reviewed by Tom Hartman

Published in Issue No. 46 ~ March, 2001

In addition to asking that contributors opt for “constructive angst” over “sappy love poems,” Bulk Head editor Curtis M. Meyer states a preference for poems that can be understood “on the first read.” He further cautions us to “Use simile and metaphor [only if] there is absolutely no other way of putting the poem’s situation into the reader’s mind.” “Try everything else first,” Meyer writes in his guidelines, “then reluctantly use metaphor and simile.”

Not surprisingly, in light of this prescription, Bulk Head serves up two basic entrées: narrative verse written in English that cats and dogs can understand, and would-be imagism. Of the latter, Greg Kosmicki’s “Sitting Here in the Kitchen” is the most irredeemably prosaic:

The windows are open.
The cars go past
repeating themselves–thacketa thacketa.
Where can all these people be going?

It is near midnight.
I fall asleep waiting.
I am awakened by the sound of crickets.

As for the narrative verse, some of the entries here might rate as competent prose. Others, like the meandering, pseudo-Post-Beat confessional “Fantasies About My Tatoo Artist, Part Two: Desire,” by Leslie Bentley, merely underscore that crafting an honest-to-goodness poem means quite a bit more than inserting line breaks:

one day i stop in to check on the drawings of
my latest tattoo design
a lot of big men around with good and not-so-good
decisions decorate their bulky arms &
slick chests
drinking beer smoking and nodding my way
i feel good here: albeit the ill proportioned and biologically
tits and ass drawings plastered on the walls,
every day of my life i’ve been an object you get used to it
so anyway
i grew up in a place like this and few other subcultures
would so unconditionally give you the time of day
defend your honor with the courage of an arthurian knight
he is there among this pack of wolves
discussing his art with a potential customer
i cannot help but openly admire the way he
takes that slow drag off his cigarette – holds it – lets it out:
cigarette held far up between the first and second fingers
like a real man blue work shirt sleeves rolled up partway levis
bearing chained-in wallet with skull & crossbones:
a manifesto against the tyranny of greed
shirt partway open at the chest and i found his smell
in among the rest of the dogs and breathed it in deeply…
i left the shop without a word:
my breath stolen by the ache of desire
i masturbate to heal and lick my wounds: his hands are there.

In addition to such fare as Bentley’s – and like so many other home-cooked ‘zines – Bulk Head also contains the obligatory Duane Locke poem. A truly fine poet whose work walks a narrow ledge between “leaping” poetry ala Robert Bly and Amy Lowell imagism, Locke has nonetheless taken to submitting his work indiscriminately to all sorts of ‘zines, from embarrassing dilettante-run affairs to accomplished, established publications. (Locke’s work also has appeared of late in such print venues as Poetry and American Poetry Review). Usually, Locke’s contributions shine gemlike amidst the rubble of hobby-hour verse; sadly, with “The Wind” he hasn’t blessed Bulk Head with one of his more memorable efforts.

On the good news front, Editor Meyer promises more found photographs along the lines of the current cover image: a sixties-ish b&w of sturdy, rosy-cheeked, Middle-American children huddled around a snowman.

Unfortunately, it will take more than just a few kitschy snapshots to make Bulk Head worth visiting.

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Tom Hartman has been a regular contributor to Pif since 1999. He lives in Philadelphia.