I was intrigued when I received a copy of this poetry chapbook for review. It isn’t the typical poetry book. The author, "Laughing" Larry Berger, "wrote" or improvised these poems onstage as part of an audience participation free verse sets at coffee houses in Los Angeles in 1996.
It isn’t easy to write poetry, much less improvise it in front of an audience, which is why I was delighted to discover Berger’s wit, imagination, and flair for language.
The verses, some as short as a few lines and some long enough for two pages, explore various subjects and themes, from fun and light to serious and transcendent.
A good example of the author’s lighter poems is “Bubble Gum.” It catches a moment, a single snapshot of pure joy:
Soft and warm between my teeth,
an old lover returns
sweet and tangy inside my mouth.
Over and over she dances,
building evermore desire.
Slowly she turns up the heat,
stoking the fires
her passions no longer confinable
releasing the rapture of the moment!
She slides along my tongue
A recurring theme in this work is the idea that modern men are trapped, caged, slaves and prisoners of their own cars and apartments. The following stanza is from “Leprosy”:
Rotting corpses walking down the street
are they really so different from you and me?
They get up, go to work, come home,
all in steel and concrete coffins.
In other poems, such as “Four Thousand Years Ago (The Crack Baby’s Prayer),” the author takes a philosophical look at life, presenting the reader with a grim picture of society, injustice, and the violence inflicted by humans throughout history. Berger uses the symbolic metaphor of rivers red with blood — this metaphor, by the way, is also recurrent in some of his other poems. Some of my favorite poems in this book are the ones where Berger captures one single moment of happiness in a world where disaster looms in every corner. For example, in “Green Tea Ice Cream,” which is about the prediction that the world will end in 2012, Berger ends the verse with: