Review of ‘Queen To His King’

Queen To His King- find the book here

by David M. Hoenig


a review by

Frank Coffman

In his collection of varied and masterful poetry and art, David M. Hoenig has created an interesting and most unusual book. Most of the poems therein are opposite facing pages of highly stylized but quite evocative illustrations, making the book an engrossing experience to both read and see—lush imagery and musicality of language and accomplished poetic virtuosity blended with striking images.

In many ways, the book reminds me of two classics of literature: one most decidedly a collection of poems, but with a clear theme and thread of a continuing narrative; the other a novel written as a collection of sonnets. A. E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad and Alexander Pushkin’s Evgenie Onegin [Евгений Онегин] are hard not to think of when reading Hoenig’s collection.

The story unfolded by this series of poetic vignettes and commentaries is that of a child, young girl, young woman, to more mature woman who—as the ubiquitous life journey of the Hero has it—undergoes a plethora of trials, tribulation, and troubles, and the need to overcome obstacles aplenty, before becoming “Queen to His King.” This broad generalization of narrative movement should not be construed as any “spoiler” to the most interestingly-related specifics of this particular journey by the poet.

Hoenig creates a wonderful mix of free verse, traditional form, and invented forms in this collection. And, as noted, most of the poems offer a facing page of directly relevant art, making the perusal of double-page spreads a blended sensual experience.

Several of the poems are in vers libre, but with the distinction that the poet loves to mix in some of the traditional musical effects—specifically alliteration and internal rhyme and even a bit of end rhyming echo.

Eight of the tome’s 38 poems are in an interesting invented form that we might call a “15-er.” The scheme is sonnet-like, in a way, but with an extra line. Grouped as sections of 5, 4, and 6 lines in 4-accent/tetrameter lengths, the rhyme scheme is most interesting (and, as rhyming goes, also most difficult to fit). The sections rhyme as follows: aabba || aaba || aabbaa. Beginning with the early-in-the-sequence poem “Self-Image Issues,” this poetic form is used throughout the sequence—almost as brief stasis or transition points.

Hoenig also makes use—in novel and distinctive ways—of solidly traditional forms. “Breath Comes Short” is a perfectly rhymed Shakespearean/English sonnet. “The Lost and Found” is an interesting short-lined villanelle.  “In Recovery,” “And It Starts Raining,” and “Realization” are three wonderfully-wrought, multi-syllabic-word haikus. The poem “Ambulatory” is a fine example of a literary ballad, blending seeming free verse and some “regular” 3- or 4-beat lines with abab rhyme schemes throughout.

But Hoenig also loves to innovate with form—beyond the “15-ers” already noted. The poem, “Through A Warped Looking Glass” is comprised of two octave sections—all on the same rhyme! Even more interestingly; however, Hoenig makes the poem “reflexive” in that the first octave reverses itself like a mirror (fitting the title perfectly, of course) with the first and last lines of the poem ending with the same word, and the central two ending with the same word, etc. “Last Dance to the Ancient Gods” is similar in design to an interlocked rubaiyat, except the poem chooses to pick up the last line of each quatrain as the rhymed line of the next: aaab || bbbc || cccd, etc. The very unusual poem, “Mirrors Seem Recursive,” makes use of long “Whitmanesque” lines, but with multiply-echoed (actually demanded in some Welsh metrics) of heavy internal rhyme:

“Water sloughs rough from tough stuff her skin has, strangely enough,

matured and cured into as she’s toured. Reassured she’s endured,

Daphne senses lakeside city less gritty, and welcoming committee.…”

Those familiar with H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos cycle—added to prominently by Robert W. Chambers with his The King in Yellow—will find interesting allusions as the climax of the internal narrative is neared.

While nothing specific is put forward as to the poet’s relationship to the character whose arc we follow through this novella in poetry, it is very difficult to imagine that Queen To His King is not a very personal and important collection to its creator.

It is a most interesting, innovative—nay, I will say unique collection, due to its blend of the literary and visual arts and the story-told-in-poems plan for the tome. I unhesitatingly recommend it as a book to be read for its rich new perspectives on the scope of speculative poetics—and for the tale that it relates with great virtuosity.

