For over twenty years Sean Thomas Dougherty has negotiated between modernist and avant-garde writing and more populist traditions that extend back to Walt Whitman. His subject matter ranges from basketball to Bjork, from blue collar workers to Biggie Smalls, from Luciano Pavarotti to women waiting at a diner outside a prison in Upstate New York. Selecting from the best of eight previous collections, this New and Selected reveals the powerful arc and development of Dougherty's writing and establishes him as a voice of dissent for the future.
A former Fulbright fellow, Sean Thomas Dougherty works at Gold Crown Billiards in Erie, Pennsylvania.
A blue-collar, Rust Belt romantic to his generous, enthusiastic core, Dougherty has filled eight prior volumes with character sketches, pool hall odes (he now works in a pool hall), vaunting declarations, outcries, celebrations, protests, and promises, "in the rusting cities in the rusting places where we leaned against the wall, in the smoky haze of bar smoke and breath." Dougherty's long Technicolor lines and staunch prose blocks (and the occasional shorter form) cover sex, parenthood, street life and playground basketball, skateboards, shoplifters, and the prison-industrial system; his portraits "Drawn In Blue Light and Broken Glass" include a "chick who didn't make the cue ball dance, she made it tango," "your father working in the mines,/ rising to punch a clock"; they coalesce into a gloriously troubled American of black and white, Puerto Rican and Korean, of "brown children whose English teachers have silenced the Trinity of Spanish, English & Lebanese." And for all their street energy they are determinedly literary as well: name checking Lorca, Neruda and Bjork, as well as Martin Espada and Patricia Smith, Dougherty (Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line) also accomplishes a brace of sonnets, an abecedary and a canzone whose repeated end-words are "bodega," "booty" and "hood." The Erie, Pa. writer wears his heart on both sleeves he is not for everyone: but readers in search of socially conscious vigor, of street energy and "something to hold onto," may find that Dougherty is just what they need.