Howls From The Underground - An Anthology. (A Compendium).


When the Canadian writer Tony Nesca invited me to submit some penscript irritations of mine to an anthology he was earnestly putting together, it was a proposition that I was ever likely to turn down. He is the scripter of more than a dozen voluptuary titles spanning twenty years. He is among my most favorite contemporary authors, simply because of his verse anarchy and word dissidence. He has the testicular minerals to thread an exhaustive sentence without accretion. His expositions (and his scruples) hearken to a beady period in mid-twentieth century literature when Hubert Selby Jr. Charles Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson and Louis-Ferdinand Celine wrote sempiternal masterpieces; when Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke and William S. Burroughs were incendiary guerillas known as the Beat Generation. Tony Nesca is, what I would call, a prose percussionist. His musicality has not deviated far from the pen pot now that he has replaced the strum with a quill. The ictus of his sentences bequeaths an earthy cadence that braids his storytelling. His extemporaneous tenor is both lucid and lexical. His taut and roiling descriptions characterize the bombination of the sibilant street and the lamenting city. A faint but simmering baseline disports itself in the bohemian vale, amid the pneumatic drillings and the fragmentary discord of denizens, whose pensive chimes are as portent as a leper’s bell. This faint, simmering brooding lingers on, till the book’s ending or when the reader stops. In these shriving times, it is refreshing to read the works of a dogged, unmodulated but protean author who is unencumbered in expression, unsubdued by style, unlike the chinless desiderata that currently hold sway in the theater of the absurd, which we hope to occupy. But we must remain steadfast to our principles, though it could mean endless purgatory and recessive penury. We, who are of a deep-rooted tradition of learning and letters, write simply because we must, simply. A niagara of success d’estime would, of course, be welcomed and embraced by our schools of thought and introspection. It is our desire to erect a sacramental stall in the Market Square of Ideas. And if you, dear reader, remain in doubt about Nesca or, more to the point, his work, forensic ruminations into husky book titles such as Emma Strunk, Jukebox MusicJunkyard Lucy, Vodka Orange Sunday and Last Stop To Saskatoon serve as heuristic exemplars of his transgressive back catalog. I consider the novella About A Girl to be his magnus opus

So I accepted his invitation. Saying yes beckoned me into a millefeuille of intemperate authors and artists, scribes and poets, who do not stray into conventional genres. They came (to quote author Scott Laudati) from under the smog of New York City, the West Texas taquieras, the upper sands of Lake Michigan and the green cliffs of Kent… (and, in my case, the town of Leyton by the Lea River). Most of these artists were unknown to me previously. Nesca deserves praise for herding us cats together. We were scattered in the quintessential dust across two continents, separated by an eternal ocean, rising and sleeping in multiple time zones. The anthology was collated and published in a relatively short period of time. All of us were apportioned an equal number of pages to spew our guts. I have since read Howls From The Underground thrice. Any book worth reading ought to be read three times. The first reading was a brisk absorption along the Appian Way, on back-and-forth Greater Anglia train rides from rambunctious London to fair Witham. The second was a delightful encounter over two nectarous bottles of valpolicella and three delicious Guantanamera’s in the garden before the October sun. The third, and the most concentrated effort, were without the above pleasures. Carte Noir coffee and a notebook were my only companions. I stayed up all night with it. I was accompanied by the beating wind. I tugged more slowly at the book’s riptide contents. When I had finished, Dawn was being charioted sadly across the firmament by her flighty horses, Lampos and Phaethon. Her tears ostensibly dropped from the sky and dampened my notations. She was still mourning her unyieldingly decrepit consort Tithonos. But I did not pity her. I wanted the sun to come up.