What’s Better in a Main Character: Empathy or Sociopathy?

(Originally published online with Nonbinary Review/Zoetic Press “Rhizomatic Ideas”)

by David M. Hoenig


Life, the passage of day and night, even stars and galaxies, all move in cycles.  So, too, apparently, does the nature of main characters in film and literature.  

As a writer, I generally subscribe to Ernest Hemingway’s admonishment: “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”  And while, by convention, we refer to our protagonists as ‘main characters’, Hemingway’s point is something to strive for.  Like most of us, I tend to conceptualize the people in my stories by way of their psychology, and especially design them around flaws and strengths.  If there’s any rule about character creation, it would be to make them compelling.  Not necessarily likable, lovable, or even someone we can identify with, but to make them someone we want to read about, or watch in action.

I was struck the other night, watching the third Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay (part 1) on video, by how much Jennifer Lawrence brought to the role of Katniss Everdeen in each movie of the franchise.  I found myself tearing up when (spoiler alert) she fell to her knees after the bombing of the hospital in District 8, weeping over the murder of wounded in a spiteful attack by the Capital.  I asked myself why that was.  When I did so, it reminded me of similar moments in earlier films, like when she volunteered for her sister at the Reaping in the first movie, and then the reason crystallized for me as if by magic.

Katniss Everdeen is an incredibly empathetic individual, and Ms. Lawrence portrays that with such amazing skill that she brings me right along with her.  The character is so compelling for me precisely because she feels personal distress when things happen to others whom she cares about.

When I considered all this objectively, outside of the ‘feels’ in which the author, Suzanne Collins, and Ms. Lawrence kicked me, I thought of other characters whose empathy made me feel like I’d been a part of the story.  Tris Prior of the Divergent series is similar–she would rather risk her own life than see others abused.  The title character of the original Star Trek episode “The Empath” literally was being tested to see if her instinct to heal others through experiencing their pain was more powerful than her own self-preservation.  Similarly, the title character of the movie “Powder” was incredibly empathetic to others, even as he was being treated cruelly, and that, too, made me feel.

On the other hand, there has been a trend in books and movies which explore action and violence to have ‘heroic’ main characters who seem completely unaffected by the killing of multiple ‘bad guys’, except insofar as they provide a lead-up to some snarky one-liner.  While these characters are far less compelling for me, there is no doubt that audiences and readers become huge fans of them.  Witness a sixth movie planned in the “Die Hard” series following a ‘yippee ki yay, MF’ taunt by John McClain way back in the first movie, and nary a concern by him over the deaths of so many ‘bad guys’ in gruesome ways over the past five films  No post-traumatic stress involved for Officer McClain, just ‘get the job done and don’t worry about it’ because ‘they deserved what they got’.  

Villains or anti-heroes are certainly more effective if they’re not slaves to a conscience, but the tendency for heroes to be flippant about the costly damage they cause in the course of their ‘jobs’ seems concerning to me if readers and audiences are actually identifying with such characters rather than just enjoying the ride along with them.  And yet, there is no denying the mass appeal for action heroes who never appear ‘weak’ in the face of adversity.

For writers, both sociopathic and empathetic characters offer unique traits to draw in readers and tell our stories.  I have found one of the best guidelines to pay attention to when considering choices for personalities in my own writing was given by Ray Bradbury: “Create a character with an obsession, then follow.”

Dark Horizons, Dark of the Moon Up for B&N Bookstore Distribution — jamesdorrwriter

This is encouraging news! Charles P. Zaglanis of Elder Signs Press announced today via Facebook: “Barnes & Noble wants multiple copies of DARK HORIZONS in all its stores chain-wide.” Elder Signs Press, we may remember, will also be publishing my upcoming novel-in-stories, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, in spring-summer next year (cf. […]

via Dark Horizons, Dark of the Moon Up for B&N Bookstore Distribution — jamesdorrwriter

Pre-kickstarter fundraiser!

Source: Pre-kickstarter fundraiser!


Check it out!  Blog interview of me about my story “Bridge Out” and my writing background in preparation for Clash of the Titles anthology!

Interview with David M. Hoenig, M.D.