cover image Pilot Impostor

Pilot Impostor

James Hannaham. Soft Skull, $28 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-59376-701-3

Hannaham (Delicious Foods) returns with a captivating blend of prose and verse with full-color photo collages by the author, inspired by the work of Fernando Pessoa, air disasters, and more. Employing Jan Westerhoff’s metaphor of self as a flight simulation, Hannaham juxtaposes a photograph of a crashing plane with “Knifemagnet,” in which he considers identity and classification via the handling of a magnetized knife. A series of pieces titled “Pilot Impostor” take inspiration from famed fraudster Frank Abagnale Jr., who often posed as a commercial airline pilot. One comes in the form of a Trumpian monologue (“I am the best pilot, I’d give myself an A-plus-plus-plus”); in another, a pilot prepares for suicide-by-plane. “Lifestyle Issue” replays a police officer’s confession to the murder of an unarmed Black woman eight times, each with a tweak to the officer’s personality. “To Confound Forensics” satirically lists ways to outwit authorities (“Try using only your mind”), while “Frankenstein” speaks of the European slave trade. References to Pessoa appear in some entries, and while familiarity with the poet may help, it isn’t required to engage with Hannaham’s stimulating work, which moves like a plane in tailspin, tossing off flashes of wisdom as the ground below gets ever closer. It’s a ride worth taking. Agent: Doug Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Nov.)