Rick Lupert’s Hunka Hunka Howdee! Poetry from Memphis, Nashville, and Louisville
Rick Lupert, the poet, makes the world a better place for the rest of us. I’m convinced of that fact, especially with his new book, Hunka Hunka Howdee!: Poetry From Memphis, Nashville, and Louisville (© 2019 Ain't Got No Press), a travelogue of poems and photographs that takes the reader through Memphis (TN), Nashville (TN), and Louisville (KY).
Lupert documents his (and his wife, Addie’s), 2018 trip to the American South, where he pays homage to music legends like Elvis (“Graceland” and “The Heavy King”), and Johnny Cash (“At the Johnny Cash Museum”), civil rights activist Martin Luther King (“Walking Through the Museum”), bourbon distilleries (“At Maker’s Mark”, and “At the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience”), and lots of observations about ducks (Section 2: “We Arrive in Memphis”). Lupert’s humor, and precise eye for detail, are skillfully employed throughout his poetry, which makes the whole experience of reading Hunka Hunka Howdee! thoroughly entertaining, as in the poem “Goodnight Nashville”:
Nashville, I was suspicious from the start
coming from Memphis where
the local currency is a smile.
But I’ve grown to like you.
I don’t think I’ve wept this much
since New Orleans.
A good city makes the water come.
We’ve left things unsaid and undone.
A roster for the future.
More biscuit for my blood.
More honky for my tonk.
I’m driving away in the morning
the appeal of the brown water
across the border, what you call
whiskey, is what started this
whole thing. You did your part.
The circle is unbroken and
I’m standing in it.
Along with the pure enjoyment of reading Hunka Hunka Howdee!, another factor makes me strongly recommend reading Lupert’s work; his recognition of humanity and goodwill in other parts of the country divided by politics/social issues/economics. The people that populate the poems in Hunka Hunka Howdee! are as real and warm and kind as your family and friends, which is a much needed balm to the fractious wounds social media and the current administration have inflicted on the collective consciousness.
Hunka Hunka Howdee! Poetry from Memphis, Nashville, and Louisville, Rick Lupert, © 2019 Ain’t Got No Press, 276 pages, ISBN 9781733027909, www.poetrysuperhighway.com, $19.99