After Words. Stan Rogal. Guernica Editions. Essential Poet Series 213. Toronto-Buffalo-Lancaster (U.K.). 2014.
after Merle Haggard
"I turned twenty-one in prison
doin' life without parole"
Strange. Stranger. Not Camus, though parallel
Arrested action. In any case, a bust with convention
a head on the block.
Nothing the French invented.
Workin' man blues, & so on. On the prowl.
Nose for news, & so on. Also on the prowl.
All so loosely translated, begins:
In the beginning was the word
"...actual linguistic behaviour or performance of individuals
in contrast to the linguistic system of a community..."
Momma barely dead & buried
Sparks a reefer, drinks a cafe au lait, goes for a swim
Fondles the butt'ry thighs of a moist young gal in the back row
of a darkened movie theatre
Fails to unriddle
The comedy of a crucifix hung like a dagger in the flick'ry light
& what was it someone said? Reading a translation
Is like fucking a bride through a horse blanket?
Nay, too rude a remark for Pablo who rarely (if ever) kissed
Down between the stems on paper or any otherwise public
Heaven knows momma tried, momma tried.
Now left to the blear and roar of ocean. Knows (as well)
The world is inarticulate, friend, & a recurrent car wreck.
Who learned to drink bourbon neat, tap ashes in the beer for
Can only reconfigure
If a single bullet does the trick
What boots this desire to plug further, except,
Funereal meats coldly furnish forth the execution.
Man in black sing:
Shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die
Time being out of joint axes it.
Crucifix hung like a dagger in the flick'ry light.
Any book of poetry with a poem dedicated to & written in the style of Merle Haggard is going to make some points here with Today's book of poetry.
The conceit that Rogal is playing with here in After Words is entirely complimentary. Stan Rogal mimics, in the most flattering way, the voices of a number of his heroes. After Words is a very enticing and elegant thank you of sorts. It also allows the Sybil in Rogal to come out.
Today's book of poetry has read earlier Stan Rogal titles such as Search of the Emerald City and The Imaginary Museum. We even have a copy of an issue of Stanzas #44 - mostly free/free life that features Rogal. After reading After Words TBOP will be on the hunt for other Rogal titles, as far as we can tell he has published at least twelve books of poetry.
after Charles Bukowski
"how many dead beasts float and walk from Wales to
there are those horses, those ones that boast a lineage,
that post as favourites, but finish dead last
no one questions
that stagger & drop at the wire in photo-ops of
& shit ampoules of PCP out the ass of their dying
while we murdered tear up our ticket stubs
no one is surprised
we check our programs, ask about the wife, the kids,
ogle the tarted-up bleached blonde
with the duck lips & silicone tits
pressed tight to a player wearing a wedding ring
& two fingers jammed up her quim
we scratch our bellies
& light our cigarettes for the next big fix
even as the twitching carcasses are dragged
to the local glue factory
no one is bothered
later, these brutes return to haunt
the glass of our beer mugs
they peer at us through eyes of warm exes
their noses daubed with angel dust
their horsey ears pricked with foam
their long faces bright with visions of
Eliot with his trousers rolled
Schopenhauer with his sufficient reason to exist
(beyond evil & loneliness, one guesses)
& what does it matter in the final dissolution?
snow fills the TV screens of America
& those horses, those ones with neither
a penny to spare nor a pot to piss in
kick up their ragged heels & shuffle off to Buffalo
we order more beer
no one gives a good flying fuck
cold in the knowledge
we recognize those faces
we know those glue factories
we are those horses
And Rogal is Bukowski. And apparently anyone else he sets his telepathic sights on. It pleases Today's book of poetry that Stan Rogal shares some of our same heroes/muses.
After Words and Rogal give us a brief introductory passage for each poem with biographical/bibliographical information along with why Rogal admires the subject.
Finding a Bukowski nod comes as no surprise - in my world everyone would give Buk a nod. Finding Judith Fitzgerald, a personal heroine here at Today's book of poetry, and local poetry hero rob mclennan (Ottawa poet and patron - no one has done more for poetry in Canada's capital), comes as a lovely literary surprise as they appear alongside Buk, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams and so on.
