Air to the Throne: A Poetry Chapbook about Air Guitar ventures into new territory, but if you’re a fan of my Jewish punk books, you’ll like what you find.
Like Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! and Punk Rock Hora, Air to the Throne shines a light on niche music that’s outside the mainstream. It examines the subject matter with a tour guide’s sense of explanation, ample humor, and passion. As I said on Alaskan radio a couple weeks ago, “what Punk Rock Hora and Air to the Throne have in common is that passion for music—and for musical expression.”
Air to the Throne has a punk, DIY approach in the same vein as Punk Rock Hora. I don’t have a successful background as a poet nor do I have any plans to change that right now, but that didn’t stop me. I had something to say about a topic that is meaningful to me, so I said it. I didn’t hold back because I didn’t think I would find a publisher. I didn’t allow the book’s lack of commercial potential to dictate its worthiness. The DIY ethos empowered me to do it myself regardless of those considerations. Self-publishing a poetry chapbook about air guitar feels very DIY!
Punk in part inspired me to include a social commentary. Air to the Throne speaks to overzealous nationalism and the prioritization of winning during the Trump era.
While the book addresses other genres of music—from metal to classical—punk rock comes up the most. The book’s main protagonist, two-time world champion Airistotle, often chooses punk rock and pop-punk as his soundtrack.
There are three bands mentioned in all three of my books. No prominent punk rock band has put its members’ Jewishness on display as overtly, frequently, and humorously as NOFX has. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, featuring NOFX’s Fat Mike on bass, recorded a live album at a bar mitzvah. Airistotle has rocked out to—and masterfully interpreted—NOFX’s “The Separation of Church and Skate” and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ “I Will Survive” in competitions, as shown in the videos below. For the latter, Fat Mike tweeted that he “wasn’t expecting this”!
Flogging Molly doesn’t have any Jewish members and their songs weren’t used by any of the air guitarists featured, so their inclusion in all three books might seem unexpected! They are the band that got me into ethnic punk overall. The last poem in Air to the Throne talks about playing a variety of air instruments to create a “DIY Flogging Molly.”
As for Jewish content in Air to the Throne, what’s there doesn’t hit you over the head. I managed to use the Yiddish words “schlep” and “shvitz.” Air guitar legend Björn Türoque comes up frequently, and he’s Jewish. There’s a couplet about Israel that mentions Hot Lixx Hulahan; when I interviewed him in 2008, he spoke fondly of his band’s tour of Israel with Useless ID. Plus I included a clarification about monotheism in the preface! I have discussed connections between air guitar and my Jewishness elsewhere.
If you want to read more about the Jewish elements, check out “Finding the Jewishness in Air Guitar Poetry,” which appeared on Hevria.com in May 2020.