David Hernandez’s fifth poetry collection Hello I Must Be Going (Univ. of Pittsburgh), guides us through lucid and surreal observations. His writing trajectory over the years is impressive. In addition to the previous four collections, he published two YA novels with HarperTeen. His honors include the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry, the Crab Orchard Series poetry prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Hernandez does not disappoint with this new triptych collection.
The opening section includes two poems titled “Hello I Must Be Going,” each braided by perspectives about complicity. In the first, Hernandez writes, “dying is the thing / everyone is not talking about it / why ruin karaoke night.” The poem’s final lines yank the rug out from under us in a triumphant declaration, “the point is to make a sound / any sound in this endless parade / shimmering toward silence.” The companion title poem asks, “how long you think / before every jukebox is silent / in this coastal town.” They’re just a warm-up (no pun intended!) for the calamitous second section, which explores “the wreckage of the universe” in poems with titles like “Landscape with Cheetah Going Seventy in the Serengeti,” “Landscape with American Sycamore and the Severed Heads of Honeybees,” and “Landscape with Pumpjacks Overtaken by Vines.”
In the final section, the focus turns toward the works of four distinct artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramović, and Raphael. It becomes clear that Hernandez is envisioning his impact as a literary artist as he meditates on the impermanence of these artists’ lives, and of his own. Hernandez’s self-consciousness doesn’t stop him from “talking about it.” Still, the final lines of the collection reveal complicity with his role by accepting that this is “part of the contract we make by breathing. / We sign it every second.”
Hello I Must Be Going is noteworthy for urging its readers to practice empathy, as it emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things within the universe. People who love poetry and art will find resonance in this imaginative and coherent collection.