Looking for Potholes by Joe Wenke explores the changing fluid world in which live and the fluidity of the relationships we have with one another. Like in “Then and Now,” it starts off simply discussing how when we are young, we can shoot baskets and drink soda, but when we age we cannot. But he goes deeper to suggest that as we age we tend to close ourselves off to new experiences and relationships, but also to even those relationships and experiences we already find ourselves in. “You used to keep going./Now you stop.//We’re here for the moment./No one knows/how long you stay open,/when you close.” (pg. 3)
Life is full of potholes, those moments where things are thrown off track. Wenke is adept at twisting subtle insults and jabs into something that can be admirable, like being considered “Choosy” which means the narrator had the fortitude to choose the partner he’s with and calling him choosy. Wouldn’t you want some who is discerning pick you? Many of these poems lack a sense of regret, but applaud the sense of acceptance and living in that moment and making it the best. “Lying Liars” is a poem steeped in irony, with the liars continuing to spin their tales to your face and behind your back because that’s all they know how to do. But the rub is that the people they speak to don’t believe them, and the liars end up deceiving themselves.
The Stranger (pg. 33) Last night we saw each other for the first time in years. My fears of an epic confrontation, an ugly conflagration sparked by a chance encounter -- the accidental meeting of two people who once loved but then profoundly hated each other -- were unfounded. You look at me for just a moment with no change in expression or sign of recognition that I could see. Then you turned away from me and walked on -- as if you were a total stranger.
Looking for Potholes by Joe Wenke is a little bit more serious than Free Air, but these poems are still infused with wit and satire. The turns of phrase can sometimes catch readers off guard as well, but these poems are well worth the read.
About the Poet:
DR. JOE WENKE, an outspoken and articulate LGBT rights activist, is the owner and managing partner of Xperience, a multi-million dollar marketing communications and production company with offices in New York, Boston and Detroit. He is also the founder and publisher of Trans Über, a publishing company with a focus on LBGT rights and promoting freedom and equality for all people.
He began his career as an editor at the Foundation Center in New York City. He was a speechwriter at Avnet for Tony Hamilton, the founder of the global electronics distribution industry, and wrote speeches for George Conrades, the head of IBM US. As a senior vice president at Caribiner International he served as the company’s lead communications strategist and head of global accounts.
Wenke received an M.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Connecticut. He is a regular columnist in the Huffington Post. His books look into the religious underpinnings of LGBT discrimination in America, including YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING! The Cultural Arsonist’s Satirical Reading of the Bible. His next book, PAPAL BULL: An Ex-Catholic Calls Out the Catholic Church, will be published later this Fall. He is also author of “Mailer’s America” about the lifework of Pulitzer-prize winning American author Norman Mailer.