Lego Cats and Paper Planes Review by Gwil James Thomas
I’m not too sure how or when exactly I first came across the work of Ben John Smith, I think it was probably when I discovered his site Horror Sleaze Trash. If you’re reading this, then the likely hood is that neither Ben or his site will need an introduction. Still, what I liked about Horror Sleaze Trash was the genuine feeling that it was talking for underappreciated writers, that genuinely couldn’t have given a fuck, many graduates from the school of Bukowski that weren’t out for accolade, or fame, just to get drunk, write poetry and wake a little more of a smile when the alarm sounded the next morning.
Whatever you may think of his work, the one thing that strikes me above all about his poetry is a rare integrity. I have never met the bloke, but I do feel that he is writing from a truth, he is clearly living the life that he writes about. Lego Cats and Paper Planes is no different. Like Bukowski this stuff has a quality to that I can relate to, something that is so integral to his own life, a ritual of writing that channels everything. Which leaves you wondering what would be without it; like some case of erectile disfunction, or gun without bullets.
This collection is clearly Ben’s voice and like a lot of others that I have seen, but there is a rich quality here, that you can come across occasionally with an artist, where they experiment slightly. Of course he is true to his readers and doesn’t stray off course, but it suggests that he doesn’t want to keep playing the same old tune, he wants to keep you guessing. And again like Bukowski, Ben shows that he’s more versatile than many others who attempt the same route. The poetry here also subtly pokes at the responsibilities thrown upon him, upon all of us, as we get on, even if he’ll go grey his way, it’s that questioning quality. There is lyricism here too, some of my favourite lines are from the first six lines of the kennels:
make strange sounds
and I put in ear plugs
to stop there ugly howls
My marriage is nearly
over before it starts.”
Other poems that got my attention were the section of extended poems such Bass Fishin’. I’ll call them extended poems, because I don’t want to title them as short fiction, I’ll leave the titles up to their father and creator, but they work as a great interval.
I am not normally one to write reviews, or get involved with critics, or comment on others work, I would rather leave the work of others to speak for itself. I don’t normally feel it’s my place. But this collection will not fail to disappoint and also comes with wonderful sketches of cats and beer cans, by another talented artist. So please, sit back, roll another cigarette, put your lips to the bottle and just read the fucking thing.