Rob Talbert grew up in the sweltering heat of San Antonio and spent most nights playing in bands or dancing in nightclubs. He has worked in jails, bars, corporate offices, hotels, universities, hospitals, retail stores, restaurants and on cruise ships. In 2010 he received his MFA from Virginia Tech University and is currently working on a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at Florida State University. His poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly, The American Poetry Review, Ninth Letter, Painted Bride Quarterly, Passages North, Southern Poetry Review, Sou'wester, and on Verse Daily. He currently lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Samantha.
Praise for Jagged Tune
Rob Talbert’s Jagged Tune is a gorgeous post-industrial lyric hymn to minimum-wage jobs: from corrections officer to pawn shop employee to cruise ship attendant to insurance certificate specialist to retail clerk to unemployed and back again, Talbert’s poems—hewn from life experience—contrast the constraints of work with the ecstasy of nightclubs, their “feral engine” and “deep recess of liquor techno.” “My life depends on night,” he writes, and this is a nocturnal book that embraces the wonder of darkness, its broken song. I am awed by these poems—their unyielding eye, their deft music, their capacity for wisdom, and all the ways in which they illuminate facets of the American experience that we rarely see.
How can the world be anything but a music made out of what we are, a jagged tune, a knife song, a wild blood and bone aria? In Rob Talbert’s energetic, frightening, human, kinetic collection we can hear every note. I want to download this book into the musical score it is and listen to it whenever I’m alone but desperately need the world.
“Attention Customers: the store will close / in fifteen minutes. Sooner or later we all / return home.” Thus begins Rob Talbert’s Jagged Tune, and a jagged tune this collection of oddball dreams and dreamers it is. Imagine a poet barking his verses into a megaphone at the moon, picture “police lights open[ing] their eyes,” your “sister … swarmed by cops” and you’ll get a taste for the dramas and requiems that unfold here. “Going back / to the start / is good,” “Ingenious Ocean” begins; “The night is a dark dress I don’t want / to see slip off. It’s much too close / to the only thing I have in place of goodbye,” this collection of elocutions ends.
— Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum
Jagged Tune steps to its reader with the gait of a boxer not accustomed to showing mercy. And yet, there’s a hard-earned tenderness in these poems, an affirmation and hope tempered by the drab, brutal realities of minimum wage and high-security imprisonment. Part Whitman, part The Threepenny Opera, Talbert sifts through the wreckage of the everyday in search of the miraculous; what’s amazing is how often he returns with the goods.