Review: ‘Hawaiian Shirts in the Electric Chair’

By Tyler Bridges.

I always get excited when someone gives me some new poetry to read. Normally it’s a friend who knows how much I love poetry, or a friend who has written something. When Scott Laudati contacted me asking to read his published work, I was ecstatic!

Poetry is an art form that is very personal to those who write it, and it takes guts to be able to publish. Scott has these guts, having published for the first time a decade ago. The American poet has been nominated for the Pushcart prize three times now and is one of those leading the way for modern poetry. Many of you know the poets of the past, but not our modern influences, including Scott.

“I didn’t even know that living people could get published.”

Some of the poetry in Hawaiian Shirts in The Electric Chair can be confronting in its content, touching on sensitive issues surrounding mental health, death, murder, war, sexual motifs, drugs and other confronting issues. This is one aspect of poetry I have always appreciated: that you can really sink into your own thoughts, and as the reader you can get a true glance into the mind of the author.

“I was inspired by every piece of garbage, pizza, jazz man, rat king, pretty woman, foreign cigarette, and I think I was able to capture it all in this book with the lens of youth.”

My favourite poem in his latest collection is “a garden east of eden”, a work that speaks so beautifully of what love can do to a person’s mind and being.  The poetry in this compilation touches on some modern global problems – such as in “we need the bomb”, which reflects on the state of the world and the constant threats from beyond. Mainly this would seem an issue that would touch more of Scott’s American fans, but as a global issue this is something that evokes a sense of foreboding even in us as an Australian audience.

Hawaiian Shirts in The Electric Chair is a relatively easy read, and like all poems of its style and length, you can pick and choose which you read and when through the book. Flicking through to see which title or words pop out at you on a particular day, when you are feeling a particular way.

Scott also has YouTube videos of ‘music clips’ to go along with some of the poems from Hawaiian Shirts in The Electric Chair, and from some of his previous work. These videos are a great way for those who enjoy poetry but are in a rush, or just prefer the spoken word, to embrace Scott’s work and be drawn into his imagery.

“I understand how hard it is to get people to read. It’s basically impossible. And the stuff people do read is really horrible. A video is the fastest way to get someone to hear my words without any work on their part. Then, my hope is, it’ll draw them in to reading my books.”

Scott’s advice for students is not to ask your friend’s opinion and stay off social media. These are biased places.

“Submit your work to literary magazines. If you stick with it you’ll start getting published. Then you will be very happy you didn’t put subpar poetry into the world of Instagram. If you stick with it you will get published. There is someone out there right now looking for a voice only you have.”

Some great advice to follow by submitting your work to Opus Magazine for publication.

I highly recommend this book to those who have a high appreciation of poetry, and even to those in the creative industries who may not have considered poetry as much in the past, as I have found Hawaiian Shirts in The Electric Chair to be a source of my own creative inspiration since reading it.

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