Monday, January 29, 2007

Robert Pomerhn: Abuse Art, Not Children

Reviewed by: Brian McMahon

This review was forwarded courtesy of Christopher Robin, and was originally posted on Christopher says he has permission to do this. He says that Brian is a friend, but that he has not met him. Brian has not said anything. Confused yet? But the book sounds very good & thanks to Christopher, who we believe may abuse art, but not children.

Poetry& Visual Art by Robert Pomerhn
HighestHurdle Press, $10,,
and...Robert Pomerhn 660 Cleveland Dr #3 Cheektowaga, NY 14225 (or Border’s Books)

At once the “cunningly clever” poet trashtalking in rhyme on the basketball court at the public park, the janitor of swirling thoughts, meditating while mopping an elementary school bathroom, and the buttondown poetry teacher, applying a lifetime’s wisdom to the purpose of putting art into action, Robert Pomerhn is the populist poet.

His third book, Abuse Art. not children, is a guided tour through the crumbling American mindscape, with stops at the Gulf Coast post Katrina, the dead-eye glow of TV programming, credit-fueled conspicuous consumption, the stagnant slam poetry scene, the failing 21st-century family, and America’s bedrooms, boardrooms and war rooms.

In “Family Tree,” the poet gathers together postwar Americana in a surreal consideration of domestic violence: “Leave it to Beaver/ to go after Ward/ with June’s meat cleaver.” In “Bush League,” Pomerhn lists the statistics of catastrophe after Hurricane Katrina sank New Orleans, writing, “174 portables pumping an open pit of putrid pampers, pus & piss/ into the Pontchatrain—PRICELESS.”

By deploying the signifiers of American popular culture in the form of rapid-fire rhymes and alliterative tongue twisters, Pomerhn puts our disasters in perspective, often hitting upon the humor and absurdity of contemporary life. But Pomerhn is a poet in transformation. While much of the work in the present volume extends the populism of his earlier books, there are new strands here as well. The intricate collage work, “found poems,” and pieces such as “this hearse doesn’t have seatbelts” and “da da cument” present snapshots of Pomerhn’s evolving poetics.

In “Till Death do Us Art,” he writes, “This is not an unfinished/ but an unfinishable work/ In saying this/ I am setting very/ high standards/… logic strikes me as a boring kind of game.” While logic may bore him, there is nonetheless a method to Pomerhn’s madness.

Abuse Art. not children demonstrates the influence of the poet’s work as a mentor to the teenagers who attend his “Art in Action” program at the Dulski Center on Buffalo’s East Side. The poems that have come out of that exchange express a deep meditation on the boundaries, purpose, and redemptive potential of art.

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