February Poetry Pick: Heinz 56

Fans of the Scrapper Poet know how I love poetry of place, and since I went to college in the Pittsburgh area, where else would I want to visit (through poetry and in real life) but Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?  Amanda Reynolds’ Heinz 56 (Main Street Rag, 2012)  invites the reader into both the landscape and history of Pittsburgh.

Reynolds opens up her book with a poem titled “Wishing You Were Here” which invites the reader into her world immediately:  “You can laugh, but I’ll take one look at ketchup/on your plate and tell you whether it’s Heinz.”   In a single poem, she mentions PETA protestors who are naked behind signs, a Weiner World that sits next to a porn shop, and Kennywood, “where each day two tons/of corndogs swirl around stomachs on the Jackrabbit.”   Even if you are not familiar with these landmarks and sights, it’s obvious from her attention to detail that Reynolds wants to capture Pittsburgh’s charm and chaos, so much so that in another poem, “Red Belt” she asks, “Can you replace the love of a man/with the love of a place?”  Her answer suggests yes, although she simply says, “I’ll be alright tonight.”

Reynolds divides her book into the “Belts” of Pittsburgh.  For those of you not familiar with the road formation of this city, the “belts” are different roads that lead around Pittsburgh. Thus, every section of the book suggests both an outer journey, and then of course when we think of extended metaphors, an inner journey.  We see speakers traveling through history in such poems as “The Great Pittsburgh Fire, 1845” and “The Banana Explosion of 1936.”  We see other speakers explore the intersections of personal and local history in such works as “The Molly Maguires.”   Still, other poems focus on popular culture, such as “Tearing Down the Igloo” which traces bits of Penguin history through a personal narrative.

I have always been fascinated with poets who seek to write about a specific city.  Other poets come to mind — William Carlos Williams and Carl Sandburg (although I KNOW they are not the only ones!), and in some ways, Reynolds is following in their footsteps, but in other, more important ways, she is trailblazing her own path to capturing the true spirit of an American city.

2 Comments »

  1. Thanks for writing about this book! I miss Pittsburgh and I think these poems just might do the trick.

  2. Karen Said:

    I think anyone from Pittsburgh will love this book! 🙂


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