Thursday, March 6, 2008

One book review by David McLean

Review of Jack Henry's chapbook "Chasing Screaming Monkeys Without Any Clothes"
Deadbeat Press
by David McLean

This new chapbook by Jack Henry is what I expected it to be. A fucking masterpiece. The feeling is like an old sentimental song from some grandson of Hank Williams, except he's not on stage but sprawled against the side of a booth and fingering his whiskey and foolishly telling the truth to some woman he doesn't know but loves more than people are supposed to love anything. And yet there is absolutely no drunken and spurious sentimentality, but a keen and acerbic eye for all the bullshit. I'm so lonesome I could fight, kind of thing.

As an old bastard like Jack I can say that he's fucking depressing in the best possible way for other old bastards. Songs and poems of loss and utter abnegation, his words are like puke on my shirt waking up in some best-forgotten morning twenty years ago and noticing that it's not twenty years ago, but now and I'm already old. So that

being alone
felt like power
now alone
is just that
nothing more

For young people his poems may be melancholic and beautiful and yet full of fire, for me theya re the truth, one way of expressing the truth, the JH way.

And he also, of course, does a classic performative contradiction when denying that he is a poet:

no, i’m not a poet
my words simple
plain, satisfied with
their order, their
lack of precision
easily swept away

no, i am not a poet
really, i am nothing at all

Obviously a poet, just one who doesn't care to punctuate too much. Being a “poet,” whatever that means, should be about knowing that you (and we) are nothing at all. Not “oh fuck me the trees are pretty and it's such a pity i'm not manic today” as it so often pretends to be.

But what he depicts best, or maybe this is just me and the sort of thing I like, is

old man with cane and hat
sits behind glass partitions
drinking his last shot
last day
last moment
last drawn breath
to gasping lungs

When we become irrelevant, is very relevant to discuss, depict. And the old man is drinking a shot at any rate at the end of his useless life. Good for him.

Generally Jack has a pretty amazing facility to hit upon perfect cool one liners, or two liners in this case

i shot all the sheep out
of fear of the wolf

There are a even a few about fucking here, especially the last one. An appropriate picture of the passion of completely random sex, how it is not random at all, but perfectly predetermined by our human natures

when i ask her name
she says names aren't important
and i think, this is a good sign

I won't quote the horny bits, might get the reader all hot and bothered, but “Young boys need it special.”

In conclusion, Jack Henry actually does write with consummate mastery, with art and craft, though he might not like me saying that, his is a poetry whose mastery does not draw attention to itself. I'd call him a true poet, but that would be pretty fucking rude.

The chapbook can be ordered for $10 from

Author bio:

David McLean has an e-chapbook at Why Vandalism?, and a chapbook on sale at Erbacce Press at Erbacce Press. He has a full length poetry collection forthcoming at Whistling Shade Press out in May 2008. He has a second full length due out from d/e/a/d/b/e/a/t/ press later this year. Their details are at Deadbeat Press. There are round 500 poems now in, or forthcoming in, just over 210 magazines online and/or in print. Details are at his blog at Mourning Abortion.

Author announcement:

News for poetry lovers is that a new press has opened in the USA called d/e/a/db/e/a/t press. It's masterminded by Jack Henry, poet, who has a chapbook available there, and reviewed in this issue of Clockwise Cat by our astute and sexy contributor David McLean, who himself has a collection of poetry forthcoming with them later this year, called he knows not what as yet. Rob Plath, who has also featured in these pages and tried to touch angels inappropriately in a vision of heaven, has a memoir forthcoming later. Details of their whole schedule are at Deadbeat Press.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yeah! thanks for posting