Indiana. Sure, we’ve become the new Arizona thanks to a Governor that’s ran us into the ideological muck. Happens to the best of states(am I right Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin,….the south?) But we’re not all bad people. We’re not all backwards in our thinking. Some of us are progressive and forward-thinking. Like me. And my wife. Hell, even my kids are. So’s this guy I know. Well, I sort of know him. He grew up in Indiana, too. We even went to the same high school. He graduated a couple years after I did. But not only did he get his education through paperbacks, albums, and adventures in alcohol, but he went to University. He’s an educator, and he’s raising smart, well-rounded kids, too. He’s also a writer. Poet, actually. He’s self-published and has put out several books of poetry, as well as a vinyl pressing of his readings. Poetry on vinyl. These are amazing times we live in people. Amazing times, indeed.
There’s an article about him right here.
His name is Steve Henn, and he’s shown me there’s far more to poetry than bards, pantaloons, and rhyming words to say something simple in a rainbow of overbloated vernacular. He writes about life; his life as well as life around him in a humorous way. In a Midwesternly humorous way.
The Midwestern humor is very unique. East coast humor is in your face and loud, while West coast humor is laid back and at times too clever for its own good.
Redneck Southern humor is, well, I don’t know. So we come back to Midwestern humor. It’s seeing the absurd in life and pointing it out without being silly or hurtful about it. We’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing at why you do the stupid shit you do. Steve Henn points that shit out, about himself and those around him. I like that he can make me laugh. I also like that he enjoys a good beer, and that he plays drums and worships Robert Pollard.
We’re both from Indiana. Land of book burnings, RFRA, gun-toting Walmart shoppers, and deep-fried Snickers. But also the land of hard-working schlubs that are just trying to get by. Those folks that enjoy life, their spouses, their kids, rock and roll, the occasional beer, and maybe a chuckle at someone else’s expense now and then. There’s nothing wrong with getting a laugh at someone else’s expense, just so long as you don’t mind someone getting a laugh at your expense occasionally as well.
I was lucky enough to snag a copy of Steve’s poetry album I Am On Mental Health Pills awhile back. I never thought I’d find myself sitting in my living room spinning a poetry album, but there I was spinning a poetry album by Mr. Henn. It’s really not so weird after all. I love comedy albums, at least when they’re done right. And done right I mean comedians that are more on the side of philosophical and thought-provoking as opposed to dick jokes for 85 minutes. Guys like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron and Mitch Hedberg seemed(some still do…those that aren’t dead) to grasp some sort of greater existential picture and could show that through humor. Social critics as much as comedians. Philosophers as much as joke tellers. That’s what I dig about Steve Henn’s work. Underneath it all he seems like someone that feels something. They’re not empty words and carefully constructed phrases spoken in order to impress a room full of blazer-wearing yucks sipping single malt scotch. They’re personal tales put to a humorous slant. You aren’t digging through layers of piled on metaphors in order to find a simple meaning. I don’t know, maybe some of his other works might be headier and heavier, but this album is filled with plain-spoken, funny, and anecdotal pieces that I get and I can relate to.
I think that’s what you want out of good poetry, right?
Well, that’s what I want anyways. If you do too, then head over to Steve’s website and dig further. You will be hit in the face with titles like And God Said: Let Their Be Evolution, Unacknowledged Legislations, Subvert The Dominant Paradigm, and my personal favorite The 30th Anniversary Warsaw Community Commemorative Book Burning. There’s also Cancel The Apocalypse, a 7″ lathe cut record and zine from last year available to grab and cherish and eventually be buried with(along with the family cat if you so desire.)
Like another one of my favorite writers and humanist champions Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “So it goes.” So go look up Steve Henn; writer, educator, poet, humanist, and all around enlightened guy. Buy a book or two, and a vinyl. You can spin it and be cool like me and Steve.