by Matt Borkowski
Iniquity Press / Vendetta Books
With an introduction by Joe Weil. Special thanks to James Wolffolk, American painter, 1947-1994, who suggested the title Uptown-Down! I was going to call it A Pillar of Salt, or something else, equally ridiculous. Many of these poems have been published in the following periodicals: Arbella, Ball Peen, Big Hammer, Guillotine, Half Dozen of the Other, Long Shot. Much thanks to their editors. I also wish to thank David Roskos, a great editor and a real good friend, whose encouragement has kept me writing many times, when I couldn’t see any reason to continue.—Matt. Uptown-Down! copyrite 1999 by Matthew Borkowski, ISSN 1-877968-22-6. Front cover aerial shot of New Brunswick, NJ, taken by Mike Taylor (aka DiNarco) from the roof of Charlie Ewen’s All Ears Inn on French Street.
Matt is neither a leftist nor a reactionary, neither a street poet nor an academic. He is a great American crank, in the best tradition of W.C. Fields, Groucho Marx, Charles Ives, Hugh Selby, Algren…someone truly outside the establishment, including the anti-establishment. Matt Borkowski can not be read in comfort by either the right of the left. He is an ontologist of the dispossessed, the fucked up and broken beyond all class distinctions and political lines.
Borkowski spares no one in the realm of life style leftism, including poets. He is down right brutal. It is the sort of brutality that preys not on the innocent and oppressed, but on the pretentious. We get “Ralph,” the dentist poet who makes people listen to William Carlos Williams before he works on their teeth. We get the reincarnation of Shelley as a surly gas station attendant. We are told the “worst people become poets.” Somehow, we know it is true. Matt doesen’t even spare himself. His poems on his own impotence and sense of failure are forthright in a manner that offers a much needed alternative to the “I love myself” school of poetics.
Borkowski is not a positive thinker. He reminds us that love and integrity are difficult if not impossible, that the world does not easily conform to our expectations. His mission is prophetic to the extent that he is letting us know we have all fallen short of the kingdom. He claims that “only people with no luck/really know luck/only those behind the fence know the distance.” Matt, as I’ve already said, is an ontologist, someone staked always to the ground zero of what it means to exist in a universe of incommensurates. Nothing gels, nothing goes untainted and yet he claims, “a walk is a prayer if taken well.” He is too good a poet to say whether the prayer is answered or not.
Perhaps the walking itself is the answer. To walk with “one foot in heaven/one in hell/upon the earth where all have fallen,” is the poet’s true job. Matt walks with his eyes wide open, and we receive the gift of that journey without having to suffer much of the damage it has cost him. In the end, Matt is vigilant for the rest of us, even when we’d prefer him to be less so. He has stayed awake to tell us that even God is cause for his concern: “I’m worried about God/the luck the poor don’t have, the rottings breasts of light/glimpsed through the window.” Enough bullshit. This is a great book of poems, the best I’ve read in a long time. Enjoy it. Joe Weil – more or less 7/28/98
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