Taj Mahal Review, Vol. 20, No. 2, 

December 2020

Broadway for Paul by Vincent Katz

(Alfred A. Knopf, April 2020)

Review by Rochak Agarwal

Vincent Katz is the author of the poetry collections Southness (2016) and Swimming Home (2015) and of the book of translations The Complete Elegies of Sextus Propertius (2004), which won a National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association. He is the editor of Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art (2002), and his writing on contemporary art and poetry has appeared in publications such as Apollo, Art in America, ARTnews, The Brooklyn Rail, and The Poetry Project Newsletter. As curator of the “Readings in Contemporary Poetry” series at Dia:Chelsea, Katz also edited the anthology Readings in Contemporary Poetry (2017). He lives in New York City.

It is stunning that Vincent won a National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association for his book The Complete Elegies of Sextus Propertius. 

With the title, BROADWAY FOR PAUL, this book is a compilation of several aesthetic poems. The art of showing the glimpses from the poet’s point of view is remarkable in most of the poems. Vincent’s wonderous and erratic perspective amuses the reader’s mind and creates joy in the reader’s heart also. 


The opening poem, ‘BETWEEN THE GRIFFON AND MET LIFE,’ in its beginning only captivates the reader. “I am totally enamored of every person passing in this unseasonably warm mid-March evening”, the word ‘enamored’ shows an immense feeling of love in the poet’s heart for every passing person who is a stranger.   


BETWEEN THE GRIFFON AND MET LIFE

I am totally enamored of every person passing in this unseasonably warm mid-March evening near 39th and Park

The young women, of course, with their lives in front of them, and the young men too, just standing here as I am, checking it out, hanging out, talking

But everyone here, every age, every type, is beautiful, the moment, somehow, the weather, has made them all real and for this moment, before it turns to night, they’re all fantastic

The light is such that I can see everyone and can imagine what they are imagining for the night ahead, what dreams, what fulfilled fantasies of togetherness

And the two guys who were here a moment ago, paused, have moved on, and the light is deepening, every moment or so, actually falling into a deeper stupor, which is night

But if I look south I still see the pink flush of desire there at the bottom, the southness of all our lives, and it’s okay that it’s darkening here, people accept it as they concoct plans for tonight, Thursday

Soon I’ll have to go too, lose this spot, this moment, but some we’ve met and some experience we had somewhere else is becoming ever more important


While reading BROADWAY FOR PAUL, one gets the impression that the poet is telling his story as he has lived it, in his own words and in his own way, with an insertion of various fantasies.


In ‘7 A.M. POEM,’ the poet describes the quotidian routine of people. “They have work to do and they are trying to do it / Families to feed and teach”, symbolizes the struggle and effort of the people, who do work to satisfy their wants and needs.


7 A.M. POEM

They carry their lunches in paper or plastic bags

They are rushing but composed

They don’t speak much

They’re quiet this morning, maybe preoccupied with big violent forces moving in the capital

They have work to do and they are trying to do it

Families to feed and teach or else

Just moving ahead with life, trying to be someplace better

A little further on ahead

The people arriving on trains are not New Yorkers, but

They too are filled with desires, plans, wrapped in winter coats

As the people crashed out on stairs or in abandoned buildings

People in high boardrooms creating situations affecting those with nothing


In ‘BEGINNING OF THE PICNIC,’ the words ‘breezes / Keep air moving… // sunlight on leaves… // afternoon lingers…’ showcase the inherent beauty of nature. Moreover, it appears to be that the poet is in search of an atmosphere where he can write poetry.

 

BEGINNING OF THE PICNIC

 

Let’s see if I can write some poetry now

It doesn’t look like it, sitting on the veranda

Above a quiet street, a Tuesday at

Year’s beginning, warm, sunlight on leaves

Rainfall earlier cleared out but clouds

Returned, yet all is lush and breezes

Keep air moving in and out, below

Two men walk past, conversing

A garage door slides open, a car backs out,

Birds cackle nearby, dogs farther off

Resound, the car returns, the door slides,

The car slips in, afternoon lingers

 

This collection by Vincent Katz reveals flamboyant imagery and vigorousness in his poems, which show original accents and lively imagination. I find that his poetic style is lucid, succinct, and fluent. I can surely give a green signal to potential readers that this book is worth buying. I hope that in the future I will get more books by Vincent to review. To be honest I am overwhelmed after reading this book……..