I met New Jersey poet Charles Joseph when we read in the Lehigh Valley Vanguard’s event “Explorations Of Identity” at a new space in Easton, 719. He is a founding publisher and editor of Indigent Press, a relatively new small press based in Montclair. His chapbook “Fireball” (Or 12 Quasi-Epic Poems of Cheerful Doom and Gloom) is one of their offerings, with an initial print run of 100 limited copies.
The first poem, ‘The Return of Kid Lightning”, introduces the speaker as a poet who struggles with self doubt after “years of sluggin’ it out with the blank page.” He has made a connection with a reader in Texas, who has provided encouragement, now: “the blank page better watch its ass.”
We see the process of emerging confidence and purpose in “Fireball” as well: “So I’d rather surround myself with those/who will at least have the decency/to accept who and what I am-/and perhaps even pause for a moment/in the wake of my afterglow.” Again, convincing the reader that the doubts of the past have been sloughed, the poet is determined. Maybe he is also convincing himself, affirming and defending what he feels driven to do? The sense of being driven in “Fireball” is likely the same impulse described in “This, Creed”:
I do this while my girlfriend sleeps naked.
I do this when happy, sad, or indifferent.
I do this, you do that, everyone does something.
However, this- this-is mine.
Again in “Finding The One True You”
Sometimes you need to return to the spark
that sets your world on fire-
So if you catch yourself living the lie instead of the dream,
return to that song, to that book, to that whatever-it-is
that makes you feel as though you’ve been zapped
with a million megawatts of raw human power.
Charles Joseph’s poems in “Fireball” reflect a straightforward style-accessible language and themes:
From ‘Penn Station Postscript’
Late one night while waiting for the cattle car,
I studied the faces of a hundred miserable humans.
With all seats occupied by blue and white collars,
I discovered a man more miserable than all of us.
The poems in “Fireball” have a connecting theme of avoiding regret, and avoiding the trap of a life lived with suppressed passion and talents. Many readers will be able to relate to that fear, and the need to find a way to push through doubt and keep that “spark” going. My favorite poem in the book is “For The Queens Of Zimbabwe”, which stands out as different in both style and tone from the rest of the collection.
Charles is the author of three poetry chapbooks and “No Outlet”, a novel. Information about his work can be found at his website, www.charlesjosephlit.com.