"¿Cómo Hacer Preguntas?" by Daniel Hales - Poetry Review

in #bookreview5 months ago

Daniel Hales’ ¿Cómo Hacer Preguntas? or How To Make Questions: 69 Instructional Poems in English is a compendium of contemporary poems for those with ancient hearts. With musicianship obvious in each line, this collection: part horoscope guide, part scientific discovery, part memoir of a madman and his theories about extra-terrestrial life and the origin of humanity, makes an offering to the restless and relentless. From the literal translation “hacer pregunatas”, Hales focuses on the creation of the questions themselves rather than the answers we seek. Still, the ambiguity and metaphysical exploration found between these pages is musing enough to make the reader forget that their questions once existed at all, leading them instead down a path of God, cats, bats, and outer space.

It may be that what you think is love/is no more so than a clump of pink insulation/hanging strangely in a trashed storefront

It is truly lines such as these that draw Hales’ work together. From the eloquence of defining love to the unique humanness of its description, nothing in this collection is what the reader expects. Hales’ writing is relatably visceral, evidenced best in the pieces How To Find Your Way, How To Get To The Covered Bridge, and How To Write A Poem. Equally masterful is Hales’ command of language, understanding it as intimately as an old friend in order to accurately conceptualize the creation of this collective meandering. ¿Cómo Hacer Preguntas? poses as many questions as it ponders, engaging in a shared conversation with the reader worth every second spent striving to understand.

The speaker is likewise an unreliable if not wholly relatable narrator, as poets often are. There is a clear distinction between the physical structure of the poems, paused and phrased with plotted intention, and the speaker’s spontaneity of discovery at each turn and whim. Our speaker, in equal measure an omniscient character who holds the answers tantalizingly out of reach and a fellow traveler along the path, ponders with us rather than looking upon us with disdain at our lack of understanding. This sense of human connection in and out of each poem completes the fulfilling sense that this is a shared wandering.

There are more than 12 sextillion stars in this universe/From here they look like God’s full arsenal aimed at you

To cross the threshold of the first page is to enter into a world in which disbelief requires some suspension, in which the reader must acknowledge Hales as both the masterful creator and curious explorer, the sole inhabitant in this self-contained universe to which he has invited you, the reader, for a brief glimpse at the inner workings of the artists wandering mind.

This is a collection of poetry that strays from tradition, and as such, there will no doubt be countless critics for whom the content, the structure, or the style does not impress. For me, this was just not the case. I delighted in the breathlessness of this book, beginning to end. This is a journey any avid participant in humanity will be glad to embark upon.

¿Cómo Hacer Preguntas? or How To Make Questions: 69 Instructional Poems in English is published by Frayed Edge Press, a press local to Philadelphia that publishes “books that are a bit on the fringe”. To purchase a copy or learn more: https://www.frayededgepress.com/como-hacer-preguntas.html. To learn more about author Daniel Hales: https://danielhales.com/