cover image Power Ballads

Power Ballads

Garrett Caples. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $18 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-940696-36-2

Caples (Complications) fills his newest collection with musicality and pathos, anchoring his playful language with ardent longing. Just like great power ballads, these poems are maudlin yet still authentically moving. Most are either sparse, in stanzas no longer than four or five slim lines, or big blocks of prose punctuated and propelled by Caples’s brilliant rhythm and wordplay. He announces his love for this play with the first poem, “Avid Diva,” though he sportingly avoids extraneous trickery . For instance , his line “love instead noodles nile delta blues at 79 rpms. the rpgs of love explode at the antipodes of saint dope island and carnal canal” could take many pleasurable hours to unpack. Caples opens with a Bob Dylan epigraph, and his lyrical play evokes Tom Waits and other great late-20th-century troubadours, particularly in “Road Song for Juan & the Pines,” which finds the speaker listing the location and pursuits of his friends: “i’m in the mission/ with micah & patrick ... maia’s in chinatown/ erin’s chicagobound,” Caples writes, ending with the bluesy “& SHE still lives/ two blocks away/ and tears me up inside.” A love song to Oakland, to idols, and to love itself, Caples’s raucous, tender, and tuneful collection lives up to its title. (Sept.)