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spacer.gif   FOURTH DEGREE: JOE ROARTY
Posted by : cj on Saturday, October 15, 2005 - 12:49 PM
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Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines .
Choruses I
by Joe Roarty
Fractal Edge Press
Reviewed by C. J. Laity


I always find it hilarious when the neo-postmodernists go around declaring that their work is "experimental." I always have to ask, how can it be experimental if it's the same quirky style that academics have been writing in for the last forty years?

I think in order to be considered experimental, you have to be completely different than everything else that's going on. You have to be trying something new, you have to take chances, you have to, uh, experiment. Now, I would have to call the work of Joe Roarty "experimental."

If you've seen this performance poet over the years appearing at the various venues you know what I'm talking about. He's the guy banging on that hand drum like a mad man, shouting every word into the microphone as if it is the word of God. He usually has no time for metaphors or similes or deep symbolism. He usually just tells it like it is as his voice builds to a crescendo like a heartbeat on crank ready to explode.

Joe Roarty is really, really out there, man. He's about as experimental as you can get.

Roarty is so damn out there that he put a photo of Shag on the front cover of his chapbook (he'll tell you it's Satan) and a poem by Thax Douglas on the back cover. He's so in orbit that while some look for epigraphs to attach to their titles, most of the poems in Roarty's Choruses I don't even have titles. Sometimes you don't know where one poem ends and the next begins. Sometimes you don't even know what the hell he is talking about:

Black horn
& in the bell
blooms
time
corruption
endless flower.
Aspirant gleams groped to ascend.
Denied
they sowed their discordant seed
wild in beauty's stink.
Tho I am angel
you kno me as Boom Boom.


But it doesn't matter because it's urgent, regardless. Roarty delivers no excuses, no disclaimers, only page after page of his words shouting louder than they do on stage:

her fury wings of broken umbrella spines
snapped and driven
the short shriek rasp inchoate
a multitude of struggling thought and emotion
asshole raised up for worship,


People want to classify Roarty as a beat poet simply because he beats on a hand drum while he reads. But really Roarty stands in a class all his own. His voice and his way of looking at things are quite unique. He can take something as common as the color yellow and bend it until the entire spectrum pours out;

LaTrice wears yellow
the clock stops cos she wears yellow
and i can't even answer the phone
i don't even see her
i just feel that yellow passing by;
Van Gogh saw yellow
that summer in the midi
it drenched him, the heat
the sound of it
roaring daylong, the nights only an exhausted respite
from sheets of yellow crashing down;
hello said yellow in the blinding sky
that summer everything came in at the eye
those days yellow knew no limit.


And he can also take what is before his eyes and deliver it in his poetry as straightforward as ordering a drink at a bar:

cos I knew they were doing blo
and i think:
i just bust in
an
they gotta give it to me

but it was th'
ladies room
an i
didn't have th' nuts;


The 33 pages of Choruses I are jam packed with the experimental. And as with anything experimental, you won't know if you like it until you give it a fair chance.

For ordering information check out Fractal Edge Press

--CJ Laity

back to meshing

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Note: Here is a review of Joe Roarty's new book, Choruses I.

 
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