the fox hunts by Eric Tyler Benick


Poetry, 87 pgs

We—if I may—us denizens, who wear and devour terrible, horrifying, and endless symbols that compose our waking life, in and out of consciousness, all of us, us—people—well, I’ll say first that I do hesitate to “admit” that there is delight in this book, but only in considering the historical actions of delight associated with the word, with the feeling. Those who feel bombarded by chatter delight in the weight of silence afforded beneath the surface of a liquid. I do feel undone after reading this book, and I did find delight in cleaving meanings from words, words from feelings, action from gestures, ideas from “the future.” It beckons a drippy, slightly mutilated animal form, dharmic and hot, slightly uneasy, but aha! this milieu is suddenly essential, suddenly comforting. “By now I’m sure we’re all tired of this great American slapstick.” Truly. But, to quote an obvious hero of Benick’s, if you’ve ever “mistakenly taken your house’s thermostat for a dial with which to focus the windows…then you know what I’m talking about."

-Ryan Skrabalak

Reading 'the fox hunts' brought to mind Viktor Shklovsky’s saying that the purpose of art is to make the stone stony. Eric Benick makes the fox foxy in his hyper-stylized, fabulistic register. He uses the subversive serial form to give shape to a mediated reality of the poet as fox and wearer of fox suit suavely showing us the sinkholes in our national consciousness— “I’ve just read the latest litany / from the bald eagle’s dispatch / renouncing himself as metonym / and shouldn’t we all.” The mutiny is coming from inside of the house. Bravo to his sense of humor and his delight in the alliterative and other sonic properties of language which gives us the bravado to hang out with the kinds of contradictions we live with as citizens.

-Stacy Szymaszek

A thicket of variables flashing with relation. Lit with dark. Fabular and renegade. Synaptic and sounding. With a desperate vision. At the edge of life. 'the fox hunts' is a vast-little book of lyrical implosions, vanishings and crises, catastrophe and absurdity and secret beauty all at once, “in the war on every corner.” I go to Benick’s work for this audacious sound—critical to me. How everywhere here are new structures for thinking about processes of tyranny but also the tender, secret thing inside the throat.

-Aracelis Girmay


A tragic American slapstick in three parts, "the fox hunts" peers out at the body politic through the eyes of its prey. In poems which feign and forebode, alliterate and sidle, Eric Tyler Benick explores the failures, both material and semiotic, of three unlikely mammalian protagonists: fox, vole, and mothman. (Is mothman a mammal?)

Like uneasy, flickering marionettes, fox & co sing and scamper from city to cemetery, from the Bardo to the Met, from sinister cookouts to the depths of the FBI archives, searching for a world in which they are not hunted, or not “forced to live / in unforgiving error.” We are all little more than helpless vermin, Benick seems to suggest, “as we approach the reddest winter,” but also, the poems remind us, “that is everyone’s fault.”

"the fox hunts" takes the hallucinatory confusion of Berryman’s "Dream Songs" and the Derridean riffs of Mullen’s "Sleeping with the Dictionary," the sardonic absurdity of Berman’s "Actual Air" and the parallax view of OutKast’s "Aquemini," and twists them all into the Platonic Nerds Rope© we’ve wanted to escape up for so long, but in Benick’s hands it’s being constantly made and unmade directly before our eyes, until we realize, actually, it’s a prop rope in a commercial set that we can now see is going dark all around us, and there are animals here, cartoonish but still very real, calling to us from the rafters of a new, not-yet-named season: “the one without animal facts.” In its animals’ shifting, revolutionary reconfigurations, the fox hunts figures and re-figures the way poems might be real lines of flight, of survival. Benick asks again and again, zipped up tight in the costumes of fox, vole, or mothman, “what use is a word that doesn’t fill you up?”

ISBN: 979-8-9886797-2-1


Excerpts online:

Birdcoat Quarterly
Ghost Proposal


ERIC TYLER BENICK is a writer, publisher, and educator living in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of the chapbooks Farce Poetica (Spiral Editions, 2022), I Don’t Know What an Oboe Can Do (No Rest Press, 2020), and The George Oppen Memorial BBQ (The Operating System, 2019), as well as a co-founding editor of Ursus Americanus Press, a chapbook publisher. More recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bennington Review, Copper Nickel, The Harvard Advocate, Meridian, Southeast Review, and elsewhere.

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