Honestly I have never tried to read much poetry but I can tell you that the few poems I do like are probably as good as any fiction I've ever read. Even parts of some of these can take a bite out of me. Like for instance the italicised opening section of The Confession of St. Jim-Ralph in The Incognito Lounge: this mini rake's progress is so strongly and so evocatively rendered that for a minute you don't know which is more transfixing, the story or the telling. The first time I read Ten Months After Turning Thirty I had to stand up and smoke a cigarette to calm down. The title poem too but most of them really. Not to get all Emily Dickinson here but you know when you're completely wiped out and someone somehow manages to play Breathe Into Me by Loop--or maybe even Polka Dot Tail by Gene and Dean Ween--on your Toshiba? Well that's exactly what it feels like whenever I read this electrifying collection. Denis Johnson is a God-given gift to amateur readers like me--when I read Resuscitation of a Hanged Man about fifteen years ago it was totally by accident, I had never heard of this guy, but when I'd finished I knew everything I needed to know. Amazingly his books just kept on getting better, hitting a high point for me with Already Dead--a mesmerising slow burn, magically sustained by equal measures of humour and compassion. Check out the Whitehorn episode near the end and see for yourself. There is a strain of yearning in this novel that just about poleaxes me every time. The felly even uses the word balneating, which I was happy to look up. And then there's Jesus' Son of course, a deceptively large small book, a stunner actually. The spookily beautiful opening paragraph of Steady Hands at Seattle General? The entire eight pages of Out on Bail? The blackouts built into the prose itself in Emergency? Yes, just a stunning bunch of stories. Really though there's hardly a thing Mister Johnson has written that I don't relish reading and reading again. Even the plays have soul, Bro's line in Shoppers about the britches is hysterical. So there you have it, poems, novels, short stories and plays--take your pick, it's all good. Hell, it's everything that's great about this blessedly ungovernable country. Novellas too, I was forgetting about Train Dreams--that one's a buried bleeding treasure. Esto Perpetua. With my salute too, dude.