Drought Resistant Strain, 124 p.
by Mather Schneider
from Interior Noise Press
reviewed by Ross Vassilev
The first thing you should know about Mather Schneider is that he’s not some university professor who goes “slumming” in search of material to write about; as a matter of fact, he’s a cabbie in Tucson, Arizona. Much of Mather Schneider’s writing focuses on the fact that life is hard, and that people make it all the harder by their cruelty and indifference towards one another. Schneider’s poems both confront this fact:
…she thinks the proper way to run things
is to come in twice a day
and rip the staff new assholes.
The restaurant stays afloat
because of the reputation of her dead husband
and the hard work of Mexican immigrants
who she treats like farm animals.
and also seek to escape it through contemplation of moments of beauty:
a million Saguaro cacti in salute
tall and sentinel over the crimson mesa
like an army on Mars….
Schneider writes about the working-class world and people in which he lives: the kind-hearted ones who are too trusting and always finish last; the old ones who’ve worked hard all their lives and have nothing to show for it; the insane; and of course, the criminal-minded who prey on all the rest and add, as Roger Waters put it, “another brick in the wall.” It ain’t pretty, but it’s real.
As it should be. After all, if you’re writing serious poetry, there’s no “nice” way to write about the homeless:
Ask the old man
a cardboard sign
on the final asphalt
at Douglas and Valencia….
or what some people have to do just to survive:
She was 86’d from The Mint
for hawking blow jobs
and now she comes into The Deadwood every day
to trawl our happy hour….
Later in the night
we hear the Mexicans
taking things out of the dumpsters
to fix and resell….
No, life is no picnic filled with only sunshine and butterflies. It is what it is and of course Sartre declared that “Hell is other people.” But if you know all that then maybe you can tiptoe through the minefield of life and have something worthwhile to show for it at the end. And this book by Mather Schneider will give you a piece of that knowledge.