Headhunter Poems: Ken Greenley
One man has painted a portrait of the world as he sees it through many different camera lenses you might say, through different pairs of eyes and within his own scope or perception of life as it sees it. Poems that relate the despair inflicted on humanity, the streets willed with drunks, teens that cannot find their way, our propensity for looking in all the wrong directions when the right answers are in front of us and the disregard we have for our environment and the havoc wreaked on it by humans, nature and government agencies all fill the pages of this interesting collection of Headhunter Poems. Defining headhunter one might relate that it refers to a tribe or race of savages who have the “custom of decapitating human beings and preserving their heads as trophies.” Reading these poems you begin to wonder if what the author relates in his work just how low our society has become and just where he feels humans are as to compare them to the debase and dangerous headhunters that seek out their prey and revere in their deaths.
Society has a unique and sometimes dismal way of looking at life and each one of us creates our own picture and images of people, faces, lives that look lost and the hopelessness we sometimes face. In the poem Just Look at the Place the author reminds us of places that used to be clean and are now missing shingles. Shutters that hang off the windows and the once beautiful trees filled with dead leaves. Addresses hard to read and a neighborhood that once existed have been torn down and the faces changed and the class of people differs. Imagine a rundown place turned into a starlet’s dream or is it?
When you read the poem the Bees Don’t Want That Monsanto Food you begin to understand just what people have done to our air quality, the food we eat and how we rely on genetics to produce our food and even the bees shun the cuisine, the bad service and the fact that we do not appreciate what is right in front of us and explore nature the right way. As the bees leave and refuse to share their nectar look at the picture of the dying trees on page 12. It says it all. Followed by Gasoholic, which focuses on our obsession with cars, gasoline, driving the big, the gas hungry and the huge in order to get around. Old cars do not exist, small cars are not in and the cost of gas rising and the urge to invade oil-producing countries and the finality that we have become a society of technology. What would you be without your IPOD, Cell phone or anything that you can stick in your ear or use to communicate? He seems to imply that what is in between our ears has been sucked out!
Each illustration, by Angela Mark, so creatively and originally drawn takes readers inside the mind of the author and the poem’s narrator creating vivid images of what he is trying to say as we view the black and white illustrations filled with turmoil, one central figure and sending a clear message to readers. Creed is quite compelling as the author creates a simple sentence and ends it with a truism you might say or a harsh reality. “Let’s all go shopping: to protect our freedom”
“ Let’s all invade other countries: to spread democracy”
“ Let’s all dig mass graves: for the foundation of new societies.” This definitely gives readers much pause for thought and makes you wonder just what we have come to in many different ways. Old Sneakers was really quite interesting as he explains the roads he walked in these special sneakers, the glorious walks, the steep mesa inclines and the dark woods they tramped through. But, a new pair replaces them and the old is placed in the new box. He compares the box to a coffin or death for the sneakers and he relates a simple eulogy as if he were saying goodbye to a friend. A poem about Superman or George Reeves is next followed by When I Go to Meet Them which focuses on what he hopes happens after he dies and he meets Gods Light. Hopefully they will see him coming and laugh. He asks the same unanswered questions that many still ask today and we all wonder why is there so much suffering in the world? When he dies he hopes they see him coming and laugh or they will be very angry. The picture on page 46 relates the message quite clearly.
There are so many poems each dealing with political issues, the environment, the world, people in general, pollution, waste and wasted life. Night Shift Poem deals with working in many places at different times when most are sleeping as the moon calls these people to work, some face long nights and other that work by day have no clue as to what these people encounter. He speaks to the “day people” as he refers to those who work days and relates what he perceives they do, their actions and what he or anyone else sees as they guard the empty buildings, walk the warehouse flows and find themselves alone with their “solitude and struggles.” You can feel the tension, the anger, the frustration as this worker who has finally completed his day struggles to go home, watches the morning people and then does it all over again. The poem that hits home is Life. Hearing the footsteps in a Senior Care Facility, watching someone who is about to take their last breath and knowing that the only sound heard are the boot heels, yours as you make your way down to the room of someone you love. The picture on page 39 show person sitting alone, not able to see and appearing to contemplate what is next but has not face it. Gone! The last line you figure out what they means when you read the poem. My mom and my aunt loved Two for One Days and the poem will remind everyone of the days when you could actually get 2 for one but no more. The figure on page 41 seems to be moving in many directions but cannot find its way our of the maze. City Playground describes children at play, the imaginations we used to have as we pretended that there were Indians, outlaws and the many images we conjured up while playing within the steel and concrete. Finally I Never Should Have talks about the many things the narrator never should have done since drinking in the small park by the bus stop a bad move. Missing the bus, sitting alone drinking his bear, peaceful but in the end find out why it was a bad idea. Sacrifice, Second Great Depression Poem and the title poem the Headhunter Poem round out the last section but there are many more. Describing exactly what you might think a real headhunter might do the author brilliantly describes what someone thinks happened, how our heads are filled with information, some true, some propaganda and why he shrunk your head or anyone’s head for that matter because most people never take time to listen, see, care, think, feel or yield to needs of others. Obstacle: what happens when he is done? Weapons is interesting but the last poem and the picture on the last page sums it up: Prayer: wouldn’t it be nice if there was a “prayer for peace and quiet, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes.” That would be sobering to say the least. The picture of the figure on page 104 is quite telling as the hands on the figure are clasped in prayer but the rest seems to remind us of the confusion and noise in the world that we can never seem to block out.
Take a trip into the world of author Ken Greenley and hear his voice, that of the many narrators telling their own stories, visit Colfax Avenue, learn about how to protect our freedoms, read about April in spring and laugh, smile, wonder, frown, yell, scream and enjoy the humor, the sarcasm and the stories the relates within the pages of Headhunter Poems. Original, told in the author’s own voice or that of the narrator these poems will definitely make you look within your own self and wonder just where we went right, where we went wrong and where we still need to go. From the outstanding illustrations by Angela Mark to the creative and unique poems by Ken Greenley, Headhunter Poems creates a picture of humans, our faults, flaws, successes and failings that should make everyone take a closer look within themselves and change.
Fran Lewis: reviewer