Book Review for TheNortherners:

Subterranean Blue Poetry

Volume X Issue II


Byline: Subterranean Blue Poetry

Title of Book: The Northerners

Author: Benjamin Niespodziany

Publisher: above/ground press

Date of Publication: 2021

Pages: 23

“Oh, our love is like the flowers
The rain, the sea and the hours . . .”
- from The Village
by New Order

The Northerners, a Chapbook by Benjamin Niespodziany and above/ground press is a brilliant Haikuesque evolution in New Age poetics. Inspired by De Noorderlingen (1992), a Dutch movie by filmmaker Alex van Warmerdam. The film is set in Holland in a new small rural village that is one unfinished street where the villagers have problems with their love lives portrayed in absurdist dark humor. Benjamin Niespodziany (poet, librarian, arts editor, former Peace Corps volunteer) lives and works in Chicago. He works in a library and curates an online arts site. He is a published poet and has had his work nominated for Best of the Net, the Pushcart Prize and Best Microfiction.

This exciting original “Haikuesque” poetry is evocative of a new form Haiku. The poems are short, anywhere from 4 to 7 lines, with at least one Kiriji and a twist of black humor. Each poem is a story in and of itself, strung together they suggest the inner life of a village, where the ordinary becomes the extraordinary. Presented in the spirit of magic of the original film, there is a certain sendup of the absurdist that becomes a surrealist twist in an uncertain universe. The montages of people and place shift with each poem as if shifting scenes in the movie.

The themes and people of the poems are based in universal truths, are personifications; “the saint”, “the butcher”, “the forester”, “two monks”, “the son”, “the boy”. . . have no names. The images also become personifications, “the neighbourhood”, “the coat rack”, “bird bones”, “trench coat” as if the work exists within archetypes. The two or more lines of the poem include nature imagery as well as a storyline in a broken presentation that borders on DaDa, perhaps suggesting an underground violence, as if alluding to a parallel universe and ultimately the land of what could have been.

“The forest is like
a camp, he incants,
I still can’t make fire.
He says the saint’s name
until she withers away.”

Accentuating vulnerability, the innocence, the idea of life as a story, enigmatic, something may be wrong but hard edges are softened through time and the synchronicity and healing of the Holy Spirit.

The Haikuesque poems suggest parallel lives, lives through the walls as if lovers are not at home. Perhaps the idea of broken personal lives, the violence of mismatched romance, of broken romance, the hidden violence of the archaic Old World village in the New World age. A riveting play on the traditional Haiku form, The Northerners by Benjamin Niespodziany.

Available @ above/ground press.

Subterranean Blue Poetry

© 2022