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Book Review: "I Am Hades" by Nathan Dennis
I Am Hades (Exeter Press, 2021) explores the tribulations of life, the ebbing notion of death, and everything in between. There is an ever-brewing cycle of renewal—or at least the strive for a personal resurgence—as the collection discusses bodies of water in relation to the movement of perception and perhaps choices. These concepts are shown through the narrator’s constant redefining of self in conjuncture with inner turmoil and external circumstances.
Nathan Dennis is telling a story with this collection, resulting in what feels like epic poetry with a modern twist. Each piece propels the overall concept forward, through visuals that ground the text in states of mind, largely within the stages of grief. In the first poem, “Waltz on the Adriatic” there is the sense that the narrator is wading through life, carrying out the motions--“…Seated outside myself in a composite memory.” However, as the reader continues the journey alongside them, it becomes clear that the thought of atonement is heavy, becoming more prominent with each “misstep,” even deliberate ones. As the narrator looks inward, they are also examining the world itself, such as in the poem “Corporate Goose.”
A discussion of the capitalistic world forms early on, through the comparison of forced decomposition and debt, in lines such as, “Gargle down that acid dollar” and “…They’re plucking you bald!” Dennis paints unusual visuals that satisfyingly roll off the tongue in recitation. “Inebriated, deficient of vitamins and union representation. / Bones leached of calcium, so honeycomb thin an ostrich could fly.” These topics aren’t fleeting—they carry on throughout, in the context of the ruining nature as well as being hunted. “She sold her blubber for her ivory.” (“Leviathan America”). The idea of the body becoming currency is a statement—or a question, rather—on what it takes to survive as we should.
I Am Hades peregrinates through Greek mythology and biblical references to create vivid narratives within each poem that will leave the reader wanting more.
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