Poetry and artwork - Henry Denander

Mark Terrill - Small Press Review

Book Review by Mark Terrill, Small Press Review July-August 2003:

I Know What She Will Say, by Henry Denander, with illustrations by the author and a foreword by Gerald Locklin. 2002; 20 pp; Pa; Bottle of Smoke Press, 503 Tuliptree Square, Leesburg, VA 20176, www.bospress.com. $5

The number of people out there who at some point in their lives stumbled across Bukowski and decided to become "poets" and to write "poetry" is infinite, and apparently ever-growing. If it was only that easy! But emulating Bukowski is one thing, and writing poetry is another. Hence, the number of true poets remains finite. While Henry Denander is obviously indebted to Bukowski, he definitely belongs to the latter category. He certainly knows how to write poetry, and thanks to his own unique sense of style and at times self-effacing humor, his work stands totally on its own. And considering that English is not even his mother tongue, this is no small feat indeed.

Denander lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and works as a business manager for artists, composers, actors and producers. He considers himself a "bean counter," but has been writing, drawing and painting for some time. In Jeffrey H. Weinberg's blurb on the back cover, he says "The spirit of Bukowski is walking the cobblestone streets of Sweden, alive between the lines of Henry Denander's poetry. Everyday struggles and triumphs of being human know no international boundaries here." In Denander's tightly torqued takes of the quotidian, which have more to do with tax accounting, family life, jazz music and the occasional trip to Greece than Bukowski's predictable world of booze, broads and the racetrack, I was actually reminded more of Richard Brautigan than Bukowski. Absent here is Bukowski's existential despair and macho cynicism, and we see the day-to-day life of a Swedish "bean counter" through the eyes of a sensitive and humorous observer, whose understated style makes these compact vignettes all the more endearing. Denander's watercolor drawings complement the poems in an unobtrusive way, and Bottle of Smoke Press has done a fine job with the layout and design. This is an impressive debut from a new voice, speaking with its own authority from far beyond the confines of Bukowski's nitty-gritty milieu, while at the same time doffing its hat in respect to that gnarly, inimitable bard.