I Don't Respect Female Expression By Frank Hinton (A Review By Stanton Hancock)

Safety Third Enterprises

15 pgs, $3.00

In her chapbook “I Don’t Respect Female Expression,” Frank Hinton manages to include an astonishing amount of content within just fifteen pages.  Fittingly, considering the traditionally masculine name of “Frank” is being employed by a female writer, Hinton’s collection playfully leaps back and forth between male and female viewpoints as she examines the universal concepts of home, family, and relationships.

The chapbook begins with the aptly titled “A Starting Place,” where Hinton’s nameless narrator rests against a banister and enjoys an orange.  As the narrator reclines and muses, “This is my favorite place in the house. My back / fits well on the wood. My head feels good on the curl,” it is easy for the reader to imagine his or her own special place in their childhood home.  As the narrator relaxes, memories stir and the narrator leads the reader smoothly into the second poem, “Father/Daughter.”

In this poem, the reader learns that the narrator is a woman who is reminiscing about an awkward encounter with her now-deceased father.  She laments the loss of her father and the bonds they shared.  She likens the loss to “a new hole in the universe that I’m / supposed to create.”

Create she does.  Rather than simply write from a male character’s perspective, Hinton decides, in a refreshing twist on convention, to employ post-modernistic techniques and allow the reader to bear witness to her crafting her protagonist within the pages of the chapbook.

Make A Man

Make a man and name him Frank.

Make him young and frail. Etiolate his skin. Grease his hair. Outfit him with strands of North American Culture. Give him access to the internet. Put him on peripheries of what you admire. Make him read HTMLGIANT.com for ~2 hours a day. Make him search endlessly for the defunct I AM CARLES brand t-shirt that says: “1983-????”. Make him born in 1983. Make him feel a lot but express very little. Make him listen only to music that has been approved by pitchfork.com

Give him something to hold on to. Give him a psychic anchor. Give him yourself. Your name is Lili. Fuck him.

Having crafted her character in front of the reader’s very eyes, Hinton then places him in one of the collection’s longest pieces, “A Medium Sized Mammal Native To North America.”  This borderline-prose piece grants the reader intimate access into a couple’s life together.  Hinton keeps the reader at arm’s length from the two lovers, never delving into their thoughts, instead forcing the reader to draw his or her own assumptions about the relationship based purely upon the actions of the characters.

These actions reveal much about the characters.  While they both are frustrated with the raccoons destroying their yard, they are willing to pay to have them removed rather than choose the quicker and cheaper route of having them exterminated.  Although the poem does not directly address emotions, choosing instead to focus on actions, the couple’s kind natures are plainly apparent.

Soon after this, the reader is gifted the most powerful poem in the collection, “All Of The People In These Pictures Are Dead Now.”  The poem consists of a series of paragraphs where a nameless narrator, presumably Frank, describes various snapshots and his relationships with the pictures’ subjects.  The most telling of these is the six word section, “Here’s a picture of my dad.”  The poem concludes with the description of the narrator’s own picture as he lays in a field:

“Today there’s snow on the ground and the sun is dipping and I don’t have a camera. It doesn’t matter. This moment need not be captured. All the really important stuff happens in absence of cameras, all the little real moments. Let’s see how long I can stay here  in the cold. Let’s see what animals come to pick me apart and carry me away.”

The lines “All the really important stuff / happens in absence of cameras, all the little real moments,” are the most moving in the collection.  They remind the reader that the most precious memories are the ones kept within our hearts, not needing the reminders of photographs or keepsakes.

Hinton’s subjects often speak in the second person, addressing an unseen other.  This technique works marvelously as a tool to pull the reader into the verse and ensnare his or her attention.  In “You Rarely See Your Dirt In The Shower,” the narrator speaks confidently that, “when we meet it will be something like when I put my hand under the shower water and realize that it’s warm enough now.” Such simple similes are far more effective than the overwrought, verbose language far too many writers employ to convey such a simple concept – when true lovers meet, it will just feel right.

“I Don’t Respect Female Expression” is an adventurous and intriguing chapbook that contains more evocative language than many much larger collections.  The relatively short length of the collection makes for a very quick read and it can quickly be reread in its entirety over and over again. While the strict traditionalist may be turned off by the lack of traditional form or structure in her work, Hinton’s chapbook is an exceptional collection of modern poetry that will appeal to anyone who enjoys a poet willing to take chances and dance outside the boundaries of convention.

*

Stanton Hancock is a writer and musician whose poetry and fiction have appeared on scraps of paper, in tattered notebooks, and under bridges.  He has an MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and is currently pursuing his MFA.  He recently finished his first novel and feels pretty good about that.

  • excellent pick — this collection comes with a whole raft of dangerous multimedia gadgets and epub formats…which includes my reading of “the most powerful poem in the collection” acc. to the reviewer.

  • i’m pretty sure this is intended to be seen as a collection of short prose, not a poetry collection. i’m a little confused as to why someone would think these are poems.

    • Roxane

      Why are you confused by how someone else perceives writing?

      • i don’t know. i guess that was an (unfortunately) passive-aggressive way of saying: doesn’t this reviewer know this isn’t a poetry book? that seems like nearly a fact. i’m aware that the author’s intent doesn’t have to be respected by the reviewer, but it seems unusual, sloppy(?) to me for a reviewer to refer to a fiction collection as a poetry collection without explaining. to my knowledge frank hinton has never written any poems, or at least frank has never called any work by frank a poem.

        it’s irrational, but i don’t like when short prose is called poetry. i guess because it imposes limits on prose, short or long, by suggesting that as soon as it has little narrative or it is lyrical and short or something, then it’s poetry? i don’t know. it’s not rational.

        • Roxane

          We don’t publish sloppy reviews. And yes, you were being passive agressive.

          • Simplicity

            Sloppy reviews?

  • Personally, as both a poet and a “prose” writer, I don’t care how my readers perceive my material….as long as they do. A reader’s connection to the material is an organic, sometimes intense, and very personal experience. I don’t think judging them as sloppy or incorrect is helpful. Just my opinion.

  • isn’t this a poem by frank? didn’t you comment on it stephen?

    http://letpeoplepoems.com/2011/03/20/happy-anniversary-patrick-stephens-by-frank-hinton/