Saturday, January 31, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Delirium is a Disease of the Night
chapbook from Shadow Archer Press
reviewed by David McLean
Richard Wink's new chapbook is unmistakably English but not restricted in its appeal, not parochial as things English so often are, or were. It's dedicated to Norfolk and the poems manage to give Norfolk a distinctive charm in the depiction, which is clear-eyed too, an amused but tolerant slice of life, a book of poems that uses unabashedly words like “kerfuffle” - a word perversely underlined in red by Open office.
I sit on a train to London
listening to a Grandmother and her Granddaughter
playing a silly word game
as the business man next to me
scoffs down a chicken Caesar salad sandwich.
The journey is delayed twice for line maintenance
apologies are distant from the driver
who remains safe in his air conditioned cabin
People begin to cough in unison
as the air gets stuffy
people twitch, wriggle and mildly complain.
It’s ok I’m not in a hurry
(Norwich to London Liverpool St)
Like the poem's protagonist this chapbook is leisured and uncomplaining, not in your face and self-righteous, not sentimental and cloying either. it balances between perspicuity in observation of human defects and eccentricities and a willingness to let life and its defects happen and observe and learn, a tolerance presumably enabled by the authorial voice's own readiness to confess to the odd eccentricity he may happen to have himself.
I switched the bathroom light on
and turned on the taps
the bath rand deep and I sank in
spilling water over the sides.
I submerged myself and explored the tub
finding nothing but pubic hair
knotted around the plug.
I rose to the surface
and began to think
(An Hour in the Life)
Some parts are very entertaining, a weird and surreal feeling as in lines like the following
In the caravan a goblin squealed
abandoned by its owners who gallivanted in the
Consuming the Seafood Special
and a bottle of red.
When they get back
the goblin will be dead
Some parts are shocking, there is an editorial note telling us that “The Crass” refers to The Crass. Ok, not a Gary Bushell cover then.
And there are parts in which I have to wholeheartedly concur -
and those who called themselves ‘beat’
Fuck Leonard Cohen
and all the musician-cum-writers
that claim to be street
buskers, cool hustlers
top hat spinning
because they make more money than me
(I'm Really Upset)
Wink observes with unwavering accuracy the torpor of the unemployed who don't know how to distribute time and engagement, don't know how to accept their gloriously economically deprived leisure in the new England.
In the end the deepest values of the book is that awakens one question about sociology and social psychology. Wink asks the question for the UK but the situation is the same elsewhere probably. i can absolutely recommend this book, it rocks.
the blue cheer of rising veins
the scared existentialist
the glorious innocence
in this one final question
what is the matter with all these people?
(One Final Question)
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Here's HLS IV, another excessively unpleasant poem about wombs and mummies by me there too.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
reviewed by David McLean
the downtown café 40 pp.
buy at Erbacce Press
a garden of flies 26 pp.
buy at Scintillating Press
(released February 2009)
buy at Kendra Steiner Editions
This is a review of three books recently produced by the prolific LA poet Jack Henry, and is produced as a three in one review, being, taken together, maybe a snapshot of his present development. the downtown café, the obvious centerpiece, is longer, but the other two are excellent productions in their own right, and unities themselves, not mere footnotes to the longer work.
Generally, these poems all came to be relatively recently, and they stay true to the vision Jack has earlier presented in his works. The world is one stamped with anomie and lack of autochthonousness, which is like a feeling of rootedness and belonging. It's the modern malaise that is what Heidegger was among the first to identify, we are not part of a team. It's why he was briefly a Nazi, he thought that offered belonging and identity, though that proved, as we all know, I hope, to be spurious and, fundamentally, a radically evil illusion.
In these poems, the characters and the character who speaks, who is maybe Jack himself, the poems' voice, is himself a modern consciousness who (and this is not unusual in contemporary US poetry) is almost nostalgic for the stupidity of the Christian spirit-seeing and soul-inventing society that tried to destroy him and make him a conformist. But Jack is non-conformist enough to not conform to the other non-conformists, like the Goth kid who refused to refuse to dance for South Park, but Jack writes poetry better than the Goth kid danced.
