Ties and girls, bombs and leaders – none escape the ravenous eyes of a poet who never quite outgrew his own curiosity.
Obsessed by the meager details of life, Scott Laudati seeks unfamiliar objects in his published poetry collection, Hawaiian Shirts in the Electric Chair, released last year. His subjects are addressed as if seen for the first time, and never seen again thereafter.
Amidst the cocaine and sex, there emerges a shocking collection, a childlike innocence, where beside lust stands a torturous desire for answers.
In “Turnpike Blues,” a worker who is “on his way to a shitty job / in a shitty town” asks us, “have you ever thought about a necktie?”
Indeed, many of us cannot claim we have.
Then we too begin to ponder why men insist on maintaining this agonizing routine not because of any conscious reasoning, we realize, but because mindless repetition bids one to.
Looking down to see that he too wears a tie, he admits, “I was a manufactured monkey like everyone else.”
In another poem titled “Lorraine,” Laudati continues searching, again observing people become “machines in hopes of not being replaced by them.”
Laudati renders Lorraine’s image not with urgency, as poets are often directed to, but with gentle pondering.
While he drifts to sleep with the thought of Lorraine’s feet in one poem, he is awakened in another when she vomits, and with a passionate rally for love, he protests, “sometimes / all it takes is public vomiting / to prove / that you are still free.”
Laudati deploys a genius tactic throughout this collection.
His silly, insignificant questions and subtle probing instill his readers with a realization of the more significant features of life they have overlooked. At times, Laudati’s petty obsessions only seem so for a moment, before they penetrate and embarrass his readers with their lack of insight on the ongoing events around them.
Mingling with this innocent curiosity is a grown man’s skepticism, though that too is tempered to fit the playful tone of his poems.
In a poem titled, “We Need the Bomb,” Laudati cunningly combines his divided selves, the child and the man, to present an image all of us have considered, though none have found a fitting language to narrate.
“I’m not sure what the / bomb / will look like / on the day all the leaders / get together / and decide to play / a big game / of dodgeball […] it’ll probably / look like / the earth / going / blind / with helpless orgasm.”
Though his poems greatly differ in their subjects, Laudati maintains a consistent style.
He renders the thoughts of a man with the language of the young. And only in this way could we indeed conclude this poet has found the language of images.
With many enjambments and lines often as short as one to two words, Laudati says to hell with meter and rhymes, to kennings and allusions. To hell with all these things that distract the reader and poet alike from what is being said and from the pressing messages conveyed.
Laudati, instead, maintains an undistracted focus on the troubling subjects of his heart.
Laudati humors the abundant sorrow of love’s woes and of life’s odd ways, in such a way that does not lessen them, but amplifies the sentiments associated with them.
To categorize Laudati is to risk blending his profound observations with other poets of differing expressions, but to overlook the association of his writing with the characteristics of certain categories of art is to commit a great injustice by denying him his rightful place among these artists.
Though written in common language, Laudati demonstrates an unhesitating rejection of common ways of thinking.
He is a Dada poet in every way who abandons the general manner of thinking in order to access the uncensored images of the subconscious. He’s also an impressionist who forgoes consciousness of his own self and subjects various characters to his unapologetic probing.
His poetry demonstrates something akin to a child’s unfiltered pondering and questioning, deceiving his readers with his seemingly simplistic outlook and uncomplicated writing. He embraces his readers while pounding them in the back. He shocks subtly and convinces silently as devils do.
In “Mick and Keith pt.1,” Laudati writes:
“But I kissed her anyway / because / I’m easy / and I understand / why women leave / bars with men / who look / like / they were / born old / and never been boys / in love.”
One of the unique marks of Laudati’s writing is the way in which he approaches such serious topics as war, death, and God like a quiet predator approaching a prey. We, the prey, linger oblivious to the predator that writes his way closer and closer, until he pounces and claws us with his message.
One of his most riveting poems from this collection, “The Dog Days Are Over,” explores the shunned topic of the aging and dying men and women in “community homes” in the most odd and candidly offensive manor.
Comparing this aging to happy dogs, Laudati admits, “I’m pretty sure if there was a god / he would’ve stopped evolution / at the / dog.”
Laudati’s unfiltered writing emanates from the untamed mouth of a young child that still survives in him. This child, having not yet mastered the etiquette of approaching sensitive topics (nor desires to), bids the child that still resides in each of us to raise its voice against the censored ones.
“And / because they / are old and / boring they’re / stuck away, to ride out the days alone, / and watch their roommates / drop out one by one. / and at the end, their very first / learned lesson becomes their last- / if they want to keep everyone / happy, / all they have to do / is shit in the right place.”
Aiyah Sibay is a sophomore English literature major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.