Saturday, March 17, 2007

'The Pop-Up Book of Death: Poems by Chad Helder' by Chad Helder

TITLE: The Pop-Up Book of Death: Poems by Chad Helder
AUTHOR: Chad Helder
PRICE: $12.99/$6.16
GENRE: Poetry/Gay & Lesbian

I am an impatient reader of poetry, quick to discard the self-indulgent chaff and ungainly doggerel that represents the greater part of self-published collections. Chad Helder, however, has put together a collection that held my attention through two uninterrupted readings and remains on my desktop.

I am not saying ‘The Pop-Up Book of the Dead’ is perfect, but it does have the two qualities I feel are essential in good poetry, it is vivid and it is thoughtful. The poems (58 of them by my count) each has their own identity but also builds on an intensely personal set of images and symbols. Imagery is deftly used and startling in its originality—although sometimes overly terse wording make some passages ungrammatical or hard to understand in first reading (even in poetry, sometimes more is more).

The first image to emerge, the dog, is rooted in anecdote where a childhood pet “…buoys me up from drowning / buoys me up like a coffin / filled with the past.” The dog image is twisted and turned and unfolds to show many surprising facets. Other themes insinuate themselves. A myriad of vermin, rats, worms and a quiet fascination with ovipositors. Animal take on many, often sinister roles such as in “My dignity becomes the legs of a grasshopper / sticking out the lips of a frog.”

And again in ‘Indoctrination or The Ultimate Job Hunting Guide’ where the all too familiar platitudes of employment-seeking culminate with “The beak is at the bottom of the octopus embrace”. Water appears in many malevolent forms such as “A windshield blinded by the palm of a storm / Like closing the eyes of the dead.” And, of course, death itself in many guises. Along with highways, sexuality, queer identity and many other threads, their interactions and corollaries.

The most satisfying element for me was the note of, albeit cynical, hope in the final poem. The entire collection marinates well and gains flavor on subsequent readings.


Reviewed by Emily Veinglory: Emily is a writer of fantasy, romance and erotica. Her first paperback novel King of Dragons, King of Men will be available this October from Samhain Press. The ebook version is on sale now.

1 comment:

Emily Veinglory said...

I had to come back and remove a few of my typoes, apologies for that.