Reviews, Vol. 2.3, Sept. 2008
Sunnyoutside Press, 2007
ISBN-13: 978-1-934513-02-6; ISBN-10: 1-934513-02-4
Paperback, 28 pp., $10
Review by Cynthia Reeser
The Sea Never Drowns is Jason Heroux’s most recent book of poetry, and follows his 2004 publication, Memoirs of an Alias. The pages, beautifully bound by Buffalo-based Sunnyoutside Press, are filled with clocks that tick away in silent houses whose windows give back light to an outside world populated by impoverished trees typically set in a dying fall or frozen winter landscape. Heroux is by admission or definition a poet under the influence of surreal humanism, according to the press release.
Whatever his notions, his poems transform the objects and scenarios of what could be anyone’s ordinary, workaday existence so that they become manifestations of new ways of seeing. In “In the Backyard,” shadows do not simply recede with the waning of the sun—rather “an impoverished/ stone grips its shadow”; stars do not shine or sparkle, but “bark in the sky.”
The mood is predominantly subdued, the setting commonly fall or winter. “Octoberland” describes a scene set in an autumn whose lens is one of death and waning:
The trees were empty and we shook hands with the fallen leaves,
greeting them while bidding ourselves farewell.
The clouds overhead looked like blank crumpled up suicide notes.
Our neighbors walked around solemnly hosing their lawns,
burying the dead water deep in the ground.
Similarly, in “Midwinter,” the world is paused and few signs of life can be seen, save the “unloading” of “dark packages of crows” from barren trees.
While there is an honest lack of abundance, there is never lack of wit. “Postcard from a Parking Lot” delivers the plight of having little without ever having to say it at all. The poem’s speaker describes making the most of what would be quite a barren vacation, were it not a metaphor:
We’re having a wonderful time.
It’s so quiet and peaceful.
And tomorrow we’re setting out
on a long journey just to hear
our shoes click against
the pavement like forks
the bottom of a jar.
Sometimes life is meaningless (“We’ll die and get put aside for a while/ like odd-sized screws kept in a drawer”) and tiresome with its clocks constantly ticking on toward night, which is always drawing near or descending; at others times, however, life is a gift (“We get paid every time we take a breath.”)
At its heart, Heroux’s gift—however existential or surreally humanistic—lies in the transformation of ways of seeing the world, of analyzing it and of language. The poems themselves, in their unique ways of seeing, are humbling at the same time they are refreshing.