David McLean's a hunger for mourning
reviewed TWICE in ONE ISSUE!
Review by Henry Long
What may seem at first to have Dada acrobatics in mind, upon closer review reveals even deeper truths. Truths Mclean allows himself unapologetically to poke at, have fun with, challenge. Sometimes strangle with his bare hands.
God comes up frequently. As does Derrida, Chronos, and, of course, Death. These are almost characters, part of Mclean’s own fractured play of self, carefully reassembled, like a model airplane kit sans instruction sheet. His keyboard being the pungent narcotic glue, as in the poem “role playing":
“we play ourselves as realistically
as we may, as though a second
could be chopped from chipped
time with some handy axe
and sculpted to cold eternity…”
This is in-your-lap poetry. In-your-head stuff. Under your skin. Not for the bar read, or the slam, or the spoken word album
or the hip hopping hipster crowd. This is poetry pouring out the fatal wound, uncoagulated, at times mixed with semen spit and bile. This is a good thing. A purging. The small green peas from Mclean’s Bauldelairian liver strung together like fresh water pearls.
a hunger for mourning is composed of writing completed (in one take?) “over the last two or three weeks.” Along the way on his journey around the cave, Mclean makes pit stops at Infantilism, Psychology, The Greeks. He eats at dirty ideas of Manhood, Mankind, the “crippled oblivion” of Christianity, and finally shacks up for the night, embracing what seems to be an almost co-dependent love/hate relationship with Nature.
From “the crows 2":
“…the animal finality
the black that dawns
There is a sweetness to these works as well, something which the poet himself might shrug off as a reader’s own sentimental prejudices, but it is there nevertheless. His empathies with the infirmed, for example, as in one of my favorites, “mental health:”
“…they are unhappy not
handicapped, they are just
human, these self-injuring children…”
And again, in the striking and powerful “my father in the trees":
“…he is the leaves and branches and the
absence, the abhorrence in which I hold
nature and history. He would have answered
me, as well as the words given him at
least, but I demanded no
answers in his lifetime for I was
this memory already, and dead then
as now he.”
David Mclean is not an easy read. The cover (a wide-eyed grinning skull balancing an axis composed of three fading, somber, bearded Mcleans) lets the reader know what kind of mirror work lies ahead. His disdain for punctuation and capitalization may even cause some to drag along the lines, trolling to find the right rhythm, or the author’s intended voice.
This is of little consequence, as these poems are but a slice of the night. A few hours spent in conversation beside a slowly dying fire, the cold pressing in at the rattling cabin door, and our bellies rumbling, impossibly hungry for more.
From “time melts:”
(and time dies
like these crippled children
that scream to God
“look, daddy, you beautiful bastard, I can forget you!”
just like poems do.)”
You will not so quickly forget a hunger for mourning.
Review by Ceris Dien
David McLean is no slouch when it comes to putting words onto the page - if you've witnessed his prodigious output on his MySpace page it will come as no surprise that the 40 or so poems in a hunger for mourning were all written within the space of two or three weeks.
So don't buy this book if you're looking for polished gems cut and honed to perfection. What you get here is not so much a collection as a slice of the life of the muse of David McLean - and what a powerful muse it is! It's a worm of the dragon kind, though he keeps his wings folded, compulsively snouting through the undergrowth and the detritus layers of the soil looking for bitter roots to chew and bones to blacken, and just occasionally looking up with a curiously boy-like twinkle in his eyes. So relentless is this beast that sometimes the poet seems to tire of the effort of controlling it - here and there a poem tapers off or succumbs to flippancy, and some words become repetitive and rob his vision of some of its potency - but mostly he maintains a determinedly persistent course. (You may need a dictionary for some of his words, by the way. I did!)
McLean's themes are consistent, his humour dry and his vision dark, and poems often seem to morph one into the other. It might all become too familiar if it were not for the poet's able wordcraft and that incredibly strong sense of his muse writhing its way through it all.
There is some fine poetry here, but I have no doubt the poet would be stunned if anyone were to make too many claims for what is, after all, just the poems that he happened to write in those particular two or three weeks in a year of apparently non-stop writing. What excites most is the prospect of meeting that muse again six months down the line. I have no doubt I will recognise it - or will I?
The real reason you should get yourself a copy of a hunger for mourning is not to pick out any one treasure, but to marvel at the living entity that is the ongoing poetic progeny of David McLean.
a hunger for mourning by David McLean is available from Erbacce.
Henry Long is a painter, writer, poet and photographer. Working in a highly personalized style combining figurative, mythic, cultural and alchemic imagery, Long uses a variety of mixed media to bring forth his poetic, wry and emotionally charged visionary pieces. He has shown in hundreds of one-man exhibits and group shows, and his works are displayed in numerous private and corporate collections. Long is also an art instructor, and the recipient of many grants and awards for his painting, works on paper and photography, as well as the Delaware Division of the Arts 2002 Individual Artistic Fellowship Grant as an Emerging Professional in Poetry. He has given hundreds of public readings of his writing and poetry, and has won many slams, although he no longer competes. Long continues to create full time along with his wife Emma Etain Long, also a painter, in Bellefonte, Delaware. The Longs have four pet mice - Lavender, Claudius, Crispin and Arrow. Two brand new chapbooks of his poetry are now available in a signed limited edition. "(y) A Collection from the 1992-2007 Chapbooks" and "Goat Love," a collection of short stories, will be published in 2008. For more information, please visit www.henrylong.com and www.myspace.com/henrylong.
Ceris Dien is driven to write by a fascination with language that began when she learned to disassociate words from their meanings as a child. She has had work published online by Wings of Icarus and in print by Saw Poetry and Unquiet Desperation. She is assistant editor at Quattrocento Arts Journal. She lives in North Wales where she fails to maintain standards of housekeeping but usually remembers to feed her kids.