Ordinary Sun

The poems in Matthew Henriksen's first collection are jarring, provocative, and unflinchingly sensory. Henriksen writes, "I do not dream. I just / watch fields burn, or ride." In his praise of the book, Tony Tost asks, "What rough age has bore us, I wonder, that we so need Matthew Henriksen's cruel kind of song?" Indeed, there is a violence that persists as an undercurrent for even the most beautiful of images in the collection—a clear indication that Henriksen is not interested in writing beauty simply for beauty's sake. The lack of an obvious traumatic event in the narrative means that every image or experience in the collection is multilayered; joy and sadness in Henriksen's poems are inextricably linked. From the long poem "The New Surrealism,"

    I am a blink as blank as the caught fish
    its eye, or the stones turning always

    I'm a hive blinding inward, and I'm fire
          cast through the eyes.
    When I look, I see nothing, and when I
          turn away, I find,

    for example, the dumpster behind
    the hospital, the asters on the lawn.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets, Fall 2011, Issue 41.