Thursday, October 9, 2008

Doug Draime's "LA Terminal Poems" Reviewed by Jack Henry

Doug Draime
Los Angeles Terminal (Poems 1971-1980)
Covert Press 2008 (
Reviewed by Jack Henry
28 pgs

Before reading Los Angeles Terminal (Poems 1971-1980) I couldn't pick Doug Draime out of a poet line-up to save my sorry ass. Blame that on my lack of being a true reader of the underground press. Doug started out in the 60s and has been a part of the underground arena since. I had no idea what I missed out on.
Covert Press has put out another great chapbook in Los Angeles Terminal. It does what a good chapbook is supposed to do: it makes you hunger for more. Doug Draime is a true poet, one of exquisite talent, insight and observation. He is the bridge between the last Beats, Bukowski and modern writers. He is the poet I want to be.
When I first read this book I got pissed off. There are poets that challenge me, poets that make me laugh and not in a good way, and poets that make me want to shove a sharpened pencil in my eye. Doug made me get my sharpener out.
Twenty-seven poems with acetylene focus outline a darker image of Los Angeles. For those that live here you already know it's a shithole, after reading this book, others will find out. But the color and life put into each line make the visit worthwhile.

More than a few poems stick out.

From Steak & Eggs Special, a haunting look at the search and fear of companionship in the big city.

a girl in a leather dress
a stranger
sits down across from me in a booth

you havin' the special? she asked
yeah i say
i am too she says but adds:
separate checks ok?
ok i agree

It ends w/a kicker.

then she takes her shoe off
& gently puts
a slender
black-nyloned foot
against my crotch

There is certain loneliness and longing in LA that Doug captures well.

From All I knew About Her…

I knew she
chanted at a
box she called
an altar,
words in Japanese,
she didn't
know the
meaning of.
I knew she
feared the
darkness &
ran from the light.
I knew, I knew,
the sound of
her tears.

There's also a great deal of insanity in Los Angeles, which might be true of most cities, but in my travels I have never seen as many crazy people as I do here in LA.
In A Night On The Boards Doug discusses the insanity of trying to get a beer and a sandwich, how reality can explode and mix w/the lunacy of survival.

…Someone laughed as Mary spilled a
pitcher of beer
on her hot new satin dress.
oh, jesus, i thought, all this shit
for a couple of free beers
& a sandwich?

The last poem is perhaps the best, in my opinion. Los Angeles Terminal: After A Friend's Suicide Attempt. It's a piece that harbors a sense of despair, a sense of detachment that is so common here.

What we thought were smoke singles
(or whatever they were) have stopped
and now there is only the smog.


If you are a slacker asshole like me that never read Doug Draime you need to change that right now. Go to and buy this book. It is well worth your money, and it will make you appreciate truly great writing.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Three reviews of new Covert Press releases by Jack Henry

…And Death is All Around Us
Michael Grover
Covert Press
34 pgs
available at
Review by Jack Henry

"And Death is All Around Us" is an amazing find.

When I read Michael Grover I am never sure what to expect. His words are often tough, angry, belligerent but always honest. In this text, a volume of poems dedicated to his grandmother and a memorial to her recent passing, Grover has gone beyond any expectation I could have had of him.

Not only is the poetry brilliant, it also contains every aspect I look for in a good poem. Heart. Soul. Vibrancy. Compassion. Emotion. Affectation. This is just a solid and complete collection of work.

From "Brushing Grandma's Hair."

"…Later at the dinner table
She speaks of having her hair brushed.
My father and I
Both say that we did it.
We look at each other realizing we've been
She just smiles knowingly."

This is just a brief glimpse of how important she was both to Michael and his father.

From "A Tough Month."

My father called me
Crying this afternoon.
Grandma went to the doctor,
She is not coming back out.
She is going to the hospice
Where they will prepare her to pass on."

Devastating lines that only dig deeper and deeper, examining the dark spaces that only a true poet can discover.

Michael Grover is also well known for his political points of view and his fearlessness in presenting them. I kept waiting and sure enough it hit, and in a fantastic way. Very sly and true, like a frying pan in the face.

