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American Incident (Salt Modern Poets) Paperback – 15 Nov 2002


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Review

Reading American Incident is an exciting, deeply unsettling experience. Few poets have Brian Henry’s eye and ear for the gridlock of everyday life in America today, where “A warning light is flashing on the dashboard: / we need tax relief now,” and the suburban front porch turns out to be the setting for the “Patricide” series—paragraphs that use a whiplash effect to dramatize the intractibility of our daily problems. But Henry’s satiric thrust is by no means condescending: his malice is directed at himself as well as everyone else. American Incident is brilliant, funny, reckless: one of the best books of poetry I've come across in a long time. (Marjorie Perloff)

This capacious third volume from a much-remarked young poet-critic offers versatility, up-to-the-minute references, and edgy verbal fireworks framed by a remarkable range of forms.… The volume represents an advance on Henry’s previous poetry not only in its startling quantity, but also in its quality: it will match, and perhaps extend, his growing transatlantic reputation. (Publishers Weekly)

Henry’s wildly comprehensive lexicon and stylistic bag of tricks take us traveling through traditional and experimental poetic worlds.… Few poems today induce aesthetic delirium and delight like Henry’s best. (Christine Hume American Letters & Commentary)

The real subject of Amercan Incident is violence—familial, political, and especially sexual. the idea of violence, threats of violence, and acts of violence run through virtually all the selections here, but are nowhere more obvious than in “Patricide in C Minor,” where that violence extends to the text in ways perhaps more unsettling to readerly expectations than descriptions of broken bodies. (Joshua Harmon West Branch)

Henry is a keen observer who writes from a constantly changing perspective, often employing the techniques of montage and catalogue and typically eschewing a fixed point of view. (Philip Nikolayev Jacket Magazine)

About the Author

Brian Henry is a U.S. poet, translator, editor, and critic. The author of nine books of poetry, he has received numerous honors for his work, including the Best Translated Book Award, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, a translation fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a grant from the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has co-edited the journal Verse since 1995, and his criticism has appeared in such publications as the Times Literary Supplement and New York Times Book Review. He translated Woods and Chalices by Tomaž Šalamun and The Book of Things by Aleš Šteger.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The failure to observe the power of ritual in daily life brokers a familial debacle: matricide, patricide, infant-. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The Uselesness of Schema 12 Sep 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm not too fond of this book, though there are a few phrases I like here and there (phrases, alas, are not poems). I, for one, am very aware of the artificiality of "production" when I read these "poems" and take it as a given that there are indeed no critical schema that can account for the non-poetic posturings of poseurs. Henry has some talent, however, albeit in its infancy, and I'd check out a book of his from the library if I saw one. I might even buy it if he were seen to break free from the academic self-consciousness that has stunted the work hitherto.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Too much like a hacky master's thesis for my taste.... 3 Mar 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This reviewer is happy with many of Henry's decisions as a magazine editor, and feels that Henry does a good job including the good and excluding the bad. Henry's own work as a "poet," however, is to this reviewer a mere byproduct of the international M.F.A. revenue-generating arrangement. In fact, in this reviewer's opinion one could compare Henry's book "American Incident" to, say, a megavitamin health shake in a pyramid scheme purporting to sell megavitamin health shake home kits-the product itself isn't particularly valuable or worthwhile; rather it's the `recruitment possibilities' and perks that are important. Frankly, this book could have been written by any moderately verbal, relentlessly self-promoting individual with lots of time but no additional gift. On one level, that may be part of Henry's presumed appeal-i.e. if Henry's poems continue to be printed, then some of those hordes who are mortgaging their futures writing and trying to publish cloddish poems feel justified and encouraged. If American poetry has any integrity left after an extended institutionalized assault by reciprocating egoists and faddish `right-thinkers,' Henry's next book should begin to demonstrate real growth and real facility with language, an improved ear, and greater depth of feeling and of thought than that which is available in "American Incident."
10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Embarrassing Incident 5 Aug 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If you're not interested in poetry so much as what poetry might be for, then welcome to Mr Henry's airless classroom of poetic "technique". There's some good--not great--writing here and the references and bag o'tricks on display leave no doubt that Mr Henry was always at the head of his class (which is their intention, no doubt). You don't get too far into the book without realizing that the desperate alterations of voice and register are not "signs of a restless and probing poetic intelligence" (the typical explanation offered for such pointless post-modern kerfuffelry) so much as an attempt to hide these poem's essential hollowness. Anyhow, the beat goes on. There are undoubtedly nine or ten people who read this and are sure Henry's a genius.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
"all this which is a system, which has feeling" - Stein 14 Aug 2003
By m_sayres - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a panoplic book (sections of verse are broken by sections of prose), one well aware of its main intention: to mirror the fractious nature of the speaker (who is simultaneously erotic, condescending, guilty of "Patricide") through the fractious nature of language. Through the collision of poetry and prose we're reminded of the artificiality of production: these are not easy poems, and this is not easy writing. Any attempt to read or discuss this book using old schema is a woeful exercise. Sometimes Henry's tone and insistent syntax grates, but American Incident is mostly mindbending.
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