Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern. Kristofer Collins. Hyacinth Girl Press. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 2017.
Today's book of poetry can flatter himself by thinking that perhaps it is because Kristofer Collins hits so close to our own poetry senses, but Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern comes roaring out of the gate fully formed and shooting from both hips. If these poems were dancers they'd be killers and the rest of us would have to clear the floor.
Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern runs a little warmer than most. Whatever the cause, we were some pleased.
Our friend Pistol dropped by early this morning and I had to leave him untended in my office for a few moments. Instead of having him ransack my desk, as he does, given half a chance, I left him with Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern and told him I'd want a book report. Pistol still isn't house-broken but he does have skills and I respect his judgment in some areas. He doesn't write poetry but he is a fine painter and when he gives an opinion it is a considered one.
All of that to say that Today's book of poetry think we got the Pistol seal of approval for Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern. Collins is much like our associate Pistol, good sense of humour, good sense of timing and not much concerned with propriety.
Can't say anything about Mr. Collins because we've never met but when we say Pistol has a sense of timing we mean he knows when to throw a pass. As far as clocks go, and being on time, Pistol is from another planet. He showed up at the office this morning for a meeting we were to have yesterday.
Today's book of poetry is quite sure Kristofer Collins can burn.
This Is Work
Like chipping away at the world's first
glacier with your tiny black ax; or
collecting canines from all the mouths
of all the beasts who chased their meat
across the dusty African veldt; or stacking
plate after dirty plate in your family's
first apartment until the ceiling buckles
and the stars finally take notice; or harder
still, writing one true thing.
Pistol's assessment was that he thought Collins wrote somewhat like Today's book of poetry. I don't see it, this kid is quicker, cleaner, tighter, leaner. But I do like the way he swaggers down a page.
These poems are simple but not simplistic. They brim with real life just the way we live it, real love just the way we lose it, a real world. Kristofer Collins has his eyes open.
A Belated Pœm For My Wife's 30th Birthday
O Christ how I want to write a poem without sputtering
in defeat only eight lines deep like some asthmatic jackhammer.
Surely it's lovely somewhere still
and isn't that remarkable enough?
Are these days unworthy of mention simply because they feel so similar?
When I say last Monday it's clear I could also mean Tuesday three months ago.
If I didn't have to pay the water bill I wouldn't know the 25th had come and gone.
But we will always have your birthday to set our watches by.
And I know Five Easy Pieces is 98 minutes long
and The 400 Blows is 99.
And somewhere in all that time unspooling a life can be lived.
That last time we sat together and talked in a movie theater,
as couples came and went around us,
you said you would come to where I worked just to look at me,
to watch me move and talk to people I appeared to know,
and sometimes act stand-offish or cruel.
You thought you could love a man like that.
And never before have you wanted to call a stranger sweetheart more.
But time passes and here we are.
And what's strange is we used to sleep in different beds in different houses.
And isn't this worth the effort of commemoration?
Isn't this worth all the time we have remaining?
Here in the dark quietly together.
Our morning read was a dam-buster of a thing. Everyone on our staff caught the Collins vibe and we ripped through Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern as though we were evangelists who had just seen the light. These poems roll off of the tongue so easily because they feel so read and true.
Just like Banjo Patterson had his hero say, Mr. Collins, "you're welcome at my fire anytime."
Today's book of poetry loved the tempo and loved the feeling every time Kristofer Collins stepped on the gas and revved Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern up.
At the track
the serious gamblers
lug fat binders
full of stats
& equine genealogies,
over spiked coffee
about sires & photo finishes
now distant in time
while I'm equipped
with a half-eaten bag of Cheetos,
the nub of a pencil
liberated from the public library,
and the absolute certainty
any horse named
after Elvis Presley
is a sure thing.
Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern is the first chapbook Today's book of poetry has seen from Pittsburgh's Hyacinth Girl Press. Today's book of poetry is here to tell you that Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern is the best thing to come out of Pittsburgh since Sid last raised the cup.
It's also worth nothing that Salsa Night at Hilo Town Tavern is a very snappy dresser, Today's book of poetry loved the design, the funky end papers and snazzy cover, and the orange pinking-sheared ribbon binding. It is all an over-the-top success.
(and if this is not Mr. Collins, Today's book of poetry
apologizes. A conversation will be held with our
ABOUT THE AUTHORKristofer Collins lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife Dr. Anna Johnson and their three cats.