Like conceptual artwork, Wait Until Late Afternoon, a book-length poem in two voices, requires some contextual explanation before its intent and effect can be fully appreciated. In what amounts to an artist’s statement printed on the first page of the book, David Bateman and Hiromi Goto describe their collaboration as a “nostalgic/anti-nostalgic creative autobiographical conversation” that frames their respective lives and family histories within the muddying context of alcohol.
Both writers, we learn through the course of the book, had alcoholic fathers, and both have lived with, and against, that influence, indulging in a panoply of boozy concoctions while simultaneously fearing an end that seems predestined: “if both parents were alcoholics / you have an eighty-five percent chance of / becoming one yourself […] with only fifteen percent of the labour left […] the rest is / past.”
The poem alternates between two voices, which are denoted by the first letter of each poet’s given name and a number. Throughout, the poets employ a loose, spoken-word style that delights in jazzy free-associations. “Bye bye / buy me a drink / and make it dirty / it’s oh so complicated / (complicit),” Goto writes in “H seventeen.”
The result is both fun and filled with self-loathing, at points featuring graphic scenes of regurgitation one might expect to find only at a frat party or Roman vomitorium. Readers may be forgiven for thinking, at times, that they are reading testaments from an AA meeting.
And therein lies the difficulty with Wait Until Late Afternoon. Its descriptions of Dionysian hedonism mixed with depressing reflections on addiction may make for salaciously entertaining reading, but not always for striking poetry. While there are many startling passages and images in this book (the eminently memorable “anal pucker / of spent morning / glories in the afternoon,” for instance), the whole thing sometimes exists on the lower plane of booze-shrouded recollection: just a lot of drinks, sex, and throwing up.