Winner of the 2007 Kate Tufts Discovery Award
Synopses & Reviews
The poems in this collection dance, dart, and double-cross and are deadly serious the whole time. Preoccupied with impermanence and injustice. McHenry wagers everything on the redemptive power of music, irony, and love.
Poetry. Winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. POTSCRUBBER LULLABIES aren't the kind that will put you to sleep. The poems in this first collection dance, dart, and double-cross, and are deadly serious the whole time. Preoccupied with impermanence and injustice, Eric McHenry wagers everything on the redemptive power of music, irony, and love. His language can be extraordinarily playful and self-aware--the double-negative 'affirms / itself in no uncertain terms'; the census strains 'the dead / from decade'; and a neighborhood blighted by Dutch Elm Disease learns that when 'You take the elms from Elmhurst, you get hurt.' But the poems always remain rooted in the sentence-rhythms of spoken English--in plain speech and 'the plain fact of song.'
"Every one of these poems is a little miracle of self-exactitude, rhyming and word play and metrical joy; they're games the words in the poem play elatedly with each other, and everybody wins. The poems are victories of observation and self-observation, outsight and insight. I think there's genius in this writing."--David Ferry
"This is a book that combines themes, places and music with wit and feeling, while letting them be what they are. Full of people, landscape and language treated with subdued newness. A great first book."--Aaron Fogel
"The exuberant, acrobatic poems of POTSCRUBBER LULLABIES are full of music and awareness of music. Along with their virtuosity, they have genuine feeling: generous laughter; a sneaky dignity free of self-importance; curiosity about the world; and an admirable sense of balance."--Robert Pinsky
"Eric McHenry's POTSCRUBBER LULLABIES is a fabulous book, one of the best books I've read in years. Witty, poignant, offbeat, elegiac and satirical (sometimes all at once), with metrical subtlety and sly rhymes, McHenry explores the idiom of place and the place of idiom. He reveals how even the most personal and intimate utterances lean 'hard with the weight of someone else's meaning.' This debut collection marks the beginning of a new and significant voice in American poetry."--Alan Shapiro
"POTSCRUBBER LULLABIES is a funky, tough-minded, grown-up first book of poems, dangerously deadpan and winsome, as alert to large social realities like Midwestern floods and politics as to tiny motions of the soul. McHenry's wordplay, a marriage of zany wit and truthfulness, never misses the beat or the point. Whether he is slinging his troubleball as John the Revelator, or declaring ominously, 'When you say nothing I know what you mean, ' he has our number, and we have reason to be grateful."--Rosanna Warren
" POTSCRUBBER LULLABIES] has many of the same elements as much more blah collections--strolled towns and graveyards, a kitchen window, a compost pile and wheelbarrow, a family, the eponymous Potscrubber dishwasher--but these poems do what many don't: they are intent on and successful at leaving these scenes more memorable for the careful linguistic inspection. Normally suspicious when I hear the drumbeat of traditional forms, here I'm tempted to salute. Don't let a few colorfully borrowed bars fool you: by the dawn's early light, there's something very American up at Ft. McHenry."--Kevin McFadden
"McHenry's poems ... range in content from familial issues to politics to pop culture to self-reflection. The themes are often familiar or funny, but always emotionally brightened by McHenry's aural strategies: word-play, rhyme, meter and repetition. McHenry obviously delights in language ... but his delight brings with it a serious outcome. Robert Frost claimed that poetry is 'play for mortal stakes.' Eric McHenry plays well, and touchingly."--Amy Schrader
About the Author
Eric McHenry was born in Topeka, Kansas, and is a graduate of Boston University, where he earned an M.A. in creative writing and won the Academy of American Poets Prize. He lives with his wife and two children in Seattle, Washington.