This poet’s debut collection works in many ways and shows the foundation for which his outstanding 2nd collection, Cut-up Apologetic, later built a strong voice of social commentary and anti-corporate critique. It’s this sophomore collection to which I gave top poetry recognition in my blog’s Best Reads of 2015.
Sharpe uses dry irony with self-deprecation to probe truth without overstaying his welcome in any particular scene. In “Two Trains,” this self-commentary takes the form of a mangled mathematical story problem: “Two trains depart from stations in opposite / Cities. If train “A” is going 155 km/h, / What’s the fuel economy of my ’86 Chevy / As I drive to the corner store for cigarettes?”
I drank my grandmother’s wedding ring
and sold the pawn tickets for peanuts
Wandering into the broker’s at 10 a.m.,
I looked at the kid like he was my conscience.
He looked at me like I was 10 a.m.
The collection later turns toward more corporate and civic matters. “Central Intelligence” cuts into the logic of agricultural behemoths like Mansanto. “Poetry Today” pokes at the poetry scene and e-commerce simultaneously. While “Home Inspection” veers toward absurdism in its logic.
Before I even step
into this house
let me point out
something about the foliage.
Those leaves on
that there bush
were new in spring;
given it’s late July
I’d say they have
two months tops.
I doubt they’re
A couple poems stood out for their narrative edge. The first, “Coup D’etat,” hones in on a certain mother / son relationship to which I could relate despite hyperbole: ” . . . she was a frail woman / weighing ninety pounds / both soaking wet and holding a / pot roast / as she was apt to do // one day / whilst Mother reclined in the bath / with a chuck steak defrosting / beside her in the warm waters / my ennui sent the tub into a boil / which Mother / ever careless / failed to recognize . . .”
In “The Two Grandfathers,” one watches a myth in the making: “Darryl and Dean Walker were identical twins / everyone could tell apart. / Dean’s appendectomy scar was a dead / giveaway, though both brothers’ tendency to remain / clothed in public, at least while sober / rendered this moot. // Less obvious was the half-grin Darryl wore, / as if choking down a joke. There was also / Dean’s missing arm . . .” Two poems later in the collection, one cannot help but notice the reference to “The Two Grandfathers,” but this time edged with a truism.
[from “The Present”]
. . . But the past inevitably descends into myth.
Stories of grandparents become fables.
Tumble back far enough (England? Jakarta? Jerusalem?)
and history becomes a blank wall to graffiti what you will.
I was gifted my copy directly from the poet.
[Check out my other reviews here.]