Crumbling Utopian Pipedream, Scott Wozniak

scott wozniak, poetry, reviews, full of crow, crow reviewsScott Wozniak’s new poetry collection from Moran Press is described by Hosho McCreesh as “lost, ugly, and broken-down”, poems that are “covered in their own holy filth.”
I’m in, so I keep reading: 
I was an artist
and felonies
my canvas.

There you go, right out of the gate.
Rob Plath calls Wozniak’s work “authentic outlaw poetry”. I admit that I have a soft spot for that, because I don’t have to look very far to read “tidy and proper”.That shit’s everywhere.
What I want is the truth, the ugly, the disgusting, the dysfunctional. I want poems that reflect life the way life is, and I think Wozniak hangs out in that place enough to spill some secrets.
The term “outlaw” is thrown around often, like a badass badge. But it has to be about more than posturing, and it has to be about more than persona. It has to convey something beyond the questioning of authority to the living of a life beyond that shadow. The poetry has to have some variation of going to hell, right? (Hellraising Intellect) Of being damned, condemned, of prices paid, and carrying on anyway? 
Grit and candor are part of it. It would be easy to think about commonalities among outlaw poets, looking for typical themes and confessional rebellion and you would find them. But you would also find a street style and language that spares the reader the gagging perfume but finds a way to keep the musk.

Outlaw poetry is a dirty body on clean sheets.
It draws you in because it feels real, it has a pulse. Wozniak’s short lines are that pulse, typically 2-3 words each, you are paced and pulled along as the poet reflects on dysfunctional vignettes without apologies. “The world is brutal, and there’s nothing you can do to change this.” (Down The Chambers of Madness)

The poet is broken in a world that is broken, trying to survive and get to the next hustle. 

My sign read.
“I smell,
I’m broke,
everybody 
hates me. 
I just want
to get drunk
and high,
spare a dime?”  (Family Values Paying Off)

The poems involve deliberation between exposing and turning away : “should we hide them or pull the covers from them?” (Uniqueness is Fatal) “Dig deep enough and you’ll find a rotting corpse” (In The Hole, Boss) 

Why examine? The poet talks about pieces, brokenness, parts that need to be glued or cobbled back together… is redemption possible? He doesn’t want to hear from people who imagine what it is like, with the privilege of hope. He wants to hear from people who have been to that edge and have made it back, without any nets and without a reason to hope- not a triumph of the reassured but the perseverance of the damned. It isn’t rock bottom until it is rock bottom, and no- you don’t know what it’s like. If you haven’t lost your friends to it and yourself to it, it isn’t your story. We are here to pull up a chair. 

“Let’s overcome
circumstances,
demons,
destruction,
chaos,
the detriment.

Let’s build
the craziest 
dream
we can think.”
(So Many Choices, So Little Time) 

What would the dream look like? The “even keel”, or the “great stories of insane moments”? 

Calm is hell, chaos is hell, recovery is hell, disease is hell, but do we want to get better? What does better look like? Better isn’t the dream. Better is another side of the death coin. Tails, you still lose. 

Moran Press has more titles in their catalog, available through Amazon. You can check out their authors here. This book, Crumbling Utopian Pipedream, can be purchased here:

“Scott Wozniak’s “Crumbling Utopian Pipedream,” is a book of poems born of the streets. It unflinchingly celebrates gritty realism while detailing some of life’s hard won battles, and continually urges the reader to face the obstacles life puts in our way, and to realize that we have the strength to overcome any and all hardships.”

Scott Wozniak is a contributor in the Summer 2017 issue of Full of Crow Poetry, and you can check out his poems here. 

Elynn Alexander posts here about what she’s reading, usually in the small press/alternative world. She is the founding editor of Full of Crow Press and Distro. 

 

Cleveland Wall’s “Primer”

I recently came across a sewn microchap set aside in a pile that I brought in as samples of chapbooks for students, to show some examples of handmade poetry books that might inspire their own.

Cleveland Wall’s “Regarding Certain Stalwart Integers: A Primer” is an understated, simple book no more than four inches tall without images or color. We have her text, and an emphasis on the numbers she celebrates. The poems are short, but clever:

41

Very European. Striped, ticking and brisk. 

Or this whimsical ode to 79: The warped glass in leaded panes is like a dream. A cat lives here.

This book is one of those cool gems that you’d like more copies of to share. Cleveland Wall is playful, whimsical, but her words have an academic density- they bear weight. 

Her poems reveal a fascination with quirky subjects. Her creative use of language is often humorous while somehow elegant at the same time. 
Wall is a poet with roots in the Lehigh Valley area, where she performs regularly and more recently, her sets include the musical accompaniment of her husband, musician Michael Wall.

 

 

Check out their performance at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton, as part of the Perspectives poetry event: 

 

 

“Bulletproof”, by Wolfgang Carstens

Cover of the poetry book "Bulletproof" by Wolfgang Carstens. “Bulletproof” is the newest book of poetry by small press veteran Wolfgang Carstens, printed in 2017 by grey borders books and available now. Carstens is the frontman of Epic Rites Press, an unrepentent Canadian with front row seats to the latest American shit show. He has published many of the familiar poets we love at Crow: Zarina Zabrisky, Bill Gainer, John Dorsey, and more. 
        The first thing that you will notice is the art work on the front and back covers and interior by Epic Rites go-to artist Janne Karlsson who has rendered the poet in a cool ink punk comic style, with scattered bones as he’s walking the tightrope of death. Dig that for a few minutes, then jump in.
Despite the whimsical tone, your heart will quickly get heavy. 

Like here:
“my father spent / the last days / of his life / asking / to see / me

which / is ironic / because / I spent / the first years / of mine / asking / to see / him 
“Bulletproof” is both funny and sober, approaching themes of death from many directions: regret, denial, defiance, inevitability. Carstens also focuses on the evolving way that people view death and regret during the lifespan, from taking life for granted to rethinking choices to accepting lost opportunities. The poems are at times tribute, at times lamentation. The poet has to reckon with death around him and the spectre of his own. Nobody is bullet-proof, after all: 

in a drunken stupor,
clawing my way 
across the floor
on my hands and knees
like a wounded animal,

i started thinking
about great exit lines-

something
worthy of a tombstone.

ultimately,
all I could come up with 
was:

surely,
one more
won’t kill
me

He touches on the inevitability, and the small negotiations with mortality. How “clean” do we want our lives to be, how many things do we forgo to gamble on bought time? Do we rationalize our choices in the name of living on our own terms, and will we regret it? 

Even though there are lines and lines about human loss, the poem that hit that nerve for me was the poem about putting a dog to sleep: “when she slumped in my arms”.  Shit. 
It reminds me that we can read poems, read lines, read about awful things- but certain lines, certain images can just stop us in our tracks- and damn if it didn’t make me go hug the hell out of my dog and throw treats at her. You never know what will hit you, or why, and that is part of the experience of poetry. It happens like that- that wave- from some words on a page, something resonates. Certain things like this just stick and that is a powerful thing. You can’t blame people for wanting to do it, right? Of course we argue that people NEED to be doing it. 

Carstens is able to do this with brevity, saying a lot in a small space. This is one of the notable features of the poetry that I have read by him to date: succinct, choppy, but linked and cohesive taken together. 
I agree with what Wayne F. Burke had to say about the book: 

“In BULLETPROOF Wolfgang Carstens uses terse language of an exactitude unsparing inessentials to make a defiantly unsentimental last stand. Like a Daniel Boone of poetry—stoic yet capable of deep emotion—Carstens acknowledges brute existence, but does not give in to it, exults even, in his (and our) continuance, and with mordant wit, skewers vicissitude.”
—Wayne F. Burke, Dickhead

And Magdalena Ball:

“BULLETPROOF is a short, punchy and powerful collection of poems. Carstens looks death in its blackest eye, with anger, sorrow, and humour, and emerges victorious.”
—Magdalena Ball, The Compulsive Reader

“Short, punchy”. Yes. If you are new to Wolfgang Carstens or Epic Rites Press, check out his site here.  

Information about “Bulletproof”:

BULLETPROOF

23 pages
Perfect bound
ISBN: 978-1-897180-80-8
​Grey Borders Books, 2017
www.greyborders.com
 

“What We’re Reading”, Full Of Crow Press, edited by Elynn Alexander.