Joe Pan is the author of the poetry collections Operating Systems (forthcoming, 2018), Hi c cu ps (Augury Books), and Autobiomythography & Gallery (BAP), 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.
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 first 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