about the author

Staff Book Reviewer Spencer Dew is the author of the novel Here Is How It Happens (Ampersand Books, 2013), the short story collection Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008), the chapbook Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (Another New Calligraphy, 2010), and the critical study Learning for Revolution: The Work of Kathy Acker (San Diego State University Press, 2011). His Web site is spencerdew.com.

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The Hatch
A Review of The Hatch
by Joe Fletcher

Spencer Dew

One person’s cocoon is another’s jackal turd, to use a debate image in this collection of poems exploring and offering glimpses of the uncanny. There are teeth gone slightly wrong, or in the wrong place, or absent when they are needed, and milk with an off taste—“like fungus grown on the underside of the moon.” There are drowned bodies visible beneath the ice, a mysterious “oiled tusk your uncle gave you,” and unlucky cities to dream, furniture mistaken for long lost loves and long lost victims.

The title has a double valence, a hatch being that often unexpected opening, the section of floorboard with a certain hollow sound, the shifting panel half-hidden within the wall, a portal between otherwise separate spaces, yet a hatch, too, is a new brood, creatures freshly—often wetly, and blind with hunger—birthed into the world. The dynamic Fletcher goes for here is that of hatching—that scratching from inside, that chipping away, that shaky emergence. A variety of things hatch: horseflies and plots, criminal conspiracies and large, wingless birds. The hatching here—like a cocoon that turns out to be a turd—hinges on a disturbing surprise, on the unexpected as that which causes a shudder, from a phobia of waitstaff to close encounters with a snake penis.

The book begins with the image of a failed suicide steering a boat toward shore, the first in a motley menagerie of damaged people—mutilated and partial, existing between life and death. There is a man half-“crushed by a massive bell,” another whose limbs are disappearing, even a disembodied head, animate, found in the dirt. It snaps and yowls, a cross between a mad dog and a vicious tulip.

There are, admittedly, some canned, stage-prop stabs at horror here—a scalpless gnome emerging from the earth, a “banshee made of gas and thing hoses,” a living clown puppet, a forest “of meat trees, branches / hung with red marbled cuts.” But there are also observations of banal life that evoke a deep sense of the uncanny, the repellant: a clot of eggnog in a man’s mustache, blue jeans “crusted with shrimp juice,” wounds sucking air, the hushed voice of wind in canebrake, “a knot of branches” too resembling a skull.

Fletcher hits his most disturbing notes with the most commonplace image, turned horrific—“a rain-soaked pizza box in the strip mall parking lot”—and with his most unreal yet undeniable concrete, emerging from recognizable pieces of our world, stitched together in unbearable ways—“a writhing knot of knuckles,” or that cocoon that might well open to reveal a piece of shit, an unnatural birth, a shattering parody of life and reality.

Official Joe Fletcher Web Site
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