Poets Wear Prada is a poetry publishing house with excellent poets and affordable books with beautiful covers. Have you had your poetry today?--Meredith Sue Willis, Books for Readers * * * Stylistically, these beautifully designed and produced chapbooks bear their own distinctive signature.--Linda Lerner, SMALL PRESS REVIEW

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Linda Lerner reviews Most Likely to Die by Hilary Sideris for SPR

#1 Survivor

Most Likely to Die
By Hilary Sideris.
2014; 52 pp; $12.00.
Poets Wear Prada,
533 Bloomfield Street,
Hoboken, N.J. 07030.

Linda Lerner

Re-printed from

Small Press Review

Jan - Feb 2015
Vol. 47 Nos. 1 - 2
Issues 504 -505

Ok, so you know nothing about Keith Richards except that he is a member of the rock band the Rolling Stones, heard his “[Ain’t Got No] Satisfaction” and saw his lined face and skinny boy’s body on TV. Then you come to this collection, and can almost hear the first guitar string vibrate, images so sharp you feel as if you could pick out each note played as you listen to his gravelly voice. 

Divided into four parts, each poem is written in couplets with one line flowing effortlessly into the other taking us from his life in prewar London, to his parents  ... "riding through air raids/ with (him) in the baby seat, puking ... to fame and surviving being 'number one' on 'a most-likely-to-die list.” Music was there from the very beginning, as was Mick, whom he met in primary school and who had every 45 Chuck Berry ever made. His admiration for Berry remains consistent: “It flew/ off the needle the first time / I put his record on./ It made me love the man, / let me put up with him in years/ to come ... the only bastard / I didn’t punch back.” (“Hail Hail”) 

It wasn’t enough for him to love the blues, to learn to play it; he needed to get down to its very soul. “Blues don’t go / straight. There’s something / wrong, mixed up, flicked / back, suspended like a boy / from school, no rules. It’s dark / down here. You feel your way / around ...” (“Learning The Blues”) One of the best definitions of the blues I’ve also come across.

We learn about “the holy house of Chess / the shrine where every song / we loved was cut” to their first song, “The Last Time.” With fame comes acid, seeing “a flock of yellow birds” who gave me / the eye, as if to say, 'try this' and the downers he took, “not for pleasure / but to shift from shitty fame / to busy lull, till I discovered / speedballs: cocaine, & heroin/ to take you up, bring you back/ down.” He could never understand why Scotland Yard bothered to tap their phones, “plant acid / in their cars,” and chase a band / of tripping troubadours.” (“Acid” & “Speedballs”) 

In the last part, he talks about his children: “What can / a father do? Mum’s a junkie, / Dad’s on permanent tour.” There’s the son who died of crib death ... something “We never spoke of ... /  Every lovely one of us should leave / this world, all in the natural order, / dad, mum. But seeing a baby off? / You just go numb.” (“Tara”) 

The collection concludes with comments on both music and fame: “The moment you tune / your guitar to one chord / you have to learn where not / to put your fingers, what to / leave alone ... The same train takes you / from the Delta to Detroit. / the human heartbeat.” (“The Drone”) As for fame, “You don’t negotiate, / you nod your head, stick / to the road you’re on.” Leaving is not an option. It’s a calling. “The great ones ... / Muddy, Robert Johnson ... / sold their solid-duty souls. / Why would the likes / of us not follow them / to the crossroads.”

What Hilary Sideris has accomplished is an amazing feat; she doesn’t so much as write about Keith Richards as inhabit his very being. I listened rather than read these poems, that drove me straight to his music and a “blue acoustic” few hours listening to what is really, quite “Somethin’ Else.”

No comments:

Post a Comment