Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising

Poets and Killers is a shining example of thoughtful and provoking appropriation-based poetry. Hajnoczky follows the trend set by predecessors Rob Fitterman (see Metropolis XXX) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (see Fake Math), with her Brion Gysin-like cut-up approach to producing a socially aware and (un)original text. By appropriating the language of advertisers, Hajnoczky writes the biography of a man from birth to death. The successful completion of the task itself is remarkable, but her approach also astutely points out how corporations have managed to sell every aspect of a person’s life.
But Poets and Killers goes far beyond simple social critique. Hajnoczky is not pointing out that advertisers have exploited the emotions and valued moments of an individual’s life; she’s fighting back. As advertisers have appropriated the lyric mode of writing – a form that has rightfully been under scrutiny by the contemporary community of cutting edge writers for quite some time – Hajnoczky re-appropriates the appropriated. Inadvertently or not, she reinvigorates the lyric poem and creates a meaningful and socially aware book of poetry.
Another unsung strength of Hajnoczky’s text is its potential to appeal to both experimental writers and those writing within more conventional traditions. Poets and Killers could be seen as a bridge between the groups. Those interested in lyric poetry are introduced to its rich experimentalism; others can appreciate the book’s social critique and intelligent use of source text. Although I cannot speak to Hajnoczky’s work outside her journal submissions and excerpts, this first trade book of poetry shows an excellent start to a body of work worth reading. (Eric Schmaltz)

Helen Hajnoczky, 78 pgs, Snare Books, snarebooks.wordpress.com, $12