His poetry balances first the external situation of the characters mentioned, that of agents reacting in a world where the capitalist or neo-liberal dream is confirmed and there is no compassion, no true sense of community, and individuals do not truly relate, but pursue selfish ends, crawling over each other like lizards in a cage, using each others bodies indifferently for leverage or a resting place, but never really touching, as Acton once said.
at noon i eat lunch at a deli
counter in the international
marketplace - no one cared if a
little white kid wanted to buy a meal
Los Angeles never cared about much
(“At Seven”, the downtown café)
It balances this with at the other end of the scale an internal despair and sense of abandonment to match this external desolation and actual abandonment, acts of abandoning. As in a poem to “a starving man” where the repetition of the recurring line “i see him” contrasts the poet's (and hopefully reader's) response with the societal act of rejection. The concluding “which is almost worse than not seeing him at all” maybe suggests that even our treatment of the starving and oppressed is no better, since the individual cannot help every other individual, only the state can do that. Nobody starves where I live unless they are starving themselves for aesthetic effect, and it is chastening to contrast Jack's truths about LA life with the picture America presents of itself to us through the Hollywood and TV ideology machine and the more conventional poetic ideology machine, where the focus is on frozen lakes and nasty animals who may or may not be endangered. The plight of the noble redwood while Jack's poor fucker is rummaging in the trash.
At the other internal end of the balance of abandonment we have the individual who is obliged to accept that the piety and faith which drove his predecessors does not work for him, and a nostalgia for the innocence of church and all that it brought with it, giving up childhood. (All American writers have problems with nostalgia for an innocent childhood and wanting to “go home.” I assume that this is their way of expressing nostalgia for presence and permanence and an ontological sense of continuity. You can't go home again because there is no “home” in the relevant sense.)
Like Sartre says, answering his teacher Heidegger, there is no fundamental we as subject. just so Jack cannot be like his father's generation of baseball and apple pie and innocent kids with bruised knees. the kids blow priests in alleys for coke, as Jack writes elsewhere. But there is an “us object” for the earlier Sartre - we can unite as oppressed and see an identity as victims, maybe, for the later Sartre change things with left politics. But Jack's word (and mine) is one where love and unity is fleeting, an unbearable nostalgia for decency and glimpses of better possibilities in a world where we are lizards in an indifferent cage.
The journey home to a simple world of faith is one you don't want to take, but the ultimate solution that gets the individual through the day is simple physical pleasure
i stand - walk a couple of blocks
drink down my rent money
and pass out in the street
(shift end, the downtown café)
A feeling most people know, I hope, and the old values and faith no longer work for anybody.
alone in my father’s castle
built on Sunday morning
i pray the lord my soul to keep
but that might take too much effort
(Scabbard's Claw, empty houses)
As Jack says in the title poem to this little chapbook empty houses, “i know the shame of living, the/ sorrow of survival”
listless shadows used
to linger outside my
window as sirens chased
phantoms of indiscriminate
There are MANY passages in poems in these chaps that make me, and I am pretty arrogant, desperately envious of Jack's accomplished poetic voice and his startling imagery.
The tone in empty houses, another first rate little chapbook, is one of quiet desperation in the desolation that is any city. The first poem, “Last rites” depicts a suicide who apologizes to “god and his team” before dying in a letter nobody reads - not priest, not god. Here is the earlier mentioned nostalgia, there should be a god up there if the American dream is to be true, not just an ideology of self-righteous self-satisfied complacency. Optimism and all shall be well, all shall be well, at least when the smack comes on Friday. In the end all manner of thing shall suck, but that's just empiricism on my part. Evil empires have, historically speaking, always been a bit evil but the evil American empire will be good.
But this chapbook is less concerned with the external desolation than the internal disintegration, strong in its depiction of Jack's character finding himself smaller than his father, especially in the title poem. It's a powerful poem rich and restrainedly competent in its invocation of religious imagery. Religion doesn't work, churches are declining parasitic and extraneous to real life, but hell is here, the devil, who doesn't exist, is here, the soul we do not have is burning.
