Charles Harper Webb is celebrated for his use of humor; yet even his funniest poems rise, as the best comedy must, out of deep human drives, sorrows, and needs. Powerful immersions in what it means to be human, these poems explore the spectrum of emotions from love to hate, tenderness to brutality. They can be withering and vulnerable in the same breath. Models of clarity and vividness, they are mysterious when they need to be, ranging from lyric to narrative, from realism to wild surreal flights, powered by a fierce, compassionate intelligence. Metaphors of startling aptness and originality, a voice at once endearing and provocative, high musicality, propulsive energy, wild imaginative leaps, as well as mastery of diction from lyricism to street-speak, create a reading experience of the first order. Uniformly fun to read, these poems go down easy, but pack a wallop. As Robert Frost said poetry should do, What Things Are Made Of “begins in delight and ends in wisdom.”
As in a madman's rickety invention, the silver ball of Charles Harper Webb's imagination rolls down Egyptian railroad tracks in locomotives powered by burning mummies, until its final moonwalk stage left to the end of nostalgia—where it puts a period to the modern age to which we're sentenced. It's a wild ride, and it's over too soon, but for just ten cents you can turn the page and start at the top again. Hilarious, kinetic, profound, Webb's poems are always a strange and fun adventure. So buy this book, plug in your dime, and get the ball rolling!
Flannery O'Connor said that the best comedy 'is always about matters of life and death,' a truth demonstrated masterfully in What Things Are Made Of. With his discerning wit, musician's ear, and big heart—plus a newly deepened tone of melancholy—Webb takes us on a seriocomic journey down the potholey road from youth to maturity in an age where 'truth shifts like ants on a Klondike [bar].' The melancholy is countered by the book's prevailing motif: love—schmaltz-free—of wife and son, of beleaguered humankind (most of it), of rock 'n' roll and fly fishing, of the 'big band' of a new day. If you're looking for a reader friendly work by one of America's best poets writing at his best, get out your wallet.
Crafted from a cynical romanticism that dreams with one eye open, Webb's What Things Are Made Of groans and growls out of the 'cracked crankcase' of his wildness. Dare, dear reader, to harness yourself to this bungee jump—anguished, masterful, and still deeply funny on the hundredth reading—that will dangle you over the precipice for an eyeful, an earful, and a polyphonic three-bone time.
Webb swerves effortlessly between humor and the sort of introspection that we all must feel from time to time. . . . [he] is spectacular at the funnier side of life. Who can't identify with the confounding way memory works, jettisoning knowledge in favor of trivia?
Webb displays such a wonderfully quirky, idiosyncratic voice, whether writing about oil-slicked, doomed penguins or puppy love. His poems careen between wild hyperboles, the irony of looking back at youthful indiscretions and unrequited or disappointed love, to the joy he feels with his beloved small son and wife, and his love of old rock bands like the Stones or Led Zeppelin. But there's always something interesting, fascinating in this collection, something that makes us read and keep turning the pages, to see what new and deliriously strange take he'll have on the things of this world.
Metaphors of startling aptness and originality, a voice at once endearing and provocative, high musicality, propulsive energy, wild imaginative leaps, as well as mastery of diction from lyricism to street-speak, create a reading experience of the first order. Uniformly fun to read, these poems go down easy, but pack a wallop . . . I laughed, I cried, and I spent time mulling over his lines for days.
Charles Harper Webb has published twelve books of poetry, including Brain Camp. Webb’s awards in poetry include the Morse Prize, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the Felix Pollock Prize, and the Benjamin Saltman Prize. Webb is Professor of English at California State University, Long Beach, where he teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program.learn more