Down the Western Dark

Down the Western Dark by Bill Hughes reads very much like a lost Bob Dylan manuscript circa 1965. Indeed, reading this 80-page volume of poetry is a lot like reading Dylan’s Lyrics: 1962-1985. Everything from the book’s subject matter to the poet’s style, right down to the typeface (Clarendon, I believe) has the vibe of a loving homage to the American pop music icon. Pieces like “Smells Bad Over Yonder” and “Tired Again” echo Dylan’s earliest work, while prose poems “Bottom World” and “From an Interview with Casey Jones” are reminiscent both of Dylan’s liner notes for John Wesley Harding and his novel-in-poems, Tarantula. Yet Hughes is no mere imitator; playing with form in a way that evokes e.e. cummings, he also splices the trappings of 21st-century living (“when I die, I will come back/as a dvd player,” he writes in one poem) into his otherwise rustic landscapes. Thus while certainly Dylanesque, Down the Western Dark is also the unique work of a journeyman poet doing what poets do best — borrowing from the past in order to invent the future.

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