Sunday, November 29, 2015


richard lopez Reviews

All Hat, No Cattle by lars palm
(gradient book, Finland, 2015)

Earlier in this new century poet Eileen Tabios [editor of this review journal] founded a new form of poetry, the hay[na]ku. A hybrid form of haiku and Filipino expression, written as a three-line verse: first line one word, second line two words, third line three words. This new form of poetry, simple as it appears to be, flexed into a nearly infinite variety of writings by its myriad practitioners. In short, the form shot like a rocket in popularity and now there are dozens of individual collections of hay[na]ku poetry and three anthologies dedicated to the hay[na]ku.

And now we have this marvelous collection of hay[na]ku by the Swedish poet lars palm. palm composes most of his poetry in his kind of English (I say ‘kind of English’ because the language has many variations of idioms and modes of writing). The language is vernacular and raw and similar to the kind of agit-punk rock bands like Crass and New Model Army. 

Take for example this poem.

            no thank
            you.  will not

            have any capital
            letters in

You see, palm is a lower-case visionary poet. He is interested in truth. But not the capital T truth of the philosophers and exemplars of moral relativism.  palm’s poetry expresses outrage at social injustice and fiscal and environmental malfeasance. But then even in anger palm is a poet of tenderness, joviality, and friendship. He’s a guy you want to have a few beers with and talk about marriage, poetry, and share with him the rage of an unjust humankind.

            winter in
            his pocket &

            ale from newcastle
            on the

I would be disingenuous if I didn’t confess my admiration for lars palm as a poet, and as a friend. It ain’t like he can do no wrong but for goodness sake he can do better in English as his second language than many of us [me] can do in English as a native tongue.

For there is something special in palm’s poetry. Perhaps it is that punk spirit I mentioned above. Perhaps those extraordinary qualities found in his poetry come from his comfort in his life as a poet. For me palm embodies poetry as a way of life that is as natural as the emotions of love and anger. The ideas in this collection of hay[na]ku are complete and elegant. Love, friendship, social and ethical justice, travel, food, beer and companionship, are but a few examples. 

            are you?
            who am i?

            who is that
            person behind

How many personalities does it take to hold a self together? palm provides no single answer. How could he? Rather palm is a Taoist of a kind where simplicity neither means simple or easy. palm writes poetry naturally and with little artifice. Or if there is artifice in his poetry it is so subtle that it seems as natural as the snowfall in winter on the streets of his native Sweden. 

Or perhaps all that I’ve said of palm’s poetry reflects my own reading of it. Poetry cannot exist without a writer and a reader. But for sure these qualities I find in palm’s poetry are there for those readers who seek them out. I said lars palm is a friend and he is. He also looms large in my own personal pantheon of poets who are doing the better writing of our young century. I cannot say whether his, or any poets, poetry will survive the ages. Who the hell knows what the future holds. That is not our task as readers and writers. Our task is to write to the best of our abilities and read with honesty and tremendous pleasure. This book of hay[na]ku satisfies all my needs as a reader. This dude has all I want in poetry, in an English that I shall call punk music. I am grateful to the world for producing the poet and poetry lars palm.


richard lopez reads writes and loves in northern california.  his last book was a split chap with jonathan hayes, hallucinating california.  his next book might be called pretty in pink. 

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