Review by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke (email)

by David Trinidad


Turtle Point Press
233 Broadway, Room 946
New York, New York 10279
ISBN# 978-1933527093
109 pp., $16.95

A substitute teacher gave the following advice to David Trinidad when he was in the fourth grade: "David, you are an unusual boy. May it continue into adult life" (A Poem under the Influence). In his recent collection, The Late Show, it is clear that he took her words to heart when creating this adroit mix of grief, elation, B-movies, and the color pink.
Thematically, the volume examines the disconnection that often comes with a companion's death. However, the theme of these poems is not what distinguishes them as exceptional. The Late Show's uniqueness comes from Trinidad's willingness to experiment with form. The twenty-eight poems include a mixture of formal work, such as the eight-sonnet sequence A Poet's Death; essays in verse, such as A Poem under the Influence; and found poems, such as Gloss of the Past (comprised entirely of the names of pink lipstick colors). Paying stylistic homage to Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, and Joe Brainard, Trinidad refuses to commit to one school of poetry, a strategy that keeps the reader guessing and engaged throughout the text.
As in his past books, Trinidad celebrates popular culture images, such as Barbie dolls, Bette Davis, and eBay, with no intellectualized apologies for these pleasures. His work demonstrates a sense of being unabashedly in love with all the trappings of modern life, a feeling demonstrated in lines such as "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is an excellent movie and well worth owning on DVD" (Hack, Hack, Sweet Has Been).
Overall, this is a strong collection of poetry with few problems to distract the reader from the narrator's sense of wonderment and his enjoyment of modern life in America, which he manages to express even in poems about the long illness, and eventual death, of his mother. However, some readers may find Trinidad's use of personal information about other poets disconcerting as it can seem that the narrator is reveling in an insider status. Would poems such as James Schuyler continue to be poignant epitaphs even without mentioning the names of the specific poets, such as Schuyler, John Ashbery, and Joe Brainard, involved in the memories being described? I think they would. Yet amidst the name-dropping appears an endearing narrator struggling to come to terms with the deaths of friends, such as Schuyler and Brainard, through the imitation of their poetic style.
However, Trinidad's more sentimental moments, such as the narrator's blatant statement in Classic Layer Cakes that "I miss my mother", will be problematic for readers preferring more subtlety than is typical of Trinidad's work. For others, lines such as this will be part of the collection's charm.
Finally, readers with short attention spans may object to Trinidad's lengthy essays in verse, their endless stream of images. Classic Layer Cakes runs 309 lines, and A Poem under the Influence is 752 lines, both considerably longer than the typical contemporary American poem. For those with the stamina to finish reading, these two poems, and the collection as a whole, offer a way to cope with the disequilibrium of loss: record every detail, for someday you, too, will be gone.



Jennifer Schomburg Kanke is a graduate student at Ohio University and has had work published in HazMat Review and in Asinine Poetry.




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