Once the sun had risen, I had already decided to write a compendium, save my own virulent contribution. Perlustrating examinations of authors is a parlous task that I don’t readily shy from. I have a foremost obligation to my own writing integrity, of which there can be no compromise. I am a pugilist democrat, a homme serieux, if I may say so myself. I interpret things in a manner that may offend the sons of Adam, daughters of Eve. I would rather be defamatory by accident than to be declamatory on purpose. A writer can often unintentionally wound those that she loves by a few blotchings of ink. Her parents and offspring may give her no quarter for marking a naked disclosure. Her friends and colleagues may part with her for her indiscretion. Her husband might not forgive her freebooting. (And I may not be invited to partake in an anthology ever again). A similitude for a writer of this kind could be a Stuwwelpeter or Edward Scissorhands type, who is inordinately skilled at topiaries and hair trimming, but wounds and cuts by chance, leading to calumny and accusations of casuistry. Imposing contraindications in art and expression pinions the transcendence of the free-thinking, free-wielding author. He becomes a bore and a shill. She lacks credibility and conviction. My thrice reading of Howls From The Underground allayed any contention for my part on its free-wheeling suppositions. The book is a quarry of incendiary stories and pungent verses. Furthermore, I should hasten to add that I have neither favor nor gain from any of the contributing authors, if I were to say anything agreeable about their work. I am too disagreeable for that. If my essays were removed from it, the anthology would not have suffered. It was exceedingly well put together. We had, collectively, done well. Tony Nesca had handpicked well.

Drew Alexander Ennis’ efflorescent artwork throughout the book is both madeleine and fetching. His sketching in minatory ink typesets a Brechtian-like print that rendered me moonstruck before the witching hour. I stared at the curvatures that his belabored brushstrokes undertook as he embellished his creations. The portrait that grabbled me most was the one that immediately followed my chapter – a man seated by a desk with a notepad and pencil. His left hand clasped the left side of his face. The fingers of his right hand pressed against his chin. Behind him, others are seated; their countenances unseen. His own arresting countenance is beleaguered. His disposition is riddled with angst. I looked upon him as myself in a previous phase, when the hours were harsh and friendless. It did not quite, thankfully, incite the gothic terrors that caused Peter O’Toole’s character General Tanz from the 1967 film Night Of The Generals to tremor uncontrollably when he stared at Vincent Van Gogh self-portrait known as Vincent In Flames. Van Gogh, it was said, sketched this painting whilst he was an asylum inmate. I nicknamed Ennis’ piece Ali In Flames because of its momenti mori affectations. Only Ptah can objectively sub-vocalize the source of his fiber-optic impulses for such illustration and design. If he were to produce a kunstleerroman, I’d be intrigued to read it. But flick through the anthology. One can belabor Ennis’ sibylline delineations between each chapter for moments on end, and at a canter, if you will.

The anthology begins with the outthrust of Nicole Nesca. Her books are often charged with contravening overtones. The eclecticism of her pen strays from convention and comfort zones. It was as if Shakespeare’s Hamlet had Nicole in mind when he said The lady shall speak her mind freely or the blank verse will halt for it. She hails from Youngstown, Ohio. She has published half-a-dozen or so tumultuous books. Incidentally, Tony Nesca, the prose percussionist, is her husband. She sets the bar high for the rest of her cohorts to hurdle. Her opening poesy … And The Music Swells is a salient awakening to the anthology’s Rabelaisian theme. Mooncalf and Rat’s Nest Rant are staccato versed. The Artist is of the distilled reality of the ignoble artisan, who is at the tender mercies of exponential forces that govern her from within and from without. You forgot to pray for the angels and they turned away from you. So you cut and pasted your own wings. Feather by feather, you created those wax less wings and aimed for the burning sun. Most careers do, however, end with an Icarian dive into the sea. Their demises do not mark as deterrents for the next host of artisans. By all means, they should not do so. It still remains possible to saddle the burning sun. The Artist adroitly aims for Helios. Anoche is a marcelle-waved short story brimming with afferent endeavor. It is resplendently homespun. Drunk and beautiful, she laughs and cries in a single sound. The Corybant, in this jazzy narrative, is a lambent flame, engrossed with her ritual chores amidst the habitual revelry. Pride, baby, pride. This is sublime reading for the initiated. Hemorrhaged is one of the standout pieces in the entire collection. It is solemnly and scrupulously written. Every sentence is laden with weltschmerz but hastens with vigor. The gravitas of this story, of a woman in the aftermath of an hysterectomy, bleeding in the midst of a shower, and then being rushed to hospital, exerts itself forward as if it were written on a Dodge Tomahawk, pages flapping in violation of the wind. Nicole Nesta writes without a motorbike helmet whilst driving down a declivity. She writes without abatement, without beseeches, without brakes.   

