Hawaiian Shirts in the Electric Chair: By Scott Laudati, 116 pgs. By Ashley

May 07, 2015

Perhaps it is because I don’t live in New York, perhaps it is because I’ve never been on a coke binge, perhaps it’s because I am a woman but I simply could not relate to Laudati’s poetry.He does not sing the body electric but rather passively bemoans his failed encounters with the opposite sex. He does not measure his life out in coffee spoons but rather in lines of coke. The word choice is sparse and to-the-point.

Structurally, the poetry is naught more than run on sentences broken into separate lines with no apparent rhyme or reason. A good friend of mine once told me that poetry must be read aloud. This treatment did little to improve the experience. The narrator in nearly every poem seems to long for, to ache for, and to crave the attention of the women around him while simultaneously and equally despising them. For example within the poem Mick and Keith pt 1, the narrator proclaims “I hated gallery openings / there / were usually a few / girls, sure, / but they were / “artists / waiting / for inspiration,” belittling any ghost of an identity these women may have had and again reducing them to lusty experience, stating later “the girls brought / the cocaine / and they lay / on their / backs / pretty easy.”

Admittedly, though, it may be difficult for an individual to respect others when they lack self-respect themselves, which is confessed in the lines: “but I kissed her anyway / because / I’m easy.” I am unsure if the misogynistic undertones throughout the collection were unintentional or simply my interpretation, but I could not ignore them; the women represented are nothing more than purveyors of sex and pain and trouble.

As much as it may want to be, it is not Bukowski, it is not Beat poetry. There is no social commentary with enough substance to stick nor any true insight to the “underground” culture alluded to multiple times to be worthwhile. Instead, what I found was one horny motherfucker dripping with desperation. –Ashley Ravelo (kuboapress.wordpress.com)

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