Review:Following on from David Stone’s previous chapbook The Bloodhound Works of last fall, Propaganda Press/Alternating Current has released his newest installment, The Hogbutcher Poems. Though Stone is based in Baltimore, both of these collections are set in Chicago where he has spent time, and the title of this latest must certainly be in part a reference to Chicago poet Carl Sandburg, who famously described the city as “Hog Butcher for the World.”
That said, the term “Hogbutcher” here can have other resonances. Where Stone’s previous chapbook dealt with our present economic upheaval, this new one seems to focus on the environment, the food industry, and our alienation from the processes by which we glean our own sustenance, all of it poisoned and redolent of death. In one poem,
Theincandescent DEAD[...][...] splash& crispenon the oily griddle.
In another, the water supply is full of sulphur, benzene, radioactive waste. In “In Hogbutcher City,”
Odorsof death[...][...] prepare carcasseswith seasoningsfor family picnics[...]
“Production Scheduling” is perhaps a comment on the factory farming system — baby piglets are slaughtered according to a production model, and,
[...]Wait, one is aliveand blinking.OK, I can fix thatwith my tire iron.
Stone’s vision is often violent and apocalyptic, but it is little details such as these that make us see the connection between the horror and our daily lives. These are not poems for the faint-hearted, but both subject and form (often clipped, prose-like, philosophical iterations of ideas and images) force us to reexamine contemporary society and the wider world in which we live. Stone’s work is highly recommended.