Scott Laudati, an author from New Jersey, was previously unknown to me. One comes to know an author by the way he blandishes his words. He devises some of the most mercurial passages in the book. What says I love you like our noses sharing a dollar bill is emblematic of his wit. I want to build a library with you is a cerebral way of of saying I want to marry you and father your babies. For aren’t libraries built to last? Verily, the oldest libraries outlast the longest marriages. These verses of plentiful charisma are plucked from his marvelously calibrated love story Take The Path For Cocaine And PLATH. The protagonist contemplates stealing a puppy in a dog park for his love. This was after he had purchased cocaine for their noses and before he purchased two books The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway and an unnamed title by Sylvia Plath for their prospective library. The latter choice of the heart may have exerted a second chance for this most enterprising of suitors.

Laudati’s contributions are not without the fain forays into the forelands of our times, and the hecatombs of yesteryear. The twin sanguinary decades of our century pulsate through his kalam. In Baby Boomers (False Flags) and Fish Tank, world events marinate in the backdrop. His quotidian avocations meander with stainless verse. History’s bated breath still seethes in the smoke of previous battlefields, which have induced little rumination from the mob in these preposterous times. God and Country are still being importuned. That is all that matters: Put your hand to your heart and thank God for Wal-mart. Is that Him out there? No. It’s another talking point to get your kids on their knees so when your head rolls into their laps, your sacrifice will have some meaning, and you won’t look like the other fools of history, who died for nothing. (Baby Boomers; False Flags).

Laudati’s neoteric writing is crisp and deliciously cogitating. I recited his prosody in a mezzo mezzo incantation to my darling child, who delightfully chorused these free verses between his elfin chuckles. Leave Me Alone recalls the glutted foreboding of the girdled night worker on shift. We see the earnest Orestes with a slug of Freud. The glutted foreboding I observed from my former life as a security officer played out through the prism of this idiom: The city is finally yours. Just a faraway hum of an ambulance. No taxi horns. No one is left to ask anything of you. One soul, laden with tyrannical melancholy, watches over a slumbering city. Putting The Art To The K-mart is an evocation of The Wonder Years. When we were young, rocks were the thing to throw. It taught me a lot about glass. An audacious arts indulgence, culminating in paint, urine, semen, cigarette butts, the use of mushrooms and more broken glass, ends with prison or jail for its creatives, and the inevitable firing of their avant-garde arts teacher. Thereafter, we spent the rest of the year, gluing pasta together. We were all safe after that but none of us went on to make something anybody would ever stop and look at. Better safe than sorry is one of the structural apothegms of our wet educational system.

GH Neale, author of the novels Archipelago, Arriba and Argonautica, offers a sacrilegious amuse-bouche titled En La Plaza Mayor. It is a vivid and irreverent piece. The author’s preciosity to detail raptures the reader into the palpitating sights and smells of Spain’s capital city. Neale has assembled an unsavory menagerie on vacation in Madrid. They stumble upon the Plaza Mayor. Signor Ali Spagnola asserts himself as an exemplary host. Neale teases the reader with a voracious menu, which is wasted upon three vulgarians and a lady: Arthur, of the quinine mouth and uncouth manners; Jackie, his insipid, acquiescent wife; Attis, Arthur’s frothy and flaccid disciple. His wife, (the lady) Amalia who is with child. It is quite a spectacle. This food is to die for, a veritable vernissage lectisternium, a banquet for the gods, exclaims Attis to which Arthur replies I’d rather eat shit than to eat this food. But he engorges the food anyway, eating himself further into ugliness. My sympathies abide with Amalia. She partakes of the food whilst giving due consideration to her unborn. She ends up vomiting over her dress, though I’d wished she’d throw up over Arthur so that he could trot home for any early bath. Or even upon her husband for being a moist dick. Americans guffaw crudely at the scene. I was rather fond of the endearing British who took residence at the Marigold Hotel, rather less of the philistine Americans seated here at the Plaza Mayor. Nevertheless, GH Neale is a writer of incredible depth and precision. His able storytelling is analogous to the amaranthine books from the days of yore. 

