Gun Car Baby — Things I Can’t Have, by Penny Ballard
When Penny Ballard (Bad Penny, Rock and Roll Penny, Thelma Lee) succumbed to decades of hard living a year ago, she left behind a collection of notebooks, aphorisms, scraps, in poem and other formats. The collection was lovingly mined by Penny’s good friend Kristianne Meal, the proprietor of Rust Belt Books and the result is one of the most unique volumes of poetry I’ve ever seen.
There was nothing easy or clean about Penny’s life, and Penny was never concerned about any filters, or what you thought about her. Except for when she did, and it conflicted with her vanity, and she’s never afraid to show you both sides even if she regrets doing it as she’s doing it. It’s messy, it’s conflicted, it’s fearlessly juvenile at times, but it’s always right on the surface. In one poem she meditates on her sadness about her drug dealer dying, but not without reflecting her disappointment that now she doesn’t know where to score coke, and that with all the weight he’s helped her lose, how good she looks.
She loved to party, she loved music, and she loved her friends she shared both of those experiences with. It’s hard to imagine another collection of poetry and what others would consider “throw-away” writing to come any closer as an effective self-portrait as Gun Car Baby, available exclusively at Rust Belt Books (415 Grant Street, Buffalo, NY 14213).