First let me start this review by stating for your consideration that this collection of poems is not something I would routinely seek out to read, both because it is poetry and the subject matter is in the author’s words like ‘serrated words cutting through the arteries’, with titles and content that some may find a bit jarring or crude, but that is exactly what those whom follow Tony Pena appreciate and expect. He does not shy away from reality and certainly deserves props for using Quasimodo, zygote, prune, skank, dancing, chattel, dinosaur, Zelda, and sandcastle (to list only a few) all in the same book. This is also a warning that some of the content could be triggering for some readers.
The one of the two poems I truly enjoyed was titled Fossils. It is about a hypothetical meeting of Godzilla and Barney at a bar. “would the purple dinosaur / stand a chance with his message / of loving you and loving me / or would the ferocity / of Tokyo’s finest / burn the lovable / reptile’s brain” The other Dance, Zelda, Dance was a vivid description of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life, an almost complete poetic summary of a book I read a few years about her life.
In a way, Pena’s poetry reminds me of an episode of Chopped on Food Network. The basket is full of mystery items that need to be converted in a cohesive dish and it is hard to please all the judges. It is evident that Pena is a talented author, whether or not his topics and words resonate with you. I will also admit I needed to google a few references (fyi – Wepner is a boxer, tubérmeuse is a flower, brume is mist or fog, Ginsberg refers to the poet not the judge).
BBRR Sound Bites:
- “You spend an hour at CVS / scouring the greeting card aisle / hoping photography or some poem / catches your eye.” Chattel and Dung
- “I’m not exactly sure how / I crossed the double yellow / lines of communication.” Wipeout on Lover’s Lane
- “I woke up with the weight / of thirty two volumes / of Encyclopedia Britannica / balancing on my forehead / with 1,001 cliches drooling / out of my mouth” On Wanting to Write
All that said, I was thinking about a phase shared in meditation about not shying away from resistance. So I read through many of poems despite my initial resistance to the content. What might take you back, offend you, might also give you the opportunity to ponder for a minute your reaction. Or in Pena’s words “peon please, poetry has always been and always will be a contact sport.” Potential readers should note that the print edition of Blood & Beats & Rock ‘n’ Roll doesn’t have any page numbers, so finding a particular poem in the book may be troublesome. Granted my highlights in this sponsored review are well on the tame side of his style and my opinions are just that, I encourage you to check out Tony Pena’s work, as well as his YouTube channel or Facebook page as both sights provide more insight and context for the author and his work.
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