Thursday, November 4, 2010

Steven Marty Grant's "Another Hotel Room"

I “met” Steven Marty Grant in the hallways of One Stop Poetry, which hosts a poetry carnival every Wednesday, and then on Twitter. I liked his poetry – and liked it a lot. So I ordered Another Hotel Room: Selected Poems 1988-2008 (no need to do a disclaimer for the FTC; no one gave it to me for review).

The volume is divided into three sections: poems from “The Road Suite” (1997) which appear mostly about Minneapolis; selected poems from 1998 to 2008; and “A Year in New York” (2007-2008). Grant currently lives and works in New York, and many of his current poems are about life in the city.

His poems are city-tough and road-warrior-conditioned, with language as gritty and rough as you’ll find in a city street . You can sense the metallic taste and smells and feel the city seep under your fingernails and work its way into your pores. You read these poems, and you know you’re never truly free of the city, and you don’t want to be.

The title poem, “Another Hotel Room,” is as urban-charged as anything I’ve read, containing both alienation and the embrace of alienation:

Four and half months on the road
and loneliness finally caught me.
Stole into my room,
sat at the foot of my bed
and shook me from a fitful sleep.
Her cold stethoscope touch
pulled what remained of my self respect
out through my chest into the night air.
When the panic wore off
I fell back to sleep at peace,
comforted that at least she
would never leave me.

Similar themes are found through the poems, whether they be about lost relationships, tourism, communication or reading the poems of Charles Bukowski. Consider this account of meeting a lost love, entitled “Pavlovian:”

It had been
six months
and the blue
in her eyes
still burned
brighter than June’s
mid-day-sky.

I had expected
the hunger
to be gone,
but when I saw her,
the bells
began to ring,
and I was
immediately
ravenous.

I longed
to satiate myself
in her arms,
to devour her,
drink in her soul
and gorge myself
on the radiance
of her smile.

But it doesn’t happen, of course; she will remain tantalizingly apart.

It is the New York poems that both reflect this urban pervasiveness and also manage to transcend it.
From the poem “Urbanality,” also the name of his blog site:

…I live in Manhattan so I haven’t seen a sunset
In three hundred & sixty five days, and birds here,
Well they’re just another pest to be controlled.
I never really liked to listen to sweet ballads
And there’s something pathetic about the blues.
I prefer the hard rocking sounds of Hindi profanity
Sung by cab drivers, the tune of droning car horns
And the distant wail of another siren’s song of ending…

In this poem, I hear Manhattan singing, I think. Grant has continued to write more “Manhattan poems” since the volume was published, and you can visit his blog and scroll down to read them. There are also two he recently posted, “Buon Compleano” and “Spanish Steps,” both about Rome, that are particularly fine.

I like Grant’s work. The poems speak from both experience and his current life in the city. He writes what he knows and what he feels, and so much of it is what any of us city-raised kids know and feel.

9 comments:

Michael said...

Thank you. I really liked what I read.

Jerry said...

Sounds good. I'll catch a cab over there as soon as I can.

M.L. Gallagher said...

I liked what I read too! Another book for my Wishlist!

Maureen said...

Excellent intro to Steven's work, Glynn. The noirish aspect of his poems and the sense isolation remind me of Edward Hopper paintings and Raymond Carver stories.

izzy said...

Loneliness , hunger, New York- Hmm, I
have written a piece or two on the latter
but have not yet zeroed in on the former
2. I think they come out in pieces, here and there- I'll put that in a pot to simmer ! Thanks-

katdish said...

Man! That's good stuff. Sort of reluctant to read more because it's so gritty, but I think I will anyway.

Thanks, Glynn.

Kathleen Overby said...

Tasting grit. Chickens need grit to digest their food don't you know? They have no teeth. I am encouraged to quit being one. A chicken writer.

n. davis rosback said...

i like him.

haisley said...

Thanks for sharing things about Grant...