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Fudge—A Treat, a Lie: Andrew Weatherhead’s Fudge

Jesi Bender

Andrew Weatherhead
Publishing Genius, October 2023


don’t know about you but I saw Andrew Weatherhead’s $50,000 everywhere when it came out. People were talking and, from what I read, they were enthusiastic about his work. Elisa Gabbert called it “[a] soothing book about language, loneliness, uncertainty and the banal rhythms of existence.” So, I was excited to get the opportunity to review his latest from Publishing Genius entitled Fudge. It carries on the same themes and everyday observances that received so much acclaim in his previous books.

The collection is comprised of seven sections, most of which are dated in two-year increments starting in 2016. The first poem in the collection is titled “Sessility” in a section called “Hollow Points”. Google tells me sessility is the state of immobility, often used in the context of crustacean lifeforms. Paradoxically, the first word of “Sessility” is “[w]alking”. In the poems that follow, despite moving around downtown Manhattan, Weatherhead’s sessility is less a stagnancy and more a motionless adherence to the hull of Manhattan as the murky brown water of the East River streams past. Almost like by watching something go by, you move without moving.

The poems in this section and for most of this book had a striking similarity to a poet I’ve been reading with my 8-year-old daughter. She was assigned to read a book that features Matsuo Bashō and we’ve looked into his writing, since I had never heard of him before. Apparently, Bashō is a very famous Japanese poet from the Edo period (the late 1600’s) who specialized in haiku and a form called haikai no renga, which loosely translates to “comic linked verse.” Haikai no renga seeks to find humor in very concise syllabic constraints and eschews traditional poetic standards in favor of “vulgar” or everyday life. An example:

To an old pond
A frog leaps in
And the sound of the water

Weatherhead’s writing seems like Bashō to me but with a modern sensibility and maybe a bit of Beat spirit. A poem entitled “Whole Foods” reads:

Everyone leaves town
And I stay I see a car
Hit a pedestrian

The juxtaposition of two ‘unlike’ elements—a fancy grocery store and a car accident—become related through the author’s placement. It is a place and it is a feeling and it is this moment they both hold. Weatherhead’s poems seem to ask what are you paying attention to? In my favorite section, “Things the Photoshop Instructor Said and Did”, Weatherhead exposes the futility and artifice that goes into art-making in late capitalism. It is hilarious because you can imagine an instructor being incredibly earnest as “[h]is first words were ‘Photoshop is for dreamers, unlike InDesign’”. It’s the humor that breaks your heart because, even in creativity, everything is rooted in competition, in what is the more ‘pure’ art form. And everything is always for sale. Weatherhead tells us the instructor’s “parting wisdom was ‘never do anything for free’ and everyone clapped”.

The two common threads throughout these pieces are time (how it ebbs and flows, how it doesn’t follow a straight line) and the only solace being literature, the beauty of words. Weatherhead puts art in an opposition with nature frequently. Art is something outside the world we’re observing and while it suffers from the poisons of capitalism, it also is the only route to something outside of knowledge—something Weatherhead calls Truth (“Truth is the liquidation of thought”). He says that “Poets, often wrong, are still the only people who get anything right”. Even when nature tries to “inch in”, “Art beats nature, every time.” Ultimately, we have to make the beauty we want to see in this world. These quiet poems about the quotidian hold an incredible, booming impact. When Weatherhead lowers the hammer, it scrapes you off the hull in one fell blast. In freedom, in being adrift, the poet shows us that the free fall might be the most sublime form of movement.


Jesi Bender