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January 22, 2022 / barton smock

words mine toward the works of poet Darren C Demaree…in the name of being in one place at once

Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly
poems by Darren C. Demaree
8th House Publishing, 2016

‘Covered in the inscriptions of bizarre
timing…  – from A Violent Sound in Almost Every Place #104

‘If today is the day
to walk towards
the sad, diverted

questions…’ – from All the Birds Are Leaving #35

Darren C. Demaree is a poet who carries in him a gentle tirelessness. He seems, by the worried exuberance of his verse, to want to know where he is that he might calm the distance in others. Audience is the loneliness he’s assigned himself. He recently signed a book of his for me and added: in Ohio in 2017. That book was, is, Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly. It is a book of both homage and future. A frantically pastoral book that moves as if each carousel horse could have a mind of its own while entertaining the idea that discovery may be on its second marriage. These poems achieve a tension that oddly is not reached by what the author withholds, but by what the author seeks. Into what does one engrave the gospel of change?

The book is made of three humanist parts representing Birth (A Violent Sound in Almost Every Place), Life (We Are Arrows), and Death (All the Birds Are Leaving).

The first, A Violent Sound in Almost Every Place, reads as an occupation of places otherworldly in the way it holds aloft the local…

‘…sure night of this


wait for the room
of the room

to hold
a wider table

for our loose need’ – from #17

in late morning,
each flapping wing

means something
to a man

looking for any sign
or invitation
to be a creature.’ – from #75

…and in the way it possesses the acolyte.

‘…It is every

second of heaven, except
for your need to hear
your name said by God.’ – from #22

‘…I can hear
my body all the time,

now.’ – from #28

The second, We Are Arrows, seems narrated by a straggling, curious invader.

‘…I want, at times, to know we are not
precious to each other, and I want to know
that this feeling is misleading me to a
recoverable place.‘ – from #17

‘Unfenced, we have imagined wrongly that every
cornfield contains a proper ghost.’ – from #20

‘…If in the middle, the surrounding starts to
panic you, then love, I suppose, could be an
oven as well.’ – from #152

The third, All the Birds Are Leaving, asks the crooked whole of a person to make a map of her upward gaze.

‘…I want to know
what happens when
warmth is never known

& then sneaks into the bath
of human experience
like a toe & then a body’ – from #8

‘Our hope is the best
forgetting.’ – #14

‘…We cannot
fly forever because of our
hammering want

to touch each other.’ – from #28

Entry, re-entry, and exodus…this book covers sacred ground. It is ambitious but not breathless, and believes in, and makes one worship beneath, its endeavor to put alienation out of reach. Demaree’s script hungers in the linear but does not starve the jigsaw. If we acknowledge the light at the end of the tunnel, we must also return to the shadow said light puts there.


Two Towns Over
poems by Darren C. Demaree
Trio House Press, 2017

*Winner of the 2017 Louise Bogan Award

Nobody tosses
out the drugs

of the dead.
That’s not how
this works. – {from} Monroe Mills, Ohio

Darren C. Demaree, in his book Two Towns Over, blesses a cursed Ohio with a populace whose touch is fighting an infection.

I know this Ohio…I know what it’s like to step over the shadow of one’s ghost…to lay low so as to give death nothing to leap from. To jump rope in hell. Demaree points to places made for map that have instead gone on to shoulder nowhere, from bunk bed to basement, looking to be housed.

Each entry, each poem, is an abruption, an angry rendering of those hypnotic recognitions that ask the present for the past and the past for the present that there may be a future locating of the hiccup lost to the moan of exile.

The title alone howls a human proximity over the work’s body to which ash is the salt of context. What is the purpose of show and tell if it is merely a prop for cause and effect, and why dream if even those in the mirage are thirsty? Answer is an act, and the writing here allows inquiry its melancholy passage through the museums of the ahistoric and positions itself as a headlight in the gut of any cyclops livestreaming the ideas dangled below the drowned. There are churches, here, and drugs. But there is no here here. Eternity has left to play the long game and most congregate as an avoidance raised on erasure.

I grew up in Ohio on what I called with my brothers a farm but what was really the shell of a farm. No animals, and noiseless machines towering above the broken and statuesque. We would joke that we were the only farm boys in Ohio who couldn’t use their hands. All jokes are serious, and no one is alone.

To hold this book, with its odes to the corners of drug houses, its sweet wolves, and its towns skipped over by sameness, is to return the clay its handmade hope. And to realize, that to be correctly dead, one must have belongings.


