Monday, April 04, 2011

No small crimes

Let's begin before the beginning. Here's a bit of Reed Farrel Coleman's introduction to The Lineup 4: Poems on Crime:
"I’ve heard it said many times by veterans of war, by cops, firemen, surgeons, that they never felt more alive than when death was close at hand. Humans are never more human or less human than when mortality is on the line. ... When viewed through that prism, the marriage of crime and poetry makes perfect sense. Poetry has its roots in heightened emotion, in crystal clarity. Poetry has always been about life’s lines and edges, the tensions between love and hate, ugliness and beauty, exaltation and despair. The poet’s job has always been to focus the laser, to distill, to sharpen, to filter and translate for the rest of us."
The poet focuses the laser. Makes sense, doesn't it? Joseph Brodsky once said as much. Americans too busy to read poetry? Nonsense, he replied (if I recall correctly); poetry, packing so much truth into so few words, is perfect for today's busy reader.

Poetry is efficient; poetry gets to what's important, and it gets there fast. Maybe that's why The Lineup's poems feel intimate, like David Goodis' non-heroes huddled in lonely Philadelphia cellars. Here's John Stickney's "Creation":

Make me a long coat of a dark cigarette color
Make the cities dark
No one will notice I am ash
Make me a dark fist
Clenched and subtly bitten
Watching the village’s one prostitute show a vast
Though never sentimental
See what I mean?

No one saves the world in these poems, no one takes over an entire town, knocks over a bank, terrorizes a city, or slaughters a classroom full of students. That would be too easy; that stuff is for the newspapers. These poems are about small crimes or about the quiet, intimate moments before and after big ones. Or rather, they remind us that for those most intimately involved — victims, perpetrators, survivors, a son who prays for vengeance on the man who mugged his father — any crime can radically alter the world. There are no small crimes.
The Lineup 4, edited by Gerald So, Reed Farrel Coleman, Sarah Cortes and Richie Narvaez, is available from Poetic Justice Press.

Gerald has asked members of the crime-fiction community to write about The Lineup each day in April, National Poetry Month in the United States (and Canada). Kevin Burton Smith, Bill Crider and Patti Abbott were up before me. Here's the full month's schedule.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Wow! It must be wonderful to get a daily write-up on every mystery site on the web.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the warm-hearted whore is still a cliche, right?

April 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thus doxie no more so than Ettie in The Murdoch Mysteries yes. But I have a feeling we are to imagine this one coming to a bad end.

April 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., a book of poetry is ideal for promotion of this kind, isn't it? The guest reviewers are flattered to be asked for their opinions, and all they have to is write about one poem. Yet each review mentions the entire collection. It's an efficient and clever way to spread the word, I'd say.

April 04, 2011  

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