Sunday, July 2, 2017



the gag reel by Tom Bamford Blake
(Moria Books’ Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017)

            Wildly surrealistic, frenetically irreverent, and whimsical with a touch of the sublime, the gag reel by Tom Bamford Blake is one of the more unique entries into the Locofo Chaps imprint. Sure, this volume is an entry into the protest canon, just as every volume has been thus far, but an author bound and determined to do things his way, by his rules, and on his time, does this one.

            And while I would never discourage someone from entering a protest volume (after all, the proletariat is worldwide, not just concentrated in a country or within a nationality or race), I always have a severe feeling of uneasiness when reading what amounts to a lecture on imperialism from a national of a country that invented the practice. Thankfully, Blake doesn’t give two shits about my uneasiness, so, in that tradition, I’ll play point-counterpoint with him.

            First, the claim that he makes, of Communism being “prehistoric” is a tired one, one perpetrated by the West so that people are happy to remain under the yoke of capitalism, which outdates the former by over two hundred years, and, in fact, was the basis for the former. (The line, for those of you who are curious, is “…our prehistoric communist witchcraft…” in the poem “untitled .hagtrack.”) It’s defeatist language like this that allows for the rich to get richer. I personally feel that the author is mocking those claims, but in the realm of revolutionary language, one can never be too careful, as such claims without context can give those in power something to grasp onto.

            That’s not to say that I wish to spend this entire review splitting revolutionary hairs with a poet who is, by far, my superior. I mean, how many poets can take Wikipedia quotes and turn them into a four-page dedication to a friend, (“GARDEN / for Lawrence”) one that, more than anything, is a lamentation to a project that never came to fruition? Carl Sagan once said that mankind was a small, small corner of existence, one that, fueled by our arrogance, we viewed as much more important than it was on a grand cosmic scale. He goes onto claim that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. I wish that Dr. Sagan had had a copy of this, or of many of the other volumes that I have reviewed, when he prepared his thoughts on mankind and the universe. Our literature, and our poetry, is an expression of both that humility and that defiance, and Blake’s volume is one of the many fine theses that prove that point.


From works for children to the macabre, from academic research to sports journalism, and from opinion essays to the erotic, M. Earl Smith is a writer that seeks to stretch the boundaries of genre and style. A native of Southeast Tennessee, M. Earl moved to Ohio at nineteen and, with success, reinvented himself as a writer after parting ways with his wife of eleven years. After graduating from Chatfield College (with highest honors) in 2015, M. Earl became the first student from Chatfield to matriculate at an Ivy League institution when he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. The proud father of two wonderful children (Nicholas and Leah), M. Earl studies creative writing and history at UPenn. When he’s not studying, M. Earl splits time between Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chattanooga, with road trips to New York City, Wichita, Kansas, and Northampton, Massachusetts in between.

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