Review: Puppies and Monks and Medieval Memories, by David McLean
A few months ago I promised David McLean I would review his latest work, puppies and monks and medieval memories, now out on Heavy Hands Ink and available here. The print edition costs $10 plus some freight and download is free. As a side-note you might wonder why it’s free. Fuck if I know, but you should pay for this because it is an amazing volume of work, one that should be held close and near-at-hand.
Okay. So I make this promise and I read it. Not once, but three times. And then life interfered. Time passes. Things happen. But I returned to the work. Take careful note, dear reader: I returned to the work.
David McLean has never bored me in any way. His poetry is filled with vivid images, amazing song and voices, and thoughts few of us dare to approach.
some children injure themselves
with knives and burning
games with death.
most children injure themselves
by erecting a normative self
in the sexless flesh,
so much worse than death –
wounds in the meat are best
Unsettling images can be integral to McLean’s work, both real and imagined. Often images inform his work more so than wordplay. Straight forward language is just part of the effect; the subtlety comes in the vision; and the power comes from the combination.
a zombie sits
a zombie sits dead between us on the sofa,
between each instant. at one point
i shot him in the head with memories,
and his jaw hangs even deader
than the rest of him, deadest maybe
because of this – dead
as a telephone and twice
i hope he records what we say to him,
some place where he displaces
anxiety in me. he is all my dead
forever, and hangs hopeless
his lovely eternity. profane
decay, baby, this zombie, he
sits dead between us on the sofa –
i hope he remembers me,
our arrogant eternity
Another strength McLean shows is brevity. He can show more in fewer words than any poet I know. Even his longer pieces are brief. There is a constant sense that they could go on and on, without losing any power, but the skill as that he forces the reader to go on. It is up to the reader to finish the poem, McLean merely suggests a beginning.
In the end McLean is one of the greats of our generation. He is fearless, brash, a little arrogant and timeless. I have said this before about David McLean’s poetry, and I will say it again: If you are not reading his work, what’s your fucking problem?