Tag Archives: poetry book

The Sky is Black and Blue Like a Battered Child – Ben Arzate

benarzate_poetry

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:
http://dripdropdripdropdripdrop.blogspot.com/

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“SideQuests” Is Now Available As a PDF Download

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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)

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