A House Waiting for Music

Published By: Tupelo Press

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Poetry

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Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

A House Waiting for Music by David Hernandez is proof that poetry is not made of happy memories; rather it suggests that the function of happy memories (or any memories, for that matter) is that they persuade poets to write. We shouldn't assume that they will prompt a cheerful conclusion.

Aficionados of poetry will find this statement self-evident; those raised on Hallmark sentiments need to be warned. Hernandez is now somewhere in his early 30s. Not ony does he have a memory of his own bygone days as keen as if he were an octogenarian with time to sit on his porch, but that his memory takes sharp turns that will not only surprise but dismay the reader.

That these angular poems also hang about in a reader's memory like delicate spider webs that have gotten caught in one's hair is also an important quality. If that same Hallmark set would rather nibble on crumpets and smell posies, this book may not be their kettle of tea. Hernandez's poems, many of them published in top review journals before they appeared in this book, are flat-out fantastic.

I love the sentiment, the familiarity that he twists on its ear to make his reader reconsider the complacency of his own past or, if denial cannot be breached, then to reassess how fortunate he is to be so comfortable.

This warning--if indeed it is a warning and not a recommendation--is more important because of the title of the book. Though certainly appropriate for the collection at several levels, it is misleading. As is the cover--a piano, tumbling bowler hats a la The Brown Derby, and lace. Yes, wistful memories are evident in this collection, but a book of poetry full of whimsy, let alone a book of musical poetry that recalls a Victorian evening at home, this definitely is not. This is a house waiting for music. Important words, those. Waiting for....

Armchair Interviews says: An inappropriate cover may attract the wrong audience for this book.

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