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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chapbook Review: Lawrence Gladeview Praying For A Spare (Tree Killer Ink, 2014)- 12 pages.

Canada’s Tree Killer Ink’s latest venture is the release of its Punk Chapbook poetry series which consists of 12 chapbooks by some of North America’s best known small press writers: Each chap is focussed on a specific theme and each cover is illustrated by the zany but hugely talented Swedish artist Janne Karlsson.

Lawrence Gladeview’s collection Praying For A Spare is #12 in the series & is focussed on the theme of ten pin bowling. The twelve poems centre on a team of bowlers, known as ‘the wreckers’, who play Tuesday nights at Cosmic Bowling- a one-story 70s building with a “half-lit/ bubble plastic/ sign/ out front.” For Earl, Bill, Dana, Sandy and Larry bowling becomes a kind of religion where they can escape their petty family squabbles for a few hours, drink some beer and find mutual respect and companionship.

In the poem ‘Hey Larry’, for example, Roy asks Larry to attend mass with his family on Sunday. Larry tersely quips, “thanks roy// but i’m good// i already have/ a once a week/ obligation// & it gives me/ all the salvation/ I need.” In ‘It Was,’ Earl tells Larry matter-of-factly, “with my family/ fighting over/ the small stuff/ it’s great/ to come here/ & be in control.”

Gladeview admits in a recent interview with BM (21 October 2014) that he doesn’t bowl as much these days & is crap at it but realises the game’s important social function:
I would say I’m more of an off and on, once-a-month bowler as opposed to a true “regular” alley cat.  When I was younger and in middle school, I joined bowling leagues in the summers with my neighbourhood pals.  Of course, we enjoyed the sporting aspect of bowling, but we also liked getting away from our parents, smoking cigarettes, and sneaking beers when we could.  Now that I’m older, bowling still serves as an outlet, but instead of breaking free from my parents, now it’s more about unplugging from work and society. Bowling alleys are places folks go to celebrate good times, cope during depressing weeks, and play like kids no matter their age or status. I’m not a particularly good bowler, but that’s not the point. Ask any of my buds and they’ll tell you I’m an exceptional bowler, being sure to point out my beer guzzling belly way before they mention my score.”

The poems are short & anecdotal. They stem from lived experience and are conversational, confessional, with Larry the big pin- reflecting & gently philosophising on the zen of bowling.

As the team laces up their bowling shoes they confide in one another, share their various illnesses & family issues and in the process they pull each other through the cluttered emotional debris of their lives. The Tuesday night outings provide the “bowling buds” a sense of consistency & transparency otherwise missing in their lives. As Larry says in ‘Earl’s Marriage’ after introducing to the reader his team, “ I can’t help/ but smile// about/ how this/ pack of alley cats/ is the one thing// that is/ dependable/ in our lives.”

Asked by BM how he arrived at selecting the unusual bowling theme for Praying For A Spare, Gladeview candidly surmises: “When Wolf Carstens, the editor of Epic Rites Press, asked me to participate in his Punk Chapbook Series that aimed to feature a tightly focused story told over twelve poems, I had no clue where to start. Tales of my move from Virginia to Colorado?  My college years, from freshman year, arrest to senior graduating triumph?  But then I realized I was thinking on too large a scale.  The most memorable characters in life don’t come from exotic situations, they come from everyday experiences that are made extraordinary by their uninhibited personality.  A few months back, my wife and I met friends at the local lanes for my birthday, some of which I hadn’t seen in awhile.  The stories we shared and the atmosphere that existed that night was very communal.  That following week, I was talking with Wolf about the chapbook series and Praying For A Spare began to set itself up; pin by pin, poem by poem.”

One of the best poems in the collection ‘Whether You Are’ expresses this idea of people on the edge, of falling into the abyss- in the communal space of ten-pin bowling:

Whether You Are


no matter

if you’re

some evenings
at the alley

you spend
entire night

to keep
the weight
your fingers

& into

(Reprinted with the permission of the poet).

Gladeview is currently editing and revising his next full-length collection tentatively titled The Stray Trails Of Life.  Aside from that, he’s got an upcoming trip to Las Vegas on the calendar, a handful of readings along the Front Range, and a Colorado winter creeping over the Rocky Mountains.

Buy the Punk Chapbook series here- 14 chaps for only $40 plus postage. Find out also how you can contribute to the next series of chapbooks:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spoken Word CD Review: Charles BUKOWSKI UNCENSORED: From The Run With The Hunted Session (2000)

This recording consists of two CDs which run for approximately 150 minutes in total. The first CD is easily the best and features Bukowski’s reading of twenty of his poems plus an extended reading from his last novel Pulp. The second CD is shorter and more patchy in content. Bukowski reads from his novel Ham On Rye and he is encouraged by co-producer John Runnette to discuss well-trodden topics such as his thoughts on John Fante, Ezra Pound and his experiences in France a decade or so before. CD 2 was not included in the original release in 1993 and did not appear until the “special, expanded edition” was issued in 2000.

The recording was made to complement Bukowski’s latest collection Run With the Hunted: A Charles Bukowski Reader (May1993). The poems and stories were selected by Bukowski’s long time editor John Martin, and interestingly, the writing is arranged in chronological order- not according to the date it was written, but according to the age Buk appears in each text. At the time, Bukowski was a very sick man and dying of myelogenous leukaemia. He offered to record his material for five hours but only lasted three.

The recording does not appear to have been edited- if so, very unobtrusively. The sound is raw and unembellished. Throughout, Bukowski clears his throat, coughs, curses, slurs & often mispronounces his words. He tells the interviewer at one stage, “I sometimes slur words. I’m not good at talking.” Bukowski is asked to reread his brilliant poem ‘the genius of the crowd’ three or four times because he mispronounces the word “absurdity” as “absurbity”. He is conscious the word is coming up in his reading of the poem but he still stuffs up. The effect is humorous but destroys the great emotional impact that the poem may have on the reader. Pissed-off, Bukowsi bluntly tells his audience, which consists of his wife Linda Bukowski and John Runnette, “Fuck you guys, I mispronounced the words- too bad!”

Probably the best feature of the tape is that you can flip through the book and follow Bukowski’s reading of the twenty poems. This creates an intimate vibe between you and the speaker. It helps to establish the illusion that you know Bukowski better. Interspersed between the poems, the un-miced interviewer, presumably Runnette, asks Buk a series of questions about the usual- Celine, Whitman, his writing process, why he left the post office, his relationship with his father and the like. Most of this ground has been thoroughly stomped on previously and if you want to seek out the best collection of interviews with Bukowski you can't surpass David Stephen Calonne's (Editor) Charles Bukowski: Sunlight Here I Am/ Interviews & Encounters 1963-1993. 

Many page references are mentioned during the reading, but unfortunately, they were probably just working notes and do not match the current 2003 ECCO version of the book.

Find more accurate links below:

CD 1 Item #
Page no. from ECCO collection
consummation of grief
the Soldier, his wife & the bum
the genius of the crowd
a radio with guts
the poetry reading
short order
the strongest of the strange
the last days of the suicide kid
friendly advice to a lot of young men
the most
the mockingbird
the proud thin dying
helping the old
fan letter
are you drinking?
Dinosauria, we

I'm not sure why this CD is entitled UNCENSORED because Bukowski doesn't say anything outlandish or overly crude. Overall, he doesn't come across as the snarling, misanthropic pugilist whom we experience in many of his writings. He is genuinely funny, he chuckles at his own inadequacies and he offers great wit and insight into the human condition as he grimly faces his own certain & rapidly approaching death.