Indiana Noble Sad Man Of The Year
By Steve Henn
Wolfson Press, 2017
I don’t like to write reviews, and I’m not very good at it. But, when a book comes along like Steve Henn’s Indiana Noble Sad Man Of The Year, I want to it to get as much attention as possible. If that means writing a review, so be it. In a stroke of brilliance, this collection of poetry is illustrated by Henn’s children. The illustrations add to the beauty, humor and pathos—qualities found in all of Steve Henn’s work—but never as pronounced as in his newest collection.
To be upfront, Steve and I know each other even though we’ve never met in person. Then again, doesn’t every poet know each other via social media these days? This new collection is eclectic. The poems range from the absurd, to the political, and into profound personal introspection.
As for the absurd, take “A Solid Idea” as an example. Henn wonders what it would be like if people carried around “a buncha weird stuff in their stomachs like sharks do/ like, what if the whole famdamnly is sitting around/ on the back deck deck burnin’ weenies and lamenting/ the coming end of summer and Grandpa horks up a toaster oven.” I like Steve when he’s weird, but this poem is more than that. I won’t spoil it by telling you how Grandpa ends up, but I can tell you that the poem is more than just laugh out loud funny. It takes on the subject of class—the American dream to climb the economic ladder. And it does it in a uniquely Steve Henn way.
He also tackles Facebook, the internet in general and, in one of my favorite poems, politics. “Making Sense Of This Election” takes the form of a dream in which Steve is running for Vice President against Trump and Pence. A couple of local celebrities join him because, “Apparently it took/ two of us to fill out the VP portion of the ticket.” The poem manages to be both surreal and funny, but takes a more serious turn in Henn’s assessment of Trump. After Steve calls him out on his BS, “Trump is furious—I’ve called him out,/ I’ve exposed him somehow.” A fistfight ensues in which Trump throws hay-makers at Henn but never connects. Steve comes to the conclusion that Trump is, ‘too chickenshit/ to make good on his threat.” With as many threats as Trump throws out on a daily basis, all we can do is hope that this is true. In the end, Henn realizes his subconscious was trying to tell him something he already knew all along. Trump is ineffectual.
I could go on and on about this collection. Steve tackles bipolar disorder (a subject I’m quite familiar with), death, raising children as a single father and more. I enjoyed every single poem here. So, I’ll leave you with a beautiful line from “Looking for My Father.” Steve writes, “I see you in the likeliest faces.” Sweet, simple, heartbreaking. Indiana Noble Sad Man Of The Year puts on display Henn’s versatility. All of this was really to say, buy this book. You’ll love it.