By Shawn Misener
In the small press world there are very few authors who have their own voice. It’s just a fact of the game. Shit, the publishing world at large is riddled with work that fails to stand out. As entertaining and thought-provoking as an author may be, he still probably falls softly within the folds of convention.
I say this because Mather Schneider is one the authors whose work doesn’t stand out. I can see you now, old Mather, either laughing at me or swearing at me or both. But trust me: This is a good thing. We can’t all be Vonnegut. We can’t all be Jim Harrison. We can only hope to fulfill our limitations, stretch our turtle shells, and maybe carve out a little piece of ourselves for the world to swallow. I think Schneider has done that.
His identity as a poet is clear and true, especially within his latest collection of poems He Took a Cab (NYQ Books, 2011). He’s a cab driver in the desert. He observes, records, and comments on his fare. Occasionally he will let his mind percolate and wander into the more philosophical aspects of his job. But mainly he comes across as a passive observer of the lives who have hired him for a ride, who then abandons that passivity to poke fun at, criticize, or admire what he has witnessed. It’s a good formula. He Took a Cab is consistently entertaining.
Schneider is not one to indulge in fantastic, absurd, surreal, or romantic language. In many ways his straightforward tone is his greatest strength. If you appreciate poetry that isn’t really poetry but chopped up dairy entries, you’ll dig this book. This “common man” approach is also the the most glaring weakness of his writing. He doesn’t seem to care much about rhythm and line breaks, and occasionally his poems will suffer because the reader is forced to bumble around and experience the work like engaging in a conversation with an extremely slow person with a slight stutter. One thing the new generation of poets lacks as a whole is an appreciation of FLOW, and Schneider is no exception.
That being said, this book is simply one of the best reads of the year. Rarely will over 100 pages of poetry hold my attention all the way through; Mather’s did. His trademark dry wit, cynical perspective, and lowbrow romanticism is present in spades. There’s no question: Schneider is a solid, solid writer. His tales grip you and drag you through mud behind his cab, sometimes for hours on end. There is no demographic that is safe from his clutches, and I love him for it. We all live in his cab. Rich or poor, religious or atheist, lilly white or everything else, Mather has observed you, dissected you, and written about you. Chances are you’ll recognize yourself and be a big enough person to laugh.
CLUTCHING AT STRAWS ILLUMINATED PROBOSCIS RATING: 9 Stars out of 10.