SPAM by Ben Myers; reviewed by Aleathia Drehmer

What attracted me to Ben Myers’ book of email inspired poetry called SPAM was the curiosity to see if he could create something from vacuous spam emails. I heard him read a poem from this chapbook on the Blackheath Books Myspace page and it furthered my desire to dig into the rest of the collection.

As with all the other publications to come from Blackheath Books, I was delivered a well-made chap that feels great in the hand. These books are assembled and crafted by the editor, and all are printed on 100% recycled paper or largely made from post-consumer waste paper. It gives them a very down to earth texture while still feeling decadent.The lettering on the cover shows two beautifully flourished letters that sandwich two simpler ones as if this were a nod to the fact that Ben Myers will attempt to construct beauty from trash.

There are 41 poems in this collection and not all of them hit the nail on the head for me.  Some feel slightly contrived and forced, but that was expected to some degree given the subject of inspiration. However, in this book, I found half of the poems to be gems that dug deep and stretched beyond the layers of spam email. Such poems as The Widow Man and The Monkey and Mouthpiece Trimmings are sharp, crisp slices of life.  Ben tackles religious ideas in Cave Candles at Dawn and the effects of war in Our Boys Abroad.

Ben is at his sharpest when tackling the bitter and darker sides of love in the poems Cairo, All You Lovers Out There, Nice To See You Again, and Make Your Marriage Work.  I personally felt these were the strongest pieces and where he makes a statement about how the type of inspiration is less important than what it inspires in the end.  There were times when I was reading this collection that I could not tell what the spam email might have been about, and frankly, I didn’t care. The clever ones cut like cold knives in a killer’s hand.

Ben Myers is worth the purchase just to see what can be done when inspired in unusual ways.  He touches on religion, sex, greed, war, marriage, losses, and politics. There is a little bit of everything in here for each of us. I admire his willingness to open up to something different and step away from normal modes of operation and stretch. I think this is the only way a writer can truly grow.

Los Angeles Terminal (Poems 1971-1980) by Doug Draime reviewed by Jack Henry

Before reading Los Angeles Terminal, I couldn’t pick Doug Draime out of a poet line-up to save my sorry ass. Blame that on my lack of being a true reader of the underground press. Doug started out in the 60’s and has been a part of the underground arena since. I had no idea what I missed out on.

Covert Press has put out another great chapbook in Los Angeles Terminal. It does what a good chapbook is supposed to do: it makes you hunger for more. Doug Draime is a true poet, one of exquisite talent, insight and observation. He is the bridge between the last Beats, Bukowski and modern writers. He is the poet I want to be.

When I first read this book I got pissed off. There are poets that challenge me, poets that make me laugh and not in a good way, and poets that make me want to shove a sharpened pencil in my eye. Doug made me get my sharpener out.

Twenty-seven poems with acetylene focus outline a darker image of Los Angeles. For those that live here you already know it’s a shithole, after reading this book, others will find out. But the color and life put into each line make the visit worthwhile.

More than a few poems stick out.

From Steak & Eggs Special, a haunting look at the search and fear of companionship in the big city.

a girl in a leather dress
a stranger
sits down across from me in a booth

you havin’ the special? she asked
yeah i say
i am too she says but adds:
separate checks ok?
ok i agree

It ends w/a kicker.

then she takes her shoe off
& gently puts
a slender
black-nyloned foot
against my crotch

There is certain loneliness and longing in LA that Doug captures well.

From All I knew About Her…

I knew she
chanted at a
box she called
an altar,
words in Japanese,
she didn’t
know the
meaning of.
I knew she
feared the
darkness &
ran from the light.
I knew, I knew,
the sound of
her tears.

There’s also a great deal of insanity in Los Angeles, which might be true of most cities, but in my travels I have never seen as many crazy people as I do here in LA. In A Night On The Boards Doug discusses the insanity of trying to get a beer and a sandwich, how reality can explode and mix w/the lunacy of survival.

…Someone laughed as Mary spilled a
pitcher of beer
on her hot new satin dress.
oh, jesus, i thought, all this shit
for a couple of free beers
& a sandwich?

The last poem is perhaps the best, in my opinion. Los Angeles Terminal: After A Friend’s Suicide Attempt. It’s a piece that harbors a sense of despair, a sense of detachment that is so common here.

…What we thought were smoke singles
(or whatever they were) have stopped
and now there is only the smog.

Indeed.

If you are a slacker asshole like me that never read Doug Draime you need to change that right now. Go to http://www.covertpoetics.com and buy this book. It is well worth your money, and it will make you appreciate truly great writing.

~ Jack Henry deadbeatpress.com