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Hemlock Suicides Planned By Well Dressed Men In Suits

Author: L.B. Sedlacek
Genre: Poetry
Reviewed by Ruth Mark

10090402This self-published poetry chapbook is on first glance hard to miss: neon pink paper cover, the front pictures grainy images of men’s torsos, hands holding briefcases, heads and feet cut off, their suits just visible. Sedlacek has published a number of chapbooks and continues to publish on the Web. The contents of this offering, twenty-seven poems in all, are on the whole well laid out. The poet provides a title page, an acknowledgments page, a biography and a useful Table of Contents. The pages are irregularly and superfluously (in my opinion) illustrated by what could best be described as “pop- art gif images”.

The poems themselves reflect modern, everyday life. We are in familiar territory here with little to shock or surprise. Most of the images are concrete and immediately recognisable:

“The big white carcass of metal Hums its own tune” (from The Proper Way To Defrost A Freezer, pg 3)

“only after we re-bury
our bicycles back in the basement.”
(from Burying Bicycles, p 15)

The poet favors the use of numbers (digits are scattered like gunshot throughout these pages) and primary colors (some imagination would have helped on that score – you can only read color names like ‘green’, ‘red’ etc. so many times before you switch off.) Most of the poems are free verse with only one attempt (as far as I could see) at rhyme (the poem Aluminium Altitudes – which is, predictably from the title, about flying in airplanes).

On the whole the poems are interesting with attention-grabbing titles. The title poem doesn’t actually appear until approximately half way through the chapbook and is about a woman who kills herself at home in bed:

“It was only Joan and the instructions because her husband left her alone with a gun.” (from Hemlock Suicides Planned By Well-Dressed Men In Suits, pg 13)

It has to be said that sometimes the titles are more interesting than the contents (e.g. 12 Flamingoes & 2 Clowns on Horses).

Many of the poems capture the stereotype we all have these days – the notion that modern life is empty, somehow fruitless, often desperate. This is Americana in all its glory with 7-11 stores, Martha Stewart, T.V. and various States making an appearance:

“canned laughter sitcoms make the mind seethe reaching for aspirin to stop the migraine train.” (from Aluminium Altitudes, pg 19)

Some interesting images are to be found within these pages however:

“Imagining high rises like breaths
On a fire’s ashes…”
(from In The Middle of Nobody Cares, pg 14)

“The weed-infested hill
with its slick hands.”
(from When God Looks Out For Fools, pg 4)

“A clock of night shields the sun from its
desperation, rattling the human cage.”
(from Electric Zoo, pg 17)

Finally, a few of the poems (especially the last three in the book) hint towards a deeper meaning (a welcome diversion - there just wasn’t enough of them) while others are wrought with a light-handed, frothy humour. Unfortunately, many of the poems didn’t ‘stay with me’. I hate to admit this but I found the majority of the poems here to be quite easily forgotten. Still, for a self-made chapbook, this is a quick yet enjoyable read from Sedlacek.


October 28, 2004 in Poetry | Permalink


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