I remember exactly when I stumbled on this poem – I was sitting in a coffee shop thumbing through an anthology of humorous poetry (not all of which I found humorous). I like a poet who doesn’t take himself too seriously, a poet who can banter around with language and logic, and a poet who makes me laugh the same way a comedian makes me laugh – to-the-point humor with some complexity in the joke, or, in this case, the poem. First, the title grabbed me – Vince Neil Meets Josh in a Chinese Restaurant in Malibu (after Ezra Pound). I often hesitate when I see an ‘after’, but this two-pager works more like a remix. And believe me, I am a BIG FAN of a mastered remix (see: Shatner’s ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’).Here, Bell is following Ezra Pound’s The River Merchant’s Wife (based on the first of Li Po’s Two Letters from Chang-Kan), which happens to be one of my favorite poems of ALL TIME, so skepticism was high when I skimmed the opening lines. But half a page in, I was annoying the table next to me with my laughter. Even though this poem might not REALLY be about me, it still ranks on my all time favorite ‘poem after a thing’ poems of ALL TIME. Here’s why:1) This poem makes me laugh, without even trying. A lot of poetry is designed to make you laugh, but there’s nothing discreet about it. This poem, however, comes across like a lot of really great comedy: slightly self-deprecating, inconspicuously intelligent, and all-out witty, as Bell plays off a comfort in Pound’s work and playfulness in his own. 2) I love Malibu. And I love how conventionally accessible this piece of work is. Last time I checked, there was, like, one Chinese restaurant in Malibu (what up, China Den!) and there is certainly only one Vince Neil, and I’ll just bet that when that Vince Neil goes to Malibu, you’d have a shot at finding him in the China Den. And of course, there is one Josh Bell who would put all these logical events together and come up with a poem. 3) One liners are awesome. And this poem is peppered. My favorites include: “Who rocks you now / rocks you always” and “Love in battle conditions requires a broad taxonomy”. Read it and discover your own favorites. 4) Josh Bell knows quality in commonality. And he works well with it. Of course Vince Neil would be scribbling notes on a golf card or a piece of toilet paper (haven’t we all?). Plus, they’re in the China Den, so shrimp fried rice is a natural choice, because it was highly rated on a yelp! review. Unless, of course, this was written when Point Dume Chinese Restaurant was still around, in which case, the fried rice was not the best choice. 5) It still does what enjoyable poetry tends to do. Yes, there is humor, but the poem is well balanced with some moments of thought, beauty, and longing. Executing those items THROUGH Vince Neil certainly adds to the humor, but also gives the piece that nice little frame of the human condition at work (ie: the character, the charisma, and the flaw of the figure). 6) This poem has the ending to end all endings. Poetically speaking, of course. Do you want to know what it is? If the answer is no, stop reading this review now. Okay. Here goes. I’m going to tell you:
…And now you come to me
in this Chinese restaurant in Malibu,
asking if I can help you. Please tell Circus Magazine I love them
forever, and please pass Pamela this message:
If you ever get back to Malibu by springtime, drop by the boathouse
and I’ll rock your ass as far as Cho-Fu-Sa.
Eat your heart out, Ezra. (I still love you).