American writer William Wantling only hit my radar a few years ago. His poem Poetry was an absolute soul opener for me. Amazed how the violence of a dying man could be reported as a poem, a piece of art, without diminishing the sadness or respect for this loss of life. Told myself this is someone you need to get into. Wantling died of heart failure at 40 back in the 70’s and never really received the exposure and respect that the likes of his peers got back in the 60’s. He did have a real presence with more independent underground publishers and those in their cliques. It is still the case today with independent publishers Tangerine Press. They popped works by Wantling a few years back which are still available via their website.
This compact piece of poetic history, Heroin Haikus, was released in October. It sits on my desk and has been picked up many times, by many hands, starting the ‘never heard of him’ conversations. Not really traditional Haikus, they have an air of close enough, his poems are loose and direct, that is standout here. Ten succinct pauses, seventeen syllables, maybe a word game to relieve the boredom and diminish the pain of being trapped, coping with life inside. These haikus of broken rules say so much.
I love its emptiness and the original drawings by Ben Tibbs, the inked cockroach, a fish eye view of busting cops, holding a gun like a limp dick in his hand, Wantling’s mind detached. This realism is repeated in his larger pieces and there are collections that you will find on Tangerine Press’s website if you want to explore more. Heroin Haiku’s is printed on good quality cream stock in piercing black ink. It can take you a minute or an hour to read, depending on how much you want to see into it. It is a fine addition to my poetry shelf.