J.J. Campbell's collection "Sofisticated White Trash" delivers exactly what the title promises. The collection, like most narrative-confessional poetry, is ripe with raw words, dire emotions, and truthfulness. However, it manages to move the genre into a new semi-unexplored area. These poems are strong; the collection is a great introduction to the poet, his lifestyle, and worldview.
Campbell pays homage to the narrative-confessional style in poems like 'paralyze'. He disgusted me in 'another roadside cross'; a poem which stuck with me, angered me, but which likely proves true, at least according to Campbell. The imagery, as demonstrated in 'suicide watch' with lines like '... holes in walls shaped/ like frustrated fists', is ripe. Campbell has suffered and he is the first to point out his own fault in his suffering. His misgivings are many, his family life hellish, his self-pity evident.
The back roads of Ohio provide a poetic canvas, one that Campbell explores in his truck and reports about in sparse detail. This gives the reader a desire to know more and a conviction to stay away. I disagreed with Campbell a lot, although he is spot on at times, I appreciated hearing the perspective. I wholeheartedly agree that Ellen Barkin is wonderfully sexy.
The 'sofisticated' part of the collection comes about in the craftsmanship of many of the poems. These poems were written with a conscious effort to be artful in design, if not in content. This is demonstrated in 'american flag' which displays a unique perspective on 9/11.
There are occasional misplaced words and redundancies, but these shortcomings add to the authenticity of the poetry. He is a craftsman, but isn't afraid to vomit feelings onto the page and let it dry as it fell.
Christopher Byck @ 48th Street Press