And God Said: Let there be Evolution! - NYQ Books - 2012
publication date: 07/01/2012
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- NYQ Books - 2011
publication date: 03/03/2011
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The 30th Anniversary Warsaw Community Commemorative Book Burning
Pudding House Publications, 2007
/////// read this chapbook online for free
Explanations, Excuses, Definitions, Regrets - March 2013
info: cover collage by Kaveh Akbar
20 Poems from the Midwest Poetry All Stars - 2010
info: with David Thompson, Oren Wagner, and Kaveh Akbar
purchase: Out of Print
The Book of Nate - 2010
info: An overture of friendship to the Great and Unspeakable Nate White, includes such Nate-themed classics as "Nate's Theory of How to Put Your Dog Down," "Nate Bought a Gun," and now including bonus tracks in a second printing, "Nate Wants to be a Wedding Planner" and "Nate Offers to Mercy Kill Us." A legendary character, friend, and platonic muse.
purchase: Out Of Print
The Seedy Underbelly of the Highfalutin' Oversoul
First Press: January 2006 / Second Press: January 2007
info: Half of a split chap coupled with Oren Wagner's The Last Redcoat, this is Steve's first released chapbook that includes material published in various small press magazines, including material that first appeared in Quercus Review, Barbaric Yawp, The Cliffs: Soundings, The Chiron Review, Hazmat Review, Staplegun and Pearl.
Fight These Bastards - Spring 2008
/// download as PDF ///
Spring 2013 - No. 2
By Alan Catlin
Steve Henn chimes in with an intriguing combination of print and vinyl. The print is a chapbook of amusing narratives dedicated to Indiana's foremost humorist, Kurt Vonnegut and the three Bob's; two of whom should be readily recognizable to all (Dylan and Hicok- don't know who Pollard is). Anyway, his "Explanations, Excuses, Definitions, Regrets" poems are generally of a kind: folksy, down to earth, beer drinking regular kind of guy poems, two of which turn up on his vinyl record "I am on Mental Health Pills also available as a download at bandcamp,com/yum.
Have you ever been to a poetry reading where the guy goes on and on and on in a monotonal voice about something so abstruse and uninteresting you want to scream? That is if you could manage to stay awake. Or someone who writes these pretentious, self-important, highly allusive, allegorical poems you lose interest in after the title? Or the one where the guy takes three of his allotted five minute reading time adjusting his seat, the microphone and making stupid comments before he begins reading what could only be described as an endless chapter to a book that will never be published and then goes ballistic when the alarm clock rings and the host pulls the microphone plug? Yes, that actually happened I have witnesses. Well, Steve's readings are the antidote to those kinds of performances. The recorded pieces are accurately described, as "poems that have received a good response at public readings." These poems will amuse and entertain you. They aren't deep or especially learned, but who wrote the rule that poetry readings have to be that way? Listen up, grab a Schlitz and enjoy. On vinyl even, as I did.
July 24, 2013
By Dan Grossman
Writing in fluid and engaging verse, Steve Henn pokes fun at everything on the American scene from the certainties of televangelist Pat Robertson and his ilk to the way in which high-minded academic institutions dominate contemporary poetry. Henn is at his best when he's at his most generous. In "Letter to a student, just before the Census, 2010," he asks the question to a high school student of his, "Lisa, in essence, are you not immeasurable?" It's a poem that successfully merges a jaded world view with hopeful sentiment.
Henn does go off the rails occasionally with poems that bury themselves so deeply in sarcasm that they seem devoid of all human compassion. In "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Splash Park," the poem's narrator wishes he had a camera ready so he could photograph a man walking around with a urinary drainage bag peaking out of his shorts: "At this point Bag-Of-Piss-Man's existence is about as verifiable / as the existence of the Sasquatch... "
December 2012 - Volume 16 #4
By John Berbich
What are the poems in this book about? Some sex, some philosophy, some music, lots of humor, and lots and lots of religion. Steve may be from Indiana but he's no Bible-thumper. He does ask questions though - lots and lots of questions. Big questions, like: "Is Christ resurrected?" "Are you / wearing any underwear?" "Do you have this message up on your profile / on Match.com, right next to a picture of your neck tattoo?" "Speaking of / do the good place and the bad place / exist side by side, like sister cities?" "Why can't the world be / entirely the way God intended it / for me?" I'm only on page 24 but you get the idea. These quotes are culled from five separate poems, and I think you can see in them the main themes of Henn's latest collection.
