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Publisher: Tupelo Press, 2003
Release Date:
ISBN: 103210525
Format Reviewed:
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Genre: Poetry/Adult
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Reviewer Notes: Rating: 5 of 5
 Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered

A House Waiting for Music
By David Hernandez

An Inappropriate Cover May Attract
Wrong Audience for This Book

     A House Waiting for Music by David Hernandez is proof that poetry is not made of happy memories; rather it suggests that the function of happy memories (or any memories, for that matter) is that they persuade poets to write. The reader should never assume that they would prompt a cheerful conclusion.

     Aficionados of poetry will find this statement self-evident. Those raised on Hallmark sentiments need to be warned that Hernandez, now somewhere in his early 30s, not only has a memory of his own by-gone days as keen as if he were an octogenarian with time to sit on his porch, rock and tell tales from his childhood, but that his memory takes sharp turns that will not only surprise the reader but dismay him.

    That these angular poems also hang about in a reader's memory like delicate spider webs that have been caught in one's hair is also an important quality of these poems. If that same Hallmark set would rather nibble on crumpets and smell posies, this book may not be their kettle of tea. Hernandez's poems, many of them published in top review journals before they appeared in this book, are flat-out fantastic. I love the sentiment, the familiarity that he twists on its ear to make his reader reconsider the complacency of his own past or, if denial cannot be breached, then to reassess how fortunate he is to be so comfortable.

     This warning-if indeed it is a warning and not a recommendation-is more important because of the title of the book. Though certainly appropriate for the collection at several levels, it is misleading. As is the cover-a piano, tumbling bowler hats a la The Brown Derby, and lace. Yes, wistful memories are evident in this collection, but a book of poetry full of whimsy, let alone a book of musical poetry that recalls a Victorian evening at home, this definitely is not. This is a house waiting for music. Important words, those. Waiting for….