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Poetry Book Review:

Pistol Whipped

by Eric David Lough

pistol whippedEric David Lough is back, but he's not any better. His second book Pistol Whipped, like Lassoed With A Decorative Tongue, is both a blessing and a curse, but I think the blessings may be fewer and the curses slightly increased too.

I do like the cover of Pistol Whipped. It speaks volumes to Lough's surrealist post-Beatnik style of Postmodernism. You'll find him somewhere between Charles Bukowksi and one of the many Buk imitations. You should know that I like Buk, but garage poets come and go. Eric David Lough's conversational iconoclasm is somewhat like Kim Addonizio with a penis - no matter how much fun it is, you're always aware it's in the wrong place.

Pistol Whipped is full of surprises. You'll find some of Lough's characteristic eccentricities, but in much lighter doses and not as pronounced as in his first collection. There are some good poems, but none of them rise above mediocrity while on the page.

Lough sent me a Spoken Word CD of him reading poems from both collections and it wasn't until I heard his voice that some of the poems really spoke to me. The one exception is "The Open Range", which is reprinted below. The drawback to the CD is there are no titles on the tracks - in fact, it's all one track - and he doesn't read the poems in any order so it's difficult to follow along in the books if you want to. That's a minor drawback. A more important one is that Lough's voice doesn't have much of a tone range and so opportunities are missed to be more dramatic, though he does use inflection well and the articulation is clear. I don't know if he includes the CD when you buy the book. I'm guessing not.

One of Lough's strengths is his ability to craft a title. Here's a partial list of poem titles from Pistol Whipped: This is just a smattering of the 52 poems in Pistol Whipped, which might actually contain too many garrulities to stop short of the point of diminishing returns. The best poem in the book, and this is confirmed by Lough's reading of it on the CD, is "The Open Range,":
Colorado has been
27 bad romance novels
42 detective short stories
and I believe J.D. Salinger is
haunting the streets of Broadway
just like all mid-west states
it is filled with mystery and
all the telephone poles
resemble the crucifixion
the metal cranks pump
the land of its blood and the heat
gives a blur over the open range
I am in constant battle with the
demons of this town
It's a strange dream
I spend most of my time
walking around sticking
lost feathers in the ground for
undeniable luck
there is definitely a story here
I just haven't quite grasped it yet
the homeless cling to your feet
like you're the son of god
begging you to heal them and
rid them of their pain
what about my pain?
(that's the fight among the fallen)
Sometimes I feel like I'm a chess game
that's been played for eons
and the pieces haven't been moved
but I'm alive
and spilling blood
I just wish I had more time
60 to 90 years is not enough.
Pistol Whipped doesn't get any better than that, and that's a sad testament to Lough's underdeveloped talent. I appreciate the poet's contrarian point of view, though not everyone will. He likes using "fuck" a lot, sometimes when it adds little to the context of a poem except as a branding element. It's near gratuitious use will turn some readers off as will other sexually explicit language, including the names of body parts.

Eric David Lough has a knack for packaging his product well, but he needs to spend more time working out the bugs. While Pistol Whipped isn't exactly a train wreck, it's no party either. Fans of Bukowksi and Addonizio may love it, but if you think imaginary dalliances with the devil should be a punishable crime then you won't like Pistol Whipped. Put another way, if you voted for Sarah Palin you'll want to burn the book; if you laugh at Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin then you'll burn in your loins as you read it. If truth in art is a double-edged sword then Pistol Whipped is its scabbard.

Order your copy of

Pistol Whipped
by Eric David Lough


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