You might suppose that Henn is some kind of heckler of Christianity, but that's not really the case. He sort of doesn't believe, but rather wishes that it all were true, wishes that Christianity's promise of peace and immortality could be more than seductive spiritual fantasies. He's not quite sure he wants to escape his Catholic upbringing. Sex and humor work well to stave off doubt - for a while, at least. In his version of the second coming, Jesus lays "hands on hamburgers / making them moo again." See, it's a sweet vision.
Steve also has room for political and social rants - he's fed up with capitalist hucksters, technology, and people who are too God-damned-sure of themselves.
Favorite topics are drinking, basketball, and agnosticism. Henn writes in long rambling lines which build the tension until the final punch line. I love it when he says, in "God's Plan," that "Catholics / put the dog in dogma."
And God Said: Let there be Evolution!, all 75 pages of it, is available for $14.95 from NYQ Books, an imprint of The New York Quarterly Foundation. Check the website for ordering info.
By John Gardner
After I received the book And God Said: Let There Be Evolution! by Steve Henn in the mail, I told my friend Tara I was excited to read it. She replied, "Oh, Steve's a good guy. I think you two would get along." Turns out that Mr. Henn is from the same small Indiana town that I am, and several of my friends and relatives know him. I was of two minds with this news: one part of me was amused at the journey these poems took: from Indiana to New York, New York to California, then back home again in Indiana. That the title of their collection was enough to draw me to this man's work with such a small degree of separation between us was funny to me. The other part of me was saddened that a book of poetry could come out of my home town to very little fanfare. How had I not heard of this book before now?
But isn't that really the way of poetry? Wallace Stevens' coworkers had no idea he was a poet, so it shouldn't have surprised me too much that a guy from Warsaw, Indiana, wouldn't receive enough attention to set off my radar. Henn's work shows a poet who isn't surprised either. In "Acrobats at the Laundromat and Incidents Less Noteworthy," he writes,
That's all right. I read poetry in bars
to satisfy an urge to feel like the rock star
I'm not on the drums, and try not to think
of how rarely the experience measures up
to the anticipation.
This book goes by fast, coming in at 75 pages, with most of the poems being less than the full length of the page. Additionally, the poems in this book are wonderfully light-hearted and unpretentious. Henn is a poet who seems to understand that using one good word is more powerful than thirty long ones. But these are not shallow poems; on the contrary they contain depth that is easily overlooked. These poems tackle big issues with an eye for small details. For example, in "The Guy Who Heard the Call," Henn writes about a man standing in the cold screaming at cars from a street corner because "God told him to."
Listen, you don't have to preach
to convince me God's ways are not Man's ways,
His/Her/Its Will a mystery wrapped in a conundrum
topped with Tabasco chased with Pepto-but
if this is God's marketing plan
He really oughta hire a p.r. firm!
This is not a mocking poem, however. It pokes fun at the concept that God would command someone to preach from the street corner, but never judges the man as to whether he is crazy or not. In fact, the poem ends questioning our own perceptions of the man, asking us to assume "the voice the man heard was actually The Voice . . . would you respond, / 'Here I am, Lord. I have heard You calling." Or would it be, / 'I'm not the one, Lord, I'd rather burn in Hell than suffer out in this cold." When the story is looked at from that point of view, it becomes a very different one than the one we started with. Henn takes a look at the bigger issue of faith through the microcosm of the man on the street corner.
And this is the line that the book walks. It is far from blasphemous, unless one goes in looking for blasphemy. It is far from a denouncement of religion, unless you are looking for it to be. It satirizes the dogma of religion without denying the mysteries of the human experience that lead some to the path of faith. The humor is not snark for snark's sake, but rather it is there to highlight the absurdities of our political and religious choices. Perhaps the book's loudest cry, amidst the masturbation jokes, pop culture references, and political satire is "think, for the love of God."
This is also a book about identity: the speaker identifies as a poet, a Catholic, a Hoosier, a father, and a teacher, among other things. One of the highlights for me is the poem "I'm from Indiana." For a small town Hoosier like myself, there is something exciting about seeing "the hicks/ from Silver Lake who rent the house across the backyard/ and who we think are cooking up and/or selling meth" mentioned in a book of poetry (Silver Lake is a small town not far from where I live, approximately the size of a book of stamps.). However, the speaker also expresses the idea that we are more complex than just our geographical location.
I'm from Indiana and I believe in equal rights for
gays. I don't hate atheists. I don't hate Christians.
One of my best friends is Mormon. I dislike hippies
because they're usually using the "kind brother" routine
to get into somebody's pants. I try not to be an asshole.
Sometimes I am anyway.
The speaker not only plays against the images that come to mind when Indiana is mentioned (conservative, Christian, homophobic), he plays against the idea that one has to be the opposite. The poem is a deconstruction of the labels we put upon ourselves and others. And while Henn is unapologetic about where he is from (which seems to be, in my experience, a rare thing for anyone from Indiana), his identity is also unapologetically more complex than that.
This is a very entertaining read with some great ideas. If you are a reader who dislikes cursing or adult content in their poetry, then you should probably avoid this book. I personally feel it is used purposefully, and is not gratuitously, but different people have different standards, and it would be a disservice to ignore that. If those things don't bother you and you enjoy really good satirical poetry, then this collection is a well worth your time.
WhatzUp Magazine, Fort Wayne, IN
By Evan Gillespie
If someone asked me what the poems in Steve Henn's And God Said: Let There Be Evolution! are about, I'd have to say they're about not knowing. Well, first I'd try to avoid answering the question at all, because answering such a broad question in such a definitive way is counter to the spirit of Henn's poems. But if I were pressed, I'd say the poems were about not knowing. They're about not knowing the answers to big questions or small questions, and they're even more about being impatient with those who think they do know the answers to questions big or small.
Henn is in the perfect place to make his observations about the qualities of knowing. He teaches high school English in northern Indiana. He's surrounded by populations - teenagers and rural Hoosiers - who often take pride in not knowing things but who are also often pretty sure that they know more than you do. The poems in And God Said were written when Henn was re-examining his connection to Catholicism, so there's also the element of conflict between religious mystery and dogma. The intersection of all these circumstances is inhabited by absurdity, and Henn notices all of it.
Many of the book's poems, as the title suggests, focus on the contradictions in popular expressions of faith. As much as he wants to plumb the depths of spirituality, Henn is also awed by physics, so he's likely to pull string theory into his consideration of Heaven. In the title poem, he argues that evolution can be rationally fit into an understanding of God's plan, especially since no one understands God's plan, not even Pat Robertson. It's all a big mystery, and you can even say something like "The Voice of God Told Me Agnosticism Is the One True Faith," and no one can really prove you wrong. Elsewhere, Henn points out the silliness of pious musings by irreverently bringing spiritual figures down to earth. In "What would Jesus really do?," he wonders whether, if Christ were here with us right now, would he be as ego-centric and superficial as the rest of us. Conversely, in "Note to my Atheist Friends (who will be coming over for a party)," he proclaims, "The fact that we don't know if God is is not proof of His/ Her/Its/Their inexistence, but I do know this," followed by a list of social trivia; in these things that he and his friends will do tonight, "I have everlasting faith." And that's all he knows for sure.
It's not all about religion, though. Sometimes it's about the things that some of us believe that are demonstrably wrong. In "Political Will," he pokes at people who hold strong opinions about things they don't understand, and in "Margaret Hires a Personal Thinker," he envisions the ultimate outcome of our journey toward proud ignorance.
Sometimes it's just about ridiculousness. The poem "I can't wait until J.D. Salinger dies" is followed two pages later by "I Killed J.D. Salinger"; apparently Henn wrote the first poem less than a week before Salinger died, and the experience leaves Henn feeling "pretty good" about himself because "I didn't know I had that kind of pull in the universe."
But even if he holds a higher than- expected position in the universe, he still has to endure grocery shopping, hair cuts at Great Clips and the infuriating customer service at Verizon, all of which are examined in other poems.
When your world view revolves around uncertainty, you're not going to be serving up many answers, and these are not the sort of poem that offers anything approaching an ultimate truth. Overall, Henn seems to be fine with the realization that there are some things we can know and many things that we can't. It seems, though, that he wishes that most of us would try harder to sort out which is which.
by Steve Henn, NYQ Books, 2011
May 10, 2011
By Andrew Morris
On the bottom right hand corner of page VII in Steve Henn's recently published book Unacknowledged Legislations is the phrase "May God have Mercy on us all." The last time I've heard anybody say "May God have Mercy on us all" was when I was about to blow chunks all over the place at the Kosciusko County fair in 5th Grade. I'd just gotten off of one of those spinning strawberry things and I was looking at the sky trying to hold the puke down, when some wild lady sat down next to me and started mumbling the phrase in question. In a lot of ways the book that Steve Henn has recently released is quite reminiscent of that experience at the fair. You see, reading the book is like stepping inside of a giant plastic piece of fruit and sitting down as some carnie claiming to be "the wicked wit to come out of Warsaw, Indiana since Ambrose Bierce" smiles at you and closes the little knee-high door. Once inside, each one of Henn's short and biting poems keeps spinning you faster and faster until you start feeling that Chili-cheese dog from the 4-H Beaver Dam Stand reaching its way up to your esophagus. By the time you finish the book, you're stepping out of that spinning strawberry and the only way to prevent yourself from ralphing is to sit down on a bench and look up at the sky above you. And then some wild lady sits down next to you mumbling "May God have Mercy on us all" and you think to yourself, "Indeed" even though you'll slowly start to lose your faith in God and even though you never say words like "Indeed".
Steve Henn's first full-length book is the culmination of a decade long period of intense artistic productivity for the northern Indiana poet. From his co-founding of the notable small press magazine "Fight these Bastards" to his work with the Midwest Poetry All-Stars, his live readings, his band The Invisible Robots, and his numerous chapbooks, the high school English teacher is needless to say a heavyweight in the Warsaw artistic community. He is a friend of the laudable small-press poets Don Winter and Oren Wagner and I may also add that Steve Henn's presence has been of great personal importance to myself and my own work.
Henn's newest release is a piece that is very significant to the northern Indiana identity. Therefore I'd like to shortly look at three aspects of Unacknowledged Legislations: the use of radicalization, the emotional sincerity of selected pieces and the setting of Warsaw, Indiana.
The use of radicalization in Unacknowledged Legislations is something that functions, on the surface, to bring humor and a comedic element to his texts. We notice Henn's use of radicalization right away with the first poem of the book: "Come Live on My Commune!". Henn portrays a radical, sixties-esque commune in a cornfield in Kosciusko County. The idea in itself is something that seems absolutely absurd. How exactly could a communistic society be formed in the middle of a conservative leaning Midwestern County? How could the sex-fearing and God-fearing inhabitants of Warsaw "develop a breakthrough form of sexual intercourse" (P. 17)? The other wild absurdities that Henn describes in the poem further the radicalness of his imaginary commune.
But this example of radicalization should not be seen as merely humorous banter. On a deeper level, we notice that often times, Henn's most extreme and absurd poems are linked with political topics. For example: "Democrat Sighting Reported in Kosciusko County", "When Obama Was Inaugurated", "God of Thunder Joins Eco-Terrorists", and "Homosexual Mercenaries Take over Baghdad" among others. These frequent associations between radicalization and politics parallel the current political polarization in the US, which can be widely seen through the establishment of the Tea Party and the success of personalities Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck. Henn's fusing of the political with the radical can definitely be interpreted as an expression of political discontent.
A possible effect of contemporary political polarization can be seen in a desire for the moderate, which is well executed in Henn's poem "Confessions of a Flaming Liberal". Here, Henn breaks down stereotypes of what a liberal is. Contrary to popular belief, Henn creates a liberal character who is not vegetarian, who "wouldn't rule out voting Republican", and who believes "in equal rights for homosexuals", but still likes "to make fun of gay people" (P. 24). It is exactly this moderate liberal character that is so intriguing. Often in discussions about politics in the Midwest, the conversation turns into wild yelling and repeating of radical political ideas and/or logical fallacies. In contrast to this wild radicalized political world, Henn's description of the "flaming liberal" is, in and of itself, rather mundane. This juxtaposition generates an absurdity. Normally something radical stands out from the mundane. But in an area that is so overrun by fanatics, Henn implies that it is, absurdly enough, radical to be moderate. In all Henn's use of radicalization is a brilliantly humorous way to approach very sensitive topics with lightness, while at the same time digging to the depths of contemporary political issues and discontent.
A second wonderfully executed aspect of Henn's book is the emotional sincerity and closeness that grows as the book progresses. Although most of Henn's work is characterized by his biting wit and humor, there is a sentimental side of the author that shines through in some of his pieces. This sentimental side can also be seen in his 2010 chapbook release The Book of Nate, which contains descriptions of the various aspects of a good friendship, and leaves the reader with a strong feeling of camaraderie and warmth. In Unacknowledged Legislations similar warmth comes from poems like "Daydream", "Myrtle Beach", "On the Day Before My Eldest Child's First Communion", "A Note to Dr. David Haines", and "When I Die".
The musician Daniel Johnston, who Henn quotes in his book, is a master of achieving closeness and warmth. One reason why Johnston's work is so powerful is because Johnston honestly, bluntly, and almost embarrassingly reveals his deepest inner workings. In a similar manner, Henn achieves this warmth by breaking down the barriers of embarrassment and self-restraint. Henn gets to his innermost and rawest human emotion in part by using the real names of his friends, but also by sincerely and gently handling the incredibly personal subjects of his "Eldest Child", as well as his father (in "A Note to Dr. David Haines"). Instead of letting these personal subjects become points of embarrassment, Henn boldly paints himself and those closest to him into his art. Through this process he powerfully brings the reader into the realm of his world, of his reality, of his innermost existence.
Finally, I would like to briefly discuss the role of Warsaw and Kosciusko County in Henn's latest book. Henn's work contains conflicting views of his native area. On the one hand it is written in the Acknowledgments section that "he [Henn] is a big fan of the place where he grew up, and still resides". But in Kaveh Akbar's Foreword, Warsaw is described as "a station marked by indifference (or open hostility)" directed towards artists. This is the world in which Unacknowledged Legislations lives. It is a preternatural world where frustratingly radical conservatives burn books about sexual education, but also where young artists produce "tendril promising nourishment / for all the unbelieving ears" (P. 92). The town's dullness allows the writer's mind to wonder freely, dabbling in and out of pop culture, beers amongst friends and "Non-Lethal Uses for Your Standard Issue Suicide Machine". Steve Henn's poetry is simultaneously a commentary on the city in which he resides as well as a product of that same city.
Perhaps the most revealing poem in relation to Warsaw, Indiana is Henn's piece "(Sigh)". "(Sigh)" is the most ambitious poem that Henn undertakes in the book and stands as, in my personal opinion, the best example of Henn's brilliance and a cultural artifact of utmost importance to Kosciusko County. At the end of the poem Henn yearns for a time when he "can go back to Warsaw, Indiana, without the slightest hint of regret" (P. 83). This passage and poem captures the feeling of Northern Indiana to a T: a place where one must always regretfully return to and where one can never truly get away from. It is a place that disgusts us, but only because it has captured us and refuses to let us out of its grasp. The only way to find contentment in the madness of the Lake City, is to find those who have also, for whatever reason, become trapped in the bastardly clutches of that God-fearing and God-forsaken county. Thus bleeds Henn's pen in the poem "(Sigh)" . . . for he has lost a friend, Zeb, who it appears once helped him cope with the madness of living in Warsaw, Indiana.
Steve Henn's first complete book of poetry Unacknowledged Legislations is a hilarious and profound journey into the mind and life of its author. It is a behemoth of Warsaw art, because of both its ambition and its execution. For everyone with any association to Kosciusko County, Unacknowledged Legislations stands alone as the most important book of poetry to come out of the region this year. Steve Henn's full-length debut can be found online at nyqbooks.org, amazon.com as well as in the Barnes & Noble online store.
32 pages. 2010. $5.
Superiority Complex Press
PO Box 1973, Warsaw, IN 46581
By Mike Kriesel
A fine sampler of early 21st Century Midwestern Small-Press Bukowski-school poetry with a few welcome boomerangs of surreal humor interspersed throughout. The book's like a mini open-mic. Each reader gets a few pages to strut, then makes room for the next. Three of the four poets have edited zines, and it shows, in a good way. Kaveh Akbar (rhymes with "lava snackbar") leads off with imaginative, surreal, at times hilarious work. In one poem he goes back in time and outdoes Nostradamus, in another he's haunted by a woman who throws pocket change at him. In my favorite, he learns math at a Catholic school: "the first day I walked into Sacred Heart pre-school I was // immediately confronted by this massive statue of a guy being nailed / to a plus sign." Oren Wagner follows with effective spiritual meditations springboarded from Bible verses, and also entertains with "Things Any Potential Mate From Match.com Should Know About Me." Steve Henn contributes an "I Am A Poet" manifesto, a fart-rippingly funny family vacation mental video called "Myrtle Beach" (WARNING: Contains Crude Humor), and a real gem in the presidential-time-travel-chortle-fest "Dine n Dash with Abraham Lincoln." A snippet: "Abe orders their most expensive steak / and he's like 'watch me emancipate this loin / through the underground railroad of my lower intestine.'" David J. Thompson bats cleanup for the All-Stars. He's won the last two or three Nerve Cowboy chapbook contests, and rightly so. He's the best guy writing in Small Press, a master of bittersweet, conversational pieces that slowly build up to an ending you think you see coming, but still somehow manage to softly sucker punch you from a different direction. Reading his work makes me miss the poems of legends Albert Huffstickler (deceased), and Don Winter (sadly retired from writing). Here's Thompson's "Still Red"
Our lease is coming up, his girlfriend said. They were driving home after their regular Tuesday night dinner out, stuffed with Rib-eyes and loaded baked potatoes. How soon? he asked. End of the month, she replied. He started to brake for a red light. She asked him what he thought. He looked to his left at the old K-Mart building. He tried to think how long it had been out of business, but couldn't remember. I'd like more space, I guess, he told her, still staring at the big empty parking lot. Me, too, she said. More space might help us. He looked up at the traffic light. Still red. He moved the gearshift to neutral then back to first gear. Jesus, he said. Does this light ever change? I know, she answered. It feels like we've been sitting here forever.
By: Steve Henn
15 Poems / 15 Pages (30 Page Book) / $4
THE LAST REDCOAT
By: Oren Wagner
21 Poems / 15 Pages (30 Page Book) / $4
Platonic 3 Way Press
P.O. Box 844
Warsaw, IN 46581
Oren Wagner and Steve Henn are close friends. They are also co-editors along with well known Small Press poet, Don Winter of the new Platonic 3 Way Press. They are 28 and 30 years old respectively. They have been submitting work for about three years and have an average of eight publication credits between them. This is their first book of poetry. They divide the space between the covers; half the book entitled, The Last Redcoat is devoted to Oren Wager's work and the other half entitled, The Seedy Underbelly of the High-falutin' Oversoul is devoted to Steve Henn's work.
I asked Henn about his background, "I don't know that I've started writing in earnest yet. I've been writing a lot more these past three years than ever before, but really I started in high school. There were several years of awful stuff, tho, and then after that several more years of mediocrity. For quite a bit of the last three years I've been thinking of myself as a prose writer who is too busy teaching and schooling to get at the novel I've got about 4/5ths of a complete rough draft of, but lately I've been thinking of myself more as a poet, intentionally trying to expand my abilities and come up with creative subject matter in verse. I don't buy that "find truth and beauty in the mundane" crap. I've always written to entertain, and primarily to entertain myself. Novel subject matter, taking risks with what I write about are what I find stimulating."
