Book review: Cocktails With a Dead Man

cocktails with a dead man


Cocktails With a Dead Man
by  Joe Albanese
Genre: Poetry
106 pages

Follow the author on Twitter


I used to be a great lover of poetry in my native language, French. My most favorite poet is actually Spanish speaking, Pablo Neruda. The rhythm of his lines in Spanish is remarkable.
But, apart from a few examples, poetry has always been a challenge for me in English. So when the author contacted me, I thought I might try Cocktails With a Dead Man.

The main reason I can’t stand many English speaking poets is that I find their sentences way too long. Usually there are no rhymes, and I can’t even find a rhythm if the sentences are too long. So it often doesn’t feel like poetry to me, rather prose written in a poetic way of displaying the text.

I actually accepted to try this collection of 74 poems, because almost all of them are indeed short, with short and very rhythmic sentences. Some use a repetitive form of refrain or alliterations (see Sensory Adaptation).

So I enjoyed this collection in its form.
The content however left me somewhat disappointed. I liked the theme of communication, or rather often lack of.

You can’t read what
I say, nor do you shout
what I’d hear.
This is just another
dinner together.

We never speak what we mean

Communication is
a series of

But lots of poems are very dark.

1 of 52
another week of job applications
another week with no responses
another week of writing
another week of rejections
another week of punching the wall
or door or fence until my fist
is swollen or bleeding, just
to expel something
the only thing that makes me crazy
is thinking next week will be
any different
but maybe it will be
yeah, maybe next week
I’ll use my left fist.

Though some do hint at love as a possible way of escaping the gloom.

If all our lives I never reach you
Then let these words be how I love you.

I know I’m never good at finding the right thing to say
All I can offer is this:
you’re how I know that life’s okay
you’ve always been my life’s okay.

To be honest, I have written many poems in my younger years, though I have never dared to publish them yet, and indeed my experience was that my best poems were written when dealing with difficulties.  I often felt that I was not inspired if all was going well with the world. So I should not be surprised by the tone of Albanese’s poems. Somehow, I may not be in the best mood to fully appreciate them today.

Also, because of the title, I was somewhat expecting some kind of more explicit connections between all the poems, almost like a crime novel written through several poems. That was not the case.

I actually asked the author f he minded telling us more about the title, and what he shared does explain the darkness I felt:

There are two major subjects covered in this collection: my depression, and love–the good and bad. There are other subjects tackled, like writing, but those are the main two. I wanted the title to capture that balance– for the collection to capture almost what it would be like to sit down and have drinks with me and have inebriated but honest discussions. It was also probably heavily influenced by my love of Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski. I don’t drink much, but when I listen to Tom Waits songs or read Bukowski’s poetry, I always feel like it would be enhanced with some alcohol. I wanted the reader to sort of get a similar feeling.

So I believe there’s potential in this collection, and if you are not very familiar with poetry, it could be a good one for you to try, when you are in the right mood for it.
Joe Albanese has also written a crime novella and a crime-comedy novel.

VERDICT:  Satisfying poetry collection, focusing on communication, love, and depression.

Rating systemRating systemRating system

Who’s your favorite poet?

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received this ebook free of charge from the author. I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.


3 thoughts on “Book review: Cocktails With a Dead Man

  1. I am glad to know I am not alone as I try again in my older days to read poetry. I read a poem a day before I go to bed. It is a challenging form of literature for me and sometimes I am not sure what I have just read, but then again, it seems poetry comes more directly from the gut and the heart and the senses than anything else written.


  2. Pingback: 2019: February wrap-up | Words And Peace

What do you think? Share your thoughts, and I will answer you. I will also visit your own blog

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.