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Felix Dennis, of whom I'd honestly never heard until I received this volume, is the controversial and extremely wealthy publisher of Maxim and several other male-oriented magazines. In 1971 he and two compatriots were tried and jailed in Britain for publishing obscene cartoons, but the notoriety and support from folks like John Lennon only seems to have contributed to his eventual fame (or infamy) and fortune.

At any rate, when the bad boy of publishing, a former crack addict most closely identified with scantily clad women, decides to publish a book of poetry you have to anticipate an interesting reaction. Add in his preference for rhyming verse and you can count on no little amount of hostility.

But forget about the author's personal background and give the poems themselves a chance and you're likely to be entertained, maybe even enchanted. The rhyming is just one of the ways in which Mr. Dennis -- who seems too irreverent about himself and too reverent about poetry to care whether folk think of him as a poet -- pays his respects to the form and its practitioners. For instance, he says he wrote his first poem in response to Dorothy Parker's Resume:
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
The "And" in line 4, he says, had always worried at him. In turn, he wrote Travel Advisory:
Parachutes tangle;
Brake pads fail;
Seat belts strangle;
And trains derail.
Motorbikes maim you;
Ships collide;
New boots lame you;
Stay inside.

(with apologies to Dorothy Parker)
That's not going to change your life, but it's clever and respectful. Indeed, one of the nice things about the homages he pays to others is that he sends you scrambling for the originals.

There are, of course, soft spots in a 200 page book of poetry by a novice, but there are also plenty of worthwhile bits, like the sardonic Dead White Males. Many of the pieces are on-line at Mr. Dennis's website, so you can check them out and often access audio versions to hear him read them (the book comes with a spoken-word cd). Keep a weather eye too for his explanatory footnotes which are often amusing. If nothing else, Mr. Dennis seems to be enjoying the heck out of himself. His glass is surely half full.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Felix Dennis Links:

    -PORTRAIT: Felix Dennis by Trevor Ray Hart (National Portrait Gallery)
    -Maxim Magazine
    -Stuff Magazine
    -POEMS: a selection of poems from A Glass Half Full
    -ESSAY: critics claim that anyone who writes rhyming verse "can never be a true poet". But surely, writes Felix Dennis, there is still place for a form that has been used by many of our greatest poets (Felix Dennis, 10/11/04, New Statesman)
    -ARCHIVES: "felix dennis" (Find Articles)
    -PROFILE: The randy rhymer: Fabulously rich roue Felix Dennis made his money touting ta-tas in magazines like Maxim and Stuff. Now he's peddling poetry. (Rebecca Traister, Sept. 25, 2004, Salon)
    -PROFILE: Days of Wine and Couplets: Magazine magnate and vintner Felix Dennis balances Maxim with 16th-century rhyme (Andrew Parks, September 23-29, 2004, City Pages)
    -PROFILE: 'If you're going to die, hold on to your liquor': An audience with Felix Dennis, publishing maverick, poet, bon viveur and philosopher (Mark Ellen, February 13, 2003, Times of London)
    -PROFILE: Wizard of Oz: Felix Dennis, magazine mogul turned poet (Interviewed by Suzi Pritchard, February 13, 2003, The Guardian)
    -PROFILE: Maxim's 'Dennis The Menace' (60 Minutes, June 23, 2004, CBS)
    -PROFILE: The Sultan of Schwing: With his magazine Maxim -- and now Stuff -- Felix Dennis aims to put man in touch with his inner frat boy. Nobody needs a lesson in how to fold a pocket square anymore: This is the new high-five journalism, and beer and (semi-clothed) babes have never looked so good. (Alex Williams, July 26, 1999, New York)
    -PROFILE: Felix Dennis: Publish and be damned: From his days as Oz editor to his current role as lad-mag magnate, Felix Dennis has rarely shown much concern for the world's opinion. But he does now. Why? He's become a poet (John Walsh, 05 April 2002, Independent uk)
    -PROFILE: `I'm 55. I'm rich. I don't need this tyranny' The IoS interview (Independent on Sunday, November 2002, Simon O'Hagan)
    -REVIEW: of A Glass Half Full by Felix Dennis (Michael Horovitz, Prospect)

Book-related and General Links: