Review: Sarabande Poet, David Hernandez, delivers no pretenses with “Hoodwinked” [Books]

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Poetry is often relegated to the dustiest shelves and the farthest reaches of our thoughts; a genre most readers slogged through begrudgingly in high school and promptly dismissed on the other side of the diploma.  Poetry is “stuffy” and “irrelevant”, perhaps even, dare I say it, “fussy”.  But these stereotypes are true misnomers to the good name of The Poem, and deft poets, such as David Hernandez, easily vanquish such tarnishes.  Hernandez’s latest collection of poems – published by Louisville’s own Sarabande Books – Hoodwinked, is a masterful display of the poetic voice for a modern-minded audience.

The author of two previous collections, Always Danger and A House Waiting for Music, David Hernandez delivers nothing less than an honest and sound poetic bombshell with Hoodwinked.  Hernandez exudes an exquisite balance between the simplistic and the enigmatic, guiding the reader in an effortless flow of flourish and mundane.  So much of contemporary poetry finds itself lost in a murky mire of overly-purpled description and incomprehensible metaphor, while lacking a certain sense of relevancy.  Hernandez avoids all of these pitfalls and delivers a collection of poems that give both a beautiful impression of purpose while displaying an unerring and striking talent for wordplay.  Hernandez’s prowess with language truly shines in his snapshot poems, using repetition judiciously to convey place and trickle in description.  This talent is most evident in poems such as the war picture, “Mosul”, or in the haunting quiet and sadness of “Obituary”, painting a dusty scene of the old-age behind the memoriam words. 

While the concept of “hoodwinked” perhaps seems overly muddled as a title for the entire collection, the narrative voice present in Hernandez’s stanzas is bold and unyielding – a nice juxtaposition.  Hernandez’s protagonists have no thread of proverbial wool over their eyes, and face a variety of toxic, beautiful and surprisingly ordinary themes with an observant and curious vision.  Hernandez approaches poetry with the same bluntness as personal journaling but elevates the routine with small and highly-concentrated doses of bright, white surrealism.  His handling of subject matter such as suicide or counseling gives a deliberate voice to unexpected perspectives, as noted in the striking “Moose in Snow” or the curious and oddly sinister “Panoramic”.  His use of metaphor and symbolism is used to a delicate and thoughtful effect, administered with a steady hand so as not to muddle the underlying message of each emotive and potent poem.  Hoodwinked is slim in spine, but lacks nothing in material meaning or depth.  Whether driven to seek out stanzas or not, readers will find nothing less than a stunning collection in Hoodwinked, brimming with a sense of place and never overflowing from a heavy hand.  Hernandez doesn't waste a drop.    

Photo: Courtesy of Sarabande Books website www.sarabandebooks.org