From Jack Grapes's _Lucky Finds_

Books and Recordings by Jack Grapes

Available from Bombshelter Press

One of Los Angeles' most accomplished poets must certainly be Jack Grapes. Though often linked with the "Stand Up" school, Grapes' poems are far more willing to engage with themes that are imbued with morbidity and desolation. He does so through his stalwart commitment to a mordantly comic legibility within the larger cultural discourse. The poetry in his recent books make it demonstrably clear that he has an almost instinctual ability—akin to that of a master actor—to shape dramatic metaphors into the enduring substance of a "local habitation and a name." He fulfills the role of masterful mentorship through a body of work that would serve to inspire anyone who might take up the challenge of writing poetry in the coming decades. The scope of his work, however, will prove to be the most daunting aspect to anyone who decides to make a foray into his extraordinary complex assemblage of poems. He has not made it easy for anyone to grasp the full meaning of his artistic journey. His staggering panoply of accomplishments has an integrity that younger poets have yet to understand as one of his crucial virtues. —Bill Mohr, University of Iowa Press

Cover image of All the Sad Angels

All the Sad Angels

2015

Cover image of Poems So Far So Far So Good So Far to Go

Poems So Far So Far So Good So Far to Go

2013

Cover image of The Naked Eye

The Naked Eye:

New and Selected Poems, 1987–2012

2012

Cover image of A Time to Sing, A Time to Dance

A Time to Sing, A Time to Dance

2011

Cover image of Pretend

Pretend

Spoken Word Compact Disc

2001

Cover image of Lucky Finds

Lucky Finds

45 5x7.5" Cards

2000

Cover image of Breaking Down the Surface of the World

Breaking Down the Surface of the World:

Part 1: Geography

1996

Cover image of Trees, Coffee and the Eyes of Deer

Trees, Coffee and the Eyes of Deer

1995

Cover image of and the running form, naked, Blake

and the running form, naked, Blake

1995

Cover image of Some Life

Some Life

1986

Rare, out of print

Cover image of Breaking on Camera

Breaking on Camera

1978

Rare, out of print

Cover image of Termination Journal

Termination Journal

1975

Rare, out of print

Cover image of Perchance, in all your travels have you ever been to PITTSBURGH?

Perchance, in all your travels have you ever been to PITTSBURGH?

1969

Rare, out of print

Cover image of Seven Is a Frozen Number

Seven Is a Frozen Number

1967

Rare, out of print

Cover image of A Savage Peace

A Savage Peace

1965

Rare, out of print


top

All the Sad Angels is unlike any of Grapes's previous books. The poems defy simple critical analysis. One encounters an acceptance of life, an open-armed and open-hearted containment of life's diverse pains and pleasures, griefs and joys. If you get a chance to hold this book in your hands, open it as you would a treasure chest filled with wondrous objects—some obvious, some mysterious, some magical, and many tender and comforting. —Lisa Segal, Cultural Weekly

These poems are reveries of sorts on existential concerns: how do we find meaning in a world without meaning? How do we live with the anguish of such meaningless, which leads to what Sartre referred to as 'nausea."? Grapes's answer is: communion with others—our fellow sad angels who share the ontological sorrow that attends us all. —Matthew Hetznegger, The Cultural Weekly

The poems in All the Sad Angels are so perfectly written that they don't really seem written at all. I can't think of anyone who writes poems quite in the way Grapes does, with a marvelous mixture of humor and warmth, intelligence and erudition, wise strength and earnestness of heart. —Richard Jones, Poetry East

Grapes has an amazing spoken sense, a poetic spoken sense, of course. A few months ago, I found a blog that mentioned Grapes as one of the greatest living—albeit unrecognized—contemporary poets. —Chris Byck, 48th Street Press

The poems in your chapbook are as good as anybody can write. —Charles Bukowski

Grapes is one of the Los Angeles poets who deserve national importance, a stalwart luminary whose work is as exquisitely clear and literate as any in the country. —Dennis Cooper, Los Angeles Herald Examiner

Jack is a maverick poet who has revolutionized the poetic process in the deepest way possible. —Lucia Lemieux, Moving Pictures

To read the poetry of Jack Grapes is to enjoy the bounty of this world along with the daily tasks and emotional trials, ever grateful for this life, knowing the way is never easy, but that it can be blessed and memorialized in poems. —Richard Jones, Poetry East

Grapes is not an artiste-savior out to heal the world in his own image, just a poet whose writing is unpretentious, honest, and humanistic. These qualities make us care when Grapes dishes up little slices of his life on paper. He unfolds his world with courage and forthrightness. —Mark Watt, Great Overlooked Books

Grapes absorbs the absurdities of his experience: he is intense and vulnerably honest and at his best he can give incidents from his past a touching poignancy, especially since fidelity is another of his merits. I've read poems of his in the past that were so true without being sentimental that they counted almost as personal experiences of my own. He is one of the finest poets writing today. —Rich Mangelsdorff, Kaleidoscope

The beautiful logic of his poems seems to refute my own half-baked prejudices, change my own thinking. What more could be expected of any poems? I'll tell you what more. The power or ability to astound. There are poems in this book that turn my head around a complete 360 degrees, that strike my heart's wooden gong with their clear, cold millimeters of magic. —Tom Kryss, Black Rabbit Press