Ted Prokash follows on Neale’s heels with a juddering offering The Letter. The taxonomy of his work is difficult to categorize. His storytelling hedged me from my seat because, having begun innocuously enough – Dimitri spewing his rage into a peremptory letter to the one he loves – until he is pursued and coarsely murdered by two men, one of whom is the brother of Dimitri’s heart. In the course of his interrogation before he is butchered, we learn that Dimitri had severed his penis and sent to his heart, Katerina. We can deduce that he is a sick man, but not sick in the conventional sense. In order to ascertain his bereaved mind, we need study the contents of his final letter. He bemoans the bellwethers and the beguilers that steer society into conformism. His vehemence is directed at the hypocrisy of these armchair academics and social scientists that pretend to care for the so-called lower classes. Just observe one of these people, he writes, in a restaurant or tavern. One of these upstanding, good citizens. Will they be bothered to give one kind word or a show of deference to the poor servant girl who brings them their coffee? Bah!! They will order her around like the mean, petty bourgeois scum that they are! All their talk about lifting up the lower classes is just pandering. Glib condescension serving to uphold a false sense of propriety… It is interesting to note that the (poor servant) girl who brings him his coffee (laden with a shot of whiskey no less) is terrified of him, despite his polite efforts to allay her anxiety. In the letter he adds: What could be more indicative of one’s regard for the state of our species than the forfeiture of the incarnate tool of life’s impetus – the very flesh tool of procreation itself?!

Dimitri had asked Katerina to post his letter on the door of the church, somewhat in the manner of Martin Luther at Castle Church, Wittenburg, as a warning to all who enter into the halls of academia and the shadowy corridors of government. Let it stand as a warning against the forfeiture of personal courage in the name of group acceptance. The letter is not destined to reach Katerina. It is extinguished after him. His murderers read the letter before they consume it to ashes. They consider it ironic that Dimitri is part of the retroussé he despises. They harbor the same contempt for those in governance. That’s the problem in this country. We’ve no shortage of gentleman of letters. One can walk into any barbershop and hear a grandiloquent. But when it comes to do the hard work of governance…

Prokash is an absorbing author of rousing stories and astounding books. His works are ameliorated by on what Arthur Miller called the politics of the soul. He writes with a carefree panache that can only be liberating for the uncontrived creative, who is a disciple of the gyre and of the proclivities of the tellurian kind. He interlaces the hubris that resides in the flophouse of the human heart. As a result, his characters are expansive. I would recommend you read his 2016 doughty novel The Brothers Connolly, a tale of three brothers, of differing age, temperance and fortune. Timeworn themes of blood feuds, the coming-of-age and Paradise lost are reborn and replenished in the small town of Nasewaupee, Wisconsin. The Letter, itself, is not dissimilar to allusive works like it. It is amorphous in scope. It is easy to ascribe these brutal stories to the east of the former Iron Curtain. In today’s world, Dimitri’s derogations and murder could occur under the gaze of the Eiffel Tower or beneath the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Whether it be east or west, our freedoms are being assailed, from the right and from the left. It is that prevalence of mindful thought that makes Prokash an important read. May his books be exalted upon all bookshelves in our times!

