Review by Alan Catlin: Under Normal Conditions by Karl Koweski

review first published in, Issue No. 37, Winter 2024

Reading Koweski’s latest collection is like a heavyweight fight with life, language, and poetry. In fact, one of my favorite poems in the collections evokes the image of “the lifeless eyes of sonny liston.” The former champion who lost his crown to then Cassius Clay, soon to be Mohammed Ali, after a phantom knockout punch. Many in the sports world thought Sonny took a dive, which stands to reason given his associates and tragic end to drug abuse. Koweski doesn’t pull any punches or take a fall. Watching his four-year-old play Grand Theft Auto is one of the most chilling poems I have read in quite some time. The boy relishes death and destruction and Koweski concludes, “my little psychopath.”

His “High life of the low life” is a hoot featuring a guy who claims he can recognize a porn actress by her coos and gasps.( which is totally absurd as those are often dubbed in by an off- camera voice ) He cites Nina Hartley as a blonde who I always thought had dark hair but you don’t watch those movies wondering about whether the star’s hairs is bottle blonde or not. The low life would snort at the idea of even noticing the actresses hair, no doubt. Koweski’s contention that poetry readings are a kind of spoken word masochism is inspired but it is “We are all fools here” that sums up the small press poet’s life as a writer,

“the poet can retire
a legend,
a small press mainstay,
an underground hero.

never really dying,
only fading
into greater obscurity.”

Welcome to the club fellow poets.

—Alan Catlin, author of Bar Guide for the Seriously Deranged and many others

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