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This review is taken from PN Review 180, Volume 34 Number 4, March - April 2008.

POTSCRUBBING ERIC MCHENRY, Potscrubber Lullabies (Waywiser Press)

In Lullabies, Eric McHenry has created a self-effacing world filled with friends and children, personal tastes in music, potscrubbers (a type of dishwasher), and Wal-Marts. The poems are straightforward and contemplative, as in 'Sitting on Jane Kenyon's Headstone' (here in full):

There'd been a thaw and then another freeze.
I left the car by Route 4, thinking maybe
    the snowglaze wouldn't break,
but it was April and I had the baby,
    and we sank to my knees.

I know you didn't choose it for our sake,
but thank you for a headstone we can use
when I've misjudged the road and need to shake
    the ice-beads from my shoes.


While she's not a model in style or tone, Kenyon's influence is felt: both writers allow a simple observation to carry a poem's weight. The intimate, gentle images of nature in this tribute and elsewhere solidify the likeness (one thinks of Kenyon's ending to 'Twilight: After Haying': 'The last sweet exhalations/of timothy and vetch/go out with the song of the bird;/the ravaged field/grows wet with dew'). McHenry heightens the stakes of his confidences in his attention to form, in the chimes and half-rhymes that some young American writers fear, with which he effortlessly communicates the love between parent and child in poems such as 'The Wheelhouse': 'Evan's been down for hours. His toddler-sleep / is instantaneous and channel-deep - / a kind of ...


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