Laura Kerr’s opening paean pines for a remote prelapsarian age, when the world felt like a better place. My Apple Tree is marked in the dainty voice of a child. I knew when to reach my arms up high, mimicking the branches. Balanced on tiptoes, I was the apple tree, waiting to touch the sky… My mother was the fairy who cut an apple in half and gave a star to me. Her verses are supple and tender. She provides an enema for the incunabulum. This salience is often deaf to the adult mind. But it burns with refulgence in Kerr’s palms. The Dreamer exhibits the same appeal. The child sees gargoyles and boogeymen in the darkness of her room, conjured from sinuous contours made by clothesline and blankets. Who can remember having these jitters at bedtime? That I should dream tonight like a child who doesn’t understand. I can’t remember him, my boogeyman. Similar peturbations are reflected in My Ghost. Kerr’s broodings here are subtly conveyed in deliberate, multifaceted verse.

In The End is a funereal vignette to what was an electrical object of some kind – a once-prized television set perhaps – dislocated on a rubbish tip. I am split screen greens and scarlet line rockets, upright on my reinforced skyscraper legs. This dexterous piece is laden with allegory. This once valued commodity is being rummaged by allsorts, man, beast and machinery. Man: Lifting my battery-box torso arched against electron guns and phosphorescent socket tunes, for the moonlight technician plays a thumping circuit. One can envisage the beasts of the air pecking and flying off with detritus bits of metal and cable: I am a loveless seagull hut. Funny how ludicrous my seagull hut is… I feel feathers landing on my lap. And finally her Rage against the Machines: Bulldozer hands gather them up. I am the queen of the deflecting electron heap. I am God. I am garbage. I am not a pile of wreckage dressed for night groans. The night groans can be heard on the landfill site. Garbage trucks and refuse lorries return with more roughage. But she could never have foreseen this ending, even at the very end. I am not a pile of wreckage dressed for night groans, she says, mournfully.

Ode To Him is a stark dirge about a hoarder, who goes up in flame with all of his obsessions. On My Body speaks to the journey of the etherized noesis, metamorphosed in ink, onto an almanac or paper by the poet’s hand. The oeuvres of Kerr’s work are wellsprings into the abstract. I’ve read some of her acrostics elsewhere. She has been decorated with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her contribution to art. Few possess that dual quality of painting words and imagery. Few mortals find obverse favor from Saraswati.

I was enthralled by all three of Chrissi Sepe’s charming fables. Beers And Sunlight tells of a peculiar but not uncommon relationship. Micah has forsaken all ambition. She has moved in with a feral pulchritude named Ray. She met him in a park while employed as a dog walker. She is besotted with his indefinable charm. She becomes his espouser. He is less of a lover, more of a companion. She makes love to him but only in her dreams. He sees no purpose in penetration, though he yields to her just the one time. She watches him sleep and yearns for his affection, though she is careful not to bother him for it. She listens to his music. When he awakes, they watch television. They bathe together. They do little else. Meanwhile, Ray is desiccating in the shadow of his true love, Jim, who has abandoned him but still pays the rent. They look like the archetypal couple to others, and perhaps they are. They just get by, drifting effortlessly, daily, in a symbiotic union... Long after Beers And Sunlight had ended, I was left to wonder at their misalliance. Ray’s feelings for Micah are conspicuous enough. However, he does not love her enough to free her. The little he does is enough to keep her put. And when he is seemingly giving her a choice to leave so that she may proceed with her life, he, in effect, is telling her to stay. Micah, listen. You can do whatever you want. It’s up to you. If you need to leave, then do it. I’ll understand. But I really wish you would stay. And she does. He knows his power.

I’m Sexy AF is of an ostentatious internet model mired in the merry hell of Instagram, which acts as a placebo … Vanity of vanities. All is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 1:2). She flaunts her young body before her friend’s flashing camera. She claims she does not need the emotional reinforcement of her fans, but nevertheless keeps a keen eye on their number. Neither is she much bothered about the conjecture she receives from voyeurs and the like. The manifestation of her soul sickness is laid bare here: If anything, it (Instagram) turns the voices off. The voices that tell me that I’m worthless… That’s why I love Instagram. It turns those voices right off. Even if only for a little while. 

