The Hunger Season
by William Taylor Jr.
I RECEIVED MY COPY of The Hunger Season in the mail. The book is a paperback put out by sunnyoutside. The front cover features a melancholy view of a deserted city park, with a weather-beaten bench in the foreground and moody lighting in the back. Windblown leaves cover the sidewalk, and staring at the photo, I found myself hoping that it wasn’t staged.
The Hunger Season is a book of poetry about Mr. Taylor’s reaction to living in San Francisco. His poetry is clear, plain, stark and spare. He does not use embellishment or sparkly prose to guide us down the pathways he’s chosen. He watches with a keen eye for detail, and then reports it with the poet’s twisted interpretation.
I dug this collection. Whenever I read poetry, I like to find some sort of a connection with the poet. Mr. Taylor is a pretty fearless guy in that regard. He either constructed an image of himself that he wasn’t afraid to share with us, or he bled all over the page and defied you to read the petroglyphs he left behind. Either way, this collection tells you something about Mr. Taylor, and it had enormous value. I read it three or four times, usually at work, and I found myself imagining I was at a coffee shop with the usual muted jazz playing and a soft thunderstorm going off outside. It’s warm, welcoming and sad, all at once. Most of the book reads like a mummy’s hug: all-encompassing but fatally uncaring.
I did notice a few instances that I thought were somewhat contrived. We have the “I went for a walk and this is what I saw,” poem that reeked, top my eye, of re-creational elements (A Partial Account of An Ordinary Tuesday Afternoon); we have the “I’m a tormented poet, looking for answers and taking whatever comfort I can,” poem ( The Tourists Get Drunk); and we have a slew of what seems to be the newly de rigeur “I don’t believe in God and I feel sorry for you because you do,” poems. There isn’t much new to be seen there, but Mr. Taylor handles his pen with enough clear-eyed competence that what should be a genuine cliché ends up being poetry of real value.
By far, my personal favorite was The Fortune Teller—a poem about knowing the answers, but still being tempted to go look for them from somebody else, even when you know you’re being conned:
The future is written on every face
every broken neon sign
above every strip club
and still she’ll charge you forty dollars.
It’s such a racket.
I recommend this book as an easy read. It’s good stuff and I wouldn’t say no to reviewing Mr. Taylor again.
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