Tuesday, April 26, 2011


by Jen Benka
Hanging Loose Press
Brooklyn NY
Copyright © 2011 by Jen Benka
60 pages, softbound, $18

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Science has often pondered the existence of parallel universes. Jen Benko is proof they exist. How poetry, based on the traditional forms of this universe, take on both universal questions and questions of the parallel universe. Even Benko acknowledges this in the poem “Alpha” in which she writes: “the universe contains the universe. a faint milky circle, a blank field.”

Benko’s words do not sing, but they excite, send the reader into a universe of new thoughts. Take the poem “Romeo” for example:

she says that it’s not
that I am a tall woman
but the mutant
messages I send –
a hymn –
and so I am
sir to them and mister

Now you can interpret what you want from this, Dickinson, out-in-space, gender bender, freedom anthem – whatever. The fact is Benko is her own voice, and what doesn’t make sense will if you take the time and also re-read the poems, most of which are sparse, often dissect and aspect of society critically. Benko is not one kiss your cheek and say you look great. She will find the moles, the pimples, reinterpret writings, happenings, people, like taking a picture and distorting it until it is unrecognizable, a new picture never taken.

Benko is also a dark poet, not much happiness in these pages like her anti-war poem “Yankee” which is both reminiscent of Ginsberg and encompasses perhaps Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and our own Indian wars.

over there occupier
no damn different than here
we are always coming with drums
with dandy prayers dandy guns
emancipation justified what
lincoln ordering 38 Sioux
to be hanged
north has never been true

Benko scores time and again in ways one does not expect, must rethink their own philosophies and histories. The book is, shall I say, avant-garde and worth a reading.

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