One can presume that her malady would exponentially increase once the inevitable senescent tide sets in. She is neither Dorian Gray nor Peter Pan but she is bound to their ravenous appetites. As her age rises, so will the volume of those voices. As her pulchritude abates, so will her purblind reality. She and Greta are a sybaritic pair, amongst a generation of reflexive neurotics. Seppe, in this understated story, has captured the inner and outer trappings of this tawdry social media phenomenon.

May Instagram be extirpated in our days! 

We Love To Watch Zee Cockroaches is of an eccentric couple, Karina and Tomas, who claim to bore easily, are bored easily but they love cockroaches. They play host to Denny and the narrator. Seppe has created a pair of anomalous characters, and they are conveyed very well in this short story, accents, actions et al. This kooky drollery rolled out well over its five or so pages. I wished it were longer. It would have been interesting to have read on Karina and Tomas’ itinerant through Europe. But that is a matter for the author. It is not for me to suggest what a scrivener should be doing with her time. Characters are Seppe’s redoubtable strength. In fact, it is easy to show empathy for them because they are demonstrably human, whether bizarre or broken. In life and literature, it is kooks, misfits, quaints and freaks that generate thought and ideas, and are behind the wheel of every civilization adorned by Man.

Stephen Moran’s chapter contains the most transgressive reads in the anthology. His chthonic fable A Parable filled me with ethereal awe. It is a tale of the unexpected. It relates the story of a woman named Mary, who falls upon a rakish stranger tied to a tree. She had taken a detour onto a country boulevard from the highway. Her car stops, seemingly of its own desire. The stranger is a confluence of corporeal angst and carnal misgivings. Despite his ebbed intimations about freeing him, she does so anyway. He immediately falls upon and rapes her. After she wakes from her ordeal, he is standing over her with a thick branch in his hands.

I gave you freedom and pleasure, she cried…

I know. (He replies).

Who are you? She asked.

Jesus Harold Christ! I exclaim to myself on a packed train!

Moran, by legerdemain and hook, had inverted the greatest story ever told. His Jesus had obviated from agnus dei lamb to fulminant wolf. He had argued that his state was necessary and natural. She was responsible for his entrapment, at least vicariously. But she had unwittingly refused his sacrifice and freed him from his bonds. This ectoplasm from heaven was now bound from sin, just like any wanton beast, and to partake in ignoble plunder. And so he forced himself upon her. She was his first temptation. And in spite of her name being Mary! Mother of God!!! Perhaps this was no son of Man. Was he a son of Earth? Perchance this was some demon or incubus from Hades, diabolically mocking as he diabolically does. And no marvel, says II Corinthians 11, verse 14-15, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. Incidentally, A Parable is also a stark inversion of the Parable Of The Good Samaritan. Mary would have fared better had she gone the way of the Priest and the Levite and crossed the street. For aiding the Nazarene had its diminishing returns and she had damned her soul.

Transitory, Moran’s other short tale, is of Scott Holden. He operates (and I use that word plaintively) in the throes of a careworn existence. Human affirmation is nondescript until it is made verifiable by a computer. If he is unknown to a computer, then he does not exist. Holden finds himself entangled in a Kafkaesque bureaucracy which subsequently breaks down his baseline power. He reports for work. The administrator consults her computer and claims he is not due for work. He is scheduled for work on the forthcoming Sunday. Returning home, he texts a co-worker who he socializes with. The co-worker responds I don’t know you. When he returns on the Sunday, the computer is consulted by a manager, Roger. You do not exist, he is told. After losing his truck, he returns to the establishment and enquires after Roger. He is told that there is nobody by that name present. Or he thinks that’s what he’s being told. He runs away screaming, seemingly having lost his mind.

The undercurrent of this story accentuates the oblique vulnerability and shabby reality of Holden in an incorrigible world. He lives in an exclusionary state, waking up to the day in the dead silence of his whiskey-induced sleep. This banal velocity, prefixed with implicit paranormal convulsions, mechanizes the madness and despair. And when he runs off at the end, into the darkness, one fears the absolute worst for him. Moran’s muscle-bound authorship is acutely layered, but it maybe that I have misunderstood A Parable and Transitory. These are not derivative interpretations. They came to my mind as I scoured his eldritch stories. Perhaps A Parable has nothing to do with the Nazarene born in Bethlehem. Perhaps Transitory has nothing to do with living in an existential hellscape. If I am wrong on one or both accounts, it was worth the gamble. 

