2016 - Paperback
Barrett Warner’s new collection Why Is It So Hard to Kill You? is perhaps best explained through his poem “Poem with Only a Single Reference to a Shotgun,” which does not actually contain a reference to a shotgun at all: only the animal’s convulsions, his bleeding ears. When the reader tries to focus this collection in his cross-hairs, it will not hold still for the shot, fragmenting into pleasing pieces just beyond the viewfinder.
The poems in Warner’s collection all have a silent haunting to them—a feeling that more hovers just off the page, perhaps by a hangman’s noose. Poems such as “I Thought I’d Stop Having Sex Dreams of Kim After She Broke Her Neck” and the poem “Did I Tell You How Much I Liked the Maple Candy?” play with the dark edge between ecstasy and disaster. In “Kim” the narrator’s sexual fantasies for a woman persist after a tragic accident that nearly killed her, and in “Maple Candy” the tenderness of a mare giving birth in maple sugar season is contrasted with the death of her foal who “suffered kissing spine/making him hurt everywhere/ except in his quiet, lean gaze/ as he galloped towards/ a barbiturate finish.” Even the foal’s imagined ailment “kissing spine” seems to revel in the terrible edge between light and dark. For Warner, love kills.
"Barrett Warner's poems are characteristically a mixture of the Marx Brothers, Russell Edson and James Tate, with touches of Dorothy Parker and H.P. Lovecraft—which is to say they really aren't like anyone else's. I think they're terrific fun to read and, for such entertainments, wise about both heart and head."
– ED OCHESTER Editor, Pitt Poetry Series
"This book made me smash my head repeatedly into the sharp edge of my desk."
– RUSSEL SWENSEN The Magic Kingdom
"Life may be labor, but Warner’s poems do not lose their openness to experiencing every moment. Why be merciful when time isn’t? He drinks the kerosene haunting a sleep that can’t always tell the difference between dreams and nightmares. These poems woke me up."
– TRACY DIMOND Want Your Tan