the fox hunts

the fox hunts

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Author: Eric Tyler Benick

Publisher: Beautiful Days Press (2023)

A tragic American slapstick in three parts, the fox hunts peers out at the body politic through the eyes of its prey. In poems which feign and forebode, alliterate and sidle, Eric Tyler Benick explores the failures, both material and semiotic, of three unlikely mammalian protagonists: fox, vole, and mothman. (Is mothman a mammal?)

Like uneasy, flickering marionettes, fox & co sing and scamper from city to cemetery, from the Bardo to the Met, from sinister cookouts to the depths of the FBI archives, searching for a world in which they are not hunted, or not “forced to live / in unforgiving error.” We are all little more than helpless vermin, Benick seems to suggest, “as we approach the reddest winter,” but also, the poems remind us, “that is everyone’s fault.”

the fox hunts takes the hallucinatory confusion of Berryman’s "Dream Songs" and the Derridean riffs of Mullen’s "Sleeping with the Dictionary," the sardonic absurdity of Berman’s "Actual Air" and the parallax view of OutKast’s "Aquemini," and twists them all into the Platonic Nerds Rope© we’ve wanted to escape up for so long, but in Benick’s hands it’s being constantly made and unmade directly before our eyes, until we realize, actually, it’s a prop rope in a commercial set that we can now see is going dark all around us, and there are animals here, cartoonish but still very real, calling to us from the rafters of a new, not-yet-named season: “the one without animal facts.” In its animals’ shifting, revolutionary reconfigurations, the fox hunts figures and re-figures the way poems might be real lines of flight, of survival. Benick asks again and again, zipped up tight in the costumes of fox, vole, or mothman, “what use is a word that doesn’t fill you up?”