I have often said that I don’t like reading poetry books. That is, books filled with poetry. Specifically books filled with poetry by a single poet. It can be a tedious, terrifying and sometimes traumatic event. The problem with most books of poetry by a single writer is with the poems. A few are great, many are good and far too many just suck out loud. SUCK OUT LOUD. This is true of the lofty academics on the high nosed presses to the self-published heroes in backwater USA. It happens, all too often but it happens.
Life goes on.
A few days ago I received a book in the mail from Travis Blair. To be perfectly forthright and honest, I have known of and admired Blair’s writing for several years. But it’s always in pieces. One post here, another there; in other words, not a collection. Blair’s Train to Chihuahua and other poems of Mexico is a revelation. Poem after poem of stark raving madness, sweet tenderness, the taste of the Mexican ghetto, the smell of ocean, the sounds of life, love and amazing adventure.
Blair’s narrative style serves him extremely well. There is a great deal of style and craft but it does not overwhelm with its poeticness. Blair is a poet from the school of street level semantics, been-there done-that realities, and a simple emotion that rings absolutely honest.
When I got the book I didn’t think I would actually read it, at least not immediately. Keep in mind my theme of I don’t like books of poetry. But the title grabbed me and I thumbed through and landed on Jesus, John the Baptist & Janis Joplin. In my own world I have been known to latch on to a quasi-religious theme, but this poem is so beyond what I am capable of, what many are capable of and it rings true throughout. An epic tale of discovery, transition, and eventual lose of innocence, this poem encapsulates the Blair adventure through Mexico.
I first met Jesus in ‘63
when I was a wide-eyed teen
hanging out in Mexico
with tinsel town movie stars
doing my thing on the jungled set
Tennessee’s Night of the Iguana
The poem transitions from various epochs of life, from the exploration of the 60s to the exploitation of the 70s and the realization only old age can offer.
I offer only this thin slice because it represents the poem and the book. There is much more to discover. This is a travel through the Mexico of the Beats, the Revolutionaries, the Artists of Mexico City, and the Beaches along the Sea of Cortez. This is a motherfucker that will kick your ass.
…and just to keep me honest
every once in a while
I write a poem about Jesus.
If only I could write a poem about Jesus that Travis Blair can write, then I’d be on to something.
Available on Old Seventy Press, $ 12.95 107p