Poetry. If one goes Googling John Repp, one soon learns that he is a native of the Pine Barrens region of New Jersey (a location that often appears in his work), but has since lived many places, attended many universities (picking up an MFA along the way), has worked at seemingly every sort of job from gravedigging to teaching creative writing (so at least some of them useful), and has an eclectic and eccentric list of interests. And that he has, over the past forty years, written many books of poetry and prose, garnering awards and critical recognition along the way. All of which finds its way into THE SOUL OF ROCK & ROLL, which serves as a “greatest hits” selection from those four decades of poetry. Such an outsized life has yielded a commensurately wide-ranging body of work, and any attempt to gist it in few words would do it poor service; but a good point of entry is "The Tiny-Montgomery-Mother-Poem" in which Dylan's The Basement Tapes plays in the background while Repp's mother is dying, and his family rails at him for speaking of such things: "They say These things are private. Why do you keep / making these private things public? It's so long ago." Yes, he writes of private things, and of things from long ago, from a time of innocence and the rush to lose it, documenting not merely his life but that of his generation, a generation for which rock & roll provided the soundtrack and the thrum sounding throughout these pages, love and loss amid the worn crackle and hiss. It may be true, as William Carlos Williams observed, that it is hard to get news from poetry, but it's a good source of history, of understanding how we arrived where we are. Repp reports in one poem here that he learned of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in part from a Robert Pinsky poem. Now it is his turn to educate us, to share the lessons from his life and times. Not all may be the sort of things that people die for want of knowing (to complete the Williams quotation), but they can be comforting—and what a needful thing that is for these times. "Who doesn't climb from the mere world" he asks in "Ovaltine"—with the emphasis on mere, lest we take our lives too seriously, reminding us to dream—"to where Ponce de Leon and Wyatt Earp rein their horses / while you spur Silver to column's head? The wind hits you first, / wind unheard before that, nothing ahead but fire and new mountains."
John Repp is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, & book critic. A native of the Pine Barrens region of southern New Jersey, later lived in northern New Hampshire, Michigan's Lower Peninsula, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Crawford Township before settling in Erie, Pennsylvania in 2000 with his wife, visual artist Katherine Knupp, and son, martial artist Dylan Repp. From the fall of 1991 until retiring in August, 2020, he taught writing at Edinboro University.Author City: USA