Often brilliant, sometimes stuck in a new prison

Often brilliant, sometimes stuck in a new prison

Put Your Hands inPut Your Hands in by Chris Hosea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection was difficult to rate with the simple star method because I found it sometimes brilliant, sometimes interesting enough, and sometimes just too cute or “experimental” for its own good. I chose 4 stars because when it is good, it demonstrates that there are still possibilities in the intentional destruction of grammar and language. a la Ashberry if the writer is skilled. And Hosea is skilled.

Told in many voices, often speaking in the same poem, even the same line, the poems do convey fractured stories and experiences. I found myself underlining lines and parts of lines for their eloquence, though Hosea may hate that word. This volume is for those willing to work at reading by not trying too hard to understand in a traditional prose sense, but simply bathe in the flow of words and let them rumble their meanings.

I did find many poems simply too fractured, pushing past the limits where little can pass between writer and reader, whatever meaning too hidden in the scramble. And there were a few that I just passed off as just an in your face game. Here is a line repeated in “Black Steel”:

(thing) (thing) (thing) (thing)

Okay. Not a lot of craft there.

But pass by such exercises in the cool, and you do get gems in the mix:

“she ate night its gaps her dirt pie”

“a ruler to measure poems for a prison frock”

This last line probably is Hosea’s negative aesthetic statement. He is fighting a battle long one against the Victorian strictures of verse forms and language. The most radical thing to do today is not to follow the new order established by Stein, Pound, Elliot, Ashberry etc., writers I certainly admire, but to find a new way to make the language of poetry whole again without betraying its soul. Hose finds this too confining and imprisoning.

Ironically, the “shock of the new” is now a new prison.

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