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Friday, May 12, 2017

The Splinter Factory by Jeffrey McDaniel

Jeffrey McDaniel is a heartbreak, wisecrack poet, and his poems contain a potpourri of metaphors that astound, amuse, hurt, and linger in your imagination. Though there is often a subtext of dysfunctional family, unrequited or unsavory love, crack or alcohol addiction, in nearly every line Jeffrey invents a language for human condition that is scintillating in its originality and imagery. Do not attempt to read these if you are a prude, do not attempt to recite these if your lips have never been silted by tears or blood. In poem after poem, Jeffrey stuns you with his metaphors, and his wordplay brings to page a gorgeous imagination that thrives in the surreal landscapes of "The Utopia of Scars" co-inhabited by desolation and hope. I find his poems intoxicating, and as I sip his punchy phrases, I feel I am at a cocktail tasting, as a special guest of a bartender renowned for discovering savory concoctions, made with unexpected ingredients.

In "Renovating the Wall", he writes: "I enjoyed my time in the uterus, reading / what the previous fetuses had written / on your walls. That's how I learned / to spell. That's how I came out speaking."

In a poem titled "Dear America", Jeffrey talks about addiction: ... In college I took so many drugs / the professors looked at the samples of my urine / just to know what books I'd been reading./"

Jeffrey has a remarkable ear and eye for curious word combinations that are charming, endearing and apt.  "The Scars of Utopia", he says: "... There should be Band Aids // for what you don't know: whiskey breath minds so sober people // can fit in at wild parties; a Smithsonian for misfits: / an insomniac's mucky pillow hanging over a naroleptic's // drool cup, ..."

The collection is as spectacular as his poet titled "The Jeffrey McDaniel Show". "The Archer of Gluttony" or "Old Flame Thrower" enthralls us with sounds and images so crisp and finely crafted that you delight even at phrases that are highlighting desperation or melancholy. The poems showcase the skill of one of the finest metaphor makers of our times, and yet the poems are very readable, very likeable.

The seemingly autobiographical or persona poems are full of razor-sharp observations and unforgettable sentences: "...your tongue,/ ripping through my prairie like a tornado of paper cuts". Or in a poem about Grandma, he says: "I press my ears to her lampshade-thin chest / and listen to that little soldier march towards whatever / plateau, or simply exhaust his arsenal of beats." I highly recommend this collection by Jeffrey McDaniel and also recommend all his other books. Like me, you will discover that within the poems abides a sensitive, compassionate, witty, sympathetic and remarkable, self-effacing voice that must be celebrated word by word, line by line.

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