Tony's World

Birch Book Press, 2009
 
Reviewed by 
D.H. Melhem
in Home Planet News

Barry Wallenstein’s dedication to poetry and to jazz    has been rendering   them an important service  for over 30 years. Whether in New York, London, Paris, Prague, Cape Town, or elsewhere in the world,  at these  performances  he  is usually accompanied by fine musicians. Interfacing of solo, the combination of poetry and music presents subtle blendings and contrasts that register in Tony’s World.

 

Wallenstein's  account  is  never  far  from jazz. The  44   pieces,   a   sequence  of mostly  one-page glimpses    into    Tony's life    and    thought,  are imaged  in  first and  third  person.  Sketching this

"21st  century  hipster,"  as  Marilyn Hacker  dubs him   in  her jacket commendation,  they  move  up close then drop  back,  suggesting  the  way  a jazz combo   moves   to   alternate   perspectives   on   a theme.   The poems, rich   in  wordplay, punning, occasional rhyme,  delight  in  language  as  a  tool that can conceal  as well  as reveal.  '

 

Tony’s World fascinates  uniquely, its depth revealed gradually.  It grips the reader with sudden   mysteries   and   revelations   (see “Little Bestiary"), with an enigmatic chief character, his desire   and reluctance   to   examine   his   life   and discover    his    own    solid    place   in    the    world. Tony's   received   materialism   triumphs.   At   the end   he   is   still   riding  on   his  father's  shoulders across rivers of blood.

Tony Upbraids Himself

Tony--you're a slick/sick mutha-hubba

money in your ears

& your eyes are seeing halves--half

what the gold, so-called, is worth

 

you think some god reached in your pocket

to teach you a lesson

make you go on less/less than half

& minus the loss

 

Tony, do you know how to minus?

We know--the whole world knows--

Canada, India, Brooklyn

 

look at your plate--what's there and

lick your lips and smile--in a minute

your face might be frozen,

or cold, Tony, cold

 

you know how to plus

so what  add onto yourself what?

silks, pure wools--cashmere

left in the rain--it's all the same

 

you're a dull toad, Tony

in a left-over stew;

you've stopped reading the news

‘cause it's bad--even the comics are sad

 

wake up!