"It’s like bibliomancy on a heroin roller coaster. Tarot à la Encke. It’s a manuscript of poems printed, in fragment, on a deck of cards. Fate and chance order the reading, not the poet, not the reader, not the book pages. Play is inextricable from the reading of the poems, for you play cards. Fate is inextricable from the reading of the poems, for you are dealt a hand."

Sarah Vap, author of Dummy Fire, American Spikenard, and the forthcoming Faulkner's Rosary, from her review "Jeff Encke Potty Trained My Son While I Wrote This, and Other Miracles of the Gamble in Verse" (Hayden's Ferry Review Blog)

"Jeffrey Encke’s collection Most Wanted: A Gamble in Verse is different. Holding it feels dangerous in the way that Pandora’s Box was dangerous. Here is a book contained in cardboard and cellophane—an unfamiliar format without a spine to hold it in order. There is something satisfying about having to unwrap a collection of poetry. The plastic falls away and the words begin."

Alexis Vergalla
, author of Letters Through Glass, reviewing for Web Del Sol Review of Books

"Encke takes as his titles the Iraqi names on the U.S. Military deck of 'most wanted' cards and sets them against lyrics of longing and despair. The result is a willed confusion and questioning in which the elements of the two landscapes, rendered in precise detail ('black salt,' 'oranges exchanged between tongues,' 'collars of stone'), overlap and are conjoined. These are fine, visceral, tender, bitter, and truthful poems."

Hermine Meinhard
, author of Bright Turquoise Umbrella

"Jeff Encke is going to get us all arrested. He has taken the current war as an opportunity to express an erotic ('Who brought me to this / this chair / engulfing my child's body, / to this bent position') and Christian ('we speak openly of taboos, / keeping the heads of our enemies closest, / and fresh') modern love that is eccentric, original, and possibly traitorous. How do we love our enemies? Like lovers? Encke walks a tightrope between empathy and promiscuity, using poetry as a means of addressing love 'objects' who have not only become dehumanized, but who have also carried out their own regime of dehumanization. His poems are a primer course on how to stay human in a dark time."

Tony Tost, winner of the 2003 Walt Whitman Award and author of Invisible Bride and Complex Sleep

"Most Wanted plays an inspired, surprising set of riffs on the bromide 'Make Love, Not War.' Jeff Encke dares us to see the war of the human heart as darker and more disjointed than the war of nations, the love of war as simpler and safer than the love of people, and the power of words as more intricate and uncertain than any military policy. The changing script of love that emerges every time his pack of elliptic fragments is shuffled and a new game of poetic poker is played helps to restore human individuality, vulnerability, and contingency to a world in which we can never wish to imprison whatever it is we most want."

Bart Eeckhout, author of Wallace Stevens and the Limits of Reading and Writing

"Jeffrey Encke's deck of poem cards, what a fine idea. Each time you read them, new poem-combinations emerge, and the poems gradually come closer into view. This is a pleasurable accretion. Just now reading them, with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne on the tv in the background, familiar blues, new poems, very fine indeed."

Nick Piombino, poet and essayist and author of Theoretical Objects, on his blog fait accompli

"To begin my reviews here I juxtapose the online portion of the reviews with the tactility of a lovely set of playing cards I have just obtained. On the back of each card is a hand, surrounded by khaki background and imprinted with Arabic script. Each hand has the same script. I do not know what it says. I've tried to keep my cards in order (no pun intended), and the epigraph, the Joker, reads: 'The pressing social reality in which we all find ourselves touches on the card game but goes no further; the bounds of its table is another country' (Borges). The cards are amazing. Each contains lines of poetry by Encke, along with provocative photos and drawings. On a seven of diamonds, a hooded figure brings back horrific memories of Abu Ghraib, along with these lines by Encke: 'as I sat / between floors // wielding a koan / of amino acids // dissecting our grip / of intermingled fingers.' On the ace of diamonds, against a grey background: 'as though cruelty / were itself // an object of love.' Ten of hearts, the better symbol, a beautiful and haunting 'shot' of a black-robed figure against a background of red: 'we speak openly / of taboos, // keeping the heads / of our enemies / closest, // and fresh.' Seven of spades: the silhouette of another Iraqi prisoner, the one we all know: 'the stench of supper / ripples my lips.' These cards are beautiful and evoke a lover's response to a cruel and vicious chain of events."

Laura Carter in NewPages: Alternatives in Print & Media

"An unexpectedly effective and poignant set of poems that is more than a parody of Department of Defense's 'Deck of Doom' playing cards used to help round up important figures in Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Encke has collaborated with Vivek Chadaga, a Boston-based writer and graphic designer, to create haunting lyrical fragments superimposed over poignant images."

Jon Thompson reviewing for Free Verse: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry & Poetics

"Last week, at Aaron McCollough's and Jeff Encke's reading, I bought a copy of Encke's Most Wanted: A Gamble in Verse, which is a deck of cards. I urge you to look at the site, & even get a deck for yourself ... I talked a bit to Encke after the reading about the difficulty of physically producing such a project (an effort to print the cards in China apparently fell because of censorship, but a printer in India was found); later, when I read on the site about his choice to excerpt from his poems so as to fit the text on a 2-1/2 by 3-1/2 card, I felt a sense of kinship. That's how I began composing f2f, on index cards, because I intended to program them as hypertexts in small lexia ... I love the versatility of how the poems can be read, in millions of possible orders, in conjunction with the Personality Identification Playing Cards or apart from them. Vivek Chadaga and Encke share credit for the design, which is beautiful, and the fragments of Encke's poems are as haunting as the fragments of knowledge we have of our own country's involvement in the horrors of this war."

Janet Holmes, author of F2f and editor of Ahsahta Press, on her blog Humanophone








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