"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 colorSee what I mean?
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
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.
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