Mark Hartenbach : Redefining Contemporary Poetry-Diana Rose

Posted: March 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

a rudimentary fix which demands a stronger identity
it’s such a gamble when you get a face-richard hell
an overwhelming hunger to transcend my limitations
& also an immense talent which seems to know no bounds
i wink, i nudge, i drip words slowly on to exposed flesh
without letting anyone in on the joke
then whine that i’m a misunderstood artist—
how fucking original
lines run gauntlet, stripped down to embarrassed silence
revealing an even more exaggerated version
a larger than life persona who asked for it
yet is constantly on the lookout for a good hiding place
armored insects out of season with demonic faces
squirm into every available space of the bunker
of course, it was only a matter of time
before they’d infiltrate this franchise
in the red, but continue to give it away
because i feel art should be free at all costs
if someone wants to give something in trade, that’s fine
but love donations are discouraged
bulk distemper foaming into stained handkerchiefs
a stenciled sign on the front door warns
that this crumbling area has been quarantined
an obvious attempt to isolate me further
though the fact it’s mass-distributed eases my conscience
almost to the point of complete indifference
another wounded animal thrashing about
producing ungodly cries at any hour
no longer does the voice of reason
scream—who’s going to clean up this mess
lift my hand slowly to my mouth
my lips aren’t even warm
though i swear i heard overheated popping under the hood
untapped potential, unrealized bone black prophecy
lambasted, perhaps rightly so, the moment
it sticks its head out from under to be continued
finding solace only in the promise of a next page
~~~~Mark Hartenbach

Weekly I receive chapbooks that this man has created, I don’t think in the history of the
written word has someone so intensely devoted himself to creating, and leaving a legacy
of impressions on philosophy, art, music and literature. Yes.. I said weekly. Some were full length books that were published by Pudding House Press, some ten to thirty poems on a specific subject,
some just random thoughts that couldn’t  be contained within the confines of the synapses of the chemical reactions in his brain. It is beyond the compulsive need to write, it is a need for the world someday to listen to the wisdom of a poet, much like Van Gogh painted thousands of paintings in his lifetime, or Dali..philosophical whimsy lies between the syllables .
The above poem was his solace on the next page, the cries heard in the midnight hour by the latenight  surfers that comb the web for words , thoughts inspiration that may jar their own need to
write out the souls discontent.  If you were to ask his editor at Pudding House, he is the tour de force , the poet laureate of the underground, and the most overlooked poet in America today. Her favorites were “Beneath the Valley of the Blue Eyed Boys” and “Resurrection”
My favorites? “The Sound Of Music”,  ” Black Notebook” and  ” Land of Nod” . What is important with him as a writer; there is no one particular style he clings to in comfort. The Sound of Music he takes a piece of music from jazz to rock and writes his thoughts on a particular subject:

1. “listening to roscoe holcomb’s “the high lonesome sound/ 1961-74” remembering all those who gave their lives for the unions:
I read an article on holcomb
where the writer said he makes bill monroe sound urbane
this music like Schoenberg or john cage or cecil tayor
isn’t compromising,isn’t for everyone
this is genuine Appalachian music. …
not country music,not bluegrass or folk music
its from the kentucky coal mine country………….
…..    when the miners tried to strike for better wages
some safety measures and plain old human rights…

Here he discusses not only the music of the cultural area, a movie about the time:” Bring Me Up Now”
a movie about the making of miner unions and how men women and children would be shot for their usurping of company direction, and the law in the towns would look the other way. This is one of sixty two pieces that he deeply went into a subject into a twenty line poem, he is a writer that  makes us think, makes us deeply question our beliefs , and question our grasp on history.

2. listening to carl perkins ” original sun greatest hits” thinking second best doesn’t count for much”
the beatle’s who rarely did covers
did three of perkins’ songs on their early records
these sun records have a sound
that’s never been matched
it was…. slapping bass, no frills drum
& twangy country guitar playing blues licks…
Mark Hartenbach knows music, his collection of vinyl is probably more extensive than any collector.
He breathes in the correlation between musical bars and words and writes them out in stanzas of
reference that haven’t gotten footnotes in musical history. Recently his “riffing” off John Coltrane, and Tom Wait were true series of thought for each song became full of new meaning to the listener, we heard the music a new through his mind. I would as a reviewer love to sit down with him one day and get his impression of music greats and what makes them so important to music history.

It would be simply impossible to capture every nuance that this writer fills in hundreds of books, thousands of pages.  He writes short stories that are a trip into a surrealist spectrum, ” Better Get It Into Your Soul” is a trip better than Ken Kesey ever did with ” One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

” gathering lyrical fragments that sing like slaughtered lambs while transcribing diary to correspond to never ever land. invisible demons are phasing out radio ghosts,bluster of idiomatic exercises for shaking the devil out of my soul is more than intoxicated illusion.

when i am pointed in the right direction i smell paint and follow it. I’m as angry as my medications allow me to be. I ask whatever happened to freedom of expression?
i pour a container of red paint on the table. I stick my hand in it. I leave three palm prints on the wall.
I will not be allowed to attend art class next week.”

Hartenbach in his short stories wraps your mind in the character, his narrative brings you into this world, you feel the paint dripping off your fingers as they write :
‘ there are no guarantees
which direction it will take
stars are continuously rearranging themselves
reinventing personas as defense mechanisms
but is understood
by those who fuck with definition
every chance they get”
from ” surfing the infinite pulse”
Pudding House Press
He makes you think that all of your original ideas really were never so new and unique., he quotes Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, he understands the loneliness of an artist that is never completely understood.
He understands the need for solace: in ” Black Notebook” he defines all his philosophies of life,
” public opinion is usually a forced consensus. a manipulation of free will
into the herd mentality”
” we take wild swings at presumptuous reflections& foregone
conclusions. We try to nail down the ethereal. then we thrust our hands out and
demand some sort of compensation for our foolishness”
coincidence is physics at play
art is running into ourselves over and over,& seldom recognizing who we are

philosophy is the last refuge of the totally confused.
Pudding House  Press

Every contemplation of this writer is found in his work. Whether it is a poem, a journal of a series of thoughts , or short story he examines the human psyche, the human condition, and the world with a new set of eyes that was never taught in school. One day when the world is through and all the great minds are sitting around conversing you will find them sitting around Mark, playing his guitar, or painting a picture and all of them will have a book of his in their hands. Freud will turn to Aristotle and Plato and say.. why didn’t we write about this?

To find more of his work that hasn’t been listed in this review:

To hear him in podcast:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s