Alveraz Ricardez's Hot Mud Poems
Being challenged and shaken out of my own inner assumptions about not just poetry, but everything in life is something I complain about but seek on a regular basis. And while it might feel nice for everything to appear beautiful and cheerful, it is often the dirty, stinking, visceral moments that can bring out a certain essential aesthetic that cannot be conveyed by a purely lyrical or literary style of poetry that makes the reader sigh “ah” and then go to sleep feeling warm, fuzzy and content. Sometimes the only way to get at the grim, ugly, essential truth of having a body and therefore animal nature is with a raw intensity that does not hide behind any academic pretensions. It is this honesty and strength that I admire in the body of work that appears in kill poet press founder, Alveraz Ricardez’s Hot Mud Poems, with illustrations by Joshua Rhodes.
I’m not saying that Ricardez never employs satisfying images, because he does in several of the seventy-nine poems that appear in the book. For example in “dreams of sinaloa:”
i ask the sad scorpion if he knows
the way back to colima
his sun cracked voice
whispers between spittled sand
save me from being without my isabella
his eyes roll back and his arms
lift with the rise of my boot
Ricardez’s use of scorpions and his idea of giving them human-like emotions is gorgeous but also interesting since the animal he chooses is not known for it’s beauty and popularity, but is feared and reviled in the same way we often fear and revile our own human, animal sexuality and inevitable death and therefore by extension the reality of the physical nature of being alive.
Indeed Ricardez’s poems are most successful when they combine raw language with more conventional terms that create intriguing images as he does in the first two stanzas of the short and extremely not sweet piece, “in her prime:”
she spit shined
her cock-skin belt
and also when he experiments with less traditional non-vertical layouts as he does in “polar bear hunter,” “free shuck,” and “cement tango.” The latter of which uses layout, language and images to convey a far from pretty portrait of a prostitute:
taste of pimp knuckles and rope scrub the princess
from beneath her hide, a daily service of vagabond cum
back alley profits hum ballads of clean sheets and
a little town not
Some critics might complain that he has not incorporated non-formal visual layouts in more of the pieces in Hot Mud Poems, as well as that he chooses to include some poems that are almost uncomfortably raw and unedited in feel. But Ricardez shows courage in sharing not just the clever, more thought out and crafted work but also the work that is in its very form and immediacy extremely blunt and honest, especially when these poems are commenting about the dishonesty of some of Ricardez’s poet peers as he does in “dear lady friend,” and “kill your ly.”
Also by including a variety of work from short to long and vertical to non-vertical he displays a certain journey common to a lot of us writers as we explore our voices and lives in ways that may not be new and may owe great debts to past generations of poets, especially the Beats and Charles Bukowsky in the case of Ricardez and others like him, but which are vital if we as writers are to stay true to our own individual observations and not to making and keeping our audience happy and feeling great. Because real life does not feel like riding a unicorn into heaven and Hot Mud Poems without a doubt from the screaming male face on the cover, to the first and last poem is real, at times rough but always real.
(Hot Mud Poems, Alveraz Ricardez, copyright 2006, kill poet press, www.killpoet.com , firstname.lastname@example.org, ISBN 978-0-6151 3506-9, 116pp., $14.95)