review – with the patience of monuments –

13 Jul

a review from david mclean…

Jack Henry
with the patience of monuments
NeoPoiesis Press

It seems time that Jack Henry produced a full length book, and here it is. These poems are autobiographical and also, since we all live in some society, they reflect the agent Henry’s milieu. The autobiographical self-focus is not a weakness, since they are sufficiently universal to strike a chord in every locus of agency, perhaps not in showroom dummies, but would a writer really want that?

    perhaps i’m like Jesus,
    during those middle years
    no one writes about,

    from books the church decided
    were best left unread, because
    i think Jesus did shit no one wants to remember,

(very next breath)

Well, Jesus is not a historical figure, so you can say that it did whatever you want. All we know from the myths is that his spirit occasionally “enters” people when it feels like it, though he has been dead a long time, so there’s no guessing how horny he was during his fictive lifetime.

Jack concludes that poem with the reflection

    there’s a chance i am just a mirror,
    broken on the floor in a symphony of silver shards,
    awaiting the dust pan and a trip to the curb

    in the end it doesn’t matter,
    because once i discover who i am,
    it changes with the
    very next breath,
    and the next breath
    carries the rattle of a dying man

(very next breath)

and that’s what I mean about general accessibility. A human consciousness sparks self-awareness by Sartre’s circuit of ipseity, and generates the ego that we find outside us, in the world, the selfness itself is something little more than the tain of black foil that backs a mirror, when the brain dies it shatters and we throw the useless flesh away instead of eating it (we have issues with that, most of us anyway.) But what is significant is the cognitive content that has been instantiated in the bucket of worms we scoop out of the skulls of poets before juvenile writers use them to jack off into, and I think that Jack has here another poem that will keep, that belongs to the history of poetry.

Jack steers clear, as writers should, of Poesie, these poems are Dichtung, not just the making of poiemata, they are a stepping back and a holding and an openness that lets Jack create and dispose the words of his art in such a way that we see what was there but we did not see, they make what is other than it seemed by letting it show itself in the light of the poems as what it always was. Ironically NeoPoiesis Press include a confused and lexically flawed reflection on a Heideggerean approach to the word “poiesis” as a sort of manifesto at the end of the book. But, like the philosopher who used to stalk Heidegger said, or said as near as dammit, what counts is the poet standing like a little quivering hedgehog, always already there having always already crossed the awe-inspiring Autobahn of Heideggerean poetic thought, or philosophical aesthetics in general, to deliver her/his poem. And Jack belongs to my generation in a sense, we’d quite like to be road kill.

    i don’t write poetry, or sonnets, or joyful
    tomes about birds and butterflies, those words
    are taken and mean less each time repeated

(rules to a game)

What we like to do is

    pick scabs
    and watch red trails
    laze to the floor
    with startling splashes


Jack presents poetry that captures the world as it is. Thus a perfect nihilism

    2. to a specific man
    there standing
    a specific man
    or woman
    of straw
    and gum
    small temples
    of sticks
    and pie
    of dead word
    and metaphor
    and climbing
    yes i am
    i am
    i am i am
    building and building
    a specific man
    or woman
    it’s you i watch

    3. there is no underground
    no battlefield
    no war
    no battle
    no conflict

    there is no outside
    or inside
    no middle
    no up
    no down and down and down

(eulogy for the memory of an idea that never really existed)

But the man or woman building his temples is still building, even if s/he is biulding with shit, s/he is still there and still can say “am” and thus the poem ends with a qualified positive beginning, which is what life offers us since we are always new. That’s the upside of being mere bundles of impressions and bogus nightmares and memories (to sample David Hume through the brighter lens of Eric Cartman) – we have no histories and the egos we carry with us can be smashed and thrown away, like the useless ugly faces of creators and doctors and priests and teachers, so

    to the mirror i say:

    “they never knew, nor understood –
    it became an image they could not comprehend –
    this is a eulogy for a memory of an idea
    that never really existed
    and when they awake
    we will have to rediscover our
    own footsteps
    and cut our chain
    to our bloody string of lies.”

    to my future i say:

    i will start again each day
    i will awake and be ready
    i will stretch and try
    i will never care what another says about me
    i will never look back

(eulogy for the memory of an idea that never really existed)

And beyond the nihilism there is much positive and beautiful here too, there is love, relationships, social criticism, everything handled perfectly, and it even gave me a chance to ramble somewhat in the review, but …

I hope that it is clear by now that I think very highly of this book, and of Jack Henry’s work in general. I think that this book will live a long time. It’s a new beginning, just like the poem says. Buy it when it comes in a few weeks. Details at Jack Henry’s blog,


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