Night Chant
By Andrew Demcak
Night Chant by Andrew Demcak

The poems in Andrew Demcak's Night Chant are as conscious of the ghosts in the room as they are the living bodies. Through myth, they look for the secret life behind Eros with daring, candor, wildness, and wit. If you want simple consolation, go elsewhere. If you want to read poems that are dazzling and true, see here. - Paul Lisicky

Not a word is wasted in these short poems, which bloom and burst with colorful imagery. Heightened language and metaphors illuminate dark subjects - Matthew Shepard's death, junkies, partners lost in car crashes - while the vagaries of birth, sexuality and memory are brought into shocking focus by Andrew Demcak's alchemist pen. - Collin Kelley

Into a richly macabre cityscape, the poems in Andrew Demcak's fourth collection expose their secrets, from the desire of unbearable addictions to the shocking violence of hate crimes. They converge into the urgent whispered voices we hear following us in the dark. They become night chants. - Charles Jensen

Microreview: On Andrew Demcak's "Night Chant"


Consciously oppressive and morose, Andrew Demcak's new book of poetry Night Chant labors to create what could in lesser hands seem like a queer rewriting of Sylvia Plath.  Demcak knows better, although he, too, creates a dreary atonality through intriguing word choices.  Often the work he does here feels strained, but in a good way; he doesn't want any of his triggers to produce a baldfaced narrative.  The titles of his poems --"Rent Boy," "Crossing the Water," "Troll," "Child Killer"-- seem irrelevant; they feel like a random noun someone uttered to rev Demcak up to show his skill.  And there's more than a solid amount of ability here.

For a significant portion of the book, Demcak strains to deconstruct a noun, and then asks us to help him reassemble it.  In the better poems, we feel the labor of that strain--the diction and metaphor pushing the subject in a way that force it to become something one can perceive as new.  Here's some of the fun play in the personae poem "Oedipus Rex": "His lips had lost their sphinx,/ that tired jinx, that nag./...Midnight's middle was not an empty room./My cock was the answer to the riddle."  Or the curiously askew final couplet in "Orgasm vs. Rainbow": "Orgasms are bluster, quick mouthfuls, ogling eyes./But you have rainbows for days after denouncing the clouds."

Occasionally, he doesn't feel like he's straining quite enough; he doesn't deserve the release.  For example, in the less striking poem "Eros": "Inferno, bright flame, the spasm of flesh./ Halos blazing sparks ignite: orgasm."

Demcak's book sometimes feels over-long (close to ninety pages); the exertion required for reading such a lengthy book feels slightly greedy, especially since some of the poems like "Mirror at Forty" and "In Solitude" could be easily edited to highlight some of the best like "Eavesdropper, 1990" and the daring "Mishima Fantasy.".  But still, it's hard to find any place in the the book where there is anything that resembles "a merciless desert here, this page." - Steve Fellner @ Pansy Poetics Reviews

Get a copy at the library or buy a copy here.