The Idiom Magazine, as an entity, is the self-proclaimed “biggest underground literary magazine in the state of New Jersey.” Having traveled through the literary scene in New Jersey a bit, I find this statement quite true. This review is intended to bring to light the works and artists of The Idiom Magazine Anthology: Volume I and II (TIM).
Writing this review is a difficult process. First, it is of an anthology of the first two years of The Idiom Magazine, so trying to cram every detail from my 10 pages of notes into one review is difficult. Second, the book is stacked with 285 poems from 36 poets and of those poems, 121 (42%) of them are titled “untitled.” When referring to untitled works, the first line of the poem will be used along with the page number.
For a quick synopsis of TIM we can turn to the Mission Statement, which publisher and Editor Mark Brunetti includes in the front of each issue of the magazine. Brunetti claims that “Writing is an art…Because it’s an art it is meant to entertain…The problem some have with the written word is, it’s not as immediate as the other arts…The works within (The Idiom Magazine) are meant to be read once and immediately entertain…There may be bad grammar. They might not make any sense to you. But that’s when you move onto the next one….” This statement is nothing but entrapment. While yes, one could read each poem once and move on, that does not mean there is no literary value to the pieces within. Most of the writers of TIM are not under rated, because they are not rated at all. Brunetti lures in readers by taunting them to “read once” and be entertained; this strategy is incredibly smart in bringing incredibly high quality and accessible poetry and prose to readers of every level, and also introducing many who would not read poetry at all to this art form.
Some of the overall themes of TIM include strict social observation, holiness, oneness, Zen, truth, dichotomy, existential thoughts, the concept of time, love, parallel realities, the lashing out of political correctness, loneliness, capitalism, America, et al. Many of the works have wisps of Romanticism, Whitman, The Post Moderns, and the Beat generation. These poets are well read and their ideologies are well thought out. There is no “vanity” to these works; there is depth to almost every piece within.
Right from the bull pen, Brunetti lashes out at political correctness (PC) in his poem “Atheism.” He mocks the clockwork rituals that many do but don’t understand why. This animosity of PC also turns up in many other works. Tina Reed reports on society’s complete obsession with PC in “The Resiliency of Jellybeans.” In “Jellybeans”, Reed is hung up on the singular nature of “The Morning After Pill” when it is sold in an economy size. The irony of this, and perhaps her mocking of PC, is that she decides to report on how the product should be labeled “The Morning After Pills” and not even entertain the social-political question of why “The Morning After Pill” should even be sold in an economy pack. She ends with the overall statement that everything has consequences. On the subject of PC, we must evaluate Mike Noordzy’s works next…
Mike Noordzy cunningly delivers incredibly entertaining and satirical pieces, in the vain of dark humor, holding up a clear and slightly magnified mirror for society to peer back at its ugly self. He engages readers by directly looking into the literary camera, to peer back at them from the page. Noordzy breaks down all the barriers of PC to get his point across in a very “wake up” kind of fashion. In “Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder” Mike serves up some of the most insulting un-PC ideas available. In excerpts from “Grandmas Dead”, Noordzy again sheds a twisted light on the uncouth. He has the ability to take dark humor, make it darker and bring us to a place resembling midnight. In “Manhattan Hipster Faggots” Mike lashes out at those who are not comfortable in their own skin. Perhaps a twisted version of Harry Chapin’s song “There Only was one Choice”, Noordzy mocks the costumes the MHF would wear as apposed to Chapin’s less insulting observation where a folkie would “Use patches on his jacket and bleach to fade his jeans.” Noordzy again breaks down the PC barrier to get his point across in “Myspace,” where he brings up society’s view and to a certain regard reality. He shows us one of the many reasons modern America has a “Crucible” witch hunt mentality, which does not allow good natured people to smile at children or even give them a friendly pat on the back. This piece contrasts that of Brunetti’s in “Another Creepy Point for the Creepy List.”
Brunetti brings up an incredibly poignant social statement in “Another Creepy Point for the Creepy List.” In this piece, we are reminded or how we as a society have lost touch of the simple connections that mankind can have. We are buried by a Regan age, past-present “America’s Most Wanted”, fictional razor blade-in-an-apple society, which makes null and void three of the four words for love in the Greek language. It’s sad when a coach cannot hug their players, never-the-less give them a high five.
