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spacer.gif   THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Posted by : cj on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 10:58 AM
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Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines .
CHICAGO'S MOST WANTED POETS


Suspect One: Charlie Newman $$ Suspect Two: Michael H. Brownstein $$
Suspect Three: Tom Roby $$ Suspect Four: Kristy Bowen $$ Suspect Five: Kathy Kubik
Suspect Six: Jan Bottiglieri $$ Suspect Seven: Kenneth Clarke


.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Words
A Chapbook by Charlie Newman
Fractal Edge Press, 2004
Reviewed by C. J. Laity


This new chapbook, by the host of the ever-so popular open mic. at The Cafe in Lincoln Square (5115 N. Lincoln Ave., 8 PM, every Tuesday), is only one of several chapbooks Chicago new-bee Wayne Allen Jones is pumping out like gasoline into the tank of the poetry scene. Rather than take up too much space wondering if the thirteen poems in the book are worth the ten buck asking price, or if the cover design (which looks generically like other books Jones has been producing, including the Guild Complex chapbooks—which, don't forget, are actually LUIS J. RODRIGUEZ PUBLICATIONS!!!!) should inspire more excitement, or if poetry books in general ought to be created at the speed of light, I'll simply have to admit: for someone who has just begun his venture into Chicago poetry publishing, 60-year-old poetry pioneer Jones has a momentum that I think even the skeptics hope continues. I think we can all agree, the quality of the books he is producing can only improve as Jones gains more experience. Only time will tell what becomes of it all. So let's take a quick look at Charlie Newman's poetry, instead of speculating whether or not Jones will sooner or later tire out, like he sometimes does when he tries to perform one of his own epic poems slam-style.

Charlie Newman's got this frantic voice, like the beat of Tommy Ramone's drum. He pounds his words onto the page, aligning them to the right, as if the words are in motion, racing to the edge of the book. His poems are not filled with metaphor, imagery, or symbolism, but that's okay, because Newman's adrenaline carries itself like steam building up at Mt. St. Helen, ready to explode:

wills against wills
words against words
flesh vs flesh
steel vs steel
breath on breath
and death on death on death on death


(from "here we go again")

Newman barely allows the reader to catch her breath, plunging her into his rants with a confident abandonment, zig-zagging, pushing onward, getting in her face like a determined yellow jacket. His lines are like a tommy gun, going rattatatat:

no one appears to me
like magic
and
no one appears to me
to save the day
and no one appears to me
walking on water
or taming lions with a gentle word


(from "deadcitymadson")

These are poems you expect to hear from a prophet on the city street corner. They arrive unmollified, straight from the gut, with no holds barred. Like a splash of cold water, they slap away any expectation of traditional meter and they simply get to the point, hard and true.

I am not a derelict or a madwoman
and I haven't their talent for tragedy
or their boiled-down-to-the-basics philosophy
that reduces living
to a two-word outline:


(from "derelict madwoman fugue")

Extremely personal, painfully honest, unshackled and unapologetic, the words in this book celebrate the beat era while ripping open the curtains to the modern world. This chapbook might only take about fifteen minutes to read, but it's a great fifteen minutes.

Check Fractal Edge Press to investigate further.

--C. J. Laity

Back to the investigation.

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