Saturday, May 31, 2014


I'm an old friend and an old fan of Jerome Sala and his poetry. Ever since his first books, SPAZ ATTACK and I'M NOT A JUVENILE DELINQUENT. Because he's a very smart and a very smart ass poet. But I have to say his newest collection, THE CHEAPSKATES may be his smartest and most smart ass book yet.

CHEAPSKATES just may be my favorite book of Sala's. To my mind it's the one where all his intelligence and insight and brilliant cultural assessments (you can check them out on his blog ESPRESSO BONGO) combine to make an incredibly intellectually satisfying collection of poems.

Here's three of the shorter poems in CHEAPSKATES as examples:


when I looked at
the Chuck Close retrospective
the giant black and white photographic heads
I noticed that the swirls
in the hair and face
of the Philip Glass portrait
resembled his circular music
and I wondered if the painter
had reinvented the medieval notion
that the eyes and the face
mirror the soul —
or that the body
like Schopenhauer said
was a mere embodiment
of the Will — a Will you never
had the pleasure of meeting
or that every square inch of the Real
was an allegory
when you looked at it
up close —
or that the truth
looks like a painting
a photo
a put-on
when it first turns its eyes
on you
so much bigger
and blinder
than your own sight


It's good phone booths are disappearing.
People I grew up with
would catch the unsuspecting caller there
and beat the shit out of him just for fun.
A pair of them charging through the single door
like cocks doing double duty in a porno
bashing the dude's head into the glass
banging his temples with the club like receiver
using the chrome chord as a silver noose
and finishing him off
with the old steel-tipped combat boot to the nuts.

Now people like that
probably only steal your iPhone on the subway platform.
That is, unless they push you on the tracks.


It's true they got to do more
of what we wanted to do
and with who, and when

but for all that, we didn't feel
they were better than us
more beautiful, sure, but

wasn't that bionic anyhow?
So the perennial question was
why them? Followed by why us?

Who did we think they were
when they were most like us
in their everyday lives

and who were we, stars
in our own tiny dramas,
living fully without them,

but needing them, at the same time,
as a reminder that even the great
weren't all that special?

There are longer poems and more dense poems that contain  much more surprising juxtapositions of philosophical inquiry and pop culture symbolism, or metaphoric economic commentary and real politik etc. but the above three seemed like quick and easy synopses of Sala's attitude and perspective, crisply clear statements of poetic intent. Pick up the book to see more poetic slight of hand than you may have expected.

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