The ills of capitalism and the importance of following one’s own boon are subtle themes throughout TIM. Josh Ballard comes at the reader with a Grunge/post Grunge mentality in “Live”, best exemplified by Cobain’s line “Here we are now/entertain us.” Rooted with deep introspection, didactic observations, and the dichotomy of existence, “Live” is a true Post Modern Ecclesiastes which could be in a “new” New Testament, and Ballard observes “Money makes this sad thing turn (turn turn turn).” Brunetti also makes a similar connection in “Major Malfunction.” He bears himself by making the leap to write, following his own boon, seeing how computer programming only offered “Money making opportunities” and deciding to follow a path which would enrich his soul. Alicia Guaracino also charges the reader in her poem “Writer’s Burden” by making the veiled statement that if one is a writer, it is their job to write and in an untitled poem, by Brunetti on p197 he states “If you’re a writer and the object/of your affection can not be/described in words/maybe it’s time/that you find/a new occupation”, challenging the “excuse factory” type of person to perhaps act on their inabilities to produce. These themes of self and following of one’s own boon ring strong and loud in the works of Steve McNamara and Chris McIntyre (Co-Editor of TIM and host of Walking English website).
Steve McNamara and Chris McIntyre bring a fluid, lucid, true epic and Zen flow to TIM. These writers bring American writing and a Whitman-esque twist to TIM. McNamara and McIntyre are observers but also doers. They see and feel the universe constantly expanding and unfolding around them. By reading their writings, one can see they grasp the concept that time is not necessarily linear and there is also a quantum-holy oneness to everyone and everything. Both the Mc’s are severely tired of mediocrity and take that first step every day in their Hero’s Journeys. McNamara talks about time in his piece “fall in the amusement park.” He communicates some of the mediocrity that he is tired of, shows that time moves on and we all have to take that first step forward. McIntyre talks of another journey in “county line.” This piece perhaps reflects that we gain the most solace living in reflection of those “lingering kisses”, a journey to the county line, but always having to return from the outskirts. “County line” is like a metaphysical Mann Act where productivity and happiness do not coincide, like it is a crime to cross that boarder and we are always pulled back from the fringe into the inner workings to exist, but exist with a memory of that journey taken for those “lingering kisses.” McIntyre also hints at the journey in “50 Hours.” Two days and two hours of non-stop driving can lead to the peace of the Pacific, and a lingering thought could be: is it about the fast driving and exhilaration of the journey or the peace of the destination?
McNamara and McIntyre come at the readers time and time again with their existential situations/questions. They live in the moment because life is fleeting. Their work reflects these quotations from Ginsberg’s “Footnote to Howl”:
“Holy time in eternity holy eternity in time holy the/clocks in space holy the fourth dimension holy” and “The world is holy!…Everything is holy!”
To the Mc’s, time is in eternity and eternity is in time. They see the holiness of the world, in kicked up dust, parked cars, blankets, lovers, bridges, because to them everything is holy.
McIntyre comes at the reader with “the tall tales we tell.” In this poem McIntyre states that we all will grow up to the size of the cages that hold us. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chief Broom, a “small” man, big in stature, eventually grows to the size of his cage and at that moment, he frees McMurphy, throws a hydro-therapy apparatus through a window and then frees himself. There are so many ways one could interpret the lines in “the tall tales we tell.” One could see that no matter what we do on this earth, it won’t matter or we won’t recognize it in death or transcendence.
Between pages 164-168, McNamara delivers a series of high octane untitled poems. He ties together the past and present by charging Kerouac “where’d you while/through” and previously sets the stage with “I’ll be America/you be a naked lady.” This is a series of fully charged, road/Zen poems ending with the observations of how “the way this (an) old parked” with the universe unraveling around him (us).
Both McIntyre and McNamara are writers who need to be paid attention to. They get “it.” The same “it” that Dean and Sal were looking for. The reason they get “it” is because they are constantly looking for it and realize the “it” is not what is important: it’s what we learn on the journey.
