Waifs and Strays

Micah Ballard. City Lights (Consortium, dist.), $13.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-0-87286-544-0
Though raised in Baton Rouge, La., Ballard now seems energetically tied to San Francisco, since his offhand intensities, fiercely casual stance, quick free verse, and colloquial mysticism draw so frequently on two great sources of Bay Area poetics, the prophetic concentration of Robert Duncan and the extroversion of the beats. Often he builds bridges from a bohemian life in this world to greatness in the next. “Pools of Olympia” (which may refer to Greek gods or to hard liquor, or to both) imagines “smashed glass gutter core/ exact proportions darkly mingled... the highest farewell between heaven and earth.” Ballard explains in a longer poem how “Alive/ in being gone/ I seek what you have not/ & dilate my margins/ to form a heaven/ underground.” Ballard updates his sources with hip-hop and indie-rock references (Guided by Voices, Morrissey), presenting his own inner quests as ambivalent models: “what some find as flaws/ I claim as divine rites/ do not try to follow me/ it’s up to you to stake out/ your own fortress.” Ballard (Parish Krewes) comes by his beat heritage personally, having studied with, and then worked alongside, David Meltzer. Followers of Meltzer’s lineage, or of beat writing in general, may find him not just engaging but irreplaceable. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/15/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
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