In this collection Walton expands further on his thesis that Western society is “marketed individuality”. Expanding on the themes of his earlier collection, Gatsby’s Abandoned Children, he gives new perspectives on the hollowness of conspicuous consumption while savaging the idea of rejecting the American Dream for mere youthful rebellion.
The collection contains 18 poems varying in length from a couple of brief stanzas to several pages.
Starting with the first poem, Walmart Parking Lot Song, and accelerating into the distance, Walton continues to revel in both the flexibility of language and its lack of clarity. Sprinkling stanzas with line-breaks that he does not obey, and instructions to the reader to [Pause], and scattering puns and tongue-twisting rhythms throughout, he reminds the reader that experience comes from personal interaction not passive consumption.
Although this is a continuation of Walton’s earlier themes, his voice is slightly less raw and aggressive in these poems. While he is still trying to share a valuable truth, in poems such as The View At The Moon Motel there is an acceptance that not everyone will feel the message.
Forgive the hungry for screaming
Forgive their fridges for being empty
Forgive those who never learned to read
Forgive those not born in America for not being born in America
–Forgiveness Is Not Always Words
However, this acceptance is not a sign of greater conformity; if anything The Renaissance Of Childhood and My Body Is Eden (When Comes Expulsion) paint an even stronger message of true growth as a reaction of the comfortable life of the past. Rather, Walton has chosen not to spend so much effort on carrying others for what is a journey each person must ultimately make alone.
Where Walton is perhaps less impassioned about the blindness of the masses, he displays no such compassion for artists. We Are Watching You Gatsby and Paranoia Developed both attack the idea of letting comfort or popularity restrain art.
Should Santa be black
or a penguin?
I’d rather him be a Walmart
because that’s what Christmas is all about.
–What’s In Your Wallet
While poems such as Ginsberg, Your America Is Dead and Lucifer’s Playthings are a convincing picture of the dangers of looking backward even to the victories of the past, Walton is no mere post-modern philosopher pointing out the failures of the system. Most clearly by the inclusion of two versions of Gatsby’s Abandoned Children, using many of the same words but with different orders and emphases, and subtly throughout, he reveals that the path begins with being loyal to your personal vision rather than external forces (including Walton himself).
Interleaved between the poems, half annotation and half graffiti, are little encouraging messages and statements of intent which draw the reader deeper into the shared possibility.
I enjoyed this collection greatly. I recommend it both to those familiar with Walton’s work and those seeking a combination of musical words with challenging ideas.
I received an advanced copy of this collection from the author in exchange for a fair review.