Hank by Abraham Smith

Most everyone I’ve talked to about this book or about Abraham Smith in general, his reading performances or his writing, his ideas, his sense of verbal compulsion and montage of syllable, his voice, has pretty much come to agree on one point: “I have no goddamn idea where this guy came from.” His first book Whim Man Mammon, also from Action, was one I read I think in a small room and somewhat in my backyard, thinking somehow someone had learned to talk to a machine, but like a machine that used to sit in the back room of a shaving place where men came to bark secrets at other men while getting the hair done off their face. An image from one of the poems in that first of a man throwing a chair at a sweet gum tree remains one of those tranplanted sights that is just now a full part of my own head.

Earlier this year then I saw Abe read from the same poems in a larger room, channeling some kind of cross between his own admitted sound of hearing preachers through transistors growing up in Kentucky, and some kind of tangled man caught in a draft vent. Everyone I went to that reading with still talks about jesus christ that guy is something. I had to reread that first book again after that and understood it not as a machine but as someone maybe talking to the ground that used to be underneath our feet and the sky that used to have a different kind of color too, and with a shitton maybe of whiskey and old music that sits in the soles of people’s feet. [Here’s a downloadable video of Abe reading from both books.] Here’s another:

This new second book, Hank, after Hank Williams, goes even further than that first one in just inventing and channeling this who the what where how did you say mode. These poems are longer and all titled not in english but in expletive deletion symbols, probably like the weird kind of coils that seem to come up when you hear someone talk like this. I can’t even pick excerpts from these ongoings because it feels like taking the finger off a hand.


October 10th, 2010 / 12:29 pm