"Huddle House" (Complete)

On the way to her funeral
Father and I stop
At the Huddle House in rural Georgia
We stop
Because it was one of her
Favorite places to eat

The food is greasy
And not so good
On the way out
On the bulletin board
A flyer that says
"Whites Only Party"
In big bold black letters

This is a phenomenal work and the quotes I use truly do not do the text justice. It's a strong, honest, emotional work, so get off your ass and buy this text.

Breaking the Hearts of Robots
Jason "Juice" Hardung
Covert Press
34 pgs
available at
Reviewed by Jack Henry

I know Juice.
I've met Juice.
And have heard him read.

Like Wayne Mason, I've never really read Juice.

"Breaking the Hearts of Robots" is an extraordinary volume of poetry. I have always considered Juice one of the best up and coming writers, one of those lions that's biting at an old mans tail and this chapbook does not disappoint.

To my surprise he includes three poems that I included in Heroin Love Songs. Of course, this honest admission will make the reader think that Jack Henry is a patsy to review this. Well fuck you too. If I didn't like it, I'd tell you, and I think Juice would appreciate that.

But I like this volume.

Very much.

One of the key poems in this text is "Sometimes Hamsters Eat Their Young." It is an exceptional poem, filled with a strong voice and tremendous heart. About the reflection of a lost mother as well as a childhood lost, "Hamsters" is revealing and affects any reader.

"…my blue eyes were crying
but not in the rain
in the doorway of our dream…"

"…She said she promised.
I had a hamster once
that had babies
and it chewed most of their heads off."

Amazing, stark and a damning write.

On the flip side is a reflection on fatherhood and its imprint on a child's development.

From "Nurtured Like a Cactus in a Single Man's Apartment."

"I didn't figure out that the shower curtain goes
on the inside of the tub
until I lived on my own
The floor was always wetter than me
and I was a newborn calf
doing splits
every time I tried to stand on my own
Now I just take baths"

Juice Hardung is a bright and honest writer. After a difficult childhood and challenges with substance abuse, he has turned into a powerful voice of a new generation of writers.

I highly recommend this volume.

Waiting for Magic
Wayne Mason
Covert Press
34 pgs
available at

I've heard of Wayne Mason, but I've never read Wayne Mason. Other than a few poems here and there, on line and elsewhere, the opportunity to sit and read a complete, however slim, is welcome.

And I wasn't disappointed.

Mason has a strong voice and sense of self within the context of his writing. Vivid, clear and well written, each poem seemingly unfolds a different facet of the writer's persona.

Strongly based in a blue collar work ethic, Mason brings the factory workers world to life.

In "Car Poem" Mason reveals the reality of a working persons life.

Standing over
massive guts
of my car
racing sunlight
to get the beast running
to haul me to work
one more day

Mason also reveals a more subtle, delicate side about being a father.

From "Comassionate Liar…"

"…And, now a father
I realize he was
making it up as
he went along

Like me"

This is a very strong book from a superb Dharma writer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review of John Dorsey's new book by Jack Henry

"Holy Toledo! The Sonnet River Volume"John DorseySleepy Brooklyn Colorado 2008137 pgsHardcover
"Holy Toledo!" is not a great title. This may piss off the writer or whoever came up w/it, but it reminds me of a Loonie Tunes Cartoon. And that image is 180 degrees from the strength of content just as All-American blue balled christians are 180 degrees from reality. That's my only complaint. Well nearly so. "Holy Toledo" is organized by year, 2007 to 2003. That is how it is organized in the text and that's a mistake. The poetry of John Dorsey is a journey, deeply metaphysical and metaphorical, but a challeng-ing flight of growth and evolution. Putting newer poems to the front denies the reader to get the sense of growth, however subtle, however nuanced, of the poet. End complaints. John Dorsey is a terrific poet. I used to think I was a poet but after reading Dorsey I realized I am a grave digger. With his unique use of what I call asymmetric meter, Dorsey's poetry challenges the reader. It is different each time. While reviewing the text I read it several times, including back to front a couple of times. Below is an example of this asymmetric meter:
From "canadian basement blues"
it's true i saw
a girl dreaming zombie
blues shooting pennies out
of her little mary
sunshine until abraham lincoln
got up and walked
off she was the
ghost of calamity

