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Review of Instant Poetry (Just Add Words!), by Larry Berger

May 07, 2011 | Comments: 0 | Views: 196

I was intrigued when I received a copy of this poetry chapbook for review. It isn't the typical poetry book. The author, 'Laughing' Larry Berger, improvised these poems onstage in front of an interactive audience in various coffee houses in Los Angeles in 1996.

It isn't easy to write poetry, much less create it in front of a crowd, which is why I was delighted to discover Berger's wit, imagination, and flair for language. The verses, some as short as a few lines and some long enough for two pages, explore various subjects and themes, from fun and light to serious and transcendent.

A good example of the author's lighter poems is "Bubble Gum." The poem catches a moment, a single snapshot of pure joy. A recurring theme in this work is the idea that modern men are trapped, caged, slaves and prisoners of their own cars and apartments. One of the poems which exemplifies these ideas is "Leprosy."

In other poems, such as "Four Thousand Years Ago (The Crack Baby's Prayer)," the author takes a philosophical look at life, presenting the reader with a grim picture of society, injustice, and the violence inflicted by humans throughout history. Berger uses the symbolic metaphor of rivers red with blood-this metaphor, by the way, is also recurrent in some of his other poems.

Some of my favorite poems in this book are the ones where Berger captures one single moment of happiness in a world where disaster looms in every corner. For example, in "Green Tea Ice Cream," which is about the prediction that the world will end in 2012, Berger ends the verse with the narrator being happy because he's simply enjoying delicious green tea ice cream.

There are a several memorable lines in this collection. I'm not sure if Berger meant to leave his best poem for last, but "Cold KFC in N.Y.C." was definitely the best for me. The poem, which reads like a story, is about a man who has just been mugged in Grand Central. Having just missed death, he goes back to his crummy, cold flat and collapses from terror and exhaustion. Later he wakes up hungry and the only thing left in his fridge is some cold KFC leftovers. Berger ends the poem-and the book-with:

And folks I've got to tell you! ROAD KILL NEVER TASTED SO GOOD!

Instant Poetry (Just Add Words!) is a collection of forty-eight poems. I was surprised at the author's creativity, good humor, and, at times, depth about the human condition. I don't read poetry often but I found Instant Poetry engaging and interesting. If you enjoy poetry and would like to try something different, I recommend you grab a copy of this book.

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Her nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner. She's had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published. Visit her website at

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Larry Berger


Instant Poetry


Free Verse

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