Thursday, November 4, 2010
Steven Marty Grant's "Another Hotel Room"
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
and the blue
in her eyes
brighter than June’s
I had expected
to be gone,
but when I saw her,
began to ring,
and I was
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.