John Busbee: The Culture Buzz podcast
"This thriller delivers a taut, captivating story, rich with characters, settings, and pace."
Charles Harper Webb’s Ursula Lakecan stand on its own as a fine novel
. . . as well as a genre novel. [It] is not the routine horror novel, trotting
out all the old tropes . . . Charles is a poet, and he pays a lot of attention
to the way he lays out language . . . [Ursula Lake] is a very gripping book,
but what elevates it . . . is the prose style . . . This is not junk food. This
is literature. No offense to Stephen King fans, but . . . this book is beyond
King. . . It is pitched more on the level of a Henry James Turn of the
Screw, but it is not so abstract. The book fits the Lovecraftian formula
where everything has to be authentic and believable for the supernatural
element to be convincing. . . [Ursula Lake] is a compelling read, and you
will not be able to put it down.
—Richard Modiano, former Executive Director of Beyond Baroque
on Poetrunner Podcast. May 23, 2022
“For over two decades I've been reading, with great pleasure, the utterly unique poems of Charles Harper Webb. Operating somewhere between the lyric and the narrative—that rich grasslands where absolute clarity and reverberant mystery can happily exist—Shadow Ball shows us why we love poetry: it tries to tell us the truth and because the truth is often painful, it sometimes makes us laugh. I can't wait to stand on a chair, wave this book in my hand, and shout: ‘Read this book, citizens, read this book!’”
“‘Unscrew the locks from the doors! / Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!’” Walt Whitman declared, and Charles Webb has come bursting through with great vitality and energy, with his sly wit and his dark irony, his funny bone and his rage, his rock-and-roll sensibility and his American gift for gab, his skepticism and his faith, his cunning art. It is a joy to have this life’s work gathered together.”
Hurray for Shadow Ball! Now the best of Charles Harper Webb's brilliant and funny poems are packed into one book. And the new ones are just as good. Here is a major poet of the twenty-first century who makes us laugh but also gulp uneasily at his spooky knowledge of human nature.”
[Charles Harper Webb’s] humor and humanity arrive in powerful short poems . . . [He is] one of the most reliably funny, smart, idiomatic and sly writers of contemporary American poetry. Cheer yourself up. Listen to this poet . . . “
—Andrew Tonkovich on Bibliocracy, KPF
“The sturdy architecture of his page-and-a-half lyrics, with their methodical logic exfoliating into embellishments both Gothic and Romanesque, generates images, facts, metaphors, and extended conceits that keep the pleasure of the text at a high pitch . . . Webb’s poems deserve the visibility and careful reading that this New and Selected volume will give them . . . Shadow Ball presents a complex sensibility in poems as deep as they are clear.”
“Call this collection of poetry a greatest hits album from one of America’s finest contemporary poets. . . New or old, personal or philosophical, each piece seems to wrap inventiveness, humor, and touching perception in packages of imagery that any contemporary reader can identify with. And as soon as you do, Webb slyly overturns expectations and delivers a punch straight to the heart.”
“From ‘The Death of Santa Claus’ to ‘Kidnapper Couple Who Forgot to Leave a Ransom Note Sentenced to 14 Years,’ Charles Harper Webb proves himself the funniest dead-serious poet currently writing.”
“Charles Harper Webb is master of the comic poem . . . His poems, like long, eloquent jokes, are the working out, the working through of an idea. They’re like elaborate machines, the sequential twist and turn of cams and gears, the punch of pistons that power flashing bulbs, flags and whistle along the gifted, gabby, lubricated way to where the bell rings, the doves take off, and we ‘get it’ . . . What particularly attracts me . . . besides the musical flow of its rhetoric, is the honest, moving way he addresses human failings . . . one last power in Webb’s poetry: his hope, his pyrotechnic, his zest for life.”
“On each occasion onwhich I heard [Webb read], at least one of the poems he read deserved to appear in Best Poems of the Year.”
“Flannery O’Connor said that the best comedy “is always about matters of life and death,” a truth demonstrated masterfully in What Things AreMade Of. With his discerning wit, musician’s ear, and big heart—plus a newly-deepened tone of melancholy—Webb takes us on a seriocomic journey down the pot-holy road from youth to maturity in an age where “‘truth‘ shifts like ants on a Klondike [bar].” The melancholy is countered by the book’s prevailing motif: love -- schmaltz-free -- of wife and son, of beleaguered humankind (most of it), of rock ‘n’ roll and fly fishing, of the “big band” of a new day. If you’re looking for a reader-friendly work by one of America’s best poets writing at his best, get out your wallet.”
