Scott and I encountered each other fairly early on in my Twitter adventures. We ‘met’ through a mutual friend because I was looking for someone to do some poetry collaborations with, and they directed me to Scott. The collaboration never panned out – probably because I totally forgot about it until now, but I had peeped some of Scott’s pieces on a few websites and loved the gritty style of them.
When I sent out my request for folks to pimp their chapbooks so I had some new shit to read Scott, actually, didn’t respond. BUT I had been eyeballing Shooting Gallery Vultures (SGV) for a hot minute and knew I was gonna order it.
I got the package early afternoon on Tuesday (July 6) and tore that envelope right open. To my surprise not only was SGV in there, but also 2 additional chapbooks, 2 broadsides and four high quality vinyl stickers (which were immediately stuck onto my new poetry notebook!). It felt like Christmas!
This post will be a review of SGV only – the other two poetry chaps I’ll review at a later date (spaced out between other chaps that are coming my way).
SGV is approximately 86 pages in length, and measures roughly 7 x 10 inches. Like the other chaps I’ve reviewed it’s got a glue binding and stood up against my vigorous bending, folding and general rumble fucking; no pages were lost.
The cover is full color with a glossy finish, which not only feels good in the hand but also looks/feels REALLY high quality. The external presentation on this chap is second to none.
The paper looks like standard 28 lb bond; it doesn’t bleed under a highlighter nor a fountain pen – though I did notice it sucks fountain pen ink up like a sponge. So if you’re planning to note anything in the margins for any reason, use a ballpoint.
Each poem is an illustration created by Andrew Nutini, and it appears like they are thermal printed to the page – which means that there’s no bleeding of ink, but there is a slight sheen which may make it difficult to read either outside or bright white over head lighting. The font used looks like Courier and is nice and large so there should be no problems reading this at all.
SGV is a collection of poetry which consists of memories, observations and insights of Scott’s life as a (sometimes?) homeless addict (heroin, crack, alcohol are mentioned). If this subject matter bothers you, or you can’t stomach reality – I’d invite you to find something lighter to read.
Since 2016 I’ve worked as a Catholic Worker – both in my hometown as well as New York City – whose aim is to extend radical hospitality to all that knock on our doors. Sometimes this has meant shelter, at other times it has meant food – but the great majority of the time it has meant being in community with the homeless population of these two cities. I lived and built community with all manner of housed and unhoused – those folks which ordinary people refuse to look at or acknowledge their humanity.
With all of that being said; the world which Scott describes feels so very familiar to me – as recognizable and as intimate as my favorite pair of boots that have molded themselves to the exact angle of toes and arch of my foot. Though many wouldn’t understand this when I say it; it’s a comfortable space for me.
Scott doesn’t soften the blow; he speaks about his time as a homeless addict – a life which normal people refuse to see, think about or acknowledge – in language that doesn’t spare anyone’s feelings. His work grabs you by the scruff of your neck and forces you to look, forces his humanity down your throat until you choke – “Look at me! I’m a fucking human being!” it screams.
If you’re hoping for a bullshit redemption arc at the end, don’t hold your hand on your ass for it. You won’t get it – and you shouldn’t. Humanity isn’t – and shouldn’t – be contingent upon conforming to the norms and expectations of society. I respect the mother-fuck out of Scott for not giving the reader that – for forcing you to either swallow this shit whole or gag and die.
It’s difficult for me to evaluate this collection without any bias because of my own history being in community with homeless and addicted folks. I gravitate towards these stories because I feel that they are important – not only for myself who has experienced them from a position that straddles the inside and outside of this world, but also for those who have never thought to ask these people their stories.
So, of course, I love it. I love it for its humanity and its honesty. I love it for its heart that bleeds, and bleeds and bleeds.
I’ll be honest: after watching The Basketball Diaries on HBO all those years ago (don’t act brand new and pretend you didn’t see the shit, too!), I expected Jim Carroll’s poetry to be much realer and grittier than it was – I was truly disappointed. SGV gave me everything that I wanted and expected from Carroll, and more.
The one and only critique I have of the book is this; I wish that the accompanying graphics were full page bleeds and that they were in color.