Sunday, June 15, 2014

Brendan Constantine's Calamity Joe

For me, the best poems are the ones who make me say, "Shoot. It's already been written”--and then I go ahead and write something new anyway, because all of these new words start stirring in me. This is what happens to me when I read Brendan Constantine’s Calamity Joe.

I had the pleasure of meeting Brendan in person when he came to the University of Arizona Poetry Center where I volunteer. I found him incredibly charming and kind, and his jokes were funny. He may have even mentioned the moon during our conversation, which instantly makes me like a person. After Brendan went on his way, (continuing a book tour he is currently on) I found Calamity Joe on the Poetry Center's shelves right away—freshly signed, the ink of his signature still drying.

This is the kind of book I could read over and over again. The lines in this book are so new and surprising, but they comfort me. They are a balm for the ever-increasing wounds that our world inflicts upon us.

And like Brendan himself, so many of the lines in this book are so funny--in a way that reminds me of CA Conrad--ridiculous but true somehow. Flamingos come to life and plant sculptures of people on their lawn; people eat road maps, and a woman decides to date herself. (But as it often happens, it doesn't work out in the end). This is a world where "you wear the ghost/of a favorite piano;" where "you hold your breath or sell it; where "words sit/on bicycles beyond the streetlight."

The narrative thread throughout Calamity Joe is tightly knit, but still loose enough so that we may superimpose ourselves into Joe's open life. It is a tragic room, but we can still make ourselves comfortable there.

1 comment:

  1. And if you can hear him read those poems in person, it gets turned up to eleven.