Birch Book Press, 2009
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