Who Said by Jennifer Michael Hecht

1517_mdHecht’s poetry collection is not so much an appropriation of older poets as a way to engage more current social contexts out of the form created by the innovation of her elders. Each poem is a revision in a sense, and through a process of reworking, reconstructing words, Hecht finds a medium for translating a vivid imagery of character, and at her strongest point, reflections, ruminations on art’s double function as an artificial mirror towards a more grave and “ir-real” reality.

Who Said, at its weakest, makes cultural references which only seem relevant to the author. Doctor Who and Star Trek are, more or less, just hobbies for Hecht during leisure time and the references to Genesis and Declaration of Independence are lofty, gaudy constructions around poems which should only be appreciated, not be rewritten. Bellamy’s Cunt Norton, released December of last year, is a more constructive cultural appropriation of classical authors.

A cryptogram at the end of the text is supposedly, according to a note from Hecht, expected to solve the many author identities revised throughout the text. These codes, in a sense, seem to be a revision of Eliot’s footnotes in The Wasteland, but the larger context is: shouldn’t these poems be accessible without the footnotes or past authors? More crucially, social themes pervasive in the text are the rising Heroin epidemic in the Northeastern United States (Hecht teaches in New York), and also suicide, or rather Beckett’s quote from The Unnamable, “I can’t go on, I will go on.”

“Not Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and, “Leopard goes through Hell Villanelle” are explicit poems about addictive drug use, and two portrayals, the former more realist, the latter more psychological about their effect and affect on individuals. “Episode,” a poem at the end of section three about an individual hungover from a night of drinking wine carries from shame to thoughts of molestation to the beauty of “wildfires in California.” The double negative of, “but I find I can’t be disabused,” carries an eerie feeling from the next stanzas proclamation, “There must be water in these clouds / though, and freedom here, and nothing / that happened will happen again” (22). Although there is a violation, a trauma, a disturbed peace continuing to ripple into the next section of the collection, there is also a resonance the speaker will still prosper, and revitalize a liberty for them self.

Hecht is best in “Lion and the Honeycomb” where thoughts veer from “trail of bone” to “fields of bloom” as the 21st century’s graveyard collapses into a visceral soup of “sweetness, meat, and feeding.” Meditations in “Lenny Bruce” are not only self-conscious of the poetic voice, but also the trans-mutational nature of language over the course of a person’s life, and how signs and codes become the visceral, cerebral and consequentially real functions of one’s life.

Hecht is not an innovative or unique poet by any means, but certainly one with skill, talent, and an ability to construct, dissect, and further delve social defects of the modern American abyss.

Who Said is available from Copper Canyon Press

Matt Pincus was born and raised in San Diego, CA. He received a B.A. from Pitzer College in English and World Literature and is currently an M.F.A. candidate at Naropa University’s Kerouac school. He has reviewed books for Pank, Raintaxi, Bookslut and Necessary Fiction.

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