Another core contributor of TIM is Erin Baird. On page 163 Baird comes at us with a series of three poems. She shows us her (our) infatuation with imperfection, celebrating the beauty in what some would call short comings or non-equanimity. Baird makes some excellent social statements concerning our current world view of needing the perfect everything and perhaps brings cohesive animation to Hootie’s “Cracked Rear View.” In Erin’s “Your Take on the Domestic Life” she bares her desire to “Bathe away/the DNA” that connects her to, presumably, her mother. The notion of bathing away the DNA closely parallels the metaphysical chords we adapt and must break between another’s heart Chakra. This poem delivers a wonderfully scientific way of expressing an emotional subject, a “break up” of sorts.
Tina Reed brings the reader a brutally honest cross section of what college life is really like in her poem “The Janitor.” In essence one can walk away with the feeling that all college is: pay your money, get your degree and move on un-enlightened. “The Janitor” brings up many of the same questions that Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance does.
Les Cammer and Gary Smith both bring up loss and love, in their own ways. Cammer on page 172 serves up a series of untitled soul bearing/nihilistic poems, showing the unity/broken unity between the masculine (the writer) and the feminine (the moon/lost lover?). Cammer delivers his thoughts in either symbolic metaphors or by reporting actuality; either way, these contributions are a raw bearing of soul and his pain. Smith also touches on loss in his prose piece “Wedding Ring.” He brings a harrowing story of metaphoric and actual loss. Full of dismemberment and the dissolving of relationships, the reader will never look at an orange slushy the same way again.
In a well written, punchy Haiku, Amanda Faith brings a blearing honesty, presumably describing a poetry reading, where she bares herself in the artistic sense at the Brighton Bar, in Long Branch, in the well crafted “Haiku from June.”
Co-editor Keith Baird contributes a wonderfully written piece of prose, “Beer Hall Tragedies.” This existential piece challenges the reader to observe yourself, see what you are really like. This two part series can speak to anyone on one level or another. The prose and fiction of Keith Baird should be put on the radar of works to pay attention to.
Other contributors to TIM include Kathy Polenberg (Author of I’m Your Field Trip), who always brings insightful and generally satirical works to TIM, and Christine Redman-Waldeyer (Author of Frame by Frame and one of Georgian Court University’s “Court of Honor” recipients), who brings a more academic and light hearted slant to TIM but is always enlightening.
Big kudos need to be extended to the staff of TIM. Brunetti, Baird and McIntyre for their literary contributions and also for the excellent job they did in editing this massive anthology. Neilson Worth must also be commended for the brilliant cover design, and all the other contributing artists. All the writers also must be saluted; this is one hell of an anthology.
This collection is a must have for poetry lovers, especially because it includes some of the best up and coming writers of this generation. Like a groundhog, TIM brings a refreshingly new group of writers from the underground to pop their heads out of their holes for a moment, and return back to the work they were put here to do. Until the next time this groundhog surfaces, it shall remain underground and outside of TIM; you are just going to have to find copies of the magazine to get your Phil.
The Idiom Magazine Anthology: Volume I and II, published by Piscataway House Publishing in November 2008 is available from Amazon.com or direct from The Idiom Poets at venues. Visit www.theidiommag.com for more information.
*** Throughout the review, I put the titles of poems in italics in order to separate quotations citing titles or works, and quotations citing examples from within the works (i.e. “county line” the title, and “lingering kisses” the words from the poem)
About the author:
John Petrolino is the author of two collections of poetry; Galleria and his forthcoming (Spring 2009) book Congo Lights. Petrolino’s poetry has been featured in The Idiom Magazine, Eviscerator Heaven, The Bradstock Journal, Write On!! Magazette, The Working Tools Magazine, The Storm Generation Magazine, The New Jersey Freemason, WestWard Quarterly, Exit 13 (forthcoming Spring/Summer 09 issue) and on poetryvlog.com, identitytheory.com and wordriot.org. John was also featured on the newly released World Spirit film Greenwich Village. John continues to work on his poetry and other works while aboard ship, traveling or at home. For more information about John, his work and contact information, be sure to visit him on the web at www.johnpetrolino.com