From Publishers Weekly
This capacious third volume from a much-remarked young poet-critic offers versatility, up-to-the-minute references, and edgy verbal fireworks framed by a remarkable range of forms. Henry begins with a series of almost flirtatiously indirect short poems, declaring in "Marginalia" "I promise to get concrete real quick." Soon enough come the first of several dozen distantly related prose poems, all entitled "Patricide in C Minor," and tantalizingly like fragments of a (racy, fast-moving, somewhat confusing) novel. Other offerings include a several-page script for solo theatrical performance; monostichs and distichs; a pantoun composed entirely of quotations from George W. Bush ("Beating Around the Bush"); and the quiet, brusque short poems of the title sequence. Most of the book, however, comprises aggressively digressive personal lyric, stylistically reminiscent of Susan Wheeler, Dean Young, or the Australian poet John Tranter. Frequent subjects include sex and male lust; youth and travel; writing and writing programs. Henry (Astronaut) makes his self-consciousness the foundation for everything else his art attempts: he writes that "artifice's mirror includes itself/ in what it reflects; it shares the blame." A later poem asks "How often do I need to say persona, persona, persona." If detractors will find such moves showoffy or unserious, others will find them virtuosic and exciting. The volume represents an advance on Henry's previous poetry not only in its startling quantity, but also in its quality: it will match, and perhaps extend, his growing transatlantic reputation.
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Reading American Incident is an exciting, deeply unsettling experience. Few poets have Brian Henry's eye and ear for the gridlock of everyday life in America today, where "A warning light is flashing on the dashboard: / we need tax relief now," and the suburban front porch turns out to be the setting for the "Patricide" series-paragraphs that use a whiplash effect to dramatize the intractibility of our daily problems. But Henry's satiric thrust is by no means condescending: his malice is directed at himself as well as everyone else. American Incident is brilliant, funny, reckless: one of the best books of poetry I've come across in a long time. -- Marjorie Perloff This capacious third volume from a much-remarked young poet-critic offers versatility, up-to-the-minute references, and edgy verbal fireworks framed by a remarkable range of forms... The volume represents an advance on Henry's previous poetry not only in its startling quantity, but also in its quality: it will match, and perhaps extend, his growing transatlantic reputation. Publishers Weekly Henry's wildly comprehensive lexicon and stylistic bag of tricks take us traveling through traditional and experimental poetic worlds... Few poems today induce aesthetic delirium and delight like Henry's best. -- Christine Hume American Letters & Commentary The real subject of Amercan Incident is violence-familial, political, and especially sexual. the idea of violence, threats of violence, and acts of violence run through virtually all the selections here, but are nowhere more obvious than in "Patricide in C Minor," where that violence extends to the text in ways perhaps more unsettling to readerly expectations than descriptions of broken bodies. -- Joshua Harmon West Branch Henry is a keen observer who writes from a constantly changing perspective, often employing the techniques of montage and catalogue and typically eschewing a fixed point of view. -- Philip Nikolayev Jacket Magazine