April 23rd, 2008

Review by Christian Ward (email)

by Patrick Carrington


Main Street Rag
4416 Shea Lane
Charlotte, NC 28227 
ISBN: 978-1-59948-042-8 
80 pp., $12.00 

Rise, Fall and Acceptance is the debut collection from New Jersey poet Patrick Carrington. An impressive first effort, the strength of Carrington's writing immediately captivates the reader. His poems range from the ordinary to the personal, each assuming a different perspective, and illustrating common perceptions in extraordinary light. We see, for example, a Texan housewife in The Morning Extra pursuing a one night stand to escape the monotony of her daily routine:

Last night too there were headlines.
Editorials not meant for his eyes,
bias he would not understand,
back page fillers
from a northern press.
And meat, raw. 
Spread open on hotel sheets
like the evening extra, hungry,
she begged for supper. 

Here, Carrington unexpectedly shifts from the scene of domestic drudgery in the first stanza with its images of "Brews / coffee first, then fries pork," following the life of a "proper housewife" as she "breathes deep and puts / her standard print on morning," to the revelation of her one-night stand, which slams into the reader like a concrete wall. The seedy and sexual, experienced in poems like The Morning Extra, is a theme throughout the collection. In The Essex, Carrington writes: 

On the sidewalk whores in hell's heels
fondle boys through car windows,
purr and promise to age them
in dog years. 
Businessmen stop for twenty minutes.
They peel franklins,
mount stairs and sluts.
Leave armed with lies. 

In his Vegas, Carrington effectively captures the lewdness of the city as he illustrates "the streetwalkers on Fremont" who "are there for him / and cheap" and "flash / their fishnet welcome, / stiletto sin." The assonance of "are there for him" and "stiletto sin" creates a lyrical feel, reducing the harshness of the language. This softening creates the feeling that such a sight is the norm, like the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign that greets you when you enter the city.
While Carrington is good at taking us places, he also knows when to bring us home, revealing a more personal side. In Waltzing Above Pepino's Marble, the tone gets heavy:

We moved a special way in the cemetary--
in three-quarter time, knees bending
like Strauss had a hand in the mourning
racket, as if his baton allowed us
to glide and lessen the weight
on my grandfather's chest 

Lines like this, in their striking intimacy, allow the reader to become part of the poet's unfolding emotion, helping to lessen grief's symbolic weight. And again, as with the example from Vegas, the formality of the stanza and metre is softened by the language.  The poised simile of "knees bending / like Strauss had a hand in the mourning / racket" is playful in its tone, whilst the conclusion of "as if his baton allowed us / to glide and lessen the weight / on my grandfather's chest" is underpinned by the narrator's seriousness of needing something, anything, to reduce the grief. Rise, Fall and Acceptance is an excellent debut. Carrington's deftness of metaphor and skill in crafting poems makes this a worthy addition to your bookshelf.


Christian Ward is a 27 year old London based poet and student, currently finishing the third year of a degree in English Literature & Creative Writing at Roehampton University, London. A Pushcart Prize nominated poet, his work is forthcoming in The Warwick Review, Remark and Decanto. His chapbook, Slippage, is available from Erbacce Press (2008).




Note: Reviews may not necessarily reflect the opinions of RATTLE's editors and staff.