Antisocial Network, poems by Timothy Gager. Redneck Press, 2012.
Many of these poems deal with outsiders, drug abuse, bar stories, the mix one would expect with the word 'anti-social' in the title. Gager manages to travel this well-trod ground lightly, though, and brings a lot of humor and insight. He begins with "Ode to the Wormwood," which is a kind of ode to the plant -- the Biblical apocalyptic scourge we're all so familiar with from TV. Perhaps wormwood is a metaphor for the author himself, "Growing on roadsides and wasted places" (line 1) or perhaps it's a metaphor for whatever feeds the alienation in outsiders, "the/ drink held in your hand, downed fast with eyes closed,/ resting on the passage in the Bible." Perhaps, even Gager is commenting on the addiction that is apocalyptic/religious fervor. Regardless, in a fairly brief poem, he manages a quite complex entre to this collection.
"Funeral with No Music" is a punch in the gut about a narrator mourning the death of his father and his dog at the same time. The dog, of course, registers the greater loss. Gager's word choice is clean and powerful. He describes burying the dog: "I sat there, my hair layered in sweat,/ the shovel caked with dry dirt,/ thinking dad deserves/ to die alone, the amount of times/ he cocked a gun to his head/ fucking with all of us." (lines 16-21). Gager balances his rancor at his father, his unresolved feelings, and his loss perfectly. I'm reminded of Carver.
There are several poems in this collection I could quote word for word because they rise from the clean, spare language to impart real feeling. One of the funnier ones is "An Angry Mel Gibson Gets a Dog" which I won't spoil, but let me say I'm not a fan, necessarily, of pop culture references, but Gager pulls it off in a surprising, very funny way.
All in all, I very much enjoyed this burst of poetry. Gager's passion on the page reminds me of a great, early 80's punk band, though, lyrically, he's much stronger (let's be honest). I'd be interested to see what he could do with a little more room to spread his wings.