These poems transcend what might have been self-indulgence to show a full range of universal emotions. We find a man in touch with the mythology of his life. This is the strength of his poetry--he writes with an honesty that would put all the psychiatrists on Bedford Avenue out of business. Grapes is an Everyman creating glorious images out of a sometimes less-than-glorious reality, tugging at emotions and overthrowing state sensibilities. —Laurel Bogan, Los Angeles Herald Examiner

His example has everything to do with the survival of poetry as a human rather than bogus art form. No gamesmanship. No politics. The healthy part is that Grapes manages to experiment while yet retaining his own focus, will not immerse himself in an alien bag for profit or recognition, is actually reaching without falling into. If you don't think that's rare in an era of instant-image poets, well, just think about it for awhile. If you're not acquainted with Grapes, you ought to be. If you already are, take heart; he's still growing. Hope we can say the same for you. —Rich Mangelsdorff, Vagabond

There is a supreme and eloquent strength in Grapes's keeping out of the various "schools" of poetry. His poems are some of the best ever written, not because they reshuffle life so sensibly, so eloquently, or because Grapes is so purely himself and so purely human, but because he has a tender, caring passion that is hot and soft and so frightfully real and so frightfully brings out our dead selfish carcasses to feel more convincingly than ever before the full spectrum of the earth we live on. —Douglas Blazek, Kaleidoscope

His language is common speech, height and confined through poetic skill and insight. It is not only easy to read, it reaches out for you. He manages to be levelheaded in building his poems, wonderfully and purposefully vague in atmosphere while at the same time, making his points assuredly. It is difficult to explain and equally hard to delineate. It is the work's magic. The point, or at least the result is an updating of the Whitman ethic, the "Song of Myself" which speaks for and to all men. Finally, Jack Grapes makes sense, and how many poets consistently do? His work is generous, passionate, as full-bodied as a meal and yet delicate as a fog, but a fog which never falls between him and his writing, between his work and us. This unique usage of poetry, this humane artistic ideal, conscious or unconscious, of what poetry should be, is his own. Ours too, if we are wise enough to receive it. —Dennis Cooper, Bachy

Jack Grapes is said to be a poet who articulates the sensibilities that shape L.A.'s unique literary terrain. —Los Angeles Times

I'm not sure that Jack Grapes' magic could be pinned down even with a long involved analysis. His style is so unique--relaxed and playful one minute, dropping a bomb the next. He's a master at using ordinary language to paint fantastic, sometimes surrealistic events and images. I find phrases here, techniques there, that remind me of many great writers, but I can't compare Jack Grapes to anyone, nor find an underlying influence at work. He seems to have absorbed the best of them all and used what he likes to forge his own unmistakable style. He's a writer who can spin magic from everyday English, and who will keep your eyes glued to the very last line. —Jim Burns, Shattersheet

Grapes covers a tremendous amount of ground in his poems--abstract and figurative, personal and philosophical, literary and historical, and he does it with wit and flair. To his immense credit, these moves do not seem half-digested; seem, rather, the product of an original, omnivorous sensibility. —Matthew Specktor, Poetry Flash

Grapes writes poems that operate somewhere in the middle ground between pop culture and philosophy. —David Antin, Los Angeles Weekly

What I talk to Mexican poets, I find myself thumbing my dog-eared copies of Jack Grapes' books to show what North American poetry can do at this moment. Grapes works himself sideways into a poem by beginning in an ordinary voice, and before you know it, total cosmic disaster is at hand. He honors his own difficulties and wrestles with encountered obscurity instead of smoothing it out with the delete key. His last book set apart from anything I saw published this year. —John Oliver Simon, Poetry Flash

Grapes has been called an Everyman of poetry because his work cuts to the bone of basic human truth without the pretense that characterizes much of what passes for contemporary poetry. A Grapes poem travels as true as a bull's-eye shot. This poet is no alienated artiste putting the onus of comprehension on his audience. What he has to say is too important. In doing so, he is in turn gentle and merciless, funny and brutal. Grapes is a 20th Century Diogenes, searching for the honest man within himself. He has no secrets except in telling them, no lies except in exposing them. —Sally Kalson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

He writes deceptively, inventing a constant voice voice -- intimate, congenial, a voice you feel you can trust--until he flashes horror, jingling a cloth close to the eyes. I am the darkness within you all, writes Grapes. I will get you. —Robert Peters, Small Press Review

From a certain depth within himself, he expresses a compassion that, in the hands of a lesser poet than Grapes, would certainly deteriorate into a maudlin melancholia. But Grapes is a poet. He creates his poems with a clarity that is frequenrtly surprising and pleasing, and he is as equally competent in controlling a phrase as he is in making the entire poem do what he thinks it should. —Jerry Burns, Small Press Review

The voice in the poems is his voice, unique, singular. I get the feeling they can be touched, tasted, torn into butterflies without dying. —Brown Miller, San Francisco Poetry Review

Grapes speaks for the extraordinary in the ordinary, for the life in old shoes, the overcoat you didn't hang up, the doilies on the end of the sofa, for whatever life, humanity, or possibility that can come from chaos. In his work and in his presentation of himself, a surface geniality frequently masks something dark and bloody. This flip-flop from genial buffoonery to commandant of the dark side seems to be paradigmatic of Grapes' approach to poetry. —Nancy Shiffrin, Los Angeles Times

top
Site content copyright © 2005–2018 Jack Grapes.