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Randall McNair
Make it a Double
Broken into five sections—The Status Quo, The Descent, Death in the Middle, The Rising, and Return with the Elixir—“Make it a Double” is a heartfelt, humorous recounting of what it was like to be stuck on a barstool year after year over a ten-year period, ruminating on one’s purpose. The second in award winning poet Randall McNair’s Bar Poems series, “Make it a Double” builds on the momentum of “Dispatches from the Swinging Door Saloon,” resurrecting images of McNair's dead kin, and his love for life—though buried in a bottle of whiskey—is evident throughout its pages. If you enjoy raw, gritty, unique images used to paint pictures of love, life and self-loathing, then you’ll love this volume of blue collar poetry “written by a man for men.”
Author of Dispatches from the Swinging Door Saloon and proud “Poet Laureate of the Absurd,” McNair returns with a second batch of “Bar Poem”s in Make it a Double. The verses within loudly assert the author’s masculinity, as noted in the collection’s poetic “Disclaimer”: “This is not / your mother’s poetry.” With titles like “Beer Battered and Twice Cooked” and “The Disease of our Existence Shrouds the Moon,” McNair’s writing eschews effete and delicate aesthetics in favor of drunken philosophizing and tales of debauchery.. Yet for all its gestures toward convictions and ideas, the collection is truly, as with any good dive bar, more about atmosphere and feeling. As one poem proclaims, “baby, I feel things / deeply, right from the gut.”

McNair acknowledges a deep stylistic debt to Charles Bukowski, a towering figure among poetically inclined barflies, even naming a poem “Channeling Bukowski.” As in Bukowski’s work, McNair’s speakers have healthy egos, declaring “The poet is best when he is most godlike” or “I am Iron Man.” Like bravado-laden hip hop or heavy metal, the machismo of McNair’s narrators works best when the reader feels invited to pump their fist right alongside them. Yet the emotional pendulum swings every few pages to self-loathing, with despairing lines like “I need to quit— / the writing, not the boozing.” These dueling impulses make for a compelling tension.

McNair declares that this collection is “written by a man for men.” Titles like “An Ode to Tits” or “Whiskey Dick” will satisfy some readers’ cravings for transgressive bodily humor and candor, but will no doubt offend others. The poems relish this divergence, the stark division between love and hate, often for the same person or action. McNair’s speakers yearn to capture a wide range of experience, “a million good choices / wiped clean with the dirty rag of living.”

Takeaway: This collection of raunchy but imagistic poems will appeal to young readers with a taste for the blue.

Great for fans of: On Drinking by Charles Bukowski, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A