“We thought we were something
we thought we were special
for a moment, we were”
- “Feeble” by Clem Flowers
“We were young and stupid but we had dreams & isn’t that all you really need.” The opening line of “Stoked and Thrashing” by Clem Flowers (Alien Buddha Press, 2021) sets the tone for the collection that follows. Haven’t we all been reckless? Didn’t it feel incredible? Personal and poignant, Stoked and Thrashing is about so much more than skateboarding. It is a thorough examination of excitement and what makes our lives so magical.
Stoked and Thrashing is a masterclass of sensory engagement in writing. The poem “Sidewinder” opens with a scalding skate trick “along the hot cookie tray of sidewalk,” creating a sensation known well by the small hands of youth. You can feel the pulse of summer throughout every atom of your body as you read this poem. Completing the sidewinder is enough to “lift [the speaker] off this plane of mere mortals.” In this moment, you are fully immersed with “pure heat” in your bones and “silk bliss” in your veins.
“Acid Drop” details the sensations of another breathtaking skate trick. With new bearings on the speaker’s board, you are flying through the world “like they must have at the Salt Flats out in Utah breaking land speed records”. Nobody has ever been as fast as you. You can almost feel the wind rush through your hair and against your skin “while the drops of dandelions and beige stucco whip past… like light trails”. “Acid Drop” makes you believe that you may never slow down again, as if you will live forever in youthful exhilaration.
“Cannonball” introduces you to a speaker’s “holy ground.” The scene is littered with “broken glass and spent beer cans”, but it is an “untouched paradise by suburban dusk lights.” This place is perfect because it is theirs. This place is perfect because they belong.
“I’d say Heaven, but I know that’s too cheesy to end on.
I’m doing it.
It is their Heaven, and they are unabashed in their earnestness. “Cannonball” is the moment when you find your first real friends, the first people who truly understand you. And most importantly, it feels like the moment you realized there is a place for you after all.
Flowers’ poetry makes you feel like you are “floating in a lava lamp” where nothing can hold you down. This chapbook is filled with lines that soar on unabashed glee and shotgunned adrenaline. Stoked and Thrashing is the perfect antidote to the “unending beige horror that is… day-to-day drudgery” and “the brick wall of life”. It is a must read for all who are ready to feel reckless again.