Chatwing Books, 2019, 6″ x 9″, 546 pgs
Last of the Outsiders offers a sweeping view of prolific American poet Jack Grapes’ fifty-year career. Presenting the core of Grapes’ poetic work, the collection ranges from poems originally printed in 1968 to work written in 2019.
The collection’s title, Last of the Outsiders, reflects both Grapes’ early ties to the noted anti-establishment journal The Outsider and his standing as an outsider with no allegiance to any one school of poetry. Eternally a chameleon, Grapes defies easy classification; he has been labeled in various periods as an “Outsider Poet,” a “Stand Up Poet,” a “Revolutionary Poet,” a “Confessional Poet,” and a “Man of his Time.” Simultaneously surreal and realistic, desolate and comedic, witty and urbane, Grapes’ work taps into the diverse trajectories of American poetry while never settling on any single viewpoint.
Charles Bukowski once wrote that, “The poems in your chapbook, This Thing Upon Me (included in this volume), are as good as anybody can write.”
Last of the Outsiders is a two-volume work. This first volume, The Collected Poems, will be followed by a second volume, The Uncollected Poems, which features the balance of Grapes’ poems along with his prose relating to poetry. Last of the Outsiders is the third volume in the Chatwin Collected Poets series, following collections of Maged Zaher and Rex Wilder.
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