1 hundred hiccups is a book of poetry by a semi-local poet of my (very general) acquaintance. Actually, my (signed) copy is disturbingly well-worn. I bought it back in 2002 when Mike Kadela and his publisher showed up at a reception for a literary magazine (I was only a high school senior at the time); at the time, I had heard only a small portion of Kadela’s repertoire (including some that I’ve never seen published). I’ve posted a poem by him before; I’ve also reviewed a fellow “slam poet,” Jack McCarthy.
I’ve read the whole book several times, but it’s usually been picking poems at random. This week, I sat down and read the whole thing from cover to cover. When I could guarantee my privacy, I liked to read them aloud, occasionally gesticulating or frothing slightly. The assonance and playful nature sound even better when vocalized and inflected.
It is difficult to review 1 hundred hiccups without devolving into a spew of fawning superlatives. It might simply be my own biases, but there’s a particular effortlessness with words here, a natural talent for the poetic voice that imbues all hundred pieces.
It’s bits like
the great of us doubts the many parts of it
the lesser of us suits the query heat
like forthy knees — a hundred ants debating grass
of blood gone drop
of heart born still
in me there is a smile
for I have danced
and she has dipped me
low to breath beneath
that leave me feeling dizzy.
Kadela’s poems run the gamut in terms of both type—mostly freeform, but with haiku and sonnet and some other more structured works—and content, though I think Kadela’s particular niche is the love poem1, where he manages to convince us that he is a consummate romantic in a way that’s so earnest, so pleading, so absolutely gorgeous, that one has a hard time not getting swept up in the sentiment.
now, spring may argument, I love You is spring
but spring is not so big a place
as is big a place
as I love You is
though filled quite completely
is filled quite completely
I love You is a summer and a deathbed and a pencil
it is a big place, filled
with Laundromats and asthma attacks
and tapeworm waltzes
and other strange dances
that explain not a thing
to the curious watchers
except that there is room to spare for those inclined to dance
There’s a persistent cant to all these works that seems to infiltrate the reading—either real or imagined, part of my exposure to the poems’ live performance. But the cup of this poetry runneth over not just with self-expression (don’t they all?) but with the sheer joy of language: how it sounds, how it fits, how certain phrases evoke such powerful imagery and reaction to the assonance—”a regiment of infancies / who waiting patiently to weep / will bide their time in shoeboxes / on radiators, incubating” (“XXIII”). I find myself at a loss to portray it without either quoting at length (obviously) or turning to overly florid language. Why describe Kadela’s metaphors with other metaphors?
Kadela’s publisher is EM Press, who put out excellent work by local artists. Get the book—see for yourself. It is, by and large, the best poetry I have ever read.