Henn's poems are direct, narrative, and clear. They are warm hearted and good natured. Here is an example of one of his poems entitled, "Church League Softball": "Oren and I love softball but we don't / believe in God, so we decided to collect / a team of atheists to join the church league. / We filed for entry, marking "other" / in the spot for affiliation. Our fake name / was The Church of One, as in one life, / one chance, no soul, nothing to pray / to or for but today and tomorrow until we're dead. / The rumor spread that we were eastern mystics, / that our experience of Him bordered on the sexual. / Janice, our token woman, got a lot of attention / from opposing men. She'd wave her tight ass / back and forth in the batter's box, and they / served 'em up with a slight arc, aiming / for her sweet spot."
Oren Wagner's work in The Last Redcoat is equally well written, but has more edge and bite to it then does Henn's. Wagner writes impressionistically. This may be a bi-product of his years as a musician where song lyrics by their nature are often not linear in structure. I asked Wagner when did he begin writing poetry in earnest? "I've been writing for about twelve years, I was 15 or 16 when I started, you know, sad teenage poetry kind of shit. I was about 21 when I started writing stuff that doesn't make me recoil in shame (retrospectively speaking.)" I asked about his education, "An honor roll student in the school of hard knocks. After high school I was in a couple of touring punk bands. I've lived in Detroit MI, Warsaw IN, Seattle WA, South Bend IN, North Manchester IN, Colorado Springs CO, Zionsville IN and now Indianapolis IN, six of those cities have been in the past eight years, so moving around has been very formative or educational...I spent a year in college in Colorado, and have spent the last three years at a university in Indianapolis. Since I can't go to school full time, I am on the eight year program."
Here is an example of one of Wagner's poems entitled, "icons of the virgin": "icons of the virgin are painted in the etceteras on the wall / surface, texture, erosion. / you don't know that I can hear assembly line / efforts in your voice. / midnight sky of Braille and Arabic numerals / counting, falling. dot dot dot dash, / immaculate Morse code for V,/not for victory or for varsity / or for virtue. /latitude lines on an uncreated earth / still have their degrees and intervene with longitude / baby born into a cartilage cage / a metaphor for the unspoken / benedictions for the perishing apostle / zodiac, monkey pox , increased rations / assembly line icons of the virgin / etcetera etcetera written on her face."
This is a very fine set of poetry. Well crafted, clever, mature, visual, surprising - from the minds of two friends, editors and emerging poets.
Pudding House Chapbook Series, Pudding House Publications, Columbus, OH.
(2007) staple-bound, 32pp.
A sweet and oft powerful tome of advocacy and advocacy and witnessing,
whereas the title poem is a fine piece of madness.
Notice: this poetry is important for people who neither like for reasons that are moral as they claim poetry nor read the oracular art as well, as those who do and do, because these poems are to a piece significant swan songs for the domineering News and of the contemporaneous truth of underground lit. And fun as Hell and as sharp to partake.
This Henn cat has a chip on his shoulder and never far off the mark his every fiber refuses the chip the Power tries to put into his poets' head. Maybe because it's there in black and white on the cover and reiterated within this too slender chap, the mention of Ambrose Bierce sold me on wanting to write this up beat review. That and the fact that Christopher sent me a free review copy. Seriously this some the best most worth while and surreally humoress array of outsider poetry this one has had the pleasure to peruse so far ao good this year. This poetry speaks for itself not from a soapbox or podium but from the stage of stand-up and vaudeville cut-ups of what most gets under the skin of a reader of American poetry these days. Or imbibe of slam for that matter. Good stuff for peanuts at ten bucks.
".. fifteen minutes of scraping ice, take
the wife's, the boss bitching
'bout twenty minute late,..." --- "REALTY TV". A most excellent and pleasant word play but at hip-hop speed! "Royal Rumble: Gay Pride Parade And Klan Demonstration", is a excellent low down yellow journalismo a la fin de siecle but as funny as the Marx Brothers. Also plus plus to checking out "How To Turn Yourself
Into A Stalker ", screwball purple-prose socked into a fluorescent straight jacket of wham- bam verse. See these poems as just plumb good advice in the form of a quick fix manual of blue-prints and still every inch a book of poetry.
////////////////// MAGAZINES //////////////////
magazines that have published Steve's poems include New York Quarterly, Rattle, Midwestern Gothic, Paterson Literary Review, 5 a.m., Staplegun, Nerve Cowboy, Pearl, Chiron Review, Barbaric Yawp and Freeverse, among others.