Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Writing poetry, it would seem, is one of those things that every living, breathing, American thinks they can do, and do well. In reality, most cannot. While that statement is not intended to sound pompous or pretentious, it likely will be taken that way by some, and I am fully prepared to accept that. As the editor and publisher of a popular and successful literary review, I am privileged to read some very good work written by those who actually can and do capture the nuances of life in those small paragraphs or stanzas that we call poetry. One such individual is Los Angeles poet Mike Meraz. In his new book, Watching It Burn (Dog On A Chain Press) Mr. Meraz takes the reader on a journey through life’s hits and misses, navigating effortlessly through forty-one short, punchy, poems that should resonate deeply with even the most hardened reader among us.

In The Great Poets, Mr. Meraz channels Bukowski through a metaphor-free ode to hard working writers and the often demeaning submission process. On Viewing a Painting by Jackson Pollock accomplishes the rare feat of being both sympathetic to its subject matter, and free of the sort of trite, fluffy, language that is too often used to illustrate admiration. In fact, Meraz goes one step further here in describing Pollock’s art as effortless, while he himself effortlessly documents a poetic thank you to an artist and his work. This kind of successful juxtaposition is often missing in the work of less accomplished poets. Raw at 63 veers into some familiar territory, and any fan of the beats will surely appreciate straight ahead urban poetry, tempered with a tip of the hat to Ray Heinrich. Street-wise, haggard and damaged folk inhabit Meraz’s world yet, these broken souls become sympathetic creatures, rather than objects of scorn and revulsion, thanks to the author and his deft pen. One of the strongest pieces in this collection, The Life of a Writer, is quite atmospheric in both tone and temperament, weaving in and out of almost allegorical colorations to end as a simple, yet powerful metaphor.

Watching It Burn is a fine collection of contemporary writing that can stand proudly alongside anything produced by the small presses in our modern age. Anyone who appreciates the often overlooked and under-appreciated art form called poetry should check out Mike Meraz’s work for a gracious sampling of what modern day poetry can offer.

A.g. Synclair
The Montucky Review
6 March, 2012

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