We are, each of us, a clown with a heart condition. – Amorak Huey
You know that feeling you get when a talented comedian starts to tell a shaggy dog story—that happy anticipation that there will be surprises, guffaws, and, in the end, a tasty truth? Pick up Amorak Huey’s debut collection Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress Publications, 2015) and feel that kind of joy.
Huey has managed to accomplish two highly impressive literary feats in this book: he has created moving and well-crafted love poems and has laced them with humor and honesty. Ha Ha Ha Thump examines relationships, or their absence, through the voices and perspectives of a colorful parade of characters—we receive insights on the ebbs and flows of love from a bank robber, a governor, a supermodel, and a vampire (to name a few). Can you hear the jokes unfolding? And yet the joy, lust, anguish, and loneliness ring true throughout, as in the poem “Self-Portrait as Han to Leia, on Hoth”:
Our future pendulums away from us,
our small stars extinguish each other
in the heart’s dark sky.
And in “The Pope Imagines Life as a Married Man”:
but if I wrote you a note
it would be about sex:
50 Shades of Holy Shit That Felt Good…
but my body and my blood
will never grow weary
of your mouth
making the shape of my name.
And in “Mick Jagger’s Penis Turns 69”—it is, of course, pleased to meet you—but:
Sometimes it wants to be remembered,
to leave its mark on the world, it wants
to be more than a footnote, punchline, punching bag.
Sometimes it just wants to be held.
The book is structured to remind you that you are part of this joke: what goes Ha Ha Ha Thump? The title poem is reimagined in each section. Through poems peppered with pop culture talismans, Huey examines how language fails and succeeds, by turns, to translate emotions.
From “ In Lieu of Apology”:
I can offer a mouthful of sand and all the words I have not yet formed.
And in these lines from the last version of the title poem:
What we’re looking for is form:
a sense of the proper order of things:
first lightning then thunder—
laughter to measure the silence between.
In the end, the desire to reach out, to touch and be touched, surpasses the need for logic and order—as Huey exquisitely reveals in “Ars Poetica Disguised as a Love Poem Disguised as a Commemoration of the 166th Anniversary of the Rescue of the Donner Party.” He waves his poems like a shirt above his head and invites his readers like William Carlos Williams to dance naked with him, to laugh at their obsessions and attractions, to fall head over heels with love and life again and again.
Janeen Pergrin Rastall lives in Gordon, MI (population: 2). She is the author of In the Yellowed House (dancing girl press, 2014) and co-author of Heart Radicals (ELJ Publications, 2016). Her chapbook Objects May Appear Closer won the 2015 Celery City Chapbook Contest. Her work has appeared in Raleigh Review, Midwestern Gothic, North Dakota Quarterly, The Fourth River, and other publications. Her work has been twice nominated for a Best of the Net Award and for the Pushcart Prize. Please visit Janeen at janeenpergrinrastall.wordpress.com.