Monday, October 26, 2009


George Wallace: POPPIN' JOHNNY (104pp, 6"x9"; Three Rooms Press,; New York, USA; paperback, cover & interior design by Kat Georges,; USD$15.)

Subtitled "New American Poems", George Wallace's latest collection of 73 poems ends (not begins) with the title poem, "Poppin' Johnny" spoken by (it appears) an American hillbilly on a high:

i am on my way
i shoot through clouds
thay are better than your jesus
heaven ain't just any heaven
it's my heaven and yes
i soar over apartments
i spit on your factories
they are irrelevant to me
i live up here, above wheat fields
and the pinetop mountain
i sparkle like the fourth of july
i am not like you
with your indecent necklaces
i am not like the others
with their home improvement lives
i fly the straight beeline
i do the big loop-di-loop
that's right i take to the sky
call me poppin' johnny.
i got wings like prairies
i got tail like barracudee
if you want to see me
go look up at the air
if you want to see me
go look where the birds go
and the sweet angels migratimng
i have got no schoolbooks
no home by seven
and no patrticular woman
who calls herself mine
heaven is not my enemy
stars do not undo my eyes
as for this blasted earth of yours
it will never drag me down.

Is he high on OxyContin? Why does this poem conclude (not begin) this book? Because there are 72 other poems preceding it. The usually hostile critical Q is: How derivative are they? Well, George admits to 2 poetic models:

p. 20 "The Next Big Train Going West" after Carl Sandberg
pp. 27-8 "This Redhead of my Sudden Acquaintance" after Neal Cassady

3 poets are subjects of a poem:

p. 73 "Walt Whitman Makes Love to his Wheelbarrow"
p. 91 "Like Charles Reznikoff in the Rain"
pp. 96-7 "Stuck on the BQE Thinking about Jimmy Schuyler"

Where does this naming get us? As far as their names = subject-matter. (Robert Lowell did this in IMITATIONS, Richard Howard, in UNTITLED SUBJECTS.)

Instead, I rather like a poem that might have been itali-tagged after Charles Bukowski, but isn't:

"How Men Drink" (pp.44-5.) Here's its 1st-stanza + 2 lines:

my father was a bartender and i have been a drinking
man so i know some things about drinking and let me
tell you son some men drink like a busted fire hydrant
some men drink like a rag doll in the pouring rain some
men drink like a river that refuses to remain a river
and some like a fire truck that wants to put out a fire

some men drink like they are mad to live and others like
they insist on dying others like they are afraid to.

[28 more lines like these follow in 7 variable-length stanzas.]

Personal observation & invention? As someone currently prohibited from drinking alcohol (post-op; contraindicated with hydrocodone), I can admit it's possible to have stopped drinking & still read this poem calmly, even tho line 28:

some men drink like a crack in a porcelain cup

= me, after my teenage son Alex shocked me into stopping drinking uncontrollably by saying "If you keep drinking like that, you'll die." Now, 30 yrs later, I only drink Ocean Spray Cranberry-Pomegranate juice, cut with Santa Clara county (Livingston reservoir) tap-water.

How would you describe your drinking? Read Wallace's whole poem for apt similies to choose from.

No comments: