By Steve Goldberg
What’s In The Bag Press
$5.00 (when he’s sober)
Disclaimer: (of course) Steve has been a good friend of mine for many years and so this “review” isn’t entirely unbiased. Having said that, though, I can say that some of the poetry he’d written earlier lacked immediacy and emotion and was a bit too cloy, trying to be clever and dancing around an issue or an insight. (Perhaps that was the result of the over-analytical engineering mind, an obstacle I struggle with as well.)
It didn’t do much for me, honestly.
The poems in this chapbook, however, are light years away from those early writings.
These are the poems of a grown man, all too aware of the world, both its joys and setbacks. It is mature poetry. And it’s a pleasure to read and re-read, seeing in it not only observations from a single Southside neighborhood but truths about our lives here in the post-industrial world of a once thriving Great Lakes city in the 21st century, with its contradictions of comfortable living and hard scrabble barely gettin’ by.
This contradiction is finely captured in the opening poem “At 806.” As the poet sits at a swanky nouveau bar in a yuppified section of the old working class neighborhood with his expensive glass of wine, he wonders:
Is this what Kerouac enjoyed?
jazz, feeling the
But the poet knows the conceit here, and he isn’t about to let his reader stay comfortable for long:
But would a Beat be
dollars for a glass
or would he find a
and sit on the
He has this uncanny, natural way of subverting a faux reality, exposing it as something not entirely real, and something you should probably mistrust. And this sensibility runs throughout the book.
But there is plenty of music and rhythm here too, as in the music of this line from “Can Man” about a neighborhood scrap collector:
… the clangathanka cylinders in the handlebar basket
And then, there are the all-too-common daily realities of living which most of us gloss over as unimportant or forgettable, but which form the daily bread of life. So we get to share in the “ugh” moment of the banality of a conversation in “Good Neighbors”:
West Virginia accents pulled
me into a 20 minute discussion,
soliloquy really, on rain gutters
but also an enumeration of the poet’s world in “From My Perch” where he sees “…the war vet’s flag… blind dogs… old hillbilly friends sharing their loneliness thru political talk”, all of it an integral part of the Tremont reality, the reality that the poet shares in his own unique style and voice.
Or in “Post 58” where he writes of the patrons of the Polish Legion of American Veterans watering hole in Tremont:
Making the silly jokes of the underdog
enjoying the shadow outside the spotlight
which, you could say, about sums up the tough spirit of Cleveland and the Rustbelt as a whole. To know that there is pleasure in the shadows too. A pleasure that the underdog knows, even relishes.
Tremont Crawl is available at fine bookstores near you. Starting with Tremont’s own Visible Voice.