Dispatches from the Swinging Door Saloon


Loved it! 😍

Thematically well-organized, good character studies. Good bursts of vivid writing and reflection

Normally we associate Orange County, CA with the upscale, fast paced lifestyles we see in movies and on television. Everything is up-to-date, everyone is fashionable and ultra-cool according to the latest standards, which change constantly.

    The same would apply to a place for adults to meet and mingle. “Bar” would be too common, too unsophisticated. Residents and visitors would have someplace trendy to enjoy the ultimate in cocktails.

Dispatches from the Swigging Door Saloon come from an old-fashioned bar, set back well behind the façade of the Orange County as portrayed in the media. The nearly-six dozen or so poems come from this establishment. They are thematically-linked, and connected together very well. One can imagine sitting in the place, nursing a drink, observing what goes on, listening to a raconteur talk about experiences and people encountered along the way. There is a wealth of material in these dispatches.

    Stylistically, it is the same note played over and over again. Zydeco music is interesting for ten minutes, and then begins to sound all the same. That is what happens here; not that it is necessarily a bad thing, However, if one sits and reads ten or so of these poems one after the other, it is a little hard to distinguish one from another. The rhythm, flow of words, the style is the same all the way through.

    What makes this book interesting is the poet’s ability to create some good character studies and to fashion short bursts of creative use of language. The influence of Bukowski and Collins is clearly evident, especially of the former.

   “A Mad Scientist” and “The Strangest Politician I Ever Met” are two excellent examples of what was just mentioned. From the latter:

    “It was his midlife and golden years/ all at once. He cashed in his retirement/ and ordered a 70-year old virgin/ from Romania to keep him company./ They moved to Florida.”

    From “Looking Down over Laguna Beach”, we see two people:

   “They are not alone./Their disappointment sits between them/ ;ole a quiet child.”

   One criticism I have of the editing, and this is something I would lay at the feet of the publisher. It is very hard to distinguish the individual titles of the poems from everything else.

   I have not been back to Orange County for three decades. Should I ever return, I want to go to Tustin and find this saloon.

Reviewed by

I am a published poet with four books out there of my own, and two in collaboration with artist Carol Worthington-Levy. Additionally I have drafts of a novel and one short story in the process of being sent out.

On Working

About the author

Described by his friends as Poet Laureate of the Absurd, McNair was inspired to put pen to paper by a mixture of Charles Bukowski, Billy Collins, Sharon Olds & the muse at large. His poetry has been published in both American and Canadian literary journals. To learn more, visit view profile

Published on May 28, 2020

Published by Bits of Steak Press

10000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Poetry

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