Potcake Poet’s Choice: Max Gutmann, “Onset”

Max Gutmann

Max Gutmann


Remember with my sitting parents I
at napkins red with cloth a table high
things struggling out to figure how these thin
(which home I knew at bags came plastic in)
potatoes were, and hamburger my how
to a connection have could any cow.

Twist change and blithely we our world: we light
and pave like soft, good day the earth, the night.
We wonder so that find what easy it
twist well ourselves as to? We still can sit
for desks behind long money hours for bland
and nation hate on any can command.

Hard shapes for make can strange it us our new
recall in shapes the which we born were to.

Max Gutmann writes: “Onset is probably my most unusual poem, and it tends to inspire strong reactions. In an online competition, it was the favorite of the host, a well-published poet I respect, who commented that she could see it becoming widely anthologized, and it came close to being the readers’ top choice. At the same time, it got far and away the greatest number of negative comments, some of them pretty strong. That combination of reactions is something I’ve been proud of ever since.

The host’s anthology prediction hasn’t come to pass, but Onset is, at long last, forthcoming–in Raintown Review.”

Under the pseudonym Noam D. Plum, Max Gutmann has published in The Spectator, The Country Mouse, Light Quarterly, and elsewhere including, of course, in the Potcake Chapbook Wordplayful. Having won two $500 prizes, as well as some smaller ones, Noam is a more successful breadwinner than the man for whom he fronts.

Given the mental gymnastic similarities between Noam’s Preopr Splelnig and Max’s Onset, however, I think it is reasonable to treat the poets as the same writer… You can see more of his work at https://www.maxgutmann.com/



1 thought on “Potcake Poet’s Choice: Max Gutmann, “Onset”

  1. Michael Burch

    I published Max many moons ago. My favorite poem of his appears at the top of his THT page:


    I have made about $4,400 in poetry contests, etc. This poem won the Algernon Charles Swinburne award and was later nominated for a Pushcart by Romantics Quarterly. It was my first villanelle and is missing a tercet, but when I discovered the issue, the poem seemed finished to me and I didn’t attempt to add another tercet …

    Ordinary Love
    by Michael R. Burch

    Indescribable—our love—and still we say
    with eyes averted, turning out the light,
    “I love you,” in the ordinary way

    and tug the coverlet where once we lay,
    all suntanned limbs entangled, shivering, white …
    indescribably in love. Or so we say.

    Your hair’s blonde thicket’s thinned and tangle-gray;
    you turn your back; you murmur to the night,
    “I love you,” in the ordinary way.

    Beneath the sheets our hands and feet would stray …
    to warm ourselves. We do not touch, despite
    a love so indescribable. We say

    we’re older now, that “love” has had its day.
    But that which love once countenanced, delight,
    still makes you indescribable. I say,
    “I love you,” in the ordinary way.

    Published by The Lyric, Romantics Quarterly, Mandrake Poetry Review, Carnelian, Poem Kingdom, Net Poetry and Art Competition, Famous Poets and Poems, FreeXpression, PW Review, Poetic Voices, Poetry Renewal, Poetry Life & Times; also winner of the 2001 Algernon Charles Swinburne Poetry Award

    Liked by 1 person


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