Laudati’s poetry revisits post-teenage angst


Courtesy of Nathan Brooks

Nathan Brooks is a senior at the University of North Alabama.

Brooke J. Freundschuh, A&E Editor

“Hawaiian Shirts in the Electric Chair” is a compilation book of poems by Scott Laudati, an easy-going New Jersey native who hones real life experiences into works of art.

This collection was originally written by Laudati when he was in undergraduate school, but it has been republished by a new publisher now that he is 33 years old. 

The works in this book capture the spirit of a young adult who is struggling to find their place in this world and their encounters with others along the way. The peculiar title is drawn from his own fashion sense in these years and the feeling of being outcast from his freshman year roommates, athletes who were less-than-approving of his constant guitar playing. 

Laudati has been involved in the music industry since he was in high school. He started out as a guitar technician and merchandising associate for a label. In his senior year of high school, he talked his parents into letting him fly from New Jersey to California to go on tour with pop punk band, The Early November. This two-week traveling fantasy that he experienced at age 17 left him awestruck with music. 

As he entered college and his twenties, he was in several other groups. The chaotic workings of these bands led to many of the stories told in “Hawaiian Shirts in the Electric Chair.” He was a part of a band called American Inc. for several years. His primary role was always as the lyricist, leading to his present passion for writing.

“My bands were always like somebody would get somebody’s sister pregnant or somebody was fighting with someone else about who owed money for the tee shirts we had to buy. Every band I was ever a part of broke up, so I just gave up and started writing eventually,” Laudati said. 

The stand-out poem in this anthology is “mick and keith pt.1,” a tale inspired by Laudati living in Newark, NJ, in a dilapidated, old factory building along with thirty other residents. 

“You could do anything” Sometimes there would be a bunch of little kids there that someone was babysitting. Other times there would be art gallery shows. Anytime you walked in, there was something else going on,” he explained. 

One resident, however, kept a chaotic place running smoothly, taking care of all of the residents, cooking for them and managing the musicians. She is the main subject of the poem, as Laudati tells of their relationship and how they dressed up like The Rolling Stones. She is the one whom the book is dedicated to and is one of the many characters that an observant reader will come to know whilst reading. Spoiler alert: part two does not exist.

Some works may seem dramatized, but Laudati elaborates on this, saying, “It comes naturally. I didn’t try to dramatize it or anything. All the people I’m around are always very extreme, highly emotional. I hear this is a thing about people from New Jersey that maybe people from other places don’t have, but everybody out here acts on aggression. Everybody’s always screaming and fighting. It’s not chill.”

Although they are all written from a genuine place, many of them are about his friends’ experiences. 

Many of the lines scream of post-teenage angst. Another that caught my attention was “I usually only bought books written by failures.”

Laudati explains this one while naming some of his influences, saying, “A lot of my favorite writers are people who aren’t even famous now. They dedicated their whole life to something. Everybody thought they were an idiot. They never made any money. They died as alcoholics. Maybe later on everyone realized that they were really good, but for the most part, they died thinking they were complete failures. That’s most of my library.”

Laudati has two other published works of poetry. One was released a few years after the initial release of Hawaiian shirts, and the other was published in the last three years. 

When given the opportunity to republish this book, he was given the ability to edit or alter the original work. The only changes made were the corrections of spelling and punctuation that had been misprinted in the original. 

“When I had to go back and re-edit it and change it if I wanted, I decided not to, because I felt like it really captures what it was like to be 21 in New Jersey,” he recalls, “It was weird going back and editing it, because I haven’t looked at it in a long time. It was kind of funny seeing the way I used to think about things or write about things.” 

This “redux” edition of the book does feature several new poems that were not in the original printing.

As for the future, Laudati does not know when his next work will come out. Despite having a degree and masters in communications, writing and English, he has never found a conventional job that suits him in these fields. He has always gone with the flow of his artistic sense and seized the opportunities that have come his way as they come, as he plans to do from here on out.