Sunday, September 27, 2009


Words to remember: Read Rock 'n Roll Dreams and Other Poems by Bob Lawrence. Read it now. Read it often. Read it to other people. Ask people to read it to you. If you have a chance, listen to Bob reading his poetry. It’s powerful stuff. It reminds us what poetry can be. It’s not fiction. It’s not film. It’s certainly not TV. It’s poetry, and we’re lucky poets like Bob still see their work as important.

Many of the poems in this chapbook are story poems. In "Synchronicity and Metonymy," he weaves together the story of his mother's death with an account of his own early years living in Chicago. It begins with the father, a piano tuner and accomplished musician, playing a piece and finally getting it right.

He feels relief and accomplishment,
like one who has pushed, pushed, pushed, pushed
on a tire wrench until the lug nut finally

The father goes into the one air conditioned room in the small Long Island house to tell his wife and discovers she has died. Her skin is already cool to the touch. He calls his niece and tells her what happened and then asks, What do I do now? The scene shifts to Chicago where Bob hates his job but loves riding his bike to work:

The path slips beneath my wheels
fluidly as last night’s rain;
the warm air rushes over me
like a benediction

On this particular day he races a stranger:

Like horses racing neck and neck.
we reach the section of the path
across from Buckingham Fountain
From here till McCormick Place
It’s all straightaway, baby!

At work, the usual hum drum is interrupted by a phone call:

"Hello, Bob." My father?!
"I’ve got some bad news:
Your mother died today."

Back home for the funeral, Bob watches his dad wandering through the house like a lost dog. The old man turns on the TV set but television cannot fill in the hollows that take shape in every room. The last passage is this:

and he does something I have
never seen him do: he weeps.

Bob could have told this many ways, but for my money, this is the best. A short narrative poem keeps it all in our head. We can see the father’s work, his wife, his son and the final anguish.

In another story poem Bob talks about rats:

Is this Chicago?
Or the fucking Congo?
Rats do not get that big
in the civilized world.

He also uses the poetry form to write arguments. There’s a lot out there that needs correcting, and Bob finds poetry the best way to point this out and make suggestions. In "The Pledge," he attacks the phrase one nation under god:

What do these words mean? . . .
What’s more, the phrase under God
was meant to distinguish U.S.
from atheistic U.S.S.R.
But if God is up above in skyblue,
the Commies are under God too.

After pointing out the obvious stupidities and inconsistencies, he makes a simple suggestion:

Let us not use
muddled phraseology
to push monotheist theology.

In "Rock 'n Roll Dreams," he speaks out for the old music:

I have a message
for the young blades in the audience.
Who are you to look askance at me!
You lurid latecomers!

He builds the early on the music he loves:

my veins have blazed
with great balls of fire
love potion number nine
and alligator wine.

From there he takes us to his nightmare:

I advised Buddy Holly:
air travel -- safest way to go,
especially in winter

It ends with a final fantasy:

And the young blades will cheer
Instead of jeer, and I’ll be
dancing on the moon.

In other poems, like his Haiku, Bob adheres to strict rules. Here’s one of my favorites:

The ridge of snow
Hanging from the garage roof
Just dropped

There’s a lot more to read in Bob’s chapbook. Four of my favorites are "Superman Gone Wild," "Two Cheers for Long Poems," "Surrealistic Pudding," and "The Wooden Blackbird." The quality is high. You sense his deep interest in the poem. He feels convinced that he has something to say. It’s a confidence I find contagious.

He even has some "One letter Poems":




This last one is worth remembering because it is true and if you need reminding, R.
. . .
DR. ROBERT BOONE, author and educator, named a "Chicagoan of the Year" by Chicago Magazine in 2002 for founding Young Chicago Authors, a nonprofit creative writing organization. He was recently invited for breakfast at the White House. For more information on Bob Boone, check out his website:

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