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.
The collection’s title originates from the poem, “A Simple Blues with a Few Intangibles,” which brings recognition to the legendary musician, Johnny Jackson:
a blues sort of gentleman
positively anarchistic and wise…(5)
In a repressed world of discrimination where Jackson grew up, and from where the Blues originated, a world that often denied African Americans the same rights as white Americans, the Blues became a source of spiritual strength for Jackson and other musicians like him. The music written by these talented men expressed the wisdom of the universe, the music of the gods, if you will, to form an alliance that would eventually encourage African Americans to overcome oppression with music. The Blues “…was always about the people, Johnny crooned…” (5).
The poems in this collection encapsulate the wisdom of the Blues, unpacks the etymology of Blues Music, in fact, aiming to tackle the harsh and unfair world that still exists today. The poems are ballads of sorts voicing awareness of governmental deception, dishonest media, and uncultured people. In the poem, “MOTHER EARTH PMS SPACE JUNK BLUES,” the speaker says, “Earth is a strange place, there’s trouble everywhere” (25).
Like every good song, a poem needs a good singer, and Wallace does not disappoint. If you like The Blues, and if you enjoy reading poetry, go out and purchase this stimulating collection when it becomes available on 15 August with Foothills Publishing. Then sit back and hum a few bars with a poetic master.
Matthew Hamilton is a former Soldier, Congressional Aide, US Peace Corps Volunteer, and Benedictine Monk. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from Fairfield University and is a four- time Pushcart Prize nominee. His chapbook, The Land of the Four Rivers, published by Cervena Barva Press, won the 2013 Best Poetry Book from Peace Corps Writers. His second poetry collection, Lips Open and Divine, was released by Winter Goose Publishing, 2016. Currently, he is the Librarian at Benedictine College Preparatory, an all-male, Catholic Military high school in Richmond, VA.