Unbathed Brains: Poems from Minnesota and the Milky Way

Hari Hyde

Publisher: Harri Hyde Pages: 264 Price: (paperback) $12.99 ISBN: 9798986718149 Reviewed: August, 2023 Author Website: Visit »

Hari Hyde’s capacious poetry collection contemplates everything from his “Vacuum Pump” to his “Torn Retina,” all with a boisterous style and memorable command of language.

The volume contains 104 rhyming and free-verse poems, including lyric occasion poems and multi-page narratives. A representative piece is “Eating Ice,” which begins: “Through dark windows of my speeding train,/ a gargantuan car lot in yard lights kept throbbing,/ whisking rearward waves in a hurry,/ severing the chain links of cars.// We love people/ whom we’ve aided,/ more than we/ love people who’ve aided us.”

As in other poems here, it contains lively descriptions and active verbs. The second stanza pans out to include the speaker’s insight, a compelling statement that grows more germane as the poem continues to toggle between showing and telling.

Hyde demonstrates facility with varied forms and content. In “Moon Landing,” the poet playfully considers, with an experimental style, different historical categories of explorers: “We will unlock,’ says the inventor/ (interviews; measured).// ‘We will look,’ says the discoverer/ (reviews; mesh erred);// ‘I will see,’ says the adventurer/ (views; me assured).” In “One Picture,” he addresses the digital zeitgeist with taut, compelling lines and riffs on familiar phrases like “prodigal son”: “Recording is too easy/ for the prodigal thumb.// The hot icons/ shrivel to still life.”

Despite such rewards, the collection is likely to be daunting for many due to its sheer volume and scope (more than 100 poems without section breaks, subtitles, or groupings). Poems shift and leap, often erratically, between topics and styles without a cohesive culmination. For instance, “Cody Rodeo, Wyoming,” a rhyming poem, recounts a memory of the rodeo, then cuts to a free-verse piece ruminating on the gendered nature of secret-keeping, which then gives way to the antiquated style of “Ode to Gravity.”

Unbathed Brains contains many promising individual poems. Revision with an eye to pruning the work and grouping it into thematic sections would create a more satisfying literary gestalt.

Also available as an ebook.

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