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The Calpocalypse: An Allegory in Verse

By: Maurice Gandy
Reviewed by: Sue Brannan Walker
iUniverse, 2007
$29.95 paperback

“What are words worth?” the poet of The Calpocalypse asks—and the answer is “not less than everything.” Maurice Gandy’s rollicking linguistic “coming-of-age” epic/ poem/narrative/myth/journey/beach-life 1960s-early 1970s California experience is a virtuoso tour-de-force pop-culture history/performance that marks Gandy as a significant poetic voice not only in the Alabama poetry scene, but nationally and internationally. The Calpocalypse won an iUniverse Publisher’s Award and a USA Book News Recognition, and it was displayed in the 2008 London Book Fair.

Maurice Gandy’s text rocks with his rhyme and sustains its versatile metaphorical, metrical surfing throughout 374 pages. It presents an unforgettable cast of characters that are insightful and clever as they come alive in and through personal struggles to find their own identity within the context of the “soul of the age.” The reader revels in the escapades, both hilarious and serious, of Ingrown Harry, Jimmy Jivejello, Orcus Straight, Ipso Fatso, Apple Dumpling, and the Duke of Tan, to name a few. Each of the sixty-three sections, or Phases, of the book provides a unique perspective on the cultural scene. The initial Phase, titled “They Also Surf Who Only Stand and Wait” provides a sample of Gandy’s wit and style: 

        In mythmaking centaurian spring, 
        when eternal renewal is king, 
        young men groom their egos, 
        side by side with seagulls, 
        where fantasy girls, 
        with enchanted cheeks 
        and songs in their feet, 
        parade down the beach 
        as they amorously seem, 
        along the horizon, 
        the annual arising 
        of one mystical man, 
        The Duke of Tan, 
        inevitably surfing in 
        with a narcissistic friend— 
        clever as ever can be— 
        The Sheik of Neverbe seen.

For those who thrilled to California’s ’60s-’70s esoteric lifestyle, The Calpocalypse is both memory and history writ large in intelligent, sharp-witted verse. For those who are within today’s eighteen-twenty-five-year-old age range, the book offers a fascinating perspective on and insight into a world that cast its shadow and influence on today’s derring-dos.

Maurice Gandy is one of Alabama’s premier poets, whose work cuts a wide swath and continues to influence poetry both in Alabama and California. Nov 2008

Sue Walker is Poet Laureate of Alabama, the Stokes Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama, and an Alabama Writers’ Forum Board member.

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