“Twelve years ago when I first plucked Webb’s Liver from the crush, it pinned me to the carpet of the bookstore aisle. Books later, here I am on his planet of What Things Are Made Of, spelunking the Dickeyville Grotto, Bimbo Limbo, and Andy’s Texaco. Webb’s “Things”—crafted from a recombinant cynical romanticism that dreams with one eye open—groan and growl out of the “cracked crankcase” of his wildness. Dare, dear reader, to harness yourself to this bungee jump that—anguished, masterful, and still deeply funny on the 100th reading—will dangle you over the precipice, where you will get an eyeful, an earful, and have a polyphonic three-bone time. Webb’s gift won’t let you down.”
“As in a madman's rickety invention, the silver ball of Charles Harper powered by burning mummies, bursts out of the pinched, bleached nose of Michael Jackson's corpse, dips under the wings of an oil-slicked penguin, blasts like a baseball out of the warm suburban dark of childhood and into a black hole future, and finally parachutes down to the page where it clickety-clacks through Dead Man's Cave and Bimbo Limbo until its final moonwalk stage left to the end of nostalgia, where it puts a period to the modern age to which we're sentenced. It's a wild ride, and it's over too soon, but for just ten cents you can turn the page and start at the top again. Hilarious, kinetic, profound, Webb's poems are always a strange and fun adventure. So buy this book, plug in your dime, and get the ball rolling!”
“This book is a delicious antidote to the solemnities, banalities, and absurdities of our culture, treated by Webb with hilarity and amiability. But lest you be tomfooled into thinking Webb is one of those poets who is all language and no heart, be warned—he also writes some of the best poems of love sex, childhood, and mortality that we’ve got.”
“Webb is one of the most entertaining poets I know, and also the craftiest. He lulls you with humor and then you realize he’s writing about something deadly serious.”
“Webb is also a careful craftsman, a master of the music of language . . . What Things Are Made Of is one of the best poetry collections I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s satisfying in terms of theme, content, and language. It’s a big-hearted book that’s so much fun to read you can’t help but glide through the poems like the best fiction. But then you want to go back and read them again and again, savoring the skill it took to create these poems.
Webb has slapstick humor down pat, and had me laughing out loud as much as he had me thinking about my own memories of past and present love. This collection is modern, real, and FUN to read. Take THAT, poetry haters.
—Kick Ass Book Reviews
This book had me laughing out loud one minute, emotional and contemplative the next. Webb's powerful lines awaken the senses and leave impressions that last for days. In poem after poem--"Manpanzee,""Word of Mouth," "Karen, Lost," "Summer of Love," and on and on—Webb's words get under my skin and resonate in my heart. His blend of humor and heartbreak make What Things Are MadeOf impossible to put down or to forget. If more poets wrote like this, a lot more people would love poetry.
—Reading Room Book Reviews
Charles Harper Webb’s poems pulse with comedy and wit, but the distinguishing feature of his latest collection, What Things Are Made Of, is his unflinching, honest study of contemporary life . . . Webb, the humorist provocateur, playfully dismantles our constructions and returns us to our simplest things—pleasure, taste, our historical moment. What other 21stcentury poet would dare to cry out, “I adore my privileged American life!” . . . What Things Are Made Of reminds us that an honest angle and a laugh are at the core of things that keep us alive.
Charles Harper Webb remains a dynamo of high spirits, a poet whose steadfast exuberance suggests a kind of poetic ease. But anyone who has read Webb knows his enthralling poems are always shaped by an intelligence that is both disciplined and intrepid. The title Brain Camp, of course, implies as much. Imaginative, sly, and perceptive: these new poems show why Webb is one of our great wisecracking wise men, ‘a prophet whose best answer is, “’We’ll see.’ This is a terrific collection.
“As it turns out, there is a poetry equivalent to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Charles Harper Webb’s poems zig and zag through real and imaginary constructs, with language as the vehicle that hurdles the reader through experience in all its gorgeous weirdness. Webb constantly threatens to throw back the motorcar’s restraining bar, because there is no safety, in his world, from the vagaries of passion, joy and fear. His poems fling the reader into realms of heaven and hell, and there is Webb, saying: I was here.”
“Charles Harper Webb writes with vinegar and honey . . . The voice in these poems is both dark and light, droll but touching, caustic yet nostalgic, wryly winking and nodding while clearly embracing the absurd . . . Webb takes what seems expected, even unnoteworthy, and renders it striking, peculiar, and newly memorable . . . He shows us that poetry partakes of all the chatter, squabbles, misguided notions, misunderstood phrases, and corporate-speak geegaws that inundate each of our lives. Webb’s poems are brimming with inspired, off-kilter, lovely moments, and it’s wonderful to get a glimpse . . . into his own moments of jumping off an everyday moment and into rich, ringing verse.