Pickled Dreams Naked, the latest book of poetry from New York poet Norman Stock, puts you, the reader, in a curious place. See, Stock’s poetry is filled with the bizarre and the surreal, showing his penchant for the mesmerizing and often unsettling image. “Give Us This Day” finds Stock painting himself as “the cold cut hanging in the delicatessen of the starving,” a sandwich “barely held together in your hungry hands.” Latinas on subways sucking lollipops, transplanted kidneys, and oh so many chickens carve out perches in the pantheon of Stock’s poetry.
But then this happens: he throws everything against a wall in a destructive shatter. “What for poetry / why do we do this shit” he asks in the poem titled “Rant.” In between the surrealism of Pickled Dreams Naked we find Stock’s frustrations with the very poetry he writes. There is malaise and hostility towards the “cunt world” of poetry, and even an indirect hostility at the reader. “Time Marches On” has Stock needing to tell the reader something, to get something off his chest—“you’re an idiot.” And that puts us in a strange position, brothers-in-arms with the flag-tied middle of a tug-of-war rope, yanked back and forth between the mania of Stock and the despair; awash in the interior struggles of a poet. But it is worth it, because in Pickled Dreams Naked there is honesty, there is wit, there is aggression and insight; there is poetry.