Chapbook, Robert Hogg, 16 pgs, above/ground press, abovegroundpress.blogspot.com, $4
You need to be a few pages deep in this collection before its title begins to make sense. It opens with a two-page freestyle that pays tribute to the late Western actor, Roy Rogers, then moves to a childhood memory of Robert Hogg sitting atop a horse himself. The mood is predominantly upbeat until Hogg drops the lines “who took this photo / probably mom dead now,” and the material begins its shift into the advertised lamentation direction.
That Rogers elegy aside, Hogg’s lines are rarely more than two to four words long, and his phrases are continually interrupted. The stilted reading that results is almost like someone trying to talk through sobs — getting out a few words with each breath. This brevity, as well as Hogg’s plainspoken approach, is reminiscent of award-winning British Columbia poet, Tom Wayman. Where Wayman tackled the toll of work, Hogg examines the weight of death and loss.
The best poems in this collection recognize loss while celebrating (sometimes flippantly) what comes before and after. The stand-out piece, “Summer of Sixty- three,” sees Hogg longing for estranged friends and the good old days, when he and his comrades — smoking joints and listening to jazz records — “expected / to die the next day get busted or live forever talking poetry.” (Scott Bryson)