Available in Paperback here
and eBook (pdf) here
Skytrain to Nowhere is an imagination driven and esoteric volume of free-form poetry. The book documents the author’s experiences, thoughts and observations while riding the skytrain at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport over the period of several weeks. Since the skytrain is only designed to transport travelers between various terminals and parking facilities at the airport, someone spending nearly 50 hours riding it purely for recreation and artistic inspirational purposes is highly unusual (to put it mildly.) Aside from occasional quirky anecdotes about various passengers, the poems mostly deal with themes of motion, the passage of time, and nostalgia. The author grapples with these issues from a retro-futurist perspective. Skytrain to Nowhere celebrates the realization that our vitality hinges on our ability to always keep moving, while recognizing we are unwilling or unable to leave some things behind on the journey.
Purchase Skytrain to Nowhere on Amazon.
For those that might be unfamiliar, Ben Arzate is well known in certain circles as a prolific reviewer of alternative literature and edgy political books. In fact, he may be the most prolific indie book reviewer in contemporary times. Yet, he manages to find the time between readings to author some lit of his own, such as his recent poetry chapbook, the sky is black and blue like a battered child.
At only 25 pages (with some poems only making up a fraction of a page,) it is a true chapbook. Though brief, the book somehow manages to retain enough fullness to pass as a complete work. As a minimalist, I appreciate this in a way others may not. It’s always a good sign though when a poetry book leaves you wanting more, which is the case here. Despite the mildly disturbing title, there is nothing particularly offensive in the book’s contents, save for a couple of lines (you’ll know them when you see them.) If there are observable themes in this work, they would seem to be loneliness, regret and despair…peppered with a touch of apathy.
I found it interesting that in several places, analog “tv static” (also known as white noise and famously depicted in the film Poltergeist) is referred to as being something desirable to watch (though it is unclear whether the author approves.) I can relate to this in that I used to love watching TV static. There is something very calming about it. In fact, back when I used to work in Cubesville, there was a youtube video that simply played 10 hours of tv static, which I would blast into my headphones to drown out the sound of my chubby co-workers making disgusting noises as they gobbled up the unhealthy snacks provided to keep them happy, well-fed and productive cubefarm animals.
From the poem, good night day dreams:
the radio plays mozart
the tv plays static
while she sits on her bed
and reads flowers in the attic
That’s actually my favorite line from the book and sounds like my kind of afternoon.
Arzate frequently makes use of unconventional structuring in his poems, the sort of which would annoy reactionaries and traditionalists in the lit world. Being that I can’t stand those types of people, I perversely enjoyed these deviations all the more. Some poems consist merely of a single sentence, phrased as a question. There is also a poem titled “Reflection Text” in which all of the writing is reversed, requiring a mirror to read unless you’re one of the doppelgangers in Journey to the Far Side of the Sun. Another poem I relate to in this collection is Brad, which briefly chronicles a person receiving wrong number phone calls from a woman and being disappointed when the calls stop coming. There are lonely points in a man’s life (particularly a reclusive writer or artist’s life) when human contact is so minimal that even the slightest, superficially pathetic “romantic” interaction or empty fantasy can be gratifying.
the sky is black and blue like a battered child very much reminds me of 90s zine poetry, both in tone and style. It has a pre-internet quality to it that’s difficult to put into words, but one which someone my age will instantly pick up on. Even though Ben Arzate appears to be about ten years younger than me and firmly within the millennial demographic, this strikes me as a precociously Generation X book. Arzate’s refreshingly not trying to save the world, fight social injustice or do much of anything here. Still, the sky is black and blue like a battered child succeeds in punching above its slim weight.
For more info:
the sky is black and blue like a battered child on Amazon
Ben Arzate’s blog:
By Brandon Adamson
132 pages, Copyright 2008
Publisher: Wasteland Press (PDF Download)
That’s right! Just $2.50!
Written by one of a generation raised on “choose your own adventures,” Sidequests is one person’s chosen adventures, a somewhat oxymoronic search for mutual understanding in the confounding world of our time. Though nonlinear in theory, Sidequests is actually more along the lines of a loosely linear hodgepodge of poetry and philosophy, one which vaguely explores the ever blurring line separating man and machine, reality from dreams, past, present, future tenses, the world above, the great beyond, and various random things in between. A nostalgic piece of pop culture analysis, heavily influenced by 70′s sci-fi, and which contains a plethora of vastly obscure references, Sidequests is a book written for escapists by an escapist artist, a fugitive from one’s generation, fleeing to the sanctuary of an overactive imagination. The author, a self described “bard out of time” somehow finds enough with which he (among other things):
-ponders the struggles of what to do with one’s life once redemption appears highly unlikely
-attempts to reconcile race relations through the “Return to the Planet of the Apes” cartoon series
-manages to intertwine states’ rights politics with the classic 8-bit Nintendo game, “North And South”
-periodically delves into romance, misogyny, and love affairs with humidity. -introduces a new line of cologne called “Despair”
-makes the case for considering the remote possibility of intelligent design (while not openly advocating it)
-pontificates on the ambiance of illegal immigration and overpopulation -includes a passionate commentary on how The Monkees are “better” than The Beatles.
