The Hand Me Downs of Hannah Hoch
By robert pomerhn
Highest Hurdle Press
There’s quite a bit of squealing tires in these poems. If “word-slinger” is still appropriate then Pomerhn is certainly one of the best of his generation. This 108 page, 8.5” x 11” book is full of political responses to Katrina and the ongoing invasions in the mid-east as well as several tributes to loved ones and poets who have influenced Pomerhn and given him direction to his path that continues to unfold and progress— among them the Beats but most pervasively the Dadaists and Surrealists of the early 20th century. Pomerhn takes a strict anti-establishment stance when it comes to literary matters. “BEING LITERARY IS OF NO IMPORTANCE / logic strikes me as a boring kind of game / tear up a page at least part if it, / my life’s skin / a thousand corroded wounds, / ATTACK.”
He can become very strident in both his criticism and praise of other artists but he is devoted to making himself just that – a true artist. Included in the book are about 40 of his collages and they are very powerful. Most of them are facial abstracts and many of them are figurative as well – often children with suffering mouths and postures that are not inclined to make one “feel good.” They are all in black and white and provoke gut responses on a very basic level.
Pomerhn uses the device of cliche to his advantage but it is dispersed with many original and personal images. His thoughtful way of provoking anger in the reader is his specialty in dealing with today’s world of the fast food sell and his disgust with modern society. Yet, he has a fascination for the athletes, pop artists, and products, whose names he uses freely -- sometimes in an ironic, satirical fashion and sometimes with genuine appreciation.
Is Pomerhn hip-hop? a rapper? or is he working in the tradition of the early 20th century brought up to date with images and structures that he has invented and incorporated into his very meaningful work? as in the poem, E GRADE REPEAT OF SWAPSHEET which begins, “Trade you a dream induced hallucination for a creative burst of inspiration…” He then goes on to catalog a series of people and material objects that he would “trade” for other things like, “Trade you the good old-fashioned heart attack for that killer dose of Prozac,” and “so I’ll trade you all those pop-culture icons / to watch you get wrapped up into them like two fifty-foot pythons…” and the current “consider King James as the crowned jewel / when I look into my crystal ball / the sickest ball handle of them all / belongs to Chris Paul.”
Pomerhn can be disturbing, mental, celebratorial and he has many voices in his poems that range from praise to disgust. Overall, he is one of the few significant poets writing in the US today. I don’t think he can be categorized or stereotyped but he certainly quakes the foundations of what is acceptable and what is not—just like the Surrealists he lists as his major influences.
A good read and much needed voice in opposition to most of the so-called “maverick poets” who are really MFA types begging for tenure and security in the literary marketplace. Pomerhn may not be to everyone’s taste but he certainly has something to say and he does just that in his own original way. Recommended to shake the pillars of today’s mass market poetry and the privileged and meaningless lives of so many who call themselves poets.