Review by Cheryl A. Townsend (email)

by Mark Hartenbach

Pudding House Publications, 81 Shadymere Lane, Columbus, OH 43213; 34pp., $8.95

Did you ever listen to the profoundness of a madman? Their delicate genius tweaking your ideas of normal & obscure and questioning your own beliefs and interpretations. Mark’s poems make you dissect those perceptions down to their foundation and reassess the simplicity of just being. He writes a fragile strength that blatantly reminds you to harken to the whispers, because there is where the truth hides.

In these pages are sketches of childhood memories from a struggling Appalachian life. These modest testimonials of survival are stoic wanderings of his understanding, superseding his age and limited surroundings. Intertwined with current times, the poems have such innocence and vulnerability that they cry true for any age.

From his poem "hide out":

i can still hear muffled voices rising in anger, sometimes
i think i hear my name. i pull more things off hangers, trying
to bury myself deeper that any repercussions. i have no
other options. they’ve been removed one by one while i
watched helplessly.

It’s hard to say when these demons plague him. Is this childhood abuse or unwelcome visitors to his psyche? Mark is the perpetual blue-eyed boy. He always looks to be in need of a heartfelt hug and, given his timid nature, you can’t help but give it. These poems exemplify that gentle spirit with childlike clarity.
From his poem "king mok":

i’d sit for hours alone at a small desk that my
grandmother bought me. losing myself drawing
stories that i could slip into & out of with ease.

And you picture him there. Big, oversized pencil in his small hand, tongue licking his lower lip base, hunkered over stories of heroics and escape. 

There's the local swimming hole, the train rumbling by, the 5 & 10 store, haunted houses, curmudgeon neighbors, and red-ball jets all appear her to remind us of our own youth and how lucky it may have been and how, no matter how bad it was, there was a childhood eye of making it fun. I think Mark still has that gift and he’s sharing it with us here.



Cheryl A Townsend is a poet that used to publish Impetus magazine & own cat's Impetuous Books in Ohio, but now writes reviews and columns for epitome magazine. The only thing that hasn't change is the color of her hair.. and that's only thanks to L'oreal.


Note: Reviews may not necessarily reflect the opinions of RATTLE's editors and staff.