Love's Autobiography: The Ends of Love, by Duane Vorhees

Duane Vorhees

Review by: Wayne F. Burke

The Many Loves of Duane Vorhees: Love’s Autobiography: The Ends of Love
Author: Duane Vorhees
Hog Press
128 pages

A work of multifaceted variety in style, form, and, of course, language: full of surprises and incomparably witty at times; chock-full of tongue-in-cheek humor and verbal slap-stick. A work of “yogapoetry,” by a self-professed “recovering romantic, intelligent yet unutterably inelegant.” A “gossamer-armored middleaged scholar,” gone to fat (“fat as an apple”), and bald, in the last year of his 6th decade, and still going strong, stronger even than in his younger self.

Wayne F. Burke
   Vorhees delights in word-play and onomatopoeic language usage: “Doak-Doak, Doak-Doak” (sound of chickens). “pleeztomeetyu/whaddayudu?” Some pieces read smooth as notes from the trumpet of Miles Davis while others are “awkward as the balance between meanly accurate/and the motley’s drooling stutter.” Vorhees swims in metaphor, cataloging along the way, the “sweet menus/of Venus.” “Fruitful coconuts,” and “gum drop breasts,” with “licorice thighs.” There are “hidden valleys” to explore; caves in which the “stalactite (is) buried and unearthed through the long geologeons of night.” The body as sustenance, as in “the graceful arc of the taut banana.” The unmentionable act done “with joy unmatched/up/and/down/and/up/an ocean-rhythmed merry-go-round.” A “grand” symphony of the “organs” occurs. Eroticism and Eros mingle and mix: lust & love compete. “What we seek is really Sex/and love’s just one means to our end.” Maybe because Love the more difficult more trying choice. Love is “a Virgin in a Sherman tank, a saint in burnished chain mail.” Love is “like a guillotine. As mundane, as keen.” Vorhees uses battle imagery to convey a struggle between sexes: We must enforce “our missionary positions,” he writes, and “expose our privates at the front.” Some trysts lead to emotional stand-offs, as in ‘Queen of Denial’ when a tear escapes down her “Alcatraz cheek” (and in ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong,’ when “possibilities won’t swell any more.”) In ‘Ley Line,’ a great erotic poem, Vorhees outdoes himself in exquisite description--”that starts at the muscular center of fizzog expressions”-- of his delight in particulars of the bodily construct of his partner.

     This work is oftentimes sensuously rhythmic; Vorhees is a poet of meter and rhyme, regular and irregular. Usage of rhyme can be a tricky business: great whenever it “works”--as in “Giraffic/I lever through the sweat the noise the dirt the traffic.” Far less great when the rhyme scheme seems forced, self-consciously clever and obvious, even gratuitous: “so unlike Jenny/so many a man has worn her face, so many evenings. Her leaving goes down with flimsy haste.”

     Vorhees does interesting work with punctuation. Full colons bracket lines (Faulkner applied same style in his prose). Inventive use of the / (slash), in one poem using a series of them, like drawn sabers, in comparing a sexual tryst to a battle (‘VAN/ITY’).

     Like the Metaphysical poets of 17th century, Vorhees is inventive and has a love of intellectual elaboration. I do not claim to be able to follow all the pathways these poems lead down. The ones I have followed, I have enjoyed thoroughly, and, I am sure, so will you.

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