Although I sometimes do it, I think it’s kind of rude to give a copy of your book of poems to someone who hasn’t asked for it. I experience receiving an unsolicited book by a poet I don’t know as a burden. I feel obligated to turn my full attention to it, and mostly it’s a disappointment. I find that I read a new poem by an author I know and like with a much more welcoming attitude than one from a poet I don’t know. I’m all set to dislike a new poet, sad as that seems.
So it was with some trepidation that I picked up a book from Paper Kite Press that arrived mysteriously on my desk. I had never heard of Jack DeWitt, and had no idea where the book came from. But the first poem, “Ferranti’s Ford” pleased me, and I have been reading happily through the first section. Mr. DeWitt lives up to the wit in his surname, and as a bonus grew up in Stamford Connecticut about the same time I grew up 15 minutes down the road in suburban NY. He listened to Murray the K and WINS, both of which were the background of my teen years. So even though I was not fascinated with hot rods, and didn’t see Rebel Without a Cause till I was in my 20s, the references in his poems resonate for me. Here is a taste:
I had just seen James Dean
in Rebel Without a Cause
& wanted everyone to know
that it was about me so
I bought a red nylon jacket
and wore it with the collar up
over a tight white tee-shirt.
I went to Jack’s Army & Navy
for the engineer boots.
My hair was perfect too,
even down to the calculated
cowlick. One day as I waited
in the school yard, looking perfectly cool
Alan showed up in his blue school
jacket. Sue Skigen turned to me
as he walked across the ball field:
“Don’t you think Alan looks
Just like James Dean?”
* * *
Ferranti’s Ford slid slowly around City Hall
like a sea creature
searching for prey.
Its curved teeth
were from a DeSoto. They drew the sun into its mouth.
was Titian red (pronounced “Tahitian” by the car guys):
only jewels know such color
bright, deep, perfect–
Its chopped convertible top white, taut, low
–the way a shark rolls its eyes tight
before it strikes
I followed it to Main Street
–my heart pumped with each pop from its pipes.
I jumped with the wheels when he hit second gear.
As it rolled past the Plaza Theater
I stopped to catch my breath.
Then it was gone. The world was quiet.
I looked around.
Nothing had changed except my life.