one of the common perceptions of contemporary poetry. He is comfortable using the phrases and words of popular culture, but often for ironic effect. And in his own way he is willing to engage weighty issues, serious themes. The title poem of this collection, for instance, has already achieved a certain fame, at least in the small circle of readers of contemporary poetry, for its casual self-presentation. It starts, "There's Socialism and Communism and Capitalism, / said Neal, / and there's Feminism and Hedonism, / and there's Catholicism and Bipedalism and Consumerism, means the most to me." As the poem continues, we realize that we are overhearing the witty banter of several friends Neal, Sylvia, Ann, Ethan, and the poet-speaker as they prepare a summer dinner over a grill. The jokes abound, often sounding something like Woody Allen: "if you're going to mess around with self-love / you shouldn't just rush into a relationship." And then something changes. For some reason, perhaps the accumulation of idle banter, "Sylvia was weeping now." But the moment is not broken yet:
| and then the hamburgers were done, just as |
the sunset in the background started
cutting through the charcoal clouds
exposing their insides black,
streaked with red,
like a slab of scorched, rare steak,
delicious but unhealthy,
or, depending on your perspective,
unhealthy but delicious,
the way that, deep inside the misery
of daily life,
love lies bleeding.
Suddenly we've moved from the mundane into a troubling image, one that says something about our lives that strikes us with a slap of recognition.