CS Fuqua’s savoir-faire writing underscores the composite synthesis of human relations. His poetry explores the complex tapestries of our affiliations with friends, foes and fathers embedded by the passage of time. Sometimes, Fuqua’s verses are dithyrambic cloudbursts. On occasion, his sentences are terse and raging. These naturalistic but primal themes aren’t easy to convey, let alone converse. When a writer, such as he, makes surgical incisions close to the bone, the tissue would be undoubtedly bloody. It would, later, render scars upon the flesh. Which side of the wall have you fallen? Killers condemns us all. Or most of us, at the very least. The accidental killing of a lizard because the young girl happened to be frightened of it, and demanded I take care of it, and I did… The death of the creature haunts the narrator. He has a wedded conscious. Pray, give me respite. Absolution.

Ross is about the best buddy lost forever from an innocuous cause that metastasized through the years. Four decades and five years hath passed. He reaches out to his one-time friend. He asks for forgiveness, and an explanation of his wrongdoing. I hoped you’d stopped running or could’ve at least paused long enough for one of us to catch up. There is no answer. The bitterness has unabated. The feeling is unrequited. When one reaches down into his subaqueous past, he often finds there is nothing left for him.

Stop Me is, from my mind anyway, clearly about American President Donald J. Trump. Fuqua is unsparing of his critique of the fella in the White House with characteristic frankness. Oh, it’s a beautiful day. And people are smiling at me and I’m smiling at them because they’re okay, we’re okay, the whole world is okay because everybody’s white, or soon will be, and the same religion. Is America the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave? Or is it the home of the White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant and those who subscribe to WASP ideals? The victors of the current culture wars will determine the course.

Father & Son, For The Old Man, Gibson and Bloodline are of the existential Cold War virilism between the non-salient father and his unworldly son. The pseudo alpha male father is a Minotaur. His spendthrift hours are spent in taverns with ettins and ogres, and in whorehouses with two-bitted hags. The ogre does what the ogre can. (W.H Auden). He is violent, puerile and damned to perdition. The usurpation of his life’s promise, through his own acute recklessness, has hardwired his bitterness and psychopathy. This bitterness and psychopathy is visited upon his son with physical beatings and malicious putdowns. The son is supposed to be the antecedent of all loveliness and sweetness to his father, not a punch bag for his lugubrious shortcomings. The son’s rousing incantations through poetry is his pushback. It is his advocate.

In Father & Son, the son recalls the time when he did give a shit after being dealt different doses of cruelty during his childhood. If contact is part of some 12-step program to salvation, I forgive you. You can toddle into the great abyss, having pissed away your life to arrive at the end and mutter, ‘Praise Jesus. I love you son, and believe you’ve made hunky-dory with the universe. 

Gibson is the story of another father-son animosity that plays out over a timeless guitar. Bloodline is real powerful stuff. Dad is sick. He is poised to cross the River Styx. His obduracy remains. But the son has inherited the trait too. He’s sick, repeats the cousin. And then comes the poem’s closing line: Yes, I heard. I respond. And I wish the cousin well. His dad, we can conclude, is already dead to him.

