al degenova | the blueing hours

2 12 2009

Poetry Dispatch No.302 | December 2, 2009

Al DeGenova

When I consider some of my original intentions in starting a small press some fifteen years ago, and when I look at the book of Al DeGenova’s poems I published in BACK BEAT (CR+P #15, 2001), along with Charles Rossiter, I couldn’t be more pleased considering all Al has accomplished since then, including his most recent book, THE BLUEING HOURS, Virtual Artists Collective, 2008, (http:// vacpoetry .org).

While the hum of Kerouac and Co. drove much of his word-music in BACK BEAT, there is all that and much more in THE BLUEING HOURS, and its three parts: “The Red Hours, “The Black Hours,” and “The Blueing Hours.”

Maybe ‘blue’ is the working. defining metaphor for all he has to say and sing. Al’s drive is music, Chicago, family, relationships, the poem as ‘memoir’ to some degree…and something bordering between eroticism and love–not a bad ‘red’/‘blue’ place to be, though a hell of a territory to define, call your own.

My idea with CR+Press was to help launch, publish a limited edition, ‘first book’ by writers who could show me something. And not publish a second printing, no matter how well the book may have sold. My preference was to put my efforts in another first book by another new–or older small press writer who had faded into obscurity.

My hope was that the writer would ride the wave of the first book and, when he or she was ready with the next manuscript, find a new, different publisher. Continue to expand, grow make a name/reputation. New horizons. Many publishers. All this was part of the learning process. Al did this—and more. Even found another publisher to reprint the first, best-selling book, BACK BEAT. I could not be prouder of him.

He continues to bring his own kind of music to the writing. Continues to find new pathways to the interior. He is also the publisher/editor of one of the best literary magazines coming out of Chicago, AFTER HOURS.

Here are some poems from THE BLUEING HOURS which capture much of what I see and applaud in the man and his art. —norbert blei

Chicken Shack Blues

We were to play together
a gig, father and son
sax and piano
like some modern-day notion
of vaudeville, or
talent night at the PTA.
I taught him a greasy
fried and dirty blues
like teaching him to tie a half-Windsor
or drink beer
or to live in the wilderness
with what we carried on our backs –
blues in G, that’s what I said
anxious to relive some smoky jam session memory,
as if there were some
in those 12 bars.
We’ll learn Chicken Shack.
He said,
it’s just a blues.
a blues
so nonchalant
as if there were nothing to it.
But at least
the first time he played
“Chicken Shack”
it was with
tenor’s voice
growling low G
a father playing the blues
for his son
opening the door
to free the red rooster
to feed the gray fox.

Living History

Hemingway’s breath still lingers
here on this street, my street,
his street.
Did he ever walk across
my lawn, sit on my porch
on his way to school, the same school
my sons sit in now?
I walk past his boyhood home,
look up to his third-floor bedroom.
The light is on tonight in that center window.
Whose 17-year-old shadow
contemplates the glory of war?
Do those old floorboards still hold
the crescent moons of his fingernails?
If matter and energy can never be destroyed,
then history is a fishbowl –
we share this same water for eternity.
The song Hemingway hears
as he runs to catch a football
is my voice, my son’s piano from our open door
then, if it’s all true
I swim in the same salty Mediterranean
where my grandfathers wash their feet.
I touch the skin of the dead then,
when I write my name in the dust
on my brother’s Manhattan bookshelves
and the dead know me, know I am
here – now – trying to taste
their history like a ripe plum
like sour mash, like
all the lovers who’ve kissed my lover’s lips.
We are the ancient dirt beneath our feet,
are the Nazis, the Popes, the Michigan militia
all the hot dog vendors on Bourbon Street,
we are the Presidents, we are the bombs,
the dead babies, the homeless garbage eaters,
we are history—
the waiter delivers our fathers’ tabs,
and we pay, we pay.


A small move
white key to black
one half-step forward or back
colors major with minor
the smallest distance
between piano keys
transforms gospel to blues
Mozart to Monk.

The twitch of a muscle
sounds a missed note
pinches the corners of a frown
winks an eye
pronounces a wrong word
brushes a finger against a cheek.

To think the end
of a concerto hangs
precariously on the touch
of one little finger as
delicately as an explanation
between wife and husband
of the phone call
that rings dissonance
the caller outside the chord.

Souring Metaphors

Crows line the horizon.
The milk in your breasts sours.
The piano is out of tune.
Your cheeks smell like mascara.
You walk through the valley of fear.
I fix the plumbing.
I carry the groceries.
You are the wind at the curtains.
I read suicide poems.
Your voice calls from a locked steel box.
I read without light.
You eat the leftovers.
You pull the weeds.
I smear gray ink.
You scream at the laundry.
You scream
at the laundry.

[from the BLUEING HOURS, Virtual Artists Collective, 2008,]

Much more on Albert DeGenova with listening examples can be found here…




2 responses

2 12 2009
Judith Wiker

Always wonderful to see Al’s work up in lights. A favorable poet with a shy demeanor that surprises with the most persuasive threads that shimmer within the weave…

3 12 2009
Mike Koehler

Al is IT. You can tell listening to him speak music is his mode. His words carry that thought on, and he is all at once Bard, Bluesman, Beat meister, and Denizen of the late early hours. An Anonymous Poet, to boot. And Oh, that sax.

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