Any half an idiot can put a pin in their vein and flush their life away. It takes a whole other type of idiot to stop spiking their veins and turn their idiocy into noteworthy social commentary. That, friends, is exactly what Scott Wozniak has done in Crumbling Utopian Pipedream. These poems are straightforward, unapologetic and altogether, honest.
Honesty is a tricky customer, a word often bandied about with neither thought nor care; particularly by book reviewers. For clarity’s sake I’ll elaborate – when I call these poems honest, I’m not referring to their autobiographical narrative. Although, by the accurate portrayals and attitudes, I suspect these poems were lived before they were written. As a reader, though, I’m unconcerned by that type of authenticity. Quite frankly, as long as the work is well-informed and moving, I couldn’t give too much of a damn if the author is confessing the filthiest of transgressions, or if the secrets are a matter of fiction. The honesty here is in Wozniak’s accessibility. There are no tricks, no requests from writer to reader, no poorly hidden agenda; just one crisp line after another, consequential in a rare, conversational, reading experience.
There is plenty here for the gratuity-seeking voyeur, after all, our narrator is unashamed, a miscreant. However, the steady pulse of this book beats from a heart of repentance. As previously stated, these poems are unapologetic, so when I claim them repentant I’m not alluding to pleas for forgiveness, nor moments of clarity or Damascus Roads. Wozniak is far from evangelical when it comes to recovery, but his distinctions between the past and the present are sobering. These are not the drawn-out mutterings of a toothless addict who’s spent his inner resources on the endless pursuit. The rhythms and musicality alone demonstrate discipline and craftsmanship. More importantly, though, the insights into what it means to gather up the pieces of oneself and start again, epitomize the strength of repentance.
Some considerable years ago, long before I decided I didn’t much care for cult-like groups, I sat around a plastic table in a smoke-filled church hall and listened to a fellow twelve stepper talk about how many friends had died in a short space of time. He summarised thusly, “I knew I was fucked up when I realised that I didn’t care.” A year or so later, he died, followed by five other people I knew, all in the space of a few short months. I only add this personal aside to make this point: I can relate to the themes herein on a very personal level. I only make that point, as a foundation for this one: no matter a person’s background, repentance is a basic-human necessity. All of us, if there is any hope, must face the truth of ourselves and act accordingly.
Crumbling Utopian Pipedream concerns itself with the truth of self. Its themes are self-destructive, yet collectively, they busy themselves with constructive tasks. These poems are honest in their accessibility, unapologetic in their confessions and, most importantly of all, altogether, redemptive.
Title: Crumbling Utopian Pipedream
Author: Scott Wozniak
Publisher: Moran Press
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