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Keen’s debut poetry collection arrives at the party already a little drunk, a bit raucous and talking a mile a minute, but the longer the night goes on, the more sense it seems to make. After all, he’s not out to hurt anyone; he’s just trying to figure out where it all went wrong for all of us. With considerable energy and tightly coiled wit, Keen ranges across the political, spiritual and pop-culture landscapes only to find them all a little disorienting and largely bereft. “There is no sadness,” he writes, “But the fear of sadness. / There is no despair, / But the distraction from despair. / There is no suffering, / But the avoidance of suffering. / We’re living in bad times, / Biochemically speaking.” Regardless of where he looks, nothing essential remains. Love is sold “in bottles now, / and smells like aftershave,” Christ is “lost in all the traffic” and “so far away from now.” Even your sense of self is suspect: “In this cellular moment, / This eternity / Among strangers, / You see / Yourself / In bits / And / Pieces, / Impossible to describe.” Trapped by the postmodern condition and yearning for the teleologically secure time “before the world was shattered,” Keen’s narrators respond in seemingly the only way available—playing their own language games, answering absurdity with absurdity and papering over fragmentation with pastiche. Meditations on death are peppered with popular advertising slogans, and the apotheosis of Western civilization is reduced to Michelangelo’s David infested with maggots . . . Amid the brutality arises humor, and Keen ably joins a long tradition in American avant-garde poetry of lampooning demagoguery . . . Supporting the politics, satire and social commentary is a more than capable, sometimes beautiful verse that relies heavily on repetition . . . and startlingly precise imagery . . . for great effect. Thought-provoking, incisive and entertaining; a remarkably well-rounded debut. - KIRKUS REVIEWS
Raymond Keen’s debut book of poetry, Love Poems for Cannibals, is akin to “experiencing a death of ego / with the aid of a little hash.” One part Wilfred Owen and one part Charles Bukowski, Keen’s unique voice is distinct and clear. Often drawing from the aphorisms and iconic language of the Vietnam War, he tells crisp and sometimes difficult stories through the perspectives of a variety of narrators. Love Poems for Cannibals is filled with beautiful contradictions. While Keen’s poems are humorous at times, a deep sense of grieving permeates the book. Collectively, the poems are filled with a clear-minded portrayal of life and its mundaneness, while detailing human weakness and moments of painful realization. In “Doofus Ensign Comes to Terms With the War,” a young soldier asks a doctor, “What will my mother say / when I tell her I shot a woman?” This is part of Keen’s genius. He records the stories of humans trying to match one reality with another—who they think they are juxtaposed with their actions. Keen’s poems are often filled with pragmatic truisms, including “man is too evil / to assess his own evil,” and “if man is afraid, / he will protect himself with something frightening.” At one especially brilliant moment, Keen states, “Someone is always dying of cancer, / Someone is always reading the New York Times.” His language is often colloquial, biting, and raw. While there are many different poetic vignettes in Love Poems for Cannibals, the book revolves around several strong themes, such as the problematic act of expressing ourselves with language and the search for forgiveness and meaning. We see this uprooting, this breaking through into the light, in the poem “We Are The Broken Harps That Sing” . . . Although Love Poems for Cannibals is Keen’s first book, his poems have been widely published. This beautifully designed volume is filled with the polished work of a seasoned writer. This is apparent in the well-chosen line breaks that snap readers to attention . . . - CLARION REVIEWSSee all Editorial Reviews
“Love Poems for Cannibals” plays a series of poems set along eight theme lines. These theme lines of Raymond Keen’s book are contained in year defined era subsets. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Bill Black
Love this book - beautiful poems/prose. Looking forward to more from this authorPublished 13 months ago by RoseS
I've owned this book since August 2013. I'll read a page or two, set it aside to write my own poetry or read a different book, see this one on the shelf, pick it up and repeat. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Carl Palmer
Raymond Keen is exceptionally good. This work of his is un-putdownable. Poems that can lift you very high, and soothe you. He is an author on the move.Published 18 months ago by RemyDan