Tony Barnstone is not a polite poet. He is a poet with attitude and passion, and his feet are firmly planted in a this-world Los Angeles of gangbangers, plastic surgery, and teens smoking pot with a wet towel rolled against the door. These are sexy, slangy, funny poems, and strangely enough many of the sexiest and slangiest of them are sonnets or villanelles. In addition to the personal poems, the many narrative poems here bring to life the dead of the Holocaust, the heroin addict who gets a job in Beijing so he can't get the drug, the Arab dhow captain off the coast of Kenya, and the physicist studying neutrinos at the South Pole.
Perhaps the greatest pleasure of the book is the pervasive sense of humor (as the woman in one poem says, I think I could / be anorexic. I just don't have / the discipline!" Rodney Jones writes of Barnstone's first book, Impure, "Tony Barnstone unabashedly celebrates bodily joy and pokes the backside of everything prudish and puritanical. He is a poet of profound amusement..."; In this wide-ranging, prize-winning book, Barnstone continues to entertain, standing naked like the nude model of one the book's poems, and "turning into art."
Before it won the 2006 Benjamin Saltman Award in Poetry, The Golem of Los Angeles was a finalist for the Dorsett Prize, 2005, the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry, 2005, the May Swenson Poetry Prize, 2005 and 2006, the 2nd Annual Robert E. Lee & Ruth I. Wilson Poetry Book Award, 2005, the Ashland Poetry Prize, 2005, and the Prairie Schooner Prize Book in Poetry, 2004; it was a runner-up for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Open Competition, 2005 and the Main Street Rag Chapbook Contest, 2002; and it was a semi-finalist for the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry, 2006, the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry, 2005 and the Brittingham Prize, 2004 and 2006. Poems from the book have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize seven times, and "The 167th Psalm of Elvis" won a Pushcart Prize in 2006.
Praise for The Golem of Los Angeles:
Tony Barnstone's poems are besotted with the world--slot machines in Vegas, ants and centipedes and rivers, fires and beaches and filtered forest light, love in its carnal splendor, and the charnel squalor when love dies. Yet the Contents page in The Golem of Los Angeles--full of Psalms, Parables, Testaments, Sermons, Sutras, even the occasional Spell--makes clear that Barnstone's deepest impulse is religious: to praise and to pray. I praise this book. May it fly, reader, into your hand.
Charles Harper Webb
The Golem of Los Angeles gives us poetry full of pain, horror, despair--and beauty. Tony Barnstone gives new form and meaning to the parable, the sermon, the psalm, the sutra. The reader cries, yet laughs in delight.
Maxine Hong Kingston