(T)here by Jonathan Hayes reviewed in Unlikely Stories 2.0
(T)here by Jonathan Hayes
Silenced Press, 2010
Reviewed by Gabriel Ricard in Unlikely Stories 2.0
(T)here will not be a simple visit for those easily intimidated by an ever-evolving concept of the surreal. In the world Jonathan Hayes portrays in the fifty-seven pages of this long poem, time and space quickly become his sole intellectual property. There are passages in the book in which we find ourselves experiencing every aspect of a very specific place and time. Other points of interest feel as though they are taking us by the throat across decades and locales that can change completely from one line to the other. It’s a weird kind of fun, but not everyone is going to be able to both breathe and take everything in at the same time.
That shouldn’t stop anyone from reading this. Those who find themselves overwhelmed early on would probably benefit from just continuing right along. It’s worth the descent into a world Hayes creates through vibrant language and images capable of being anything from troubling, to touching, to hilarious and even heartbreaking. These visuals occasionally contradict each other. Sometimes they’re just confusing. Its worth those reactions to get to the last page and have no doubt that the perspective you’ve just read contains a deep understanding of the world beneath the casual surroundings so many others take for granted. Hayes sees and writes of things that most of us can only relate to in small patches. When (T)here is taken as a whole, it’s something we can only completely experience by reading the book itself. This alone should be enough to get you past the front door that leads to a world that only Hayes fully understands. The only one who might come close is William S. Burroughs, and he’s been dead for quite some time.
There’s a touch of Burroughs’ wheezing, grim spectacle of prose in (T)here. Certainly not a rip-off it’s likely Hayes does count him as an influence. Like any good writer Hayes takes influences like those and uses them to enrich his own originality. Because there is without question a great deal of startling originality to be found in these pages. (T)here is a road trip into a psyche that never ceases to change, and never fails to be exciting. Along the way it’s obvious that we’re going to spend a little more time in Hell than Heaven. By the end you’ll be glad you did. Hayes’ vision of the world works best when you take on the beautiful and hideous at the same time. It’s a deranged ride, but it’s worth every left and right across a cityscape of bedlam and memories.