- Sophisticated Visions
Lit Fest Press
42 Pages; Print, $14.00
Erik La Prade
Last Word Press
65 Pages; Print, $12.95
Intrigued by the mysterious title, I looked up the word “Sadiddy” which the Urban Dictionary defines as “uptight in an utterly conceited way.” I teach poetry at James Baldwin High School in Manhattan, and a student there informed me that Sadiddy is “used like the term ‘bougie’ (bourgeois) by black and brown people, especially in the South.” Yet the poems or subject matter bear no obvious attitude of arrogance, and the writer’s narcissisim certainly does not exceed that of his peers, the majority of whom write from personal experience.
But the title strikes me as an outlier cultural choice for the white middle aged poet, who seems more post Beat then Sadiddy. And none of the diverse characters who he writes about—from Charles Bukowski to an aged mother to past female lovers display obviously “Sadiddy” like tendencies. Penton, does however, roll out a mature mastery in his poetic skills, with lines like;
And the stars came out to celebrate my reminiscingin every place that is deserted, all the places that are brave
From “The Way Buckeyes and Buds Taste Just like the Lone Star.”
Love is depicted as a relief from solitude in “Hepatoscopy,” another title that sent me to the dictionary. Hepatoscopy is the ancient Greek technique of divination through reading the liver of a sacrificed animal, and Penton writes;
There are idols in the bedroomthere are borrowed godsthere are pantheons of everything we lack
and concludes with,
I am seeing an empty-pastured futurein the honey of the stretch marks on your side.
In a pared down portrait of an institutionalized elder, “Every Day of Her Life,” he tells the reader, “…her memories made of metaphor / the gibberish with which she speaks forthright.” The final line echoes warning, “to prepare us for when we’ve lost our minds.”
The author, who lives in Southern Louisiana, appears to spend time out West, from San Francisco’s Tenderloin to Nevada, Montana, and Texas. Refreshingly clear of metropolitan navel gazing, his language is flavored with “the tart expanse of desert” (from “The Reno That Never Was”).
Nine untitled and differently fonted pages are interspersed in the manuscript. These enigmatic pieces have some killer lines like;
I’ve take beatings from major and minor gods…
your punches are like fairy kisses that baptize me and so I try to claim possession of mood-mnemonic masters
The cool continuity to these poems makes me ponder why the poet chose to present them without titles and in a varied font.
Like one of the characters he lyrically depicts, Penton uses “ethics for fuel,” from, “They don’t tell you she sets herself on fire” and his unique “moral compass” to intriguingly explores personal standards of objective Sadiddy. If Penton’s distinctly American voice is that of someone who lives closer to nature, while maintaining a sophisticated vision, Erik Le Prade’s poetry immediately reflects the dense complexities of urbania.
A decidedly New York City poet, Erik La Prade, manages to replicate the riff and rhythm of quotidian metropolitan life. Ironic echoes of the New York school resound throughout this volume, with poems like “Remembering Delmore Schwartz” dedicated to the troubled poet’s second wife, novelist Elizabeth Pollett “Late Breakfast at the Bonbonniere.” details, “A trendy greasy spoon in the West Village / Crowded with old time regulars and hipsters.” La Prade bemoans the missing memorial plaque at W. H. Auden’s house, “Auden Lived Upstairs” with imagery detailing a tourist’s homage to view the plaque, “the white outline that stains the red bricks / So he photographs the wall.” The poet trolls thrift stores for treasures and discovers,
“A survival tool from a culture / I know nothing about….”
From “Malaysian Fishing Basket.”
And thus, an exotic artifact becomes a practical laundry basket.
The six part poem “Bio-Regionalism” begins with the very real lament of an endangered bohemian’s survival in an increasingly overpriced city...