What Just Happened, by Richard Hell, with images by Christopher Wool / ISBN 9781959708001 / 156-page paperback published in 2023 by Winter Editions
In What Just Happened, Richard Hell’s new poems are interspersed with images created for the book by Christopher Wool. Hell’s 2019 valedictory of an essay, “Falling Asleep,” which asserts his dreamy conclusions regarding the nature of reality, and “Chronicle,” a list drawn from his recent years’ notebooks, complete the collection.
Kentucky native Richard Meyers dropped out of high school and moved to New York to be a poet, but after a few years of writing and editing poems and pamphlets and literary magazines he decided—in 1972—to change his name to Hell and sing and write songs in a rock and roll band instead. He still wrote poems at times but didn’t want to be seen as a “rock poet,” so he underplayed that part of his story. After 10 years and the impact of “punk,” which D.I.Y. movement Hell had a lot to do with triggering, he left music behind too, in favor of fiction and journalism. He hasn’t published a proper book of new poems until now, 50 years later.
Nearly all the poems in What Just Happened were written during the 2020-2021 pandemic. The poems are accompanied by an essay on the subject of “Falling Asleep,” which condition Richard proposes as being the closest humans get to a direct experience of reality, and the book closes with “Chronicle,” an 88-entry list of observations, eruptions and goofs.
“We always knew Richard Hell was a poet, and that he was one long before he became a rock star and fashion icon. What surprises about his new poems is the density of thought they compress into their apparently casual sleeves. They join with his ars poetica, ‘Falling Asleep,’ to form a sustained conversation with uncertainty, making peace with the idea that life has no meaning.” — Lucy Sante
Richard Hell is the author of several books of fiction, poetry, essays, notebooks, autobiography, and collaborations including The Voidoid, Go Now, Godlike, Across the Years, Artifact, Hot and Cold, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, Massive Pissed Love, Wanna Go Out? by Theresa Stern (with Tom Verlaine) and Psychopts (with Christopher Wool). He lives in New York.