Monday, October 20, 2008

"Belinda and her friends" - Puma Perl reviewed

This is an advance review of an excellent chapbook by Puma Perl that is forthcoming with erbacce-press, like a lot of other good books. Joining two of mine that you can buy at links below to the right. Anyway, buy Puma's book, it kicks ass and remembers names

Belinda and her Friends
chapbook by Puma Perl
reviewed by David McLean

This chapbook, the first by Puma Perl, is an exceptionally real depiction of life in a part of New York in the last millennium, where heroin or alcohol abuse is an integral part of life, where life is cold but full of a transient warmth, where hearts are larger than you might expect. It depicts a character Belinda and her encounter with a living in a world shared with several very vividly portrayed characters who manage to snatch some meaning from the worthless life to which the very poor are subjected everywhere -

so the red bandana tied around her forehead
meant nobody got hit yet not even any yelling
there was beer and twenty dollar
bills in two pockets it was a good day and it
happened twice a month and everyone was happy

The book steadfastly refrains from preaching, it does not whine about unscrupulous dealers and the evils of welfare, it shows instead of preaching. And it exudes an almost unbearable nostalgia like Burroughs calling down the centuries with no voice and lips for boys who are gone and times that are gone and maybe never really existed, except here the times and people were real, real as children and a mother's obligation

our secrets shared and buried in benches
we drank beer through a straw
our kids raced across the playground
fearless wild-haired unruly
dropping juice boxes, crushing pretzels
we stayed for hours after everyone had left
whispering stories, picking up kids as they fell

Puma Perl is an extraordinary poet, she captures a feel here so exquisitely and a sense of place that seems entirely appropriate to listening to Willie De Ville, it's “so, so real” now, and it's the sort of life he used to evoke as a young man. “I ain't no rocket just a shooting star”

I feel our last words as the sun streams down
We are the unknown ancestors
We are picture frames, empty as a midnight sandbox
Only imaginary friends left to tell the tales
of whispered secrets hidden in
brightly painted, but still broken benches

This poetry is nostalgic and beautiful, it is nostalgic in the sense that is a longing for presence and being and the ability of being to defy nonentity and lying time. Belinda died, like junkies tend to do, so she is absolutely absent now, exists nowhere. Thus the words do poetry's duty by pretending that she exists there. In a sense that makes the words a homage to life, assuming it to be something worth preserving, all the futile living, and this is what makes it sad and beautiful. Saying that we have souls is just another way of saying that we'd quite like to be immutable and dead like stones. Better to be Belindas and be temporary, finally go forever, but in the meantime get drunk and very, very stoned.