Perhaps it is the title of UV Ray’s chapbook Road Trip And Other Poems (published by Erbacce Press) that puts me in the mind of Jack Kerouac’s most well-known novel, or perhaps it is the poetry itself. Either way the collection is a brief and thrilling read, loaded with darkness, drugs, blood and midnight wanderings, and highly reminiscent of the beats.
The chapbook contains thirty-one short poems, each one thick with atmosphere. Ray writes of peeling paint and police sirens, amphetamines and lipstick smears, 2AM taxi rides and a run-down Brooklyn apartment. The titular poem–which opens the collection–tells of an impromptu road trip (or, more accurately, a “100 miles an hour suicide drive“) with a woman “cranked up on gin“, and with “3 gms of speed in her blood“. This quick brutality is continued in the poetry that follows. “Night Train” narrates a train ride through a city of “brilliant white lights” that reflect “in bombed out / stares of heroin injected / irises…”
Though the majority of the collection tends towards the darkness, it does have a few lighter moments: daytime scenes to offset the mainstay of nights. Poems such as “She & I” and “Landscape” (a pair which ends the collection) introduce female characters, partners perhaps, and emphasise beauty and calm: an escape from the 24-hour, never-sleep cyclone of the rest of the collection.
One of the things that most interested me about Road Trip And Other Poems was the collision of cultures that can be seen in the use of language. Ray uses “gasoline” rather than “petrol”, “parenthesis” rather than “brackets”–but in other places we see the tearing up of “pavements” and the a broken-hearted girl on the “underground”. This mixture of dialects speaks of travel, rootlessness, the seeking-out of a home.
Stylistically, Road Trip And Other Poems is a simple affair, neat and charmingly straightforward. I sometimes felt as though a few poems deserved more space than they were given, particularly at the end of the chapbook where two are set on the same page, making it look as though they were crammed in at the last minute.
Though brief this chapbook pulses with a hunger, an energy that is both refreshing and challenging. UV Ray is most certainly worth a read, and this chapbook is a fine introduction to his work.