Juvenilia, sure, but that's hardly a pejorative. Sante's My Life—"twenty-four pages, ten poems, profusely illustrated"—includes early verses about being 16 years old and going to the museum, and runs right through the 1981 drug poem "The Holy Ghost." 1981—that'd put Sante in the New York Review of Books mailroom. And is the excerpt from something called Creation, reprinted here from 1972, influenced by the time Sante spent working at a plastics plant that same year? ("This drumming like tires in an iliad./No free hands forming a human chain.") Sante, author of the New York vice history Low Life, is very good on the past, not least his own—Kill All Your Darlings, the author's 2007 essay collection, was, among other things, an ode to Sante's own checkered back pages.

So the really nice thing about My Life is its concise invocation of 11 years in one downtown guy's hustle. Contained within are reproductions of old Columbia Review covers, yellowing advertisements for joint readings by Sante and present NYRB star Darryl Pinckney, stray Jim Jarmusch photographs, bygone zines that never got sucked into the Google matrix, a single romantic poem from, yes, 1977, and one from 1980 that tells you all you need to know about that year for the writer, called "I Was Spanking and Freaking at a Disco Place." Back then, who wasn't?

zbaron@villagevoice.com

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