Review by J.K. Shawhan of Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly
Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly by Darren C. Demaree
Published by 8th House Publishing
"I gave up smoking / so that there would be / one less way to find me,"
What do you get when you take titles away from poems? Darren C. Demaree's newest collection of poems comes in three parts, where the poems in each sequence share a title. Individual titles are hints that Demaree did not give to the meaning of his poems, and there is one less way, as his first poem in this collection agrees, to find the poet's message.
Instead, there are just the words beneath where the titles should be and we readers are left to use those to decipher what the poet means, so grab the book, sit down, and get ready to read.
The first sequence of poems in his collection is about the many sounds you encounter in life, whether outside noise or just the chaos in your head. There are the sounds you try to make to describe a woman, the words of anger (which are often better left unsaid), the noises of an acquaintance thankfully absent from your vacation away from them, and the creeping noises inside of yourself expressing fear and anxiety. This last one, Demaree excellently described, is the sound of being gagged and pushed by a thousand hands. Maybe afterwards they clapped inelegantly, like the title of the collection implies?
Specifically, "A Violent Sound in Almost Every Place #62" depicts a narrator pleading for silence, except for one sound of extreme pain and one sound of extreme love because, we are left to infer, any other sounds are unimportant.
But again, not all sounds are audible. There is the sound within ourselves that "A Violent Sound In Almost Every Place #119" tells a story about, which is the sound within ourselves that drives us to try to be the center of attention. This is something that comes from within our souls, yet in society today it is so loud, it escapes to the outside. You must admit it, even if you don't admit it to yourself until you read Demaree's poems, but there is something inside of all of us, screaming to make ourselves the star.
The next sequence features the great "we," the group applauding inelegantly together. But what are we applauding? The need to live on, trying to fly before you know how to land, the possibility of reincarnation, the struggle with faith, and much more.
Then the last sequence, All the Birds Are Leaving, features fear and death heavily, as well as how "We strain, always, / for a message / from the stars" as well as how we make monsters to call ourselves heroes.
To capture the sound of society applauding inelegantly, Demaree touched on many of our fears, everyday thoughts, aspirations, and struggles, and divided them into three sections, in one poetry collection. We are all afraid of being chucked, like "the birds / that could not sing / fast enough" and most, if not all, of us spend our lives looking for answers. The thoughts and sounds of living, if meshed together, would make a confused, unpolished sound.
His sequences aren't complete, though. For example, Demaree's collection jumps from We Are Arrows #100 to We Are Arrows #109, like there is nothing between, or like there is something between that just slipped through the cracks of the pages. We may not know what was written in these missing poems, but we do know that Darren C. Demaree knows something about living.