The Blueing Hours
moves from darkness to light – the reader moves from passion to doubt to the struggle to survive intact – in a brilliantly structured book which carries the reader to dawn. This isn’t surprising, for here is a poet who does not want to trade Earth for Heaven or Hell. Al DeGenova is betting everything that the objects of this world – flawed or not – are charged with meaning, that we humans need more than some elusive transformation into perfection. He rejects facile romanticism or the forgiveness that nostalgia offers. This is a book launched by the extension of the night: jazz clubs, neons, poetry readings, bar noises. DeGenova takes his readers from the red hours, the black hours to the blueing hours. He does not have to re-invent the color wheel, but rather use it to keep the world from the false dictionary of black and white. He is a generous poet for, like the many visionaries of Chicago (including Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks), his insights are our insights. He makes us wealthy in a currency about soul, life, passion. One word at a time, one heartbreak at a time, one rescue at a time.
“This cross-generational riff eats colors like an angel, drawing the shadows from institutionalized cages and illuminating the hard-edged bullet-holed dreams and memories our lives are built from. What emerges strides on its own power across the open spaces of America’s wilderness, from our urban alleys to New Mexico’s sere mesas…a father playing the blues for his son while his son looks long into the notes leaping also from his fingers into the green neon night.” –Jared Smith, author of The Graves Grow Bigger Between Generations.
With the creation of The Blueing Hours, two important establishments have been made: Al DeGenova as a great American poet and Steven Shroeder’s Virtual Artists Collective as a major Midwestern publisher of poetry. I enjoyed reading these 60 pages of jazzy, erotic poetry
and lava lamps that
move like you
to silent mambo rhythms
just about as much as I’ve ever enjoyed reading anything. In these personal poems that deal with family and relationships, in these (dare I say) love poems that refuse to be gooey, in these political poems that don’t preach, DeGenova’s metaphors are as exact as mathematical equations and the imagery in his work is downright spooky in its clarity (such as an abandoned toy “puffing Lucky Strike smoke rings into the dark”). These strong poems exhibit a concrete narrator’s voice but never fail to stray away from the storytelling and return to the poetics. Rich in color and musicality, DeGenova’s Gnostic work relishes being in the now without separating that now from the entire history of mankind. Are we in control, DeGenova muses, or is time merely the illusion we create within the single point of our existence? It takes an honest poet to celebrate the contradictions of life:
We toast and sing to birth
in the cold air of a dying season,
(from “Celebrating Solstice”)
DeGenova takes history quite personally in his desperation to live life. There are no compromises in this grit. There are times not to forgive, there are times to be suspicious, there are times for pure honesty:
Miles can’t swing the blues trapeze
Sonny’s crippled saxophone hangs from the ceiling
my toe taps too late, and too often
not at all.
(from “American Lost Soul”)
DeGenova has a keen sense of what existed before him so it is no wonder that he is highly influenced by the masters and that he possesses an artful control over beat and form. He creates magic with his vantage points (for example, my mind’s eye went wild as the freight train passed the window of the poetry venue) and his running themes of time (time as distance, time as syllables), change and (sometimes painful) growing are wonderful.
His secrets become the man.
(from “A Son’s Secrets”)
DeGenova’s whirlwind of archetypal guy things, smells (“fetid hallways reek of fish and dirty pennies”), and heritage and lineage, take us on a tour of his memory. The work reads smoothly and without confusion, offering big bang endings and chapters that shift gears. It’s as if DeGenova’s voice is the pivotal point and in the balance the self exists as art. We carry a part of each other with us, every second we live we tow behind us, who we are can be explained with what exists in our pockets. These masterful hi-jinks somehow create the strange phenomenon of seeing the imagery as if through a blue filter, especially in the third chapter. Such art is not born out of accident. The Chicago Poetry Scene is lucky to have DeGenova in its family. The Blueing Hours poems by Albert DeGenova published by Virtual Artists Collective. Reviewed by C. J. Laity
Albert DeGenova’s The Blueing Hours moves from darkness to light – the reader moves from passion to doubt to the struggle to survive intact – in a brilliantly structured book which carries the reader to dawn. This isn’t surprising for here is a poet who does not want to trade Earth for Heaven or Hell. Al is betting everything that the objects of this world – flawed or not – are charged with meaning that we humans need more than some elusive transformation into perfection.
The Blueing Hours is simply – and I make no apology for what sounds like hyperbole but is truth – the first 21st century book of poems that offers a portrait of heterosexual masculinity. Talk about risks: Al’s poems are tender (as a father to his sons), stark (as a son to a father), and unblinking (three generations of men sharing intellectual space in the city of Chicago). Al rejects facile romanticism or the forgiveness that nostalgia offers. He is in a blinking contest with a city of contradictions: one that showcases class differences, ethnicity vs. a larger citizenry, myopia vs. the exaggerated skyline of bragging skyscrapers.
It’s a book launched by the extension of the night: jazz clubs, neons, poetry readings, bar noises. He takes his readers from the red hours, the black hours that we writers know too well, to the blueing hours. Here is a poet who does not have to re-invent the color wheel, but rather use it to keep the world from the false dictionary of black and white.
Al has always been a poet, I suspect, but now he can point at his writing as evidence of his long journeys within himself. He is a generous poet for, like the many visionaries of Chicago (including Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks), his insights are our insights. He makes us wealthy in a currency about soul, life, passion. One word at a time, one heartbreak at a time, one rescue at a time. Albert DeGenova. The Blueing Hours. Virtual Artists Collective, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9798825-3-1. reviewed by Rane Arroyo, University of Toledo, 2008-08-20
ISBN – 10 9798825-3-2 ISBN – 13 978-0-9798825-3-2 | $15.00 | Photos copyright by Herb Nolan | order from powells | order from AbeBooks | order from your local independent bookseller | order from Barnes & Noble
grew up in Chicago and now lives with his family in Oak Park, Illinois. From 1978-1980 he was an editor of the Oyez Review (published by Roosevelt University); in June of 2000 he launched the literary/arts journal After Hours, for which he continues as publisher and editor. DeGenova is half of the performance poetry duo AvantRetro which appears throughout the greater Chicago/Midwest area. His book, Back Beat (a collection of poetry combined with memoir tracing the influences of the Beat movement on two contemporary poets), was co-authored with poet Charles Rossiter and published by Cross+Roads Press in 2001 (a second edition was released in June 2006 by Fractal Edge Press). Of Back Beat, Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote, “Back Beat beats everything for being beater than the Beats.” DeGenova received his MFA in Writing from Spalding University, Louisville. He is a blues saxophonist and one-time contributing editor to Down Beat magazine.
DeGenova’s poetry has been published widely including such publications as the Café Review, the Paterson Literary Review, VIA (Voices of Italian-Americans), and the Oyez Review. He has been included in several anthologies and once was featured in the now defunct Chicago zine, U-Direct. DeGenova’s first chapbook, A Tender Spot, was published in 1992. Beyond his own poetry, however, DeGenova’s most significant contribution to the literary world of Chicago is his editing and publishing efforts for the magazine After Hours, a journal of Chicago writing and art. DeGenova launched After Hours in June of 2000 and has since published many of Chicago’s strongest literary voices.
listen to Albert DeGenova | On Coronado Beach | from his book The Blueing Hours
listen to Albert DeGenova | The Kraftbrau Poetry Slam | from his book The Blueing Hours
listen to Albert DeGenova | Nighthawk | from his book The Blueing Hours
Title listen to Albert DeGenova | On Memorial Day | from his book The Blueing Hours