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Book Review :: What Just Happened by Richard Hell and Christopher Wool

What Just Happened by Richard Hell book cover image

Guest Post by Susan Kay Anderson

Really, what just happened when I read this book of poems, scribble scrabble drawings, photographs of crows, essays, and a memoir/list? Do I finally realize why my friend Robert Christie (who was a musician) was so enamored by Richard Hell? Probably. Coming across this writer reminds me of all the things I loved about Robert and his wife, Denise, what is direct and plainspoken, what is unusual and gifted.

Hell references Bill Knott in poems, and this can tickle the funny bone in a way that is curioser and curiouser. We do get a sublime glimpse into Hell’s music life and see that it cannot be separated from his writing. Even his essays are sprinkled with pure poetic reverie, “For instance, Roy Orbison hummed like chauffeured teal.” (“Falling Asleep”) My goodness! This is genius territory, beware!

My favorite poem is “Poets,” as I have just never read what poets do and what poetry is expressed so profoundly:

what poets hope to have
their writing do is somehow
trick into being
all that time forgot

Forgetting you, we are certainly not, Richard Hell.

What Just Happened by Richard Hell with images by Christopher Wool. Winter Editions, June 2023.

Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson lives in southwestern Oregon’s Umpqua River Basin. Her long poem “Man’s West Once” was selected for Barrow Street Journal’s “4 X 2 Project” and is included in Mezzanine (2019). Anderson also published Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir, Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast (2021).