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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chapbook Review: Lawrence Gladeview Praying For A Spare (Tree Killer Ink, 2014)- 12 pages.

Canada’s Tree Killer Ink’s latest venture is the release of its Punk Chapbook poetry series which consists of 15 chapbooks by some of North America’s best known small press writers: Each chap is focussed on a specific theme and each cover is illustrated by the zany but hugely talented Swedish artist Janne Karlsson.

Lawrence Gladeview’s collection Praying For A Spare is #12 in the series & is focussed on the theme of ten pin bowling. The twelve poems centre on a team of bowlers, known as ‘the wreckers’, who play Tuesday nights at Cosmic Bowling- a one-story 70s building with a “half-lit/ bubble plastic/ sign/ out front.” For Earl, Bill, Dana, Sandy and Larry bowling becomes a kind of religion where they can escape their petty family squabbles for a few hours, drink some beer and find mutual respect and companionship.

In the poem ‘Hey Larry’, for example, Roy asks Larry to attend mass with his family on Sunday. Larry tersely quips, “thanks roy// but i’m good// i already have/ a once a week/ obligation// & it gives me/ all the salvation/ I need.” In ‘It Was,’ Earl tells Larry matter-of-factly, “with my family/ fighting over/ the small stuff/ it’s great/ to come here/ & be in control.”

Gladeview admits in a recent interview with BM (21 October 2014) that he doesn’t bowl as much these days & is crap at it but realises the game’s important social function:
I would say I’m more of an off and on, once-a-month bowler as opposed to a true “regular” alley cat.  When I was younger and in middle school, I joined bowling leagues in the summers with my neighbourhood pals.  Of course, we enjoyed the sporting aspect of bowling, but we also liked getting away from our parents, smoking cigarettes, and sneaking beers when we could.  Now that I’m older, bowling still serves as an outlet, but instead of breaking free from my parents, now it’s more about unplugging from work and society. Bowling alleys are places folks go to celebrate good times, cope during depressing weeks, and play like kids no matter their age or status. I’m not a particularly good bowler, but that’s not the point. Ask any of my buds and they’ll tell you I’m an exceptional bowler, being sure to point out my beer guzzling belly way before they mention my score.”

The poems are short & anecdotal. They stem from lived experience and are conversational, confessional, with Larry the big pin- reflecting & gently philosophising on the zen of bowling.

As the team laces up their bowling shoes they confide in one another, share their various illnesses & family issues and in the process they pull each other through the cluttered emotional debris of their lives. The Tuesday night outings provide the “bowling buds” a sense of consistency & transparency otherwise missing in their lives. As Larry says in ‘Earl’s Marriage’ after introducing to the reader his team, “ I can’t help/ but smile// about/ how this/ pack of alley cats/ is the one thing// that is/ dependable/ in our lives.”

Asked by BM how he arrived at selecting the unusual bowling theme for Praying For A Spare, Gladeview candidly surmises: “When Wolf Carstens, the editor of Epic Rites Press, asked me to participate in his Punk Chapbook Series that aimed to feature a tightly focused story told over twelve poems, I had no clue where to start. Tales of my move from Virginia to Colorado?  My college years, from freshman year, arrest to senior graduating triumph?  But then I realized I was thinking on too large a scale.  The most memorable characters in life don’t come from exotic situations, they come from everyday experiences that are made extraordinary by their uninhibited personality.  A few months back, my wife and I met friends at the local lanes for my birthday, some of which I hadn’t seen in awhile.  The stories we shared and the atmosphere that existed that night was very communal.  That following week, I was talking with Wolf about the chapbook series and Praying For A Spare began to set itself up; pin by pin, poem by poem.”

One of the best poems in the collection ‘Whether You Are’ expresses this idea of people on the edge, of falling into the abyss- in the communal space of ten-pin bowling:

Whether You Are


no matter

if you’re

some evenings
at the alley

you spend
entire night

to keep
the weight
your fingers

& into

(Reprinted with the permission of the poet).

Gladeview is currently editing and revising his next full-length collection tentatively titled The Stray Trails Of Life.  Aside from that, he’s got an upcoming trip to Las Vegas on the calendar, a handful of readings along the Front Range, and a Colorado winter creeping over the Rocky Mountains.

Buy the Punk Chapbook series here- 15 chaps for only $40 plus postage. Find out also how you can contribute to the next series of chapbooks: