Book Review ~ Everything Neon ~ Bud Smith
Everything Neon ~ Bud Smith (Marginalia Press 2014) is the best book of poetry I’ve read in a long time. Bud Smith unleashes his keen powers of observation and ability to describe contemporary life in narrative prose that takes the reader on a stream of consciousness magical mystery tour.
Rarely do I want to go back and start rereading a book right after finishing it, but I did with Everything Neon. For me it was like listening to one of my favorite vinyl albums that left me wanting to immediately flip it over, lay that needle right back in the groove of the first song, and do it all again.
Bud Smith writes poems that I wish I had written. He makes it look easy. Maybe it is for him, but these are poems that only Bud Smith can write. Bud Smith is a total original who is as comfortable in his own skin as he is with his own authentic voice. He exhibits a high degree of self awareness, but writes with a zen-like unselfconsciousness. The poems in Everything Neon are rendered with unstudied freshness and spontaneity and are never over worked.It’s like he’s on your living room couch and you’re just having a laid back, casual conversation.
Everything Neon is a collection of epistolary love poems and reflections on people and a sense of place. Smith’s poems somehow have a meandering way that manages to transform the everyday mundane into a transcendental experience. Everything Neon contains personal reflections on human intimacy integrated with, and somehow juxtaposed to, the ebbs and flows of living in a present day New York City neighborhood. Bud Smith ruminates on the day-to-day of urban living in the way that nature poets might describe the natural environment.
Intimacies shared with his lover are interwoven with reflections on finding and keeping a parking place or remembering where his car is parked, impressions of living in a pre-war Manhattan apartment building with all its noises and quirks and the idiosyncratic behavior of neighbors in close quarters. It’s also about the interaction of nature with his city; with references to the “moon scraping the tops of buildings”, the “silver river”, the storms of winter, the heat of summer and passing of the seasons.
However, don’t be fooled by what might, at first glance, appear to be minimalism or even simplicity. While Everything Neon may feel as comfortable as your favorite pair of jeans, the poems reveal hidden depth and subtle layers of nuance. Everything Neon is a celebration of being alive and fully present and the work resonates with me for the same reasons as the work of Gary Snyder, and (Hell yeah!) Walt Whitman. The poems in Everything Neon have a funky feel and a songwriter’s soul.
Smith writes with the sensibilities of a photographer and a film maker. Bud Smith’s narrative prose manages to take us inside his head so we can see through his eyes. Everything Neon is also about compassion, humility, humanity, ironic humor, a keen sense of the absurd, and a sense of optimism with hope for redemption. Smith is a prolific writer and a ball of fire with multiple collaborative projects in the works at any given time. You can expect a lot more from Bud Smith, but Everything Neon is as good a place to start as any.