05 October 2023

Fudge by Andrew Weatherhead

Fudge by Andrew Weatherhead
available from Publishing Genius Oct 31

With Fudge (Publishing Genius, 2023), Andrew Weatherhead serves up minimalist poetry that strives to efficiently sublimate the mundanity of life. Weatherhead is largely successful in this endeavor, almost sneakily so; this is a disarming collection that rewards careful rereading.

A note about the structure. Fudge is comprised of seven sections, or seven long poems, if you prefer, some of which are in turn comprised of shorter titled poems. The poems themselves are so short and swift that the entire book can easily be read in a sitting. Weatherhead opens the first section, titled “Hollow Points (Sept 11, 2016)”, with “Sessility”. It’s quoted here in full to give a sense of the aesthetics:

            Walking around the city
Hoping I don’t see
Anyone I know, old
Air conditioner water
Coming down on 14th Street
Overcast, high of 88, wires
Connected to a head
On Mott, a scab
The shape of Queens

Clear, casual, and an invitation for the reader to wonder what we’re doing here. You could read it as 21st century imagism or affectless city-dweller cool, or as a critique of that rather lazy pose as the title implies. After all, who wants to be stuck like a polyp?

The loaded date also suggests that there’s more happening than simple descriptions, putting one in mind of Williams’s (in)famous red wheelbarrow and the hidden things of life that may be at stake. Indeed, as “Hollow Points” progresses, the poems dig deeper, strike harder, and read more and more like long senryus, offering readers a sly, darkly amused look at a life scrabbling for substance.

And that, I think, comes to be the main thrust of Fudge: what it’s like to try to live a meaningful life in a world driven to senseless, consumerist distraction, often in the face of truly serious shit that warrants our full, sustained attention (e.g., terrorism, pandemics, being a compassionate adult). “Events just barely happen… / The insurrectionists took selfies and left” Weatherhead writes in “Last Poem”. “I hold my small, beautiful wife / Heavy metals congeal in the aether”. Violence exists alongside self-centered frivolousness, just as tenderness occurs in the toxic chemical soup we’ve made of the world.

Some poems are more arresting than others. “Dead Air (21 Short Poems)” are just too short for this reader; they skip cleanly off my brain like aphorisms failing to find emotional purchase or resonance. “Poem While on Hold with NBA League Pass Customer Support”, on the other hand, is a funny, near-brilliant meditation on growing up, getting older, and constructing a sense of purpose in your one finite life. “20 Pandemic Haiku” are likewise winning. Here’s one:

            “Fuck, I mean, shit,”
Our neighbor screams
Through the wall

The poem begins rather than ends with its cutting motion, but it’s otherwise an urban description worthy of Basho or Issa.

Sit with Fudge a while and observations like these come to haunt your side like a funny, slightly sad friend; and as the world continues to be a speedy, confounding place, I’m grateful for its company.

Fudge by Andrew Weatherhead will be available from Publishing Genius Oct 31.