Buenos Aires: a train ride over the rainbow


By Paul Perry

Publisher : Night Publishing

ABOUT Paul Perry

Paul Perry
I live and work in Buenos Aires. My  other published works are 'Buenos Aires Chronicles - Poetically Porteño', 'Poetically Stoned', 'Philly Poems' and 'Tales, Poemas desde el fondo de la pecera'.  I am also an actor.



This is a collection of Paul Perry's poems from his life in Buenos Aires. Most are in English, a few are in Spanish, and there is a short story too (in English).

Paul's writing comes out like poetic journalism, recording the struggles and triumphs of an exile who is not quite sure where the next meal, drink or romance will come from, except that they will almost certainly involve a train, bus or subway ride.

I left Philadelphia in search of the Land of Oz and ended up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. These are the poems of my life here and, occasionally, of my looking back to Philly.

I first saw Paul Perry’s poems on a website called Speak Without Interruption which is an international space for writers to post whatever they like. The four or five poems Paul had posted in a blog there (‘no damn Yankee’, ‘waiting on a train’, ‘a babe on the subway’, ‘love this place’ and ‘towards’ – all present and correct here) grabbed me immediately and were the main reason I asked Bob Grant, the owner of SWI, to be allowed to contribute to the site myself. So I not only have Paul to thank for his poetry; SWI has several absolutely outstanding writers and has fed me with some of my favourite novels of recent years – Bob Ellal’s ‘By These Things Men Live’, Mel Nicolai’s ‘The Case’, George Polley’s ‘The Old Man & The Monkey’, Steve Sangirardi’s ‘Moday Afternoon’, Minnette Coleman’s ‘The Blacksmith’s Daughter’ and Bill Hazelgrove’s ‘Rocket Man’, not even to be exhaustive.

This was my comment on Paul’s blog at the time:

“I suppose all poetry attracts, repels or fails to touch at all because of some alchemy between the poet and the reader. I wasn’t really coming on here to read any poems – I clicked a link at random to get a sense of the site which seems to be a high quality literary blog site which I immediately find attractive (bookmarked it, anyway). I liked the “yeah i´m a yankee” refrain, and the reference to Jerry Garcia of course. The other poems are like poetic blogs – provocatively reflective and they slip down nicely. Which straight male hasn’t done ‘a babe on a subway’ – what else is there to do? I remember sitting on a subway crouched over a book and a very beautiful girl tucked her legs almost under the book. I gave them 50/50 attention, which I thought was fair, but she soon got up and sat on another seat. Thanks, I’ll look out for your poems which seem pretty reliably enticing.”

Looking back I am impressed by how prescient and discriminating I was and, when Bruce Essar and I set up Night Reading in February 2010, I immediately went after Paul to publish his poems, not realising just how many he had (nearly a thousand, apparently).

While I get quite smug about some of my own novels from time-to-time, I have no illusions or delusions with regard to the quality of my infrequent poetry and I don’t even claim to understand the formalities of the genre – rather distrusting the work of anybody who does, in fact.

Paul, an American living in Buenos Aires (Argentina) writes about real things right at the bottom of Abraham Maslow’s ‘triangle’ – the need to eat, the need to have sex, the need to have a place to stay, and the struggle to stay sane and optimistic in challenging times. I am not sure that Mr. Maslow specifically included an enthusiastic thirst for alcohol and a ritual appreciation of ‘the weed’, but Paul appears to have those too, in imitation perhaps of the lifestyle evoked by Malcom Lowry’s ‘Under the Volcano’ set in Mexico.

Above all, though, Paul has public transport – the train, the bus and the subway (perhaps we can persuade the Buenos Aires authorities to post some in and down there) – as exemplified in his poem ‘getting to class’ where he takes umpteen rides on each in one day. This typifies how he describes Buenos Aires here, not as a tourist, nor as an insider, but as a commuter who passes by urban scenery on his way to a meeting, which is often cancelled gratifyingly in his case.

Paul’s poems above all tell stories about a man who came to Argentina from Philadelphia in search of the Land of Oz and who is still clinging on there half in love and half in exasperation and despair with that city. From the look of things, he survives by teaching people English and landing the odd acting gig, gets mesmerised by any passing beauty (so long as she is only passing through), and writes incessantly even when in motion. So, if you happen to be in Buenos Aires and a guy taps you on the shoulder asking you urgently to borrow your pen, it is probably Paul. Please be so kind as to comply with his request but remember to grab an autograph when he hands it back – it might be worth it. You could be in the presence of greatness.