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Roller Coaster Kid

From the Preface by Eve Merriam


Barry Wallenstein has a felicitous metaphor in Roller Coaster Kid. To be sure, it is the title of the narrative poem that opens the book, but there is more to it than just that. The world of roller coasters and the world of poetry share a great deal. Entering a poem is not unlike embarking on a roller coaster ride. There is the same shivering anticipation combined with hesitancy (should I plunge in? Will it really be an experience I want?), and then the bold setting forth—at last, hooray….”


The poem, like the roller coaster, offers pleasure, the supreme delight of fooling around with language—playing with and playing on words, as Barry Wallenstein does here…. And like a wonderful unexpected free ride, he includes conversational notes on his poems, notes that allow us to go behind the scenes, that help us to comprehend the poems with added understanding, but best of all, that enable us to enjoy the poems more fully.


NY, T.Y. Crowell, 1982

The City Rat

The rat frightens even

the rails underground

at 59th and Lex.


No one wants to see it,

yet its speed

its hurry out of sight

chills the spine.


Close up, dead or alive,

the smell will stop your breath.


Poor rat, so ugly,

so full of evil promises,

if fools sing your praises,

I’m one

and want to know where have you been

and where are you going.

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