Hello I Must Be Going

David Hernandez. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $18 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-8229-6680-7

The intriguing fifth collection from Hernandez (Dear, Sincerely) uses visual art as a foil for the unique possibilities of language. The poems in the first section take their titles from paintings by Ed Ruscha, whose work often placed words over color fields. The poems build scenes without describing the paintings directly, as in “S.S. Nevertheless”: “He is almost// a brook when he wanders around the yard, practically a river.” In the second section, each title begins “Landscape with...” but seems to reference no preexisting work by Ruscha or otherwise. Hernandez mobilizes visual art’s vocabulary: the sun sears “a bright white hole// through the canvas,” but there is “No museum guard or docent to tell/ what it all means”; “You look closely,/ closer still—until/ a museum guard clears his throat.” In the third section, other artists are invoked, bringing maker, art, and viewer together: “Praise the dead for bestowing us these, our waves./ Downstream, we’ll do the same.” Readers will appreciate the specific, thoughtful attention these poems generate about depression, government violence, and parental aging, as well as the inventive investigations of visual art motifs. (Mar.)
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