Cold Turkey. Mac Hammond. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1969.
Review by: H R. Wolf
In his second volume of poetry, Cold Turkey, Mac Hammond moves his confessional impulse in the direction of Pop Culture. In “Halloween” the speaker describes the carving of the pumpkin:
The butcher knife goes in, first, at the top
And carves out the round stemmed lid,
The hole of which allows the hand to go
In to pull the gooey mess inside, out—
The walls scooped clean with a spoon.
The images are clearly obstetric, and we see in these poems the poet's need to be born again, how this need reflects an American wish, and the deep psychological, cultural difficulties of expressing and achieving this rebirth.
In “Thanksgiving” the carcass is laid bare, along with the implied violence—“his knife sharp as a Turkish scimitar”—of pious American ceremonies; and we are then eased towards an awareness of failed communion—“thankful for the cold turkey/ And the Republic for which is stands.” In these failures of the individual to connect with himself, those around him, and his country, the poet points to a desire for oneness and union with the world. Amidst the neon cornucopia of the Supermarket, a vision arises of “skinny arms” reaching “for vitamins, for starch, for anything, food.”
“Wednesday” catches the rhythm of the ongoing conflict of generations. The poet-father scolding his son remembers his own father.
I can't stand it. Father, son, how many times,
Between coming and going, must I call and call?
The whimsical and sometimes grandiose self-imagery in these poems reveal, as they also conceal, the underlying sense of incompleteness that impels the poet to strive for other-wordly, apocalyptic completeness.
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