Scott Holstad is a hard working young poet, whose first "real" book (read "perfect bound") has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Which is not to say that Holstad is a newcomer to the American poetry scene--between 1991 and 1994 he published seven chapbooks, as well as poems in hundreds of magazines all over the world, and gave numerous performances of his work.
Places reinforces the main line of Holstad's work, including many poems which announce his influences--the beat poets (especially Ferlinghetti) and the grand, dirty old man of no-nonsense poetics, Charles Bukowski. In fact, Holstad devotes two poems to the memory of Bukowski, "Buk" and "The World Ran Dry." In the latter, the wry, detached voice of the poet juxtaposes the futility of his own academic ambitions with the authenticity of his reaction to the news of his hero's death. After a night spent trying to erase the pain of this fact with alcoholic excess, the poet is left lying in bed, "thinking of futile / grant application / attempts and the / beautiful mexican girl / dancing with swaying / pendulous breasts while / wedding sized bells / frolic in [his] increasingly / shrinking dehydrated head."
Holstad's poems are predominately voice driven--and that voice is often filled with the anger of moral outrage. Poems such as "let's give ourselves a round," "this is what we are" and "just for kicks" express the poet's disgust with his fellow American's penchant for mindless violence and excess. But sometimes Holstad's poems are just plain angry. In the poem "smoking" the poet, having recently quit after ten years on the weed, expresses a desire to "file [his] teeth / on your forehead."
Places also announces some new directions for Holstad's work--some poems that reveal a quieter, more contemplative aspect of his voice. In "You Are," the poet compares his lover to "the steam / of the teapot" in the morning, "the hiss of / water kissing the / shower curtain, / . . . the soft curve / of fresh clothing / falling onto tired limbs." Similarly, the poem "In Defense" speaks of the poet's fears as a gift which he exchanges for "cotton candy at / the circus, John Cage / exhibits at the museum, / lying in each other's / arms under the light of / the full moon . . ."
But this is not to say that Holstad has gone soft--not by any stretch of the imagination. These poems provide relief from a vision of the world which might otherwise prove too bleak for most readers, the world of "Stripper," which culminates with "another / hot hand job in the old / man's perspiring Caddie." Ultimately, for Holstad, as for Bukowski, "The poem is the / crutch, the gun, the / good drink. Need I say more?
Causes Scott Holstad Supports
PEN, The Authors Guild, Sierra Club