think tank for human beings in general

By Dan Tarnowski
think tank for human beings in general

Perhaps it was the quiet of the Ohio suburbs that stirred Jordan Castro and Richard Wehrenberg Jr. to write ‘think tank for human beings in general.’ The poems in this self-published chapbook take aim at boredom and complacency, combating those things with unique perspectives and fresh ideas.

I received the book in the mail and had finished it 30 minutes later. The poems have a calm rhythm. They are short poems but deliver their message unhurriedly and with care. As I type this, it’s easy to flip through the booklet and find key parts because the poems are concise and have many highlights.

The white pages of the booklet, absent of page numbers or decoration, evoke calmness as much as the poems do. The cover, just text and a long arrow inviting the reader to open the booklet, is pleasingly minimal. The front inside-cover features a gray silhouette of a radish and the back inside-cover, a silhouette of carrots.

Earthy things are a motif in the collection (“When I am eating vegetables I want my teeth to chatter little thank you’s to them.”) The poets seem inspired both by sensual experiences like eating, as well as conservational life choices like dumpster-diving and veganism.

The poems tread the line between earnest and sarcastic, more often being the former. They are written in an all lower-case colloquial style that isn’t revolutionary in and of itself, but the writing includes unexpected turns of phrase and unique ideas that grasp one’s interest (“I am going to sneak to my downstairs bathroom while you are asleep, so you don’t hear the noises I make when I poop.”)

This is a likeable collection featuring two distinct personalities. Castro has a philosophical eye (“I realize I am not describing my “actual” surroundings or feelings, but that I am describing my perception of these things.”) Wehrenberg peppers in philosophical concepts, too, but comes across as more of a social reformer than Castro.

Although Jordan Castro sometimes writes from states of turmoil, he is able to use things learned in textbooks to transcend misery. He begins his section by screaming in boredom (“I am going to gouge my eyes with the broken screwdriver of luck and chance”), progresses to analyzing the difficulties of relationships, and caps it off with a poem pining for a peaceful reverie (“I want to feel calm determination in a hoody.”)

Richard Wehrenberg Jr. takes an honest look at himself and others. He seems to want to expose injustice and transcend superficiality (“I want to go beyond wanting. I want to make the noise a snowman makes as ‘he/she/it’ melts”) and through his poems, he does. Particularly interesting is the poem ‘what ‘achieving minor celebrity status’ means,’ which describes an encounter between a volunteer group at an ecological demonstration and Joe Sixpack.

At $3 direct from the writers, this chapbook is a steal, and offers more to think about than anything else available for that price.

- Official Page

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