Spectrum of Flight by David Hanlon / Animal Heart Press / February 18, 2020
David Hanlon captures readers from the beginning of his evocative, shockingly vulnerable “Spectrum of Flight”. When I say the beginning, I mean it – simply scanning over the table of contents reveals a list of poem titles seemingly pulled straight from my hidden bedside journal: “My voice was too feminine,” “Our love exists in shadows,” and “Dream in which my teeth rot and fall out,” to name a few. I was immediately entranced, excited to discover what these titles represented and how they would relate to the poetry itself.
The very first poem, whose title is much too incredible for me to spoil, likens the speaker to spoiled roadkill;
Because it was the embodiment of abandon.
Because it was disembowelled / bruise-purple / swollen spaghetti marinated in roadkill crimson.
Because I too / had been gutted by a district called “home”.
It’s this vivid, revolting imagery that makes you, makes me, look at ourselves and realize all the ugly truths we’ve been avoiding. Throughout Spectrum of Flight, I found myself forced to accept that I need to stop tucking ugly memories away because, eventually, they find their way back to the front.
It was soon after this initial poem that I wanted to stop, not because the poetry was bad, but because I ran into a poem I didn’t know if I could handle. “My voice was too feminine” struck me as a title when I first read it, but reading it? I face this battle on a daily basis, struggling with speaking to others, knowing that if they don’t see my face, I’ll be called “ma’am”. Hyper-masculinity is a culture I live surrounded by, a constant fear that I’ll get called out when my voice is heard. But I read this poem anyway. In the middle of it, David writes:
I remember begging my brother to ask for me / too self-conscious of my own feminine voice.
Wow. It’s not just me, I thought. Then I realized, this was a poem – it did exactly what a poem was meant to do. It brought me comfort, gave me safety, let me know I wasn’t alone.
I had to put the poems down for a bit after reading that one. The power of it was healing, transformative. Few poems have reached me in this way. A little while later, I found myself continuing my journey. I then ran into yet another line, this one in “Inhaling the sky”:
Did I rattle for decades in a flesh prison of my own making?
The imagery! In one line, David evokes such a wide spread of questions and emotions. Why have I let others affect me so much? Why haven’t I broken my cage yet? I want freedom, yet I’m the only one who can achieve that for myself. Once again, I found myself just utterly focused on incredible wordplay.
I won’t spoil the entire chapbook, but I will say this. David Hanlon is a poet through and through. With a refreshing vulnerability that can force your own insecurities to the surface, Spectrum of Flight is a beautiful, heart-wrenching journey. Like a bird pushed a bit too soon from its nest, these poems show you how to find your footing after the fall, then, how to mend your shredded wings and take flight.