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Reviews The Rochester Trip. By Gerald Locklin. (El Paso, Texas: Vergin Press, 1990. 40 pages, $4.00.) TheIllegitimateSon ofMr. Madman. By Gerald Locklin. (Niagara Falls: Slipstream Publications, 1991. 36 pages, $4.95.) The Conference. By Gerald Locklin. (Felton, California: Minotaur Press, 1990. 42 pages, $4.00.) LocklinBiblio. Edited by MarkWeber. (Salt Lake City: Zerx Press, 1991.51 pages, $4.00.) Long a recognized force in the international small press underground, Gerald Locklin’s rising profile in the mainstream American poetry world has more to do with his prolific perseverance than any shift in prevailing composi­ tional dogmas. Nevertheless, a steadily widening perception of the special qualities of the performance-centered poetics of the Los Angeles basin has begun to shake Locklin free of even the long shadow of Charles Bukowski. At least one critic has attempted to stake the claim of a loose school status to the writing emerging from the Southern California reading circuits (Charles Webb’s Stand Up Poetry serves as both monograph and mini-anthology), and Locklin is surely one of its most original and provocative figures. The variation on what might also be called wide open form that Locklin offers is something of a parody of postmodernist affectations turned inside out, a debunking and ridiculing of the inferred assumptions of “proper” poetic content, from which he immediately seeks to enlarge the parameters of what the function of literary activity might actually be in a post-literate age. This is work so disarmingly artless as to allow for overlooking the very real diligence required in maintaining such a record of perceptions, attitudes and incidents. The most apparent twist he offers is his humor, an enormous, bentjocular­ ity that is a primary antidote to any pretension suggested by self-referentiality. Of all the comparisons to Bukowski that have brickbatted Locklin throughout his career, this is really the area where such criticism falls flat. For all his use of his persona as a drunken, blundering clown, Bukowski still takes himself very seriously indeed. Locklin, after nearly thirtyyears of publishing, never seems to fall into that trap. The purity of his own celebrated buffoonery comes across as 62 Western American Literature a salvific grace in even the most awkward circumstances while ceaselessly punc­ turing the myth of poet’s dignity. More important is Locklin’s use of his poetry as a kind of endless print menagerie of contemporary American behavior and misbehavior, where the farcical aspects of his storytelling enhance the entertainment potential of the material at the same time they obscure the darker underpinnings of its pur­ poses to the uninitiated. Consider the ending of “my mother’s funeral” from The Rochester Trip, a chapbook sequence concerned with Locklin’sIrish-Catholic upbringing, family and background on a visit home for obvious reasons: later i wondered if i would ever really dare tojoke about my mother’s funeral, well, folks, i found it actually came quite easily, and itjust came to me why the priest kept hanging around at the grave, not talking to anyone,just clutching his missal to his chest and glaring upwards— i’m sure now that i was supposed to tip him! nobody told me to, and i’m virtually certain my aunts didn’t either, but i kind of have this vision from my altar boy days and from my father’s funeral of someone slipping the celebrant a discreet envelope well lined with the old cashola. no doubt this manly task should have devolved upon the only surviving son. Arguments as to whether the above would have been better presented as prose, or polished up prior to presentation as “poetry”or even presented at all given the delicacy of the situation completely miss the impact of the informa­ tion Locklin offers. The image of the tip-neglected priest bobbing about in the shadow of probable centuries of properly compensated padres lays bare the utterly banal horror at the heart of this culture’s mechanism of convention and artifice. And, blackest of humors, it does so by remaining funny. This is a poetics that functions as a personal and societal record at the same moment it provides a critique of both. If it wasn’t...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 61-63
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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