My friend Scott once said that bad poets get into language poetry so they can just write the word “duck” on a piece of paper ten times and be done with it.

            I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but it feels like it.

            By way of explaining, language poetry is a movement that started with poets like Gertrude Stein and took off in the 1970s and emphasizes the way words work together instead of meaning.

            It’s easy to do badly.

            Gertrude Stein did it well.

            So does the Downey poet Roy Shabla.

            Or rather, Roy’s not exactly doing language poetry. Roy’s a poet who has worked in with narrative poetry for years (think Robert Frost) and is bringing elements of language poetry into his work so he’s able to make those the stories in his poems have music.

And it’s not as though he’s just dropping the word “duck” into his poems ten times in random spots. That would be like dropping it in this piece for absolutely no reason.

Duck

Duck

Duck

Duck

Duck

Duck

Duck

Duck

Duck

Duck

No, Roy Shabla is a poet who is able to combine language poetry with narrative poetry to create an emotion that goes beyond the story that he’s telling. His work is elegant and often difficult, the kind of work that you can read again and again to gain more insight into what he’s saying and the worldview that his work is coming out of.

Roy has a new chapbook coming out, and I’m going to be the first in line to buy it. I’ve loved his other books, but from what I’ve heard of this newest book, he’s plunged more deeply into the language poetry, and I’m interested in what he has to say.

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