At the Car Wash by Arthur Russell (cover art)

At the Car Wash by Arthur Russell

Arthur Russell’s prize-winning chapbook takes the reader on a journey through time, space and socioeconomic circumstance. The faux neon cover may suggest the time period and tone for this collection of poems, but not its depth.

Have you ever thought about the owner and staff of a car wash? Their character types, their personal troubles, how to manage them, what their employer thinks of them? I hadn’t either, but I was delighted by the nuance and consideration with which the poet treats these topics.

The owner of the titular car wash is the speaker’s father, whose presence is felt throughout the collection. Their relationship is depicted as rocky. Russell uses this to show the ordinary lives of the poor and exploited through the lens of cultural evolution and ambiguous familial reverie.

The speaker running through the sixteen poems is mostly plain-spoken. There’s little flowery language in the collection. But while I’ve never been the Jewish son of a car wash owner from Brooklyn, I do feel like I caught a glimpse of that world. And I love that feeling.

At the Car Wash by Arthur Russell (front cover)

Book Details

Cover art by Timothy Green

Publisher: Rattle Foundation
ISBN: 978-1-931307-54-3
Cover price: $6.00
Chapbook: 48 pages
Size: 6″ x 9″
Purchase here

Readers who approach this chapbook expecting to find the fun of a 1980s Brooklyn car wash, if such a thing existed, will likely be disappointed. There are no poems in here about soap, suds and fun times. The collection is far from bleak, though. At times, it’s even playful, like when the speaker imagines his parents as cardinals in heptasyllabic, iambic lines; the only metered poem.

Russell’s speaker shows an understanding of his experiences at the time, but questions his feelings in retrospect. And isn’t that how most of us grow as people?

About the Author

Photo of Russell Arthur

Arthur Russell comes from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He works as an attorney and landlord in New Jersey. He has received writing fellowships from Syracuse University and The Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, won Brooklyn Poets Poem of the Year in 2015, and was runner up for the Allen Ginsburg Poetry Award for 2021. He serves on the board of The Red Wheelbarrow Poets, co-leads their weekly workshop, and co-hosts their monthly readings.

Aiden Hunt Bio

Aiden Hunt is a writer, editor, journalist, poet and freelancer. He is the Editor of the Philly Poetry Chapbook Review ( Previously, he covered cannabis policy and other related issues for magazines and websites. He also created two journalistic websites, the last of which was syndicated as authoritative content.

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