In After Party (University of New Mexico Press), Noah Blaustein’s second collection of poetry presents a past as a tough-talking, street-fighting teenager who intrudes on the present-day mundanity and overwhelming sense of love that comes with marriage and fatherhood. His observational lines have a refreshingly unschooled sensibility, with an emphasis on the masculine experience, and his aesthetic is influenced by the work of New York School poet Frank O’Hara (1926-1966), who often commented on the everyday. Tension in Blaustein’s work comes from the push-pull of soft against rough — his life with his young family and the time before. In the title poem, the speaker considers the innocence of children at a birthday party who have exhausted themselves by decapitating a Hello Kitty piñata. Glitter and candy are everywhere. “This is the stale beer & cigarettes/of 7-year-olds,” he writes, noting how he has succumbed to the pleasures and pressures of being a husband:
my wife the way good men
of my generation do, by rinsing
blue & red sticky plates, taking out
Some of the poems in After Party hang in a kind of limbo, as if Blaustein cannot see his way beyond who he used to be — or he can’t find an outlet for the rage of his youth that he has never extinguished. Such ambivalence appears in “Fracture & Want.”
Here, the sand on the pavement,
a type of carpet. The where I go
to turn on my quiet. Then, the where
I went to blow things up.
Blaustein reads from After Party at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St., 505-988-4226). He is joined by Cyrus Cassells, author of The Gospel according to Wild Indigo (Southern Illinois University Press, 2018). For more information, go to collectedworksbookstore.com.