This book is a chapbook; that is, a small collection of poetry published probably at Kinko’s and often sold for a nominal fee. Back in 1994 and 1995, I did a couple of my own, although I forked out for the double-sided printing and the saddle stapling instead of the single-sided tape bound print job evidenced in this book.
Not too long after this book’s publication, I met Pam on the open mike circuit in St. Louis, so this represents I suppose the first time I bought a used book from someone I know and reviewed it herein. Ergo, I am going to offer a sunnier, more encouraging review than I’d give to someone I never knew. Be forewarned.
Puleo has a good sense of rhythm and sense for how words sound; I could read these aloud without stumbling or trying to determine the cadence in stride. She’s also fair enough with her eye for imagery.
However, this book shows her as an underachiever. She relies on too much repetition that provides little effect and enjambs a lot of lines that could have been better served with line breaks and punctuation.
She’s somewhere above Rod McKuen. Maybe tied with Sylvia Plath.
As a bonus, here’s a book review I wrote about her in 1995:
Bonus Book Report: St. Louis Jazz by Pam Puleo (1995)
This review first appeared in the Fall 1995 edition of the St. Louis Artesian, a free little pickup literary magazine I published 1994-1996. Puleo gave me a copy of the book, so I reviewed it because, frankly, the hardest part of putting out the magazine was coming up with enough literary stuff to fill it.
Pam Puleo titled her new chapbook St. Louis Jazz, and the title fits her style. Puleo’s well-developed voice binds her poetry like a slender thread woven throughout her works. The voice of wisdom, of been-there, done-that, somehow blends into a softer shade of poetry, into a velvet purple by her continued, although muted romanticism.
Puleo packs many songs into this volume, most describing the search for love in a world that is neither cold nor hot, but only room temperature. The poet’s brief epiphanies and occasional insights we can share as she grows older, grows wiser, but never grows hard not bitter.