Review by Caleb Jones
When you think about the word “reject” and how it’s used to describe someone, it can often elicit a response filled with pity and compassion. You feel badly and want to either help or understand why society has cast out and seemingly forgotten who these people are. When it comes to the poet Hugh Blanton, however, the title of ‘reject’ is exactly how he wants to be identified.
In A Home To Crouch In, Blanton introduces readers to the life of an urban recluse speaker who finds solace in a bottle of cheap liquor and a poetry book in his rundown apartment. No friends or family to confide in, and that’s exactly the way he wants it. Blanton’s words can at first feel as if the speaker has grown a hatred for being tossed aside by society as he sits alone in his apartment drinking his life away. As the collection continues and his words flow without any sarcasm or humor, it is understood that this is the life he has chosen for himself and he would elect to keep it that way.
While this is certainly a collection of poems, it reads more as a collection of short stories and anecdotes from someone you pass on the streets. No sense of entitlement or arrogance, just a normal loner who finds solitude to be the only thing in life worth striving for. In this collection, Blanton’s poems include: his life in a big city, working dead-end jobs that he hates; his relationship with substances; his time as a member of the US Navy; and his time being homeless.
Each poem flows together and paints the picture of a man who observes the world around him and takes it for exactly what it is. Whether it be the rich and more fortunate, or the homeless just looking for their place in the world, Blanton describes both with extreme detail, while finding his place in the medium where he finds the most comfort.
In the poem “Young Man Dead in The Parking Lot” (2-3), Blanton recounts a narrative that shows both sides of society as bluntly as he sees them.
A motorist exercising her right to park
honks her horn.
He doesn’t lift his head –
doesn’t even flip Ms. Motorist off.
Ms. Motorist on her cell phone demands
the police department get here this instant
to remove the obstruction.
“HE WON’T MOVE! HURRY UP!”
This poem set the scene for the rest of the collection. While the speaker feels anger or resentment for Ms. Motorist, he doesn’t give her more than that moment in the poem to air his frustrations. It is simply the situation as he sees it, and the poems throughout still feel as raw and real as the first few of the collection.
The poem “Urban Recluse” (4) fits in with that raw theme as Blanton questions whether he would even enjoy living away from his rented city apartment where he finds solitude.
But paid sick time and lowered blinds
are nearly as good as towering pine trees
in an inaccessible mountain hollow.
And let’s just be frank – out there in the woods
I would miss being able to jump in my car
and go for a drive to fix an abscessed tooth.
Plus – here I get a refrigerator for my wine
and a freezer for my vodka.
And a flushing toilet to piss it all away in.
While it’s not an oasis of fame and fortune, it’s everything he wants and needs. Taking that away would rob him of being true to himself. It is a collection of poems that paints a reality that many wouldn’t wish for themselves, but Blanton wouldn’t ask for anything different. While he explains multiple times throughout the collection that he hates the jobs he works, it affords him the ability to pay his rent on time and buy boxed wine, beer, and whisky, and that’s all he can ask for.
Never have I read a poetry collection that reads exactly how I feel the poet would sound in everyday conversation. The fact that Blanton knows exactly who he is and what his life has become, made this so enjoyable and a collection I will be returning to often in the future. Its dark, cynical, gritty, and intense themes make it hard to stop reading after the first poem.
Caleb Jones is a 25 year old writer from Orlando Florida. While working an overnight job and finishing up his English degree, Caleb enjoys writing and the world of literature as a whole. From scripts to poetry, Caleb is always aiming to better his craft.
Looks like we’ve got our next Yvor Winters here.