Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dear, Sincerely - David Hernandez (University of Pittsburgh Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Dear, Sincerely.  David Hernandez.  Pitt Poetry Series.  University of Pittsburgh Press.  Pittsburgh, PA.  2016.


Dear, Sincerely is a monster book of poems.  David Hernandez is a monster poet.  These love letters are giant poems cutting a big path right into your central nervous system, once there they'll reset the jig.

Hernandez doesn't care about you, he will happily make you laugh or cry on whim with his wicked wit.

Last night, reading Dear, Sincerely in bed, I startled K with a rather loud and sudden expletive that I won't repeat here.  It was in reaction to Hernandez and it was my most genuine form of applause.  I only shout out loud when startled into it by fear or fierce admiration.

Dear Death

Cool cloak. So goth. I dig how the pleats
ripple like pond water when you move,
and the hood shadows the absence of your face.
Sweet scythe, too. The craftsmanship
of the wooden handle, how smooth the slow
curve. I had to look it up -- it's called
the snath (rhymes with wrath), or snathe
(rhymes with bathe). I prefer the latter, the long
a. Snath sounds like an infectious disease
I might've caught if my mother wasn't there
to steer me from the gutter, from large
puddles marbled green, mosquitoes
scribbling above. How many times
do mosquitoes do your dirty work anyway?
Versus fleas? Versus gunpowder?
How bone-tired were you in Tohoku?
The previous year in Haiti? Have you ever felt
the sepia wind of remorse? I have 77 more
questions for you, give or take, you're often
in my thoughts. Yesterday, while grinding
coffee beans. While cleaning the lint trap.
Dicing cilantro. Buying ink cartridges.
Clipping my beard. I could go on and on,
you're that legendary in my head.
It works this way: I'm running the knife
across the cutting board, the cilantro
breaks into confetti, I remember my mother
scattering the herb over a Chilean dish, then
her voice on Monday, "numbness in my leg,"
"congestive heart failure," and it fails,
my mind fast-forwards to when it fails,
I can't help it, you grip her IV'd hand, pull her
over, and it is done, her silence begins
blowing through in waves, icing the room--
the thought seized me so completely, the knife
hovered still above the wooden board.
Seriously though, cool cloak. Sick black
fabric. I heard if you turn it inside out,
the whole world's embroidered on the lining.

...

Dear, Sincerely is a solid stream of great ideas rendered poetic.  David Hernandez is the guy you want to be standing next to when perspective is required.  Hernandez is quite happy to entertain us, get us licking our lips with excitement, but the hammer is always there, even if we don't see it drop.   Hernandez is willing to amuse in order to give full range to his wicked knowledge of how hearts work, he knows all those minuscule compromises that get us through the day.

Our morning read in the Today's book of poetry offices was a sparkling affair, this morning the enthusiasm was contagious.  Like most very good poetry, Dear, Sincerely was even better when read aloud.

Sincerely, the Sky

Yes, I see you down there
looking up into my vastness.

What are you hoping
to find on my vacant face,

there within the margins
of telephone wires?

You should know I am only
bright blue now because of physics:

molecules break and scatter
my light from the sun

more than any other color.
You know my variations--

azure at noon, navy by midnight.
How often I find you

then on your patio, pajamaed
and distressed, head thrown

back so your eyes can pick apart
not the darker version of myself

but the carousel of stars.
To you I am merely background.

You barely hear my voice.
Remember I am most vibrant

when air breaks my light.
Do something with your brokenness.

...

Today's book of poetry just realized that we have to break our three poem limit.  I've discussed it with our seniour editor Max and he agreed.  Our reasoning is simple, I could not not let you see these particular poems.   That's how much we adore David Hernandez.  We're convinced these poems will make you yell out loud with happy sounds.

We Would Never Sleep

We the people, we the one
times 320 million, I'm rounding up, there's really
too many grass blades to count,
wheat plants to tally, just see
the whole field swaying from here to that shy
blue mountain. Swaying
as in rocking, but also the other
definition of the verb: we sway, we influence,
we impress. Unless we're asleep,
the field's asleep, more a postcard
than a real field, portrait of the people
unmoved. You know that shooting last week?
I will admit the number dead
was too low to startle me
if you admit you felt the same,
and the person standing by you
agrees, and the person beside that person.
It has to be in double digits,
don't you think? To really
shake up your afternoon? I'm troubled by
how untroubled I felt, my mind's humdrum
regarding the total coffins, five still
even if you don't. I'm angry
I'm getting used to it, the daily
gunned down, pop-pop on Wednesday,
Thursday's spent casings
pinging on the sidewalk. It all sounds
so industrial, there's nothing metal
that won't make a noise, I'm thinking every gun
should come with a microphone,
each street with loudspeakers
to broadcast their banging.
We would never sleep, the field
always awake, acres of swaying
up to that shy blue mountain, no wonder
why it cowers on the horizon, I mean
look at us, look with the mountain's eyes,
we the people
putting holes in the people.

...

Character, that's the word I've been searching for.  These poems have character in buckets, they have it in spades, in droves.  These poems John Wayne right into a room, they Mae West sashay around like they own the place, they run the place from the start and drag you in, "Dear Reader" they say, "get comfy."

Mayfly

I died. I was
born the day before,
floated up inside

a globe of air
to the water's 
wobbling roof.

I molted, opened
ghostly wings,
was soon

airborne
with my brothers,
one dot

on the stippled cloud,
We mobbed
above the river,

we eddied,
desire rousing
in each of us.

Every time
a mate arrived,
she left latched

onto another.
So went the minutes,
the river scrolling

endlessly. By dusk,
while the sky's
lush blue

drained out
quicker,
I felt my life

ending. It could
not have been
any fuller.

...

You all know Today's book of poetry likes a little optimism, we like hope, and bless David Hernanadez's cotton socks, he gives us some of that too.

The whole reason I started Today's book of poetry was to share books I admired and Dear, Sincerely is mother lode stuff.  Poetry like this is the entire reason for the existence of Today's book of poetry. I'm telling you that David Hernandez is the real deal, he takes instant residency on the Today's book of poetry honour roll.

We loved this stuff all the way.

David Hernandez

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Hernandez’s most recent book of poetry, Hoodwinked, won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry. His other books include Always Danger and A House Waiting for Music. He is also the author of two YA novels, No More Us for You and Suckerpunch. David teaches creative writing at California State University, Long Beach.
BLURBS
“Do not let the fact that David Hernandez is one of the funniest poets at work today mislead you into thinking ‘comic’ poets can’t also be learned, wise, socially aware, and capable of deep pathos. Hernandez possesses all these qualities—in abundance. His new book is nothing short of dazzling.”
     —David Wojahn

“Hernandez is a poet writing to us from poetry’s epicenter—where music invents itself, and the psyche and the sensory world are one. These poems speak with such intimate authenticity that the reader and the words are never separated by more than a breath—and yet they’re overheard, perhaps not really meant for readers at all, which lends them their uncanniness. These are major, important poems.”
     —Laura Kasischke

upress.pitt.edu

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