Book Review: Throwing the Crown by Jacob Saenz
A Review of Jacob Saenz's Throwing the Crown
Throwing the Crown tells the story of the dirt, grime, and glitter of early boyhood in a Chicago with concrete stomped by pit bulls, gangbangers, and bachelors. A story that allows for that boyhood to morph into a manhood filled with frozen pizzas and jaded weddings. Jacob Saenz illustrates a world that is genuine and brimming with motley characters while showcasing writing that exhibits a strength in storytelling, a resonant musicality and an elegant precision. In the poem, “Demon,” we see this lyrical prowess on full blast:
We feasted on these salty & spicy
The crisp hard /c/ creates the crunch of the corn stick, but also verbal cuts, through every breath. Saenz has a grasp over the vindictive powers of sound as well as meaning within his poetry.
Midway through Throwing the Crown, we get the “bachelor” poems: a lonely culmination of weddings, TV shows, and household chores that create searing self-introspection. The bachelor is consistently contemplating love and the caustic longing for it. In “The Bachelor Attends a Wedding,” one’s desires are both criticized and recognized in a wedding’s sweat of love:
The garter fling forces me
Saenz embodies this bachelor persona that encapsulates the strange otherness in single adulthood, as you witness the virile lustiness of others and the pseudo-fantasy that surrounds the realm of passion. In “The Bachelor Watches The Bachelor,” it is the “pre-packaged romantic dates / I could never afford on my bachelor budget” that is inhabited “w/Prince Charming played by an actor / I’ve seen slaughter & behead a soldier” that spotlights this strange division. Saenz comments on the way society and media has glamorized and tainted the dating scene, and the bachelor persona shows the more conflicting reality of the situation.
Saenz also has a talent for bringing in unusual subjects to comment on the familiar yet critical issues of today. In “Gang of the Dead” we get a reinvention of the zombie with “Our primal instinct kicks in when we see / hordes of lumbering pale corpses / like conquistadores w/out horses.” Here we see a reinvention of the horde as a mob that is here to conquer brains rather than land. Saenz mixes the long-ago history of colonialization with the undead automaton of the zombie which is heavily used in popular media. This mirroring of consumerism and expansionism shows us how tactics have evolved.
Throwing the Crown illustrates the tumult in the collision of the fantastical, the hormonal, and the human. It is gang-life mixed with baseball and video games. Saenz’s unique voice propels this book and gives the poems a genuine sense of humanity through “lips / smacked together w/force & intent."
Zachary Klozik is an undergraduate at Lewis University, studying English and Film Studies. He resides in New Lenox, Illinois and is the Marketing & Design Editor and a Poetry Editor for Jet Fuel Review. He is a Wolny Writing Residency fellow and he coordinates and hosts an Open Mic Night series in Lockport, IL. He has been published in Windows Fine Arts Magazine.