The Old Pothead Poems


Sam Abrams

The Old Pothead Poems
Creative Arts Book Company
74 pages, $12.95

The "Old Pothead" of these poems is a persona, much in the flavor of Walt Whitman, who sprang out of Walter Whitmanís life to propagate the astonishing poems that make up Leaves of Grass. But contrary to my expectations, this old pothead isnít foggy-headed and vague at all. Instead, many of these poems are telegraphic Zen blurts, notes of a hyperactive head case tripping on politics and history. These are poems with a bite, poems that grab the pony of experience by the mane and ride it barebacked as it bucks toward the cliff edge of Apocalypse. Sam Abrams is a poet of wry humor, fond of political commentary and social satire, who at times seems to be channeling H. D. Thoreau and R. W. Emerson.

Among the bitter polemics the Old Pothead spews is "Man Thatís Cold," which advocates free dispersal of hard drugs in order to prune the Darwinian rose bush of genetic idiocy, a funny, brutally true rant. Then there are lines like these, from "This Is the Body and the Blood":

American Motors makes
    a kind of Jeep
    called the Cherokee
at Bavarian Motors, our new model
    we're gonna call
    The Warsaw Ghetto

Spare and direct, these poems are the life notes of a poet who isnít afraid to mix his art with politics, as in his paean to Jane Fonda of "Hanoi Jane" fame, "Bestseller," or in "I Heard the News Today, Oy Veh," an indictment of Zionism and the police state that Israel is in danger of becoming. I was particularly delighted with "Precisely":

you wanna know about America
I can tell ya

itís great cities with no public urinals
where pissing in the street is a crime
for which, every year
thousands are arrested and fined

thatís it
thatís what itís about
do you understand now

In a lifetime of writing poetry, expanding his consciousness, and raising a ruckus about the sorry status of the quo, Sam Abrams has learned one thing well: "A poetís task is attention."  For a supposed pothead, these poems are remarkably straight and to the point.

óDavid Thornbrugh

Copyright © 2003 David Thornbrugh.  All Rights Reserved.

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