Book Review: Ha Ha Thump by Amorak Huey

reviewed by Allie Marini

Ha Ha Thump
Amorak Huey
Sundress Publications

Language is a kind of hunger. / Do not mistake my silence for absence.

Ha Ha Thump starts out with “Nocturne: Interrogation,” a poem that clues readers in to the central theme that wends its way throughout the curves, turns, and detours of the collection. Amorak Huey is on the hustle — one of the hardest working authors in independent literature and last year, his chapbook, The Insomniac Circus (Hyacinth Girl), was probably my favorite collection of poetry of all the books I’d read all year. Though Huey’s voice is distinctive enough to connect Insomniac Circus with Ha Ha Thump, the tone and tenor of the two collections is completely different.

The collection is divided into five distinct movements, with recurrent nocturne pieces anchoring each section and creating a connective tissue of the honest meat of adult relationships. The titular phrase, Ha Ha Thump, itself appears reinvented five distinct times throughout the collection, with each Ha Ha Thump poem individual in its own right, and echoing/foreshadowing the Ha Ha Thump-s preceding and following. Each section has its own distinctive personality, and though different, these sections all feel organically intertwined, as though the blending of these tones is the inevitable result of the portrait of domestic life and our culture’s morbid fascination with celebrity. The titles of these poems are a poem in and of themselves: “The New York Post Runs a Photo of a Man About to Be Killed by a Subway Train and Everyone on the Internet Looks at It,” “Love Poem Totally About Wallpaper and Not at All About Something Else, Like Breasts,” “Mick Jagger’s Penis Turns 69,” “This Is Not a Love Poem for April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and the tour-de-force of “The Poet and the Supermodel (A Rearranged Marriage),” a poem in 4 movements, each entitled with a scrambling of letters: Like Humid, I Hued Milk, Due Him Ilk, Kid Helium. Ha Ha Thump is an honest, painful-but-sometimes-joyful love song to the tedious minutiae of married life: the failure to have sex in the hot tub after the kids and in-laws have gone to bed, the classic rock radio that fills in the silences while driving, block parties and warm beer, of the ebbing of passion and its reinvigoration—“how we replicate our favorite mistakes.” These poems are quiet but forceful; almost like an inside joke in their specificity, and yet, accessible to the average reader — it is almost like being a fly on the wall in someone else’s marriage — someone who you’ve glamourized — and discovering that they also have boring stretches and bicker over nothing, or have perfunctory sex as often as they have mind-blowing orgasms. Ha Ha Thump feels like building up everyone else’s life into something that’s better than your own (all too easy to do in the era of social media) and then discovering that ha ha thump, the joke’s on you — everyone has to work at these things, and that the work of it is also the reward. Life isn’t always easy, and sometimes it’s the mundane things that are overwhelming in this collection — real life isn’t glittery like it is on TV. But it shouldn’t be, and these poems show you how the unexciting times we share are the building blocks for sustained love, which rises and falls, and “stirs ghostly bones” when you let someone in. They may, in fact, just carry you out.

The problem isn’t feeling nothing, it’s feeling everything.
(At The Midnight Garage Sale)


alliebattsAllie Marini is the managing editor of Zoetic Press with more than 10 poetry collections in print, including her newest, We Belong Together.