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Six b y L o c k l i n G e r a l d H a s l a m W o r k s R e v i e w e d Locklin, Gerald. Candy Bars: SelectedStories. Sudbury, Mass.: Water Row Press, 2000. 267 pages, $16.95. --------. Down and Out. Palm Springs, Calif.: Event Horizon Press, 1999. 346 pages, $34-95. --------. The Firebird Poems. 1992. Exp. and with a foreword by Edward Field. Ed. Donna Hilbert. Palm Springs, Calif.: Event Horizon Press, 1999. 166 pages, $12.95. --------. Go West, Young Toad. Ed. Mark Weber. Sudbury, Mass.: Water Row Press, 1998. 241 pages, $14-95. --------. Hemingway Colloquium: The Poet Goes to Cuba. Palm Springs, Calif.: Event Horizon Press, 1999. 54 pages, $24.95. --------. The Mystical Exercycle: Poems. Andover, Mass.: The Chuckwagon, 2001. 39 pages, $10.00. A few years hack the folks at Poets & Writers in New York announced that the three locales in the nation with the largest concentrations of pub­ lishing writers were greater New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Southern California megalopolis. By then Gerald Locklin, who teaches at California State University, Long Beach, had already churned to somewhere near the top among the prominent authors in what is locally called “the Southland.” His reputation has, if anything, been enhanced in the recent past, for he seems to be the very cipher of the alternative pub­ lishing movement that concentrates in California. Locklin is, to say the least, a literary presence. His over eighty chapbooks and other volumes— including novels and short-story collections, most published by small presses— plus seemingly numberless contribu­ tions to magazines and journals make him one of the most widely pub­ lished living American authors. In the Times Literary Supplement of November 19,1999, Jules Smith describes Locklin as “a literally large fig­ ure in an environment of frequent live readings, many magazines, and presses” (20). Locklin’s urgent, sometimes indiscriminate, output bespeaks high energy and considerable curiosity. He has been called an extension of the Beat poets and compared with Charles Bukowski, but Gerald Locklin is very much his own man. He has, for example, not published much mate­ GERALD HASLAM 371 rial that is safe and conventionally comforting. Instead his work has often challenged decorum and perhaps offended some readers in the process by revealing too much, saying it too bluntly, and ignoring political conectness . He pushes the limits, but gently. Of the several books considered here, Go West, Young Toad, edited by Mark Weber, offers the best introduction to Locklin’s literary work because it combines various prose pieces with a generous sample of his poetry. The most regrettable aspect of the book is that for some strange reason it contains no table of contents, a real pain in the neck for read­ ers. Otherwise it stands as an acceptable primer. Another good survey, The Firebird Poems, does list contents, and it is perhaps a better collection for readers interested exclusively in Locklin’s poetry. Neither presents a perfect overview, but both offer good ones. Locklin is a social commentator, tending to employing a small per­ sona to make large observations— not infrequently from a bar stool in his earlier work. He is also an astute literary practitioner, far more polished than his casual style might at first suggest. He can reveal his ironic take on life with the twist of a phrase. For instance, he opens “towards a met­ rics of the absolute” this way: it does not matter where you break your lines because it does not matter when you breathe or even if. (Firebird 97) Many of Locklin’s poems (and stories) are clearly autobiographical, and he frequently employs self-deprecatory humor. Receiving a piece of mail marked “DO NOT BEND,” the poet comments, no danger of that: i haven’t been able to touch my toes since high school (Firebird 80) Sometimes humor hides the fact that Gerald Locklin is one of our finest writers on family. In fact, it’s hard to think of any contemporary who has written with greater tenderness of his children. Everything from his irreverent “Poop” to “the best year of her life” reveals...


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