Moreau, Craig. “Chelsea Boy”, Chelsea Station Editions, 2011.
A New Poet Emerges
There is something about a Chelsea boy and Craig Moreau tells us what it is in his wonderful new collection of poetry about a twenty-year old who has moved to Chelsea (for those of you who do not know, Chelsea is something of a gay ghetto in New York City) from Estherville, Iowa. Chelsea is a bit of a world to itself; a diverse community with an active night life. Moreau’s poems are both memoir and history as he takes us along with him as the stereotypical Chelsea boy comes to life in poetry. Some who lived in the area have the name Chelsea boy thrust upon them while others earn it by subscribing to the place and what makes it what it is.
Moreau’s poetry is best defined by the words “fresh and original” (and you do not have to know about Chelsea to enjoy it). What I especially like is that he writes poems that others have not written and he takes us to different plays with his beautiful use of the English language. It seems clear to me that it is not enough to live in Chelsea to be a Chelsea boy. One needs the stamina and the physical appearance (the face and body) to earn the title and from what I see here and the author’s picture, it is clear to me that we may very well find himself in the Chelsea hall of fame (as his publisher did at the Saints and Sinners Festival last weekend).
It is extremely easy to draw a mind picture from what Moreau writes. I can see him dancing shirtless at Sunday tea dances where a world of sex and fast living meets a world of reality that is shameless and sublime simultaneously. It is obvious that Moreau knows himself well and is not afraid to splay his life on the glass slide of life and be examined by the microscope of society.
In five separate yet connected poems, Moreau gives us the “Chelsea Boy Survival Guide” through which he details the neighborhood, gets over a broken heart, tells us how to do a bender and how to see through the outside covers of someone and see what’s inside as well as how to grow up. For me it was almost as if he took me by the hand and showed me Chelsea and gay life. There are poems about significant spots (The Mineshaft, Central Park, Roseland Ballroom, and places away from Chelsea that this Chelsea boy likes to visit. There are poems about what Moreau does in his spare time like watching TV, writing, travelling, church and loving. And there are poems about growing up and dreams and loves.
Moreau tells us in “New Year’s Eve—Black and White Ball, Angel Orensanz Synagogue, Rivington Street” that:
“Chelsea Boy is a memoir
and this book is not for
I’m 24 years old, 23 was all curves,
a scimitar drunk on rum. 24 is on
stilts, trying to be 25 when you can say, “30
in five years!” The flagrant use of numbers
to record our histories frightens me.
24 hours a day—24 years in Craig.
This is Craig Moreau and these poems are his story. While they are set somewhere specific, anyone could relate his similar experiences and we see that the way to live is simply to be…to be of many because we need that security. I do not think Craig Moreau needs much security after this honest confessional which is wonderfully thought out and beautifully written.