Poet Kevin Ridgeway dishes it out in seemingly endless amounts of true grit in his poems of loss and despair in Too Young To Know. His poems are a cross between Richard Brautigan and Denis Johnson and we can read the pathos of “Kool Aid Mustache,” “The 1988 Sears Christmas Catalog,” “My Drug Dealer’s Girlfriend,” and “The Original Unsung Hometown Zero” because less is more, because we get pulled down and are entertained, because we fall in love with Ridgeway, and because we survive along with him no matter what.
These are short poems written in lawn mower narrative chunks like Dean Young’s. I have heard this style called “new narrative” or “street style.” What is new about Ridgeway’s work is that his white trash experiences and escapades are just the setting for heroics of living when everything else comes crashing down in the world of alcohol and drug dependence.
From “Two Dimensional Lovers”:
. . . my sweetheart
that I secretly called Sharlena, her never
ending smile making out with me when I
saw the shell shocked faces of other sons,
frightened refugees smoked out of their
cavernous mall video arcade hideouts
For all the depression and desperation here, Ridgeway lifts us up because he just barely escapes with his biggest weapon. His scraggly Nordic looks? His jolly underwear? His nine hundred lives? All these? What passes for pathos and gutter writing is none other than beauty and connection.
Ridgeway’s poems are on Facebook and he posts short videos of himself reading. You’ll find yourself seeking him out again and again, addicted and craving more. His new chapbook is called In His Own Little World (Stubborn Mule Press) out now.
Too Young To Know by Kevin Ridgeway. Stubborn Mule Press, July 2019.
Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson lives at the headwaters of Sutherlin Creek in southwestern Oregon’s Umpqua Basin. She is the author of Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast (Finishing Line Press, 2021) Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir. Anderson is a poetry reader for Quarterly West and Lily Poetry Review. Her poems are forthcoming in Barrow Street Journal, Heron Tree, and Wild Roof Journal.
Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.