33. Kenneth Patchen. "House, and a dead man in it," and "How to be an army," both c. 1958.
Published here in: The collected poems of Kenneth Patchen. New York: New Directions Pub. Corp., 1968. First edition.
Rare Book Collection.

In "House, and a dead man in it," Patchen alternately starts with a single word then expands upon it, or vice versa. Since the expansions are in every case solemn and depressing, the see-sawing rhythm of expansion and contraction disorients the reader by periodically raising hope (via a single ambiguous word), only to crush it again. Somewhat more lighthearted, or at least as lighthearted as a poem dominated by the immense word "BLOOD" can be, is "How to be an army." The message is unequivocally anti-war, but the cartoonish illustrations ("flags & fleas") raise a smile, as does the wry afterthought, "and a faith in the right" followed by a field a cemetery crosses. With a combination of words and images, Patchen has located a gallows humor in the most serious of subjects.

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