Knuckle Sandwiches. Wayne F. Burke. BareBackPress. Hamilton, Ontario. 2016.
Today's book of poetry had the real pleasure of checking out Wayne F. Burke's Dickhead (BareBackPress, 2015) back in January of this year. You can read that blog here: http://michaeldennispoet.blogspot.ca/2016/01/dickhead-wayne-f-burke-bareback-press.html
Apparently Burke liked what I had to say enough that he quoted Today's book of poetry for one of his blurbs for Knuckle Sandwhiches, good on him.
Saw a video yesterday of an aging but still impressive Buzz Aldrin punch a man in the mouth, this man had been hounding Aldrin unrelentingly and saying the most vile and untruthful things. Although Today's book of poetry believes that violence is never the answer we couldn't resist chuckling as the moon walking octogenarian set the man and his jaw straight.
Reading Wayne F. Burke's Knuckle Sandwhiches leaves a similar smirk on our entertained mug.
I woke and poked
my little brother
and he followed me
down to the living room
piled neck-high with presents
like the cave of Ali Baba
and then Gramp's voice
boomed "get back in those beds!"
and we crept back up
like condemned prisoners
to await a pardon
from Grandma who
gave us the okay
but said not to open gifts
until Uncle Al got up,
but he never did;
"must have celebrated too much"
we dug in,
tore the paper
I got the black figure skates
I'd asked for
plus a book of Shakespeare's plays
from my sister
which I never read
I did not know Shakespeare
Burke writes in such a straight forward line you could rule a page with it. The laconic characters that walk through his world and these poems hurt where we hurt, dirge the same damned dreams as the rest of us. Fail frequently.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, outside
The Mug & Muffin Restaurant
a guy wearing a pork pie hat was
singing "Sixteen Tons"
for spare change
as another guy
over by the newspaper kiosk
poured gasoline from a can
over his head then asked passersby for a match
and some jackass gave him one
and some waitress screamed
and the guy with gasoline was
and as I moved ahead
against a tide of liberals
as if for life
a girl with terror-dazed eyes
ran into my chest,
and the guy,
pinned to the ground,
"I want my rights!"
setting himself on fire
It's not that Burke is entirely without hope but his pragmatic realism doesn't leave much room for resplendent happy endings.
This morning's read was chirpy affair. Instinctively, everyone rose before reading their poem. Milo, our head tech, ranged around the office like he was trying to escape a wasp's sting. Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, stood as rigid as a flag pole that nonsense would never run up. The poems cracked, snapped and generally blue-sparked about the room.
Burke's Kunckle Sandwhiches had everyone on edge, alert.
Trouble at the door of
a guy smiling like a
stands holding the door open
when I fail to say
or anything else
his happy face turns to
like the coffee served inside
and he snidely says
and all his happiness
the uncouth bowl
Knuckle Sandwhiches is exactly as advertised, a poetry punch in the head. Wayne F. Burke is totally unadorned and he doesn't care who knows it. His poems resonate with pure distilled precision, truth over tact.
Today's book of poetry sees Burke as a clear drink of water in a world that is murky as hell.
Wayne F. Burke
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Wayne F. Burke was born in Adams, Massachusetts and raised by his paternal grandparents. As a boy he was an All-Star baseball player, and in High School an All Class-A football player. He attended the University of Massachusetts—where he was a member of the freshman football team—and three other institutions of higher learning before graduating from Goddard College in 1979. His work history includes stints as bartender, moving man, cook, machine shop operator, sign painter, substitute school teacher, carpenter, truck driver, book reviewer (for the Burlington Free Press newspaper, Burlington, Vermont), and, for the past four years, LPN in a nursing home. His stories, essays, reviews, and poems have appeared in numerous publications. He has two other collections of poetry, published by BareBackPress: Words that Burn (2013), and Dickhead (2015).
The word genius is bandied about far too freely, and most geniuses are not recognized as such in their life time. With that being said I am not the least bit hesitant to claiming Burke's poetic genius and I hope it is recognized in his lifetime.
- Matthew J. Hall, Screaming With Brevity
...a monster among us, a dangerous beast...reads like the best of Bukowski. Dead serious, no nonsense and if feels absolutely true. Burke swaggers through with such confidence you could almost resent his elan.
- Michael Dennis, Today's book of poetry
NO ONE ELSE is writing poems like this, rooted in the read world, and with such a powerful voice.
- Howard Frank Moser, Stranger in the Kingdom
...paradoxical twists, wordplay, subtle associations and darkly fun atmosphere. (Burke) is an earthy pragmatist with a surreal inner life...an insomniac dreamer.
- Ada Fetters, The Commonline Journal
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