Allen Ginsberg comes to Pittsburgh
By Dave Newman
(Platonic 3way Press, 25 pp.)
With its disdain for "dick-work at dick-jobs" commensurate with its distrust of contemporary poetry ("a bag of puke"), Dave Newman's Allen Ginsberg comes to Pittsburgh sits squarely, and self-professedly, in the anti-academic, Chuck Bukowski corner.
That can lead to some dead ends in this 17-poem chapbook. "Today I Almost Called McDonalds," for instance, feels pat: College let me down, no solace but in beer. A poem in the voice of Rick Santorum is just glib mockery (however deserved).
But typically, Newman's poems about nights in dank taverns and rented rooms -- and about not going to see Allen Ginsberg read at the Frick Fine Arts Building because a beer at Denny's bar beckoned -- are smart, funny and moving.
"A Million and One," his prosy and colloquial recounting of an affair that really wasn't, finds the two non-lovers in bed, waiting "for morning like shipwrecks / who knew supplies were on the way." There's an almost beatific ode to the clitoris ... and another to Walt Whitman. And there's "Rob," the finest eulogy a good-guy barfly could hope for.
Newman offers as many one-off jokes as he does tellingly elliptical vignettes. Yet, as with an early Replacements album, this book's frequent seeming half-asssedness is part of the fun. In that spirit, I'll note that Platonic 3way Press also sent me Alan Catlin's chapbook "Suffering Bastards," and that while I didn't get around to reading it, it looked pretty good, too.