One gloomy spring afternoon at the age of 13 I was feeling bored and restless, sitting at home roiling in adolescent malcontent, when I happened to pick up my brother’s copy of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island Of The Mind.
I was instantly transfixed by the playfulness and whimsy combined with hard bitten cynicism. Here was something that spoke directly to my reality. Not some flowery rhyming bullshit designed to soothe aching hearts, but something more like the punk rock that was starting to impinge on the fringes of my awareness. This was some freaking TRUTH!
Suddenly, poetry and literature went from something old dead people did to something I could and (more importantly) would want to do. It led to some other discoveries, and soon I was hip to an entire segment of counterculture that had previously evaded me.
I get that same vibe from my friend Westley Heine’s recent poetry volume, Street Corner Spirits. It’s been taking me a long time to get through it; partly because I’m savoring the poems inside like tasty razor-infused bon bons, partly because every third one or so just blows me away to the point I have to lay the book down and contemplate it for a week or two.
Wes comes out swinging against the hypocrisy of American Society and the vicissitudes of life with gusto, but also has the courage to point his razor sharp perceptiveness at his own faults and shortcomings; making for some intense episodes of what 12 Step Programs call a “Relentless Moral Inventory.” Serious art that’s also wryly amusing and entertaining as hell.
Someday, somewhere; some angry scared kid shall come across a copy of Westley’s book on an angst-laden afternoon and be stunned and transformed by it the same way that Ferlinghetti led me down the rabbit hole into counter-culture in its purest form.
If you know any talented but malcontent teens (or malcontent adults for that matter) in need of inspiration, you would be doing them a huge favor by giving them a copy of Street Corner Spirits.