Alan Catlin reviews ALL IN A PRETTY LITTLE ROW by Dan Provost

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Dan Provost, All in a Pretty Little Row, Roadside Press, Magical Jeep Distribution, available on Amazon, 196 pages, 2023, $15

All in a Pretty Little Row, collects ten of Provost’s chapbooks published over the past 20 years. Some of these are rarely seen, extremely limited editions, so this recent trend by prolific poets to reissue previously obscure editions is a positive one. Dan tells us quite a bit of who he is: a common man, albeit a large one, as in a former football player (lineman), finding himself working jobs that require assertive personalities, though he is not overtly aggressive himself. Quite the opposite, in fact.  He was a kind of disciplinarian in a home for troubled youths, which is euphemism for a half way house on the road to hell/incarceration for crimes to be committed as an adult. These are vivid poems showing a means-well idea for dealing with youth in crisis that, in real life, rarely ends well. Having known people in this field, with the exact same job, who used to say, “The kids are getting bigger and tougher. One kid has a brother who is an NFL lineman but this kid is bigger and meaner. I’m getting older but the restraints are the same and they still work but it would have been a good idea to get out a long time ago.” Coaching football for 24 years was a much better alternative to thumb restraints.

Outside of work Provost is drawn to working class bars, unhappy women and bouts of insomnia that leads to more drinking,

“The sea still parts
ways with the waves
at 6:04 A.M., after an
all-night drinking binge.

Looking to the water for mental comfort

I still seem to be losing the battle.”
( from “Epiphany at Age 41”)

No doubt Provost is of a melancholic temperament, a borderline severe depressive at times, but beneath the minor keys of these odes to daily life, is the heart of a compassionate man who is driven to write, to clarify, to make the best of it, and to move on.

All in a Pretty Little Row by Dan Provost is available at

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