Doug Nufer and the Band Names
Lounge Acts Is a Boozy Trawl Through Poetic Repetition
You're either going to love tireless local word-explorer Doug Nufer's new book or you're going to hate it. Lounge Acts (Insert Blanc Press, $11) is full of poems that consist of hundreds of fictional lounge-act band names. All these band names are made from the same construction: Blank and the Blanks (real life examples: King Khan and the Shrines, Fitz and the Tantrums). And the whole thing reeks of booze: Rob Roy and the Nightcaps, Butch Mills and the Rocks, Gar Nish and the Twists, Ray Near and the Shots. (Those examples are all from the very first page of the very first poem.)
Some of these names are puns (June Nip and the Pur), some of them are plays on famous names (Carl Isle and the Brandy), and some of them are just plain groan-inducing (Dinty Moore and the Stew). Lounge Acts works best as a spoken-word piece, and Insert Blanc Press is selling a 38-minute MP3 of a performance of the book by Nufer and great local saxophonist Wally Shoup on its site for $1.99. But if you read the poems aloud, you can approximate Nufer's boundless sense of play.
The human brain is hardwired for pattern recognition, and when we're looking at words, the pattern we're trying to recognize is a narrative. A lot of experimental poets are too precious to give us a narrative; Nufer isn't. One poem mashes up a bunch of holiday-named lead singers (Marty Grah, Hal Aween, Jill Lyeforth, etc.) with a series of alcoholically named backing bands (the Hangover, the Cheers, the Midnight Service). Each stanza mixes up a holiday with a different band, creating what amounts to a decade's worth of hard drinking in a couple pages. The book reads like that, with the kind of you-had-to-be-there humor of a long night at the bar with friends when you're batting a few lame jokes around until they become knee-slappingly funny. In the sober light of day, the whole thing seems a little suspect, but you also kind of want to go out and do it all over again immediately.