by Hilton Obenzinger
Review by Paul Buhle
I have been following Hilton Obenzinger’s work with delight and astonishment for over 40 years. He is a treasure. Funny, surreal, radical – he is the American Jonathan Swift.
— Diane di Prima:
This book of poetry is truly excellent. Highly recommended. The poems are right on target with a unique blend of optimistic/pessimistic/dialectical social commentary, wry/ ironic humor, brash irreverence (“God Picks His Nose,” for example) and growing wisdom as the virus hits. Given my own state, I especially enjoyed “Old Men with Canes,” but there’s a whole gamut of emotions and reflections throughout this fine book.
— Lincoln Bergman
Must read, the truth of this moment. — Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Bravo, Hilton! A compelling, bracing, necessary collection that speaks to our condition (as the Quakers say) with enduring eloquence and clearsighted compassion.
— Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Trusting Hilton Obenzinger as lyric witness to recent disturbed American cosmopoetics and global geopolitics…
— Rob Sean Wilson
A wonderful book of insightful poems! — Nina Serrano
It’s an astonishing collection. Political, funny, radical, universal.
— Stephanie Palewski Brumbach
“Mysteries of Pandemia,” was a favorite of [late wife] Nancy’s. Two of my favorite lines: (1) on the suggestion that climate change may force humanity to colonize outer space, “Earth is so bad, Mars is a relief”; (2) on romance during COVID. “Stay away and be my love.”
— Peter Clapp
I’ve had the pleasure to know Hilton for more than 53 years. This most recent publication is unputdownable. Really special.
— Ron Turner
This book is unique in my experience of contemporary poetry in its blending or alternating a personal voice with a public one. In this sense, it’s in the tradition of Whitman, with a clear generosity of spirit but also real anger at authoritarian politics now personified by guess who (or whom.) I recommend the book both for what it says and how it says it. I definitely enjoyed it.
— Mitch Sisskind
An excellent book, full of heart, anguish, humor and wisdom! — Genevieve (Genny) Lim
Witness 2017-2020 speaks about the politics of the pandemic, of the crisis of climate change, of the worldwide threat of plague and fascist politics, but it is personal and caring, forgiving and heartfelt, without being saccharine or fearful, even as it speaks clearly of certain fears in a dangerous time. The poems are wise and appreciative in a way that age may have opened the heart to. That’s why the book is lovely – the way love speaks beyond the times. And thanks for that, Hilton.
— Steve Brooks
What is fine about Obenzinger’s work is that it thematizes problems common to everyone and at the same time illuminates them through the circumstances of his own particularity, rendering the output meaningful and, I do not doubt it, quite likely to endure. It reminds me of Du Fu in T’ang China, who like Obenzinger wrote about matters that are in fact real and important during difficult times, and whose work and personality is remembered now as Witness 2017-2020 will be by historians in whatever dubious future awaits.
— James Mitchell