Distant Stations is in many respects a kind of love letter to these streets of yinz.
Often found on game day, watching the broadcast perched on a stool in Hough’s Bar in Greenfield, is local poet Jonathan Loucks. Once a West Coaster, Loucks fell hard for the City of Bridges. Distant Stations, his first full-length collection, is in many respects a kind of love letter to these streets of yinz. As Loucks writes with some longing and a bit of a wink in “Moon Over Parma:” “I just want people to dance, middle aged at Yesterday’s, blondes in wire rims with foot fetishes.”
His is a youthful Pittsburgh of sports fans, writers, indie rockers and drinkers—a city that’s equal parts Andrew McCutchen, Neutral Milk Hotel and John Berryman.
It’s a city of secrets and solitudes, which shows in the elusive quality of some of the work, such as in “Laurel Players:” “…walking around Greenfield, staring at houses that look like yours. Houses with sheets on the windows, white walls inside.” The whiteness suggesting both infinite possibility and the singular reality of an enclosed space compressed into one solitary understanding.
This is not to underplay the warm humor running throughout Distant Stations. There’s the goofy colloquialism of “Like wax paper wrapped around a fish sammich, why are you holding me?” from “Did Before” and the unsolicited stoner advisement in “I Write for the Drinks:” “A man on a bicycle in the snow says, ‘Smoke a joint, drink a few craft brews and enjoy your life.’ I consider it, the thought of a new legacy.”
Jonathan Loucks is part of a vanguard of younger writers and independent publishers who are bringing overdue attention to our amazing local community of writers.
As the poet Frank O’Hara so beautifully noted of the ’60 World Series, “The Pittsburgh Pirates shout because they won and in a sense we’re all winning—we’re alive.” It’s this affirmation of life, this exuberant yawp of joy that we find at the annual Forbes Field gatherings as well as in the growing lit scene—a love of Pittsburgh, both its legendary past and its bright future.
Distant Stations by Jonathan Loucks; Six Gallery Press; $10