BOOK REVIEW
Fireball
by Charles Joseph
(Indigent Press)

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“The Return of Kid Lightning” is the first poem in Charles Joseph’s collection Fireball. It hits hard, establishing Joseph’s considerable talents for creative wordplay, deep characterization, and surreal humor. It reads like a gleeful, insane monologue. That is only half the fun. The other is the attention to overwhelming detail. From a descriptive point of view, “The Return of Kid Lightning” is a lot like having a couple of oceans dropped on you from above. Just remain calm. Keep as much oxygen handy as possible. Move forward. This short-but-ferocious collection certainly gets even better from the opening bell.

Fireball deserves to be read a couple of times. Poems like “Penn Station Post Script” and “A Heart Full of Pearls” are complex entities that lead you instantly into unfamiliar territory. Come across a line such as “I discovered a man more miserable than all of us” in “Penn Station Post Script”, and you’re going to be hooked for whatever Joseph is going to add to that. You’re also going to want to read that piece (as well as the others) more than once. I can promise you that your second impression will be wholly different from the first one.

There is a profound cynicism to these poems. This is clear in such pieces as “All the Radicals in This Beautiful World Can Kiss My Ass”, “Little Rascals”, and “Finding the One True You.” What you may notice during the initial reading, or what you will definitely notice during the second reading, is that these are not poems about hopelessness. There is a clear connection between humor and despair in many of these works, but Joseph finds a balance between the two camps of thought in every poem. He finds a different kind of balance in each poem, which is one of the several unique accomplishments this collection realizes.

Ultimately, due to its relatively short length, Fireball feels like a sampling of Joseph’s work. The only significant downside to the book is that it is unfortunately too short to be completely satisfying. That might explain the compulsion to read it more than once. 

Fireball is now available from Indigent Press. Click here to order