The theme of garden of flies tends more towards that of the poem “death by increments” - the inevitability of going where flies assemble to take our meat as a tasty little snack. Here, as elsewhere in Jack's work, the only weak link is found in the mercifully few poems, only one here, that strike poses against what the self-so-styled underground identifies as “bad writing” and attacks a “canon of taste” that it regards, maybe rightly, as repressive. This is a boastful and loud-mouthed American thing, but Jack is at any rate able to do it in a way that is not self-contradictory like most people who make these self-refuting assertions of poetic superiority. He is good and better than run of the mill straight poets, I just don't see that that's for him to say, it's for me and others who review him.
In the downtown café, from Erbacce Press, what strikes me is the continued use of the motif of seeing. Jack sees the various victims, the starving and the suicidal, and emphasizes the ineffectiveness of seeing, that he does not, cannot, help them. And this is because it is not a question of everything being alright is enough people want to help "them", it is a question of the larger social whole, not society but the so-called state, helping them, not because it wants to but because that is what states are supposed to do, for fuck's sake. And of course the individual wants to help all the downtrodden, thus the despair and alienation, thus the contemporary popularity of Buddhism, nihilist religion of despair and cowardice, and thus the necessity of political action, but, really, that's probably not going to work, maybe we are fucked in principle, who knows? If we are not fucked in principle, it will be because of the humaneness of humanity, and because of poets like Jack Henry who express that humanity and teach us to remember the humaneness.
All of these books are excellent, start with the chapbook the downtown café, but don't forget to buy the others though. Clink the links above to the publishers, the link highest up or this link to Jack's blog.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
"Gutter Eloquence is a bi-monthly online journal of free-verse poetry.
The writers featured here will be real, gritty, gutsy, and unafraid to
speak their minds. These poets are not one-dimensional, however.
So, you'll sometimes see their bold individualism tempered by open
vulnerability. We are, after all, human...even here in the gutter."
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Instant edit: Not forthcoming, but up already here.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
8 Octocoocoo by Koko Loko
@ 2022 by Jungle Jane Press
Monkey Bite is a book at Lulu by Misti Rainwater-Lites, who produces probably as many poems as anyone. And they are all good, she doesn't write crap, not even poo poo, I write just as much as Misti does, I suppose, but some of it is faintly scented poop. This book costs only $4.92, which is basically not free, but might as well be. It is on sale here and, if you don't buy it, then you, sir, are a dildo.
I introduce my review of it thus, it is a book of Octocoocoos. These are poems composed of eight eight syllable lines. Monkeys need that sort of structure special. Koko Loko is a schizophrenic monkey and a friend of god, a sort of primate pope. He is pretty peeved sometimes. He takes drugs too, they make him fuck for days and be happy. He's just precisely like me and you.
Here's one of his kick ass apeshit poems
A Chimp’s Complaint
I want to speak to Manager.
Manager better explain things.
How come big fucking hole in sky?
Why cars like ants all over place?
Trees torn down for tall ugly things
no sensible monkey would climb!
Masses of humans dying, fine.
Whole planet dying? FUCK THAT SHIT!
Buy this book or Misti will make more of a monkey out of you motherfucker. We all need a monkey on out backs, a monkey to pull down the sky and jump into the schizophrenic cracks in the moon and between the stars, so get hooked on monkeypoetics and monkeyphonics today at Lulu, the place for trendy apes.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
There are also some reviews by me, one a magazine review of Sein und Werden here, one of Puma Perl's great and very deserving of purchase new chapbook Belinda And Her Friends here, one of AJ Kauffman's Pilgrims and Indians here, one of George Andersson's Dancing on thin ice here, and, last but definitely not least, one of Misti Rainwater-Lites' brilliant collection The Kitchen is Closed here. That one is also eminently buyable and will decrapify your poetry collection to a certain extent. Pushing lemmings will also make you a better person (the book not the activity.)
The link to buy lemmings is below
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
By the way, the pound is pretty fucked, which makes it a great time to buy my pushing lemmings, which is priced in pounds, very brightly, on PayPal. Swedish postage has gone up though, at least to the USA and UK.
So this issue is subversive and worth reading. The poems by me are pretty damn offensive, including irrational attacks on almost everything that people hold true and decent. This magazine will enlighten you and it is only $7.99, 10 Euros, or $12 with free surface shipping to the rest of the world and USA. Order it here.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Friday, January 2, 2009
Thursday, January 1, 2009
So do read it, the front page is here.