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Last Call at the Tin Palace by Paul Pines

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As is the case with poetry with connections to jazz (music), the possibilities, as the cliché goes, are endless. Yet, it is true; poetry is “word music” and good poets, and Paul Pines (Pines is also a novelist and a New York based psychotherapist) is one, get it. They go with the flow. The poetry they compose is about the music or about the music that is the lives of people.

Last Call at the Tin Palace delivers. There are poems that use music (“Regarding the Percussionist,” “Pablito’s Blues”), speak about the music and the musicians (“Bass Players,” “Canadian Jazz”), but mostly poems that are music (“The Old Testament”).

According to Pines, the poems in Last Call at the Tin Palace are rooted in the jazz world of the Lower East Side in the 1970’s…” As someone with too young to know what that world was like, the poems are magical, revealing, yet personal, and all the time – engaging.

“Pax Americana” is an example of all of this: “A room full of hungry ghosts/in Congress/I hear them again as I did in South East Asia/ on a banana boat/stuffed with refrigerated turkeys/for Thanksgiving mess.” The political of now is the political of then; or then is now.

“The Ghost of Mother’s Day” is another fine work of art as son and mother speak to one another: “‘Mama,'” Pines asks at the beginning, ‘what shall I do?’ “‘Close your eyes,'” mother says softly, “‘Where are you?'”

Yet, at the core, a bar Pines owned called “The Tin Place” is the key to this collection. The title poems offers up an aesthetic flashback: “Granada falling/at my feet/a Mayan princeling/in the service of his conquerors/or the buried time/between time/before I was young/when I saw/my life to come/what it held in store/and decided I would live…”

Obviously, poet Paul Pines is about life, all of it.

Originally Published