Bombing The Thinker
poems, Darren C. Demaree
Backlash Press, 2018

‘It must be terrible
to be all root
all the time,’ – {from} Not Crop, Not Husk

‘I’d take a weapon. I’d use it
in a war or near a war. I just
want to watch the little bugger

eat through a quiet person.’ – {from} A Damaged Thinker #78

Tender, overwhelmed, and necessary, Darren C. Demaree’s Bombing The Thinker is act, rumination, emission, and place. A work that, after its instruction, one may ask why it matters that our messengers be alive. In it, or from it, Demaree re-petals the flower of discourse surrounding the 1970 vandalism of Rodin’s The Thinker in Cleveland, Ohio, that left the sculpture with a wounded base. Keep reading- this book transcends the heaven of concept and the hell of novelty. Demaree is an archivist of urgency, an acolyte of engagement, who, with an anxious clarity, and for the deeply frantic, draws from puzzle piece the missing scar. Conclusion ends nothing, and these entries mark the heel of any angel made heavier for its inquiry into the origins of finality. If too often the witness we bear is custom made for that which our projected histories advertise as clearing space, and if creation continues to provide an alibi for assault while claiming to have no past, I’d offer that the gift of attention in this book may return both rib and feather to those dreaming of their proximity to liftoff while listing what they’d do for a glimpse of gaze. There is a stillness in the small ask of this work, and I think a quiet that clones the non-existent raisers of movement, and if I haven’t seen cruelty correctly, I can at least give my eyesight a before and after. Art is an error worth covering for.


Emily As Sometimes the Forest Wants the Fire
poems, Darren C. Demaree
Harpoon Books 2019

If god were here, above this pool in backyard Ohio, I think he’d write with wasp. I say this as the imagined part-owner of a disembodied worry as gifted to any who might look up from Darren C. Demaree’s Emily As Sometimes the Forest Wants the Fire and feel a sort of third-wheel holiness in the running of a blood that sobers itself alongside Demaree’s converging of absence with artifact. As partnership may absolve loneliness of secretly playing tag and as shadow makes a lost feast for long animals, Emily, like inclusion, is untouchable. Using simile as bait for metaphor, and metaphor to say in the same breath both pain and paint, this verse fishes compass from the ashes of emergence. These are love, or better yet, loved, poems, but no phrasing here brackets tenderness as a search engine. If it’s true that muse is a trapdoor, Demaree upends discovery and makes of minimalism the handprint that trespass uses to contextualize and de-center worship that it might erase the hand and lure from fantasy the have-not of an only dream.


Nude Male with Echo
poems, Darren C Demaree
8th House Publishing, 2019

When I am mirrored,
I touch the mirror; that is my problem. #55

These entries of retraceable paucity, as they exist in Darren C. Demaree’s Nude Male with Echo, are funny, critical, and curious and may add years to a past life that’s revised its timeline to longer crowd-surf the silent audience. Both a broken actuality and a puzzled baring, the work is a triumph of constant brevity and a sanctuary of purpose for any person who’s closed a circle while knowing their loneliness is up for renewal.

Could it be I am
an apple in the river
& I will never be
eaten? #181

Being naked is not something one can practice, not something one can perfect, but Demaree is a tenderly invisible journalist whose reportage records equally the shy swallowing in a museum of water and the overlooked vision that watches as sight draws a bath for the washer of its glass eye.


Unfinished Murder Ballads
poems, Darren C. Demaree
w/ photo accompaniment of Ryan Barker’s ‘Midwest Nostalgia’
Backlash Press (2020)

The premise of blood is a color.
-from The Facts Persisted

On the occasion that flood brings you a painted body, know that I had everything to do with it…
-from The Cage Is Unwound By The Poetry Of Death

As if hiding in Eden after hearing a pop-gun, the poet Darren C. Demaree makes short work of vast vision in his Unfinished Murder Ballads, a collection of implanted cares and layered addictions as played for those still awake inside the cinema of the abrupt. Whether ashes or trailings, Demaree finds the evaporated clue and spirits it toward the character actor whose family feels abandoned by exit. Nothing in this meditation overstays, and at times it seems that words are at a loss for people. If the verses here make their first impressions hoping to access the fractured archive of impulse survival, the bodies that said verses nourish know, or pretend to know, that paranoia has only one hand. Water helps vacancy find a vein, and water goes everywhere baptism is not. Poison is the shortest story, and paint protects the frostbitten. A pair of bicycle legs dreams submergence, and a camera dreams god. Not everything comes to pass, but in the etching of this death music, in the crooked humming of shared worship and separate goal, a stillness is reached. Vignette is no small church.


a child walks in the dark / poems, Darren C. Demaree / Small Harbor, 2021

Holy with intention, Darren C. Demaree’s a child walks in the dark is a non-performative piece of displayed belief and an unbroken speaking of the telling world. Poems here are remnant doings, and each month is a faith. Demaree tells a son, tells a daughter, tells them both, and in the saying, another thing is built inside the thing built to fall. Memory has to start somewhere, myth is a myth, and the children are long. The verse here is gentle, protected by wonder and worry and wager, but it is not safe. In one breath, there is blueprint, and in that same breath, there is something unsold from the museum of cold weather that must be described correctly in order to be seen by both the young and by the architect of their forgetting.

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