May 02

Blot Lit Reviews: Addicts & Basements by Robert Vaughan














Addicts & Basements, Robert Vaughan

Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2014

ISBN: 9781937865238

Reviewed by Julie Demoff-Larson

Addicts & Basements demonstrates Robert Vaughan’s versatility as a writer, showing mastery in technique as the collection moves freely from poetry to prose. This eclectic collection is divided into three parts that sometimes captures raw human condition, and at times is profound in its subtlety. Imagery and a knack for storytelling are strong here, but what makes Vaughan’s collection so great is that his voice is not gender specific (well, “Hey, Lady” is pretty gender specific). I can relate to his work from all points of view, and when the narrator is female there is never a doubt. Vaughan pulls this collection off with wild imagination that from what I suspect is from pure personal experience.

Vaughan at times is direct and down-right blunt, giving an edgier feel to some his work. However, he is not heavy handed as it only takes a single line to make a big impact. In “The Black Sea,” actions of summer youth are rationalized in the final line, “My mom fucks your dad and it singes like hot asphalt.” Vaughan keeps the language accessible and grounded in reality, yet he uses language in a way that intertwines story with message. A fine example is found in the poem “What Some Boys Do.”  The narrative unfolds in an attempt to offer understanding of the complexities of masculine/feminine roles in society,


“…What’s in the bag?”

Joe Ferris presses.

his breath smells of

tuna fish. I squeeze the

soft bag tighter

between my legs.

Craig Neff peers

over the seat.

“Answer him, faggot.”


This is what some boys do.


“…My mother never warned

about the scarf I was

knitting for Grandma Meyer.

It was pink, her favorite color.

My mother never explained

this is something you do

at home. She never said

this is what only some boys do.”


This way of thinking–fear actually– is further explored in Vaughan’s striking tribute to Matthew Shepard in “On the Wings of a Dove.”

Addicts & Basements isn’t all seriousness and this is the world in which we live. On the contrary, Vaughan uses a tinge of humor in many pieces and is quite clever throughout. A few notable entries that made smile: “There’s No Place Like Home,” “Cadaver Chris,” “Watching Them,” and “Most Popular Baby Names of 2013,” in which Vaughan lists names of known carcinogens that are slowly(or quickly) killing us all. Welcome to the world!

A few of the more tender moments in the collection deal with loneliness and seeking comfort. Again, Vaughan is subtle and sometimes unexpected in the delivery which gives it more weight. “Evaporation” and “Salt” depict a grasping for something tangible at their close and leave the reader feeling heavy hearted.


“…I’m a caretaker of

a homeless heart, a

one-way ticket to

your wavering smile

I’m evaporating even

as we fly.”




Although it seems that I favore the poetry in Addicts & Basements, I actually feel that Vaughan’s prose is stronger in this collection. He is best when telling a story and gets it done in the shortest of forms. And at times the prose is poetic, walking a fine line between flash and the prose poem. The collection begins with “The Femur,” a strong piece that embodies all of Vaughan’s talents including storytelling, great imagery, and layered meaning, revealing the quality of writing we can expect throughout.

Addicts & Basements is exciting and full of gems of brilliance that pop up when least expected. This is a collection that deserves time invested to catch all of the subtleties and intent when not presented on the surface. A much enjoyable read.





2 pings

  1. An Interview with Robert Vaughan » Blotterature

    […] « Blot Lit Reviews: Addicts & Basements by Robert Vaughan […]

  2. BLOTTERATURE REVIEW Reviews Robert Vaughan’s ADDICTS & BASEMENTS | Rhizomatic

    […] Read the rest of the review HERE. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>