Joe Pan is the author of the poetry collections Operating Systems (forthcoming, 2018), Hi c cu ps, and Autobiomythography & Gallery, three books in an ongoing series. Joe is co-editor of the best-selling Brooklyn Poets Anthology, with work appearing in such venues as the Boston Review, Hyperallergic, The New York Times, and The Philadelphia Review of Books online. He is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Brooklyn Arts Press, an independent publishing house honored in 2016 with a National Book Award win in Poetry, and is the founder of the services-oriented activist group Brooklyn Artists Helping.
Taking cues from a myriad of short forms—haiku, epigram, bon mot, aphorism, senryū—the poems in Joe Pan’s Hiccups search out unexpected ways to document events in transition. Here the imminent moment, deeply regarded, is agitated into performance or merely left to drift, generating through language a curious experience of its own making. The disparate settings of these poems are as diverse as the impulses that gave rise to the work—a Tokyo skyscraper, a South African wildlife preserve, a log cabin in the Pacific Northwest, a shark-infested reef off Belize. These are poems that arrive with a jolt, engulfing the familiar, before being left to linger or dissolve.
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Praise for Hiccups
How Joe Pan just lets the world occur in Hiccups is a pleasure. These poems are, to borrow a phrase from Philip Whalen, ‘a graph of the mind moving.’ They offer the range of life as it’s being lived, as it’s being thought through, and there’s enough euphony in Pan’s short lines to hold it all to the page. A gift.
Hiccups is a lame name for this collection of brilliant brevities. Shooting Stars might have worked, or Sequins from Cinderella’s Ball Gown, or Light-Saber-Duel Sparks, or…but then, we should trust that Joe Pan knows what he is doing. These verses I found charming, always, even when downcast, and exhilarating in bulk—if works so well carved from cherry stones may be said to have bulk. For example, this moving poem about maternal love: ‘The child holding his coat/ aloft by one arm is held/ aloft by one arm.’ Enough said? My soul thinks so.
Joe Pan gives us hiccups. Crisp, bursting, the fi rst bite of every apple (the only one you really want). What’s the opposite of a suicide note? If there is a ‘life note,’ then this is it, taking us from casino to glacier, our attention a pinball, a staccato of seasons. A shot of cough syrup for every time I laughed. Flitting is fleeting, so enjoy these crack poems while you can.
If Walt Whitman wrote haiku, they might sound like Joe Pan’s capacious short poems in Hiccups, a luminous ‘Song of Myself’ for the twenty-first century. Afoot with vision, Pan roams the world looking for its most vulnerable members: a homeless man without legs, a baby breathing, a lost ant. With the eye of a pointillist (‘Every City is a Seurat’), he renders us with tender precision (‘snow dusts the elderly ice skaters’).”
Generous, genial, and big-hearted, Pan writes with affection and candor, while avoiding cynicism or judgment. Hiccups is the most accurate portrait of human life, human behavior and human beings doing human things that you’ll ever read. Observational, pointed, tender and funny, this is the poetic version of a field recording of the modern world.
Everything in this collection is about nuance, contrasting the different selves and times, where human interaction is juxtaposed by nature both physical and intangible. Basically, Pan gracefully and poignantly connects and interweaves all the mysteries of our lives in such a way where it’s not just keenly observant, but fiercely unforgiving of the world around us.
—Joanna C. Valente
Through Pan’s striking cinematography and use of perspective, readers see how “bugs practice shadow puppets/ behind the green leaf” in vivid close-up and experience in panorama the “sad, lived-in silence” of places like Anchorage, Alaska. In terms of autobiography and mythos, Pan hits the clearest notes when reconciling with his own place in time, as in the startling sequence “Nineteen Years After My Nineteenth Year,” which opens with a “Mayfly/ in my coffee, stroking/ (goddamnit) down my throat” and closes with the listless observation that “every city is a Seurat/ & no city as well.”
Joe Pan Featured in the Cortland Review
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