Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review of Kyle Flax’s “What Hank said on the Bus”

Review of Kyle Flax’s “What Hank said on the Bus” ( Publishing Genius)

Review by Alice Weiss

These poems deliver what the title promises, poetry in standing-on- the- corner diction.  Surprise.  Song often breaks through his leaning-back-into it lines
and then suddenly, someone can mention a purple suit and a green wig
            without even knowing that they are mentioning such an astounding

Flak parlays anaphora (every line beginning with ‘from’) into a rollicking  play on the wind from Vermont in “Oh a Mighty.”  “[N]onpersons and sons of bitches” move him; all the usual things he experiences turn into fairy tales, or numbers or ogres asking for lettuce.  Love makes him optimistic.  Running scared he tries to find some way to balance the fear.
            These poems are downright fun to read.  The voice is quirky but assured.  “I am a humongous mommy underneath my cloths,” is where an indictment of capitalism takes him,
and finishes, “I am scared about how I will feed all the babies I have growing inside me all the time.” The lines are almost always end stopped, and spaced and the book builds an unceasing I persona that takes both the pain of ordinary living, its details, its defeats, and uneasiness, and transforms it into simple and playful sentence forms.
            The long poem that centers the book, “The Young Filmmakers of Kansas,” records the making of a surrealist film on the Midwestern plains.  In seven short verses ranging from seven to eleven lines each, Flax traces the scenario. Reversing Jaws is the impulse.  The filmmakers want to eat. The shark is the hero and blood is the theme but the secret is that they are afraid of girls. The scenes include corpses in the mother’s brackish swimming pool, mannequins floating across a cornfield, zombies inside the basement waiting for brains to eat, after all they are business men. The movie is fun and scare and the poetry contemplates the nature of evil and blood and young men, even boys, and what they do with fear.
            Characteristically the speaker experiences sweetness and then skitters into some other place.  But in the title poem “What Hank said on the Bus” which I like best of all of them the speaker settles into desire and lets it be small and sturdy.
                        she smells like a pine forest
She is a tiny secret room hidden inside the pacific ocean

all I do is sweat and sweat and sweat
at the local coal mine
waiting for her to sit
inside my automobile

Here it is as if the ambitious imagery of the pacific ocean is contained in his that tiny room
and the shorter lines give the speaker a control of language that moves past the amusing bombast of the other poems to a delicacy of feeling, often implied in the other poems, but here come fully to life.

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