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Field Work

  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Poetry
  • by: David Hadbawnik
  • Date Published: April 2011
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-60964-010-1
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 138pp
  • Price: $16.00
  • Review by: Patrick James Dunagan

From the beginning, Hadbawnik's book offers itself as a tale of self-discovery: the precocious journey of a young poet brimming with literary-mindedness working towards further developing into a mature, aware-minded, somewhat older poet dutifully reporting back as his development continues. Unfortunately, rather than further sharpening and developing insights on writing or living, the work loses focus as it progresses and is worse off for it.

Hadbawnik opens with the possibility that by diving into himself via writing, he’ll thereby reveal something beyond his own sense of himself, allowing his person to become a vehicular channel for the song of words:

July 8 [1997]
As soon as I stepped outside the music started inside me, as though it had been waiting for me all along

Or that by offering alternate sets of takes on the traditional and familiar, "Alice returns, but nobody remembers her in wonderland" (“Jan 17” [1999]), his book will be evidence of such Fact as a reader sets in upon to further advance her own self-understanding and awareness. And this is more than enough to gain a reader’s interest from the start.

Yet by close of the book, Hadbawnik's work has more the reverse feel of ever promising to yield any revelations from an inwardly turned journey of literary development.

November 27 [2010]
Masturbate in the cafe john, bare ass against the sink—step back to REO Speed Wagon's "Time for me to Fly" on the stereo, feeling exhilarated

Hadbawnik fails to give any contextual grounding in the recording of the event here and appears rather happy and proud (“exhilarated”) to portray it as a purely self-gratifying moment of self-indulgence. It's at such points Field Work falters from its author's own limits. There’s a failure to entice the interest of his readers as nothing is given forward as deserving of their concern.

Field Work moves from sparsely written records of visual sightings full of juvenile hints of sexual discovery, while remaining alight with humorous self-awareness:

The dark woman in bursting blue jeans leaned over whispering into the ear of the old lady. And then turned around—her lips bent every which way around a huge smile, her breasts enormous—and all I see is "Modern German Literature" ("July 6" [1997])

To the yet further juvenile verse (some ten years later) of

Good lookin girl
wearin tight Dickies
look at you you're such a dicktease ("Song" [revised] Oct 19 2010)

Since this rhyming image of “tight Dickies” with “dicktease” occurs at least twice in the text (the instances separated by a couple of years) it would appear to be a developing motif in Hadbawnik’s consciousness.

Although in conception, and at early points of execution, Field Work is reminiscent of Creeley's A Day Book, nothing is offered here that comes close to being as engaging as that previous work beyond the promise shown early on by the occasional well-executed snapshot-framing of his thought responses to passing scenes in words. Unfortunately, there is no advance or otherwise accumulation of merit proving of use to others.

Too often, Hadbawnik settles for a self-satisfaction which falls flat. As the years pass and the work accrues (at a decreasing rate, the dated entries become fewer in number year by year, as if Hadbawnik’s own interest in the project declines), his details—the specifics—start to lack focus, both in texture and measure. The reading fails to prove enriching, as much for its own sake as that of its audience.

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Review Posted on August 02, 2011

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