-Uses hamster science experiments as an analogy for long distance relationships.
-fantasizes of being able to time travel and live out the remainder of his life in the mod days of the sunset strip in 1966 Los Angeles.
-claims to deeply identify with “The Pink Panther” (the cartoon version)
“I was a gull once
way back then
way back when
and if I hadn’t
much to do now
I’d be that again.”
-Keith Gunderson from “A Continual Interest in the Sun and Sea”
Looking around at all the neat stuff today that goes
unappreciated, while the most uninteresting and uninspiring
works get hailed as genius and trumpeted from every orifice of society….I often seek out obscure older books, records and films curious as to what classics may have unjustly went largely unnoticed in another time.
While at Bard’s Books with Ace one day, a book caught my eye called “A Continual Interest in the Sun and Sea” by Keith Gunderson, 1971. It’s a collection of untitled poems(the author hints it is really just one long poem) which as you might ascertain from the title, all relate to the experience of the sea in some way. They aren’t all about being on a boat in the ocean of course. Some relate to romantic beach adventures, the cheap amusement park atmosphere on the Santa Monica Pier, taking baths, gazing out at the stars, or merely the sea as somewhat abstract idea.
The author manages to capture the ambiance of the sea perfectly. I read this book in the bathtub in Phoenix, summer 2011… but I might as well have been sailing out of Marina Del Rey in 1965. If you have the slightest bit of imagination at your disposal, and harbor an escapist’s longing for the wonders of the sea, this book can really take you there.
25 cent photos while you wait.
I’m pleased to say also, that the author, Keith Gunderson is still alive and well teaching philosophy at the University of Minnesota, and more importantly still writing. His bio on the back of the book says that he taught philosophy at UCLA from 1964-67. With his young family he spent a good deal of time exploring the oceanic environs of southern California, picnicking by Zuma Beach or wandering around the Santa Monica Pier absorbing its circus variety of sights and sounds. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! He also apparently wrote a follow up called “Inland Missing the Sea” which appeared together with it in a later version.
[Edit: Since this review was published in 2011, Keith Gunderson passed away in 2013 at the age of 78. RIP]
Brandon Adamson is the author of “Beatnik Fascism“
The Beginning of the End of All That is Good
By Brandon Adamson
When I was a child,
things in life would be good for a long while,
and then it would end(my goodness!)
As a young teenager,
things would end just as they were getting good,
or so my feeble mind wagered at the time.
In my young adulthood,
things tended to end as I thought
they were about to begin to get good.
Amidst the present tensions,
good things seem to end even before they begin
leaving little time to wonder
what might have been.
In the future then,
all things will begin to end.
Beyond Redemption by Brandon Adamson
“The Longest Road is the Road to Redemption”, read the
caption of a car advertisement that caught my eye
as I was flipping through the pages of an airline magazine
while flying high at one of the low points in my life.
It really runs true.
Often times the road to redemption, with time and experience,
gets longer, lonelier, and more difficult to navigate
than it ever was in the beginning.
Like the cell of a little white lie that divides and multiplies,
the path back off the beaten,
leads to ever more and more complicated math.
While in the process of attempting to redeem yourself, you end up
creating seemingly even more reasons to redeem, as you make the next
mistakes in trying to redeem yourself for past mistakes, and must then
redeem yourself for failure to redeem yourself for failing to redeem
for trying and failing miserably in the first place!
Make no mistake, it’s
like a mechanic who breaks something while trying to fix
something that he broke while trying to fix something
and so on, the road goes on and on,
until it’s just a bridge too far and you feel like giving up
enough to make you dizzy, enough to make a man off and jump.
When you’re beyond redemption,
it seems the only redemption is beyond.
From a first kiss to a lost cause,
you find yourself trapped,
caught in your own private episode of the twilight zone.
The story of redemption is the story that always works,
but hardly ever does.
The road to my own redemption
for failures and past mistakes
is indeed a long one, so wish for me safety in this unpleasant journey.
The veracity of a tenacity,
an ability to stubbornly persist and foolishly proceed
in the face of futility, but really,
absolving myself of all the guilt of the self absorbing,
amidst the broken bits of machinery
behold, an eye still gleaming,
perhaps the only redeeming quality(if any).
From my 2008 Book, SideQuests
Brandon Adamson is the author of “Beatnik Fascism“
Flight From The Senses by Brandon Adamson
Putting on the invisible disguise
in an effort to evade untimely demise
it’s off to navigate the maze of the skies
without a wingman, minus a stewardess,
and the crash lessons of the last
as the only guide,
such is the flight experience on the airline of the times.
turbulence from the moment you lift off the ground
from the up up uppity ups to the dipstick dippity downs-
could someone please turn this plane around?
and head back toward those now distant,
but you fear that they no longer exist.
Consulting once again the trusty oracle,
peering into your past, going back even one minute!
always reveals an inexperienced pilot..
talking to yourself on the captain’s radio
from the cockpit of despair “away we go!”
with the empty air of being alone,
the fare you pay to fly on your own.