poem: 'When things fall off trucks / It takes a show of hands / To determine how a word like / "Darling" is defined.' the stanza just grazes cliche, 'fall off trucks' and 'a show of hands', but restores itself by moving into a new field, how a word can re-invigorate the common in the language, thereby making it uncommon.
that is perhaps one definition of poetry: to renew the language, vivify it thru itself, and thus recharge the human conditions(s). yet, the black humor can get real dark very quickly. like the great french-irish writer sam b. the poet here is capable of producing texts that puzzle. only for caratzas the puzzling is sometimes worked out to a kind of noirish thriller, a script for a film perhaps. i'm reminded by some of his poems of a type of italian thriller prominent in the 1970s called giallo, the italian word for 'yellow.' yellow was the color of the covers of the pulp novels on which these films were based. at thier best, giallos were hard-edged, dazzling works exploding the limits of sex and death.
Let's Kill Again Like We Did Last Summer
We need another blood pack
Our wild love
Just isn't enough.
I take my sprees seriously
And so should you
This is no
We used to kill each other
Baby what happened
Which of us changed?
i especially admire the lack of punctuation in the last two stanzas, and the use of colloquial english, such as 'real good' which sounds very like noir to my ears. there is a hint of more radical experimental writing in this poem that is more full explored in tour.
i don't know if the poems in both chaps were written about the same time, or if train contains older poems while the '05 book contains newer texts. whatever, the poems in tour tap the same rich vein as the older (by only a year, granted) collection but mines it with a surer emphasis of the materiality of words. there are more poems in the book, and the humor becomes more acute.
take for example these next two poems. one is a critique of a particular rock band, while the other questions perhaps the influences of the dr. from paterson, nj.
The Jethro Tull Story
Tights + flute =
Rock & roll?
* * *
What kind of person
both these poems are a kind of meta-haiku, the poems resemble the structure of haiku without following its formal variations, critiques of our socialized beings, one who lives in contemporary pop culture, while the other questions matters of influence on an early-21st century poet. this is both the laugh-out-loud kind of funny and satire.
i'll conclude this rambling review with my favorite poem from this excellent chap. here the humor is detailed thru the tension of its language, how the poet riffs thru clutter, the detritus of human stuff and our endeavours. caratzas's got a gob full of chops, which he uses real good.
Better Than A Pack Of Wolves, The Incredulity Tour Hits The Road
Your unconditional positive regard despite head
Injury / detached retinas, a face set on fire & put
Out with cleats. I make six figures, all of them zeros,
With a carpet-bombing perspective & a box cutter
Actually used on boxes. Out of the loop big time:
The Singing Nun stiffed royal & the old cop bullshit,
"Better left unsolved." Unnatural violence of a high-
Fiber diet: more sparrows, fewer starlings. Infrequent
Peepshow fragrance sure beats trashing hotel suites in
Sault Ste. Marie. Do estimable things--the best remedy
For puking over the side of the Sloop John B. Privy to
Admitted shit overheard: we all come from pussy
& good Christian fellowship means no fabulous.
i'll stop here, and say no, man, on 2nd thought things don't suck now.