Kenny Williams

Paper $15.95
(ISBN 978-0932440-54-9)

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Winner of the 2015 FIELD Poetry Prize

It's rare for a first book to demonstrate the confidence and distinctive voice of Blood Hyphen. Through the publication of individual poems in journals over several years, readers have become aware of Kenny Williams as a strikingly original writer, but the range and depth of his achievement in this collection are remarkable. Williams handles big concerns—faith, hurricanes, history, the conundrum of the body—with sly humor, assurance, and poise, instantly establishing himself as a mature and memorable presence.

"With tenderness and wit, erudition and artistry, Blood Hyphen marks a tremendous debut."
Mary Ruefle

"A man paddles his canoe to the middle of a lake while Laurence Olivier, in the role of Zeus, peers down on him from the high apartments. That splashing you hear, he says, is the sound of his dumped TV. Or the sun rushes to investigate Jesus' newly opened tomb, 'sniffing around every corner like a suspicious dog.' The poems in Blood Hyphen may seem plainspoken and, in moments, surreal—but they are also deeply intelligent, rhetorically sophisticated, and imbued with theological anxiety and existential wit. This is a terrific first book."
Kevin Prufer

"Kenny Williams is a writer of apostate, iconoclastic, and often-absurdist parables, and his poems are rendered with a formal concision that makes their tragicomic sensibility all the more resonant. This is writing that, in Robert Lowell’s words, is 'haunted, not lost.' Blood Hyphen is one of the most distinctive and self-possessed debut collections that I have read in a very long time."
David Wojahn



Sugar Blues  

Park & Stuart Aves., Richmond

The streetlamps are black, the gutter
stitching itself into a skin
of ice.

A man drags a tree down the street
toward the park,
shouting Christmas songs and the praises
of beautiful lights. 

The imperishable minuteman holds forth
his gun,
looks out in heartbreak at the city
in its sleep,
under its flashing plastic star. 

The man with the tree
whips the doll from the manger,
plants his tree in the manger, singing now
at the manger
for comfort and joy. 

Neighbor, cool your anger.
Ours is a wandering, homeless race
and the manger is our grave
standing ready, the sweetest
powder on its lips.


Operation Daily Bread

Nevada Test Site, 1953

There will be a fire
that blocks out the sun.
For now, though,
in the four—give it five—
long seconds before,
there’s a dinner being eaten
in the middle of the day.
Good thing we’re not robbers.
The crystal’s cheap. 
There’s nothing in it. 
No sharp white wine,
no day-old fish. 
The blazer hangs a little loosely
on the host. 
But where’s our hostess,
the plastic lady
in the brand new dress,
a clean and simple thing,
very dark blue, with a fine
white dot in the print? 
The windows are all open. 
Did the hostess get away? 
The desert air takes the wind
with it when it leaves. 
How many seconds have we got,
counting backward? 
Three? More likely two. 
Just time enough to beg
our daily bread, but can we
receive it in good faith,
now, having broken—
looking for it—in? 
The dead calm face
of the host says, Go.
Come ask again tomorrow,
by which the dead calm
face means, as it’s melting,
you should have come
asking yesterday. 


Copyright © 2016 by Kenny Williams. May not be reproduced without permission.

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