Dorsey denies the reader punctuation to know where the starts and stops should be, thus truly forcing the reader to insert their own measure and rhythm to a piece, and also forcing absolute reader interpretation of a given lines, stanzas and entire poems. This is subtle but very calculated. Any other poet might break blues and shooting pennies out on the third line of the above selection. Also, off and she was the from the seventh stanza might require a break but it would change meaning, and it would falsify the meter of style. Another style characteristic true to a Dorsey poem are the one liners, or one-off's, that may or may not hold value within the piece as a whole, but often demand their own attention in a singular us-age. For example: From "mermaid blues"
when you're 16 yrs
old every little thing
feels like a love
song written in the
key of a minor apocalypse
A damning start to a great poem.

Again the use of asymmetric meter and a purposeful lack of punctuation force the reader to interpret and think for him or herself. One of the best examples of a Dorsey poem is listed below in its entirety:
"the last stencils on earth"
it figures that the
last product of real
revolution would be hiding
in some cellar in
mexico pancho villa
gene bloom together
swallowing words soaked in
blood fighting mad in
the sacramento sun they
don't make bullets like
this anymore some say
they never

The cadence and meter are strong but jagged, meaning that it is not a simplistic, linear voice, rather it rattles the reader in the manner they look at and absorb the words. It is challenging, intelligent but by no means simplistic. There is a great depth that the first blush and understanding.
This again points to my desire to have the format changed from new to old to old to new. You get a greater sense of the poet's growth. His form develops. Some of the poems from 2003 and 2004 dig at the beginning of style.
from "pink plastic flamingos"
exist simply
for those
who refuse
to put
a limit
on miracles
and everyone
else, well
fuck them

The ending is too easy. However by 2007 section you have a seemingly simplistic poem that is anything but:
the ballad of ass masterson
america is a sad
cowboy song of unrequited
hate edited to the
teeth with love one
nation wire tapped under
god with liberty and
bootlegged sex tapes for

This is Dorsey in full effect. To conclude, John Dorsey is one the finest writers of this generation and writes to a level many poets should aspire too. Often a poet will write without a sense of style, I am guilty of this, many are, but if you write long enough, and are honest enough, your style becomes the yoke of every day writing. Dorsey has this. "Holy Toledo! The Sonnet River Volume" is a great book. It includes many of my favorites by Dorsey and newer ones I am unfamiliar. You get a sense of the growth of the poet's eye and voice, as well as a definitive style. I highly recommend adding this volume to your collection. The book is 30 bucks and can be ordered by e-mailing ~Jack Henry

Monday, August 25, 2008

M.L. Heath "Sacred Grounds" Review

Michael Layne Heath/Sacred Grounds/Kendra Stiener Editions #78 Review by Michael D. Grover
Short and an easy read. Eight poems in ten pages. The poems are hard, real and urban from the streets of San Francisco. The cheap, by the week hotel side of San Francisco, the darker side. It's kinda short but well written and worth the four bucks. Available here:

Sunday, July 6, 2008

An Urgent Message From Brother John Dorsey!

Support The Cause!

owe the irs a few pounds of flesh and i don't like the thought of looking to sell some pieces from my collection, just stuff in my room--which is still a vast 3 of books, if interested e-mail me and we can talk about what i have available. this isn't really something i want to do, but i am out of options.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Review Of Dan Provost's Weathered Woman by Michael Grover

Dan Provost/Weathered Woman/Ink Stain Dagger Press: There is a rough harshness to the poems of Dan Provost. A truth hard and cold like the city streetsthat we walk, and live. Buried somewhere in the layers is a beauty, compassion, and humanity that I believe balances all of the harshness. This rings true in this chapbook. It hits as hard as a big bruiser like Dan. It does not miss itsmark. This is what makes Provost what I consider to be a giant in the underground press. I love the poems"Damn Women Asking Me Questions", and "The Softball Player Moonlighting As A Hooker". But every poem is good.$8.00/Inkstained Dagger Press/2413 Collingwood Blvd. Studio 404/Toledo, Ohio 43620/ISDpress @