I review John Gery’s poetry collection, “Have At You Now!”

Over at Burlesque Press’s Variety Show, you can, and should, read my review of John Gery’s “Have At You Now!”


In the review, I talk about Gery’s troubling response to Walt Whitman, and I discuss the odd situation of a lot of contemporary poetry: how it seems both focused on the human experience and deeply suspicious of it. On the one hand, such poems explore the particular lived experience, the delight of

the odd look a shaggy dog gave once

across a cornfield, that worn-down feeling


after you’ve spent a night caressing

someone ill who deserves your love,

or dressing up for a lingering meal

with no one especially important—

But on the other hand, they also present the constant barrage of news about the wider world, its vastness, its horrors, that make that single person’s lived experience appear to the verge on meaninglessness. If, for instance, I spend extra time to carefully respond to my students’ latest papers, how does that small act remain meaningful when colossally monstrous acts of injustice are occurring just outside the field of my perception?

In the collection, Gery tries different ways to reconcile these visions of the meaningful life, but it’s not clear, ultimately, how they can be reconciled, and this is troubling stuff.

Take a look!


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