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John Bennett | Battle Scars

Henry Denander presents another fine, handsome, classy little book of poetry on his Kamini Press imprint, this time by a guy who’s been writing and publishing for more than forty years on the good side – that is, the side I presume all readers of BEATNIK inhabit, the side of the outlaws and the misfits, the firebrands, the men and women who are sometimes too inventive and personal and too free of habitual restriction to be appreciated in their own time, but might, if we ever bloom into a courageous race, be discovered again and have laurels tossed on their graves (though most would settle, like Jack’s ghost probably does, for empty beer bottles and fag packets). Bennett has been associated with a whole lot of poets you’ll probably like a whole lot, since you’re here and not at the page of the Poetry Book Society, but I won’t mention them because I don’t want to try to elevate the man on the strength of his connections. There’s too much of that in mainstream poetry and in the small press – Charles Bukowski called it ”clasping assholes” – and our poet doesn’t need it anyway. Let’s just say that in Battle Scars we get 30 poems, none of them more than 8 or 9 lines long, on subjects ranging from ”techno-corporate dictatorship” to the ageing process, all crisply expressed and humorously cynical. You think you have not read very much at the end of each one but you find the words echoing in your mind, the ideas sinking themselves into your consciousness and making you think again about something you thought you had an absolute grip on. So you go back and read again. It’s nothing to change the world, perhaps, but none of your ideas or my poetry are either; and Bennett would be profoundly suspicious of anybody who wanted to, I suspect. I liked it very much. If you’re interested after hearing me waffle on like this, why don’t you visit the Kamini Press website at http://www.kaminipress.com for more information. — Bruce Hodder, The Beatnik

The second poem

in John Bennett’s 40th book, Battle Scars, is three simple lines under the title Trust “Don’t trust/cause-oriented/people.”

In another poem, Mirrors Bennett writes:

After a
certain age
all mirrors are
good for is
checking for
skin cancer &
the nicotine
stain in
your mustache

And in another titled Lacking he notes:

We will
not do
what we
need to
do to
save ourselves.

We do not
have it
in us.

Bennett is obviously a man of few words, but words that pack a wallop, fraught with meaning, an arrow to whatever gets you thinking, whatever causes an emotion in you. He can take a thought, or a cliche and make into an aphorism. The titles let you know he is not messing around, that he is an in-your-face kinda guy: Ego Like Indelible Ink, Reading Tea Leaves, Diminishing Returns, Battle Scars, Less Is More, and plenty of others.

I admire Bennett’s ability to boil down what could be a seemingly endless poem into six or eight lines and instead of leaving the reader confused or wondering what he said, he makes direct contact and you say, “Oh, yah!”

If you want a book that you can easily relate to and have it small enough to carry in a pocket or pocketbook, then this is definitely for you. By the way, keep close at hand to keep you out of trouble.– by Zvi A. Sesling

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