A Review of
Pawning My Sins
By M.J. Arcangelini
The depth and breadth of Joe Arcangelini’s life must make his confessional appearance in this volume of poetry one bad-ass day in the publishing world. The eponymous first poem has his first confession of the book—that he wouldn’t get much of a return at his mystical sin pawnshop. And this is his first sin of a lie to confess to the reader. Going by the sins in this book, I’m thinking Joe’s got a damn good pawn stub in his mitts.
Joe takes us through his experiences: weed patch sentry duty, the booze, and the seedy North Beach hotel stays, and even more life on the “interesting” side of town. We definitely have some librarians clutching pearls and clucking tongues going on here. Fret not, librarians, we have no full-monty tell-all here. What we have is an honest accounting of a wild life told in poetry—because that is what Joe Arcangelini is good at these days.
Especially at lines like these about the clearing out of his Dad’s place, “The bed that witnessed such tender gymnastics” not kept, but keeping the “1920s straight razor, a 1903 Colt .38 revolver, a decayed molar.” All those embedded memories offloaded to the page.
You don’t have to read very far to see that once past the deprecation of the first poem, the reader is off and running on what would singe the local padre’s “heard it all” ears in a confessional. Sure that the ears listening nearby are perked toward that booth.
Yes, Joe is raising the shades in Pawning My Sins. He is confessing to the angels (and us), but he wants the pawnbroker’s cash, not some nebulous absolution. I love the stark, honest, eloquent writing going on here. We get treated to both the significance and the insignificance of a life in these pages. The midnight quill scritching Joe is sharing has the oldest of intentions “not to do what I have done.” The thing I dig with this book of poems is that there is not a lot of resignation and sadness here. It is even hard to see apologetic regret. You know Joe will write another great book and move on from the fizzled fireworks, the hitchhiking, the rehabs, and lost friends and lovers—because in the clarity of his writing there is a survivor here, and we sure count on this loveable gentleman to go on “pawning” more of these wonderful poems off on us.
Collect those tickets, Joe, and get every last dime you are entitled to, because surviving and becoming the gentle artist we finally meet here is well deserved.
Pawning My Sins
Luchador Press 2022
Big Tuna, TX (cool) –98 pages
About the Author: Evan Myquest lives in the Sierra foothills near Sacramento, CA. He has been married to his wife, Eva, for 47 years. His poetry has appeared alongside Jack Hirschman, Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen, Jim Carroll, and many others across the US and in Italy as well as translated and performed on video by Rome’s maestro Beppe Costa. His latest poetry collection, Cold Blue Roses, is available at Amazon in print and Kindle editions. This is his second book review, his first appeared in Ingrid Swanberg’s “Abraxas” about “Dorsey/Wagner.”