Review: Said Beauty To The Blues

Said Beauty to the BluesSaid Beauty to the Blues by Bill Campana
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emerging from the slam poetry scene in Phoenix, this uneven collection is filled with light humor throughout [though trying too hard at times]. Many of the poems clearly arise directly from the poet’s experiences

“luckily the concrete floor broke my fall”

i fell down today

i misjudged the bottom step
while walking down a concrete staircase

nobody was there so it didn’t make a sound . . .
well, i was there, but i wasn’t listening

plus, it was in pitch darkness
so not only did i not make a sound
but there was also nothing to see

don’t ask me how i know it even happened

While humor is the main voice, at times a clear poignancy rears its head. In “light and darkness but mostly darkness and then light again” the poet cuts through sentimentality: “when i die the birds will sing / the same songs they sing now / not one note bluer.” Mortality appears again in “morning song late at night”: “but if you want time / i’ve got plenty / i count seven clocks that have stopped / and two that no longer care / but i’ve got plenty / i feel the hours leaving / and i know just how many / it takes to fill up an empty morning.”

The observational poems, of which there are many, find their strength in challenging perspective. In one case the perspective is twisted fully around to distantly observe the poet.

“upside down”

that spider
has been hanging
upside down
for so long
that it appears
i am the one
suspended from the ceiling
in my chair
binding my saliva
around a spinning chicken leg
until i crawl
into another room

One observation-turned-“list poem” is darkly playful.

“reasons you find a wheelchair in the dumpster”

someone has decided
to start walking again

it wore out and was replaced
with a new one

it wasn’t fast enough

someone is being very cruel

Nature is not a major component of this collection, however there are some surprisingly fresh lines on old muses. [From “the sun, the moon, you, and a brief appearance by me”]: “i saw the moon / sneaking around / faintly visible / while the sun / was still in full bloom / at the other end of the sky / but thinking it over.” Likewise “dust devil ’13” takes a similar tone in showing human impact and un-naturalness: “the dust devil whips it up / in the middle of the street / the field, the steel yard // sending trash high flying / like wild plastic birds / into the thermals / where they hang like hawks.”

Though most of the poems were very short, my favorite was probably the longest, “the go go sixties”. The social commentary is superficially light and deeply penetrating.

[from “the go go sixties”]

. . . the sixties taught me a thing or two

how to make a joke
how to take a joke
how to throw a punch
how to take a punch
the sixties taught me how to be a boy

and to take assassinations like a man
watch the replay as if it were sport
i’ve never seen anything bleed like the sixties
the sixties could overcook a city as if it were a bad meal
and leave a taste in your mouth . . .

I received this collection through Goodreads First Reads.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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