Today's book of poetry is tickled to have Stan Rogal/Merle Haggarded you, absolutely delighted to have Stan Rogal/Charles Bukowskitized you all, and now you will be Stan Rogal/Raymond Carvered.
Head Above Water (Barely)
after Raymond Carver
"So much water so close to home"
What greater confluence
not so much the undertow
as the sheer dead weight
life being (they say) too
long for poetry, too short
for prose, suffers it:
the mixed blessing of children
the piss-ass dog as well
that chews the crotches
out of the family clothes &
refuses to remain lost forever
the model wife unafraid to
bare a little tit now-&-again
or hike a skirt for sake of a
storied argument, the long
distant girlfriend whose creamy
thighs pine clamorous as the
swelled (as ever)
to fuck the socks off
O Paradise, O Eureka
O hungered bite of the big apple
that proves less than other worldly
the Karmic backwash of stiffing
hired help at the Howard Johnson's
the bankrupt mortgage
the job that promises three squares
a day but starves the soul
the beat Nash Rambler
with its rear wheels stuck spinning
deeper into the river's bed
the tipped kayak, the string of
empty booze cans & bottles
the butt ends of cigarettes
the general all 'round poor white
attitude amid the swirl
the entire kit & kaboodle an anchor
tangled in fishing line, string out
& knotted around kicked ankles
that bleed from the yank
mudsharks nosing his balls
rapids circling his neck
still alive (just) still breathing (barely)
the one who often mistook
diamonds for hearts & would
sudden drop tools, grab a bottle
drive 1200 drunken miles
Cupertino to Missoula
for a shot of real or imagined
strange piece of tail
no longer the Romantic notion
river rising, body sinking even as
the shadowy shape of some
prehistoric raptor long roosted
in the lungs is roused by the muddy
roil of tobacco smoke & gin
the aw shucks philosophic of it
mumbling: "Hey, gal!"
to the slipt ground that renders
a mean fact
madly paddling the churn above
while below, the eternal drag
nets little else save the invisible
human all too human
stings & terrors of egregious
Today's book of poetry loved the brilliant play of a card-shark-philosopher getting into the heads of all these cultural icons, and others. Rogal respectfully does them all proud.
photo: Jacquie Jacobs
ABOUT THE AUTHORStan Rogal was born in Vancouver and has resided in Toronto for 25 years. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies in Canada, the US and Europe, some in translation. He has published 19 books, including four novels, four story and 11 poetry collections. He is also a produced playwright and the artistic director of Bulletproof Theatre.
BLURBSIf it’s words you’re after, you'll find plenty of fine ones in Stan Rogal’s after words. But be warned: they’re not all pretty and the way they’re put together could be overpowering to the unprepared. I’m reminded of Lautréamont’s caveat in Maldoror, that the reader must become as fierce as what he’s reading or risk being annihilated by it: literature as obliterature. Not to suggest after words isn’t a nuanced work vibrant with wordplay, humour, musicality, atmosphere, and style. It’s that and more, but what impresses most is the vivid carnality of Rogal’s writing. Visceral, muscular, fleshly, and very much alive, this may be the strongest offering yet from the regal rogue of CanLit, the only poet who would unapologetically pay homage to Sylvia Plath and Humphrey Bogart in the same volume, and Albert Camus and Merle Haggard in the same poem.
- Steve Venright
Stan Rogal’s latest collection, after words, offers a series of scintillating poetic responses to authors and artists from the recent and distant past. Rogal’s sophisticated awareness of poetic possibilities gestures to what happens outside the conventions of language, tilting beyond words, while pursuing after words. Throughout these meta-poetic portrayals, Rogal’s autobiographical narrator inhabits the realms of literary and artistic precursors including Artaud, Atwood, Bogart, Burroughs, Calvino, Cohen, Eliot, Nin, and Shakespeare. A series of brilliant tours-de-force while providing an inspirational tour of the art of words.
- Karl Jirgens, Editor Rampike
- Karl Jirgens, Editor Rampike
Poet to Poet
A few minutes with Stan Rogal
video: Guernica Editions
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