Author: Jean Day
Publisher: Ugly Duckling Presse (2021)
Late Human is a collection of tragi-comic poems on lateness, belatedness, Weltschmerz, and borrowing (with a nod to Ernest Mandel’s 1975 tome on the twilight of capitalism). The human of the title is multiple, personal, and drenched in the tears of the 21st century. Cracked children’s rhymes lead onto an ethnography that takes Helen Mirren’s first film appearance as seriously as Moby Dick. At the volume’s center, three laments honor the “realism / that would send anyone to spasm,” a sentiment that crests in the book’s title poem before alighting, provisionally, in “Early Bird”—its dawn chorus.
"Late Human is language reopened. It is not poetry of the "I"—the force of personality in these works is greater than that of an "I." Day's critical wit won't let a phrase be mere: as "The body eats the soul," as "but I don’t hate speech / just its bloody show // of fits / when the going gets ecstatic," as "Clouds puff about all matchy matchy." I want to say this book is wildly funny, but it isn't wild, it's lacquered and biting, like a hair clip. It is Day's mastery that makes each line arrive spontaneous as water over a rock."
"Garbo managed to Laugh! in the face of American arrogance, but the clock on humoring such catastrophic folly is running out. Jean Day’s Late Human starts in this no-nonsense maw, passes through turning and loving, divines with ancient flight patterns reflected in a to-go cup, and comes out apostrophic and wise. Flashes of other works by Day repeat and relive, as if experience is chordal. It’s stunning. I can’t even tell you how vortical this gets, but 19th-cen. Realists: you’ll die here. To those of you who lie in a world of wait for the next book by Jean Day, you know there’s possibility in elegy, in complicity—both forms for her high intelligence—because we made this devoted readership together. To those for whom this new work is your first encounter, “Be not afraid / if you are blessed in this way.” This is reverent ground-writing, meant for the untimely among us who nonetheless commit to the (revolutionary) moment."
"Jean Day's Late Human asks the most startling questions—"Where is Brünhilde? Where is Seigfried?" "Do I have time to squeeze my kidneys?"— questions that might be humorous or innocuous if they were not so worrying. These poems really dooperate in a knowing-thickness, which is consciousness of having, awkwardly over a long time, lost the way. "We are at present in a long wave / of stagnation — struggling at a dress / for which we are too old," Day writes. The beautiful authority of the mad questions, the soft desperation of the declarative note. Desmond Dekker ambles in like a skeleton in a top hat. It is as if all that happened before the pandemic is balanced on the head of a pin, the book, and now we fall."–Simone White