Part of the problem here -- if it is a problem -- is the very clear invasion of the 1980s Nuyorican Poets Cafe into these pages. While Reverend Pedro Pietri, whose ``If you don't play with fire you get burn,'' would hold up in either medium Miguel Algarin, a long time performance poetry star, does not shine in print as well as he does in the cafes. In this volume, the influence of Nancy Mercado is clearly felt. She has managed to find some of the biggest names in the late 1980s and early 1990s poetry scene but almost with a reckless disregard for the reader.
Staged poetry is just that. Actors and performers can almost sell anything, perfecting their word craft in the same way stand-up comics do, drawing from audience reaction rather than solid poetic craft. Often a piece played on the stage falls flat on the page, and great names in performance look silly in print.
In this volume, there is some solid poetry and fiction that counter-balances this trend towards the cafe, but the performance poetry has clearly made its mark, offering a range of readability from the well-crafted work of Marilyn Kiss' ``Self-hatred,'' and ``Mother, A.D.'' to the all too obviously flat poetry of David West and Rosemary McLaughlin.
Nancy Mercado's works are prime examples of this media and with a little effort a reader can imagine their electricity in the low-light setting of a coffee house. But on the page, the impact is lost without the input of the performance.
The Nuyorican influence goes beyond performance, adding a rich Latino undertone to the volume that the last issue lacked. Tracie Morris' ``Morenita'' which opens the issue seems to capture the variety of themes the book investigates, moving in and out of dialect, investigating sound the way performance pieces could not.
Bruce Isaacson's ``A Russian Mood'' continues the international flavor with a humorous ironic poem that might be a metaphor for America's dying culture.
But the issue also plays on two important themes of our times. Poets like Ras Baraka, David Huberman, Willie A. Howard Jr., Andy Clausen, Andrian Louis, Robert Press and Jack Wiler highlight themes of street life and international war. Eliot Katz's ``A new morning warning poet'' seems to capture the war theme in an exception combination of page and performance poetry.
But many poets still shine in more traditional poetic techniques like Caren Lee Michaelson whose work seems to capture small moments and invest them with significant meaning. Danny Shot's ironic ``My Bad Angel'' is a funny, tragic and brilliant poem on psychological projection. While Betty Borrus' parody of T.S. Eliot did not seem to work well, ``A woman tells the truth about her body'' is a marvelous metaphor for the struggle of art.
Susanna Shario's story ``Black Night Air'' is painful, depressing, but sharp and effective fiction that defies label or theme and joins several other good pieces of fiction contained in this volume.
As always, the artwork and photography in Long Shots mirrors its overall literary quality. The Allen Ginsberg photos were a delightful surprise. Another big name in the photo world is Sidney Sherman. But most impressive was the numerous photos by Lynn Breitfella whose sexy and clever images were enhanced by deep and moving moods.