Thursday, May 10, 2012

Joshua Hebburn's "Motorcycle Ballerina Jaguar Menage A Trois (Or, the Death Poems)"

Disclaimer: authors were killed in the making of this chapbook.

     A moment comes when a poet needs to divest himself of his poetic gods, or lose himself in the “noise” of his betters. This is a valuable lesson lost on the many devotees of Charles Bukowski and e.e. cummings. With Joshua Hebbern's new self-published chapbook, Motorcycle Ballerina Jaguar Menage A Trois (Or, The Death Poems) (copyright 2012 Joshua Hebburn), he's made an heroic effort to do so.
      Within the framework of 11 poems, Hebburn humorously annihilates his primary poetic influences; David St. John, Frederick Seidel, and, to a lesser extent, Brendan Constantine (who, in my opinion, needs to remain a positive and lasting influence over any contemporary poet). Hebburn has deeply imbibed the best qualities of these three poets in the areas of language, imagery, and rhythm. And... he's just managed to make his own voice heard above the others with ornamental word play, sarcastic wit, and BDSM subtext.
     Hebburn, in his role as poet, is Death, as he swiftly and thoroughly strikes through the layers of influence. Each poem has a stark, muscular presence - similar to a Rodin sculpture - memorable to the very last line. Killing one's darlings is a necessary and unpleasant task a writer/poet needs to employ to keep the reader's interest, yet, Hebburn convinces the reader to savor the experience, as in the poem, Death (II: Substance):

To the right person, the pine needles, the needling light
is x
C.C's of morphine

and the streets sizzle and smoke like a hot plate
in the rain

After the rain,
everybody, in exhalation, seems to have just tossed
a cigarette
everybody's a member of the cult of smoker

and your due is one cigarette when asked
(you will be asked when the rain runs out
before the cancer blossoms light pink
on the branches of the lung)

it's as the pardon me is the due of the cult polite
and limping optimism the due of the humanist

You will find much so much is alike, if you are right
Believe me, people will tell you that you're a head of your time

You will find that a pine cone is just an ear of wheat
when cracked with a sharp sickle
in a dark room

     Hebburn is fairly new to the L.A. poetry scene, though one can find his writing in various online journals. It will be interesting to see, over the next 20-30 years, what kind of a poet he will evolve into; he's learned from some of the best, and is off to a strong start with Motorcycle Ballerina. But, the question remains: will Hebburn, in time, become one of those poets who will inspire other poets to “metaphorically” murder him in turn?

Motorcycle Ballerina Jaguar Menage A Trois (Or, The Death Poems) (copyright 2012 Joshua Hebburn), 18 pages, $5, contact the author at

Note: In the meantime, pick up a copy of his chapbook! It's a limited edition with hand-drawn cover artwork, and, it's reasonably priced.

photos and article copyright 2012 marie lecrivain

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