Thom Young’s 1969 is a corporeal ballad about the cacophonous times of a nameless, rudderless, red-haired female, full of cum and mistakes. Written in a deterministic tone of voice, the poet’s outpouring of feelings are transportable over the years in polychromatic verse and melancholic description. She goes to holy hell and back. She’s neither here nor there. I put her on a plane to Texas. She was still married but not in a marriage. And when my angel arrived, it seemed she didn’t need a plane to fly. After sometime together, their affair does not working out and so he put her back on the plane, to the swamps and regret. Her own feelings are both elusive and dormant through these blank verses. We are guided by the poet’s affectations which, at the beginning are devoted and constant, and by the end, lurid and conflicting. Through him, we learn that she kills her husband over a fight about what color the new baby’s room should be. After she aborts the pregnancy, she travels to Hope, New Mexico where she met a shaman that told her to ingest the peyote to see god. After she dies, the narrator stood above her like a god. A kaleidoscopic stream of lyrics is initiated, recalling her sparky, spiky and spunky disposition. She’s a tease, a devil, a slut, a mother, a demon, an angel, a lost cause, a hope, a prisoner of her own heart, a time that once remained innocent, a run through the fields amongst the wildflowers, an acid trip in San Francisco in 1967, a stroll through death and a dance in the old ballroom by the docks…

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards. Hitherto, we look back at the many lives she’d lived, and the many people she’d been. The years, the decades, and a lifetime spent chasing each other; knowing it never could happen. Some things in life don’t end like the movies. An obvious truth, though seldom realized, even on life’s deathbed. 

The anthology’s embroidery is mediated, in the final analysis, by Tony Nesca himself. He produces simpatico narratives, ensuring a sturdy finish. His section begins with I Remember, a lush joie de vivre that casts him first as a thirty year old reminiscing on his fourteen year old self growing up in Northern Italy, and then as a fifty-three year old plodding on the cobblestones of life’s lackluster boulevard. The narrative crawls at a levelling pace, and in hallucinatory detail, as the chronicler seems to have consumed enough booze and drugs that could stun the average mule. I Remember is ravished by disembogued sentences, devoid of platitudinous wares. I’m looking at pockmarked ceiling sun bursting into the room like the face of God. The most unimaginative soul on earth would have small difficulty formulating that image. She’s smiling that pure sound of sunshine and dirty water. Nesca recognises the beauty in the chthonian. He awards it its due. Our lips meet for thousandth time and for the thousandth time ain’t nothing better. Wowzers!

My Melancholy Sunshine permeates with the plainsong acoustics of the urban street. Neon Crazy tap dances its extremities at an impetuous lope. The troubles of the laborious earth come to Timmy’s bar. He mourns the death of rock n roll, an entire way of life. Behold! We are now in the midst of a bite-sized, soundbite culture. His friend Bob complains of the addictions of girlfriend Tracy but Timmy soothes him with a tranquilizer, a whiskey. I think about murder and suicide but not really. This line is the essential point of this exposition. We give thought of murdering the cipher who brings us trouble. We think of murdering ourselves to free us from this vale of trouble. But do we have the courage? No one cries like we should… No one cries like they should. Empathy, concord and solidarity are in very short supply.

Lazy Afternoon is a racy no-hold barred poem with intended consequences. … I saw your love, baby, and I saw the rest. Your lips spouting golden orange, my love a slow-easy trickle down your leg. No interrogatories are required here! When The Rain Is Heavy And Wild is a plangent composition that rattles in cadence with the weather. Their gloom making it just right. The tumult from the heavens is as eloquent as the jamming of saxophones and pianos. Maybe God and man should form a band! Another one for me, Jack, you say in the wild of the moment. Indeed! Done We Wrong is an encapsulation of the world’s traumas and treasures in crisp, minimalistic couplets. A Short Story serves as the final act to the anthology. Descriptions of The Native Club are fevered and incandescent, like a literary Star Gate sequence from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, amidst the violent projection of verse anarchy and word dissidence. The nebula of lights and bedlam from a swath of ravers flares this acid trip into mindless ecstasy. Is this Pandemonium, capital city of Hell? Or rather, some Djoumbala joint in the City of Angels?  

Thus, the anthology closes on this exquisite high. Morning had broken, as it did on that very first morning. Dawn’s rosy fingers had already left the milky skies. And my remorseless fingers was already at it with my laptop, penning this piece that you have now just finishing reading.


‘Howls From The Underground: An Anthology’ is published by Screamin Skull Press. You can purchase a paperback copy by clicking on this link.

Ali Kinteh is the author of 'The Nepenthe Park Chronicles.' Please click the following Amazon link to get a copy.