Queen To His King- find the book here
by David M. Hoenig
a review by
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.