This collection of poems traces five interweaving stories, or perhaps a story in five parts:
A man from a faraway land meets an impossible woman on an island. this town is small / and full of curves and hills and rises A man falls in love; a creative union forms, followed by marriage. the night is an orgasm on wheels / festooned with dirt and peonies A man faces the sound and the fury of his own mind, and another's. everything can collapse at any moment / th moist brown earth opens up & eats you A man and a woman suffer; a marital union dissolves creatively. th wife coils into a snake / th mind coils into a snake A man uses his poetic craft to make the island his own.
The poems in this book, written, compiled, and edited between 2021 and 2023, delve into and confront cultural and linguistic otherness, closeted queerness, neurodivergence, trauma, and mental illness.
In this collection, I pay tribute in content and form to the poetic and publishing practices of the 1970s, from the elegant typesetting of every letter in the print edition to the exploration of the creation, assumption, and performance of alter and subaltern egos that runs through these poems. Read about JLRB Press.
This is what Greg Brown has to say about We Were Hateful People:
A passionate, energetic, defiant, and occasionally ferocious collection of poems about the dissolution of a marriage, sex, the frustrations of selfhood, the limits of language itself. By turns allusive and elusive, We Were Hateful People gathers together a rowdy party of influences: Eliot, Ginsberg, Cummings, Cooperman. (Cooperman especially.) But the book is powerfully, idiosyncratically, a product of Khmelnitsky's vision: Playful, pornographic, full of heartbreak and wit. And always striking in its figures and shapes. Khmelnitsky writes sonically, his ear to the page, crafting lines of propulsive sound and fury, and his experiments in forms are eclectic, ecstatic. (Like all the best poets, he writes as if his life depends on it.) Khmelