This brief but pungent collection of five poems may be an isolated work reflecting the thoughts experienced in 672 hours (or 28 days) the standard course of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Or it may be an excerpt from a yet to be released larger collection of poems by American poet Andrew Demcak. And again, it may be reportage from the author’s personal experience or simply another crown in the intuitive mind of one of our most interesting poets writing today. But here it is, 672 HOURS, as a chapbook and to attempt to ignore the power and depth of involvement in these poems is impossible.
Demcak’s alchemy with words is present in everything he writes and he seems at his best when writing about topics or situations or submerged feelings/prior pains few other poets dare touch. And Demcak has the courage to make these danger zones like personal revelations. Reading the five works here creates the sense of beginning with the psychotic delusions or mind alterations of the admitted patient still imaging strange visual input stimulated by toxins and ending with a suggestion of incipient recovery. In the first poem there are descriptions of ordinary things turned extraordinary and yet he ends that poem with the insight ‘I have no time, nor acquaintance with health.’
In the second poem our observer shares his perception of his cellmate, blurred with the realities of detoxification. By the third poem we are beginning to see his pre-morbid state that began his descent into rehab.
‘He threw me out like wine glasses flying.
Now, my sad jacket hangs there on a hook,
a fine silver corkscrew in its pocket.
We drank waist-deep, handed our fat livers,
the coronation of local drunkards
with daily liquors…..’
And in poem IV memory begins to focus:
‘A blazing kiss, my lover who put me here.
My tidy partner
Who revisits his checkbook,….’
Until in the last poem the harsh reality of our patient’s place suggests acceptance and insight:
‘Alcoholics collected, made public,
a display of bottled fetuses.’
Once again Andrew Demcak, with the briefest, almost haiku amount of space, manages to sweep us away to places strange yet familiar. Whether reporting or imagining, these poems are electrifying and offer further proof that Andrew Demcak is an artist of importance.
-Review by Grady Harp