“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.
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Wait, why am I talking about myself when this is a book review? Oh, that’s right. ‘Setting the scene.’ Because you see, Mr. Brian Collins has also been reviewing movies. But unlike my lazy self, he reviewed a horror movie every day for SIX YEARS, missing only one single day early in the run.
After reading Brian Fanelli’s third poetry collection, Waiting for the Dead to Speak, I was immediately drawn to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and, in particular, a scene where Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, ‘“Where should I go?” The Cheshire Cat replies, “That depends on where you want to end up.” Like Alice, Fanelli experiences life events in which convince him that adaptability is necessary for success. He grows into adulthood by keeping a level head as he struggles to live in a world that has been turned upside down.
Even if Gina Tron’s short story collection Eggolio and Other Fables turned out to be an uninspired, sweaty piece of literary garbage, we’d still have that cover. I have been reviewing books for a little over a decade. Eggolio and Other Fables may feature one of the best covers I have ever seen. Illustrated by the stunning, clearly underrated Cora Foxx (I’m guessing, but I will also venture to say that whatever Cora is currently making as an illustrator, it’s not enough).
Ron Kolm writes with a remarkable eye for detail and personality. He also often writes with the tone of a man who can’t quite believe he’s still alive. Certainly, his latest book Night Shift strongly implies that he is a man who can tell you where to find the best taco trucks beyond the gates of hell. Few writers working today can combine dry, almost weary observational wit with steady, charming wisdom.
George Wallace, former Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, Long Island, is a permanent fixture on the New York poetry scene. His thirtieth collection of poetry, A Simple Blues With A Few Intangibles, is plush with hallucinatory imagery and skillful language. His musical dialect is indicative to a drumbeat, or the lonely whine of a Fender Stratocaster, yet the melody here exclusively stands on its own. From the first line to the last, readers are catapulted into an abstract world bursting with lyrical wizardry.
Gabriel Ricard reviews Grig Larson's 2011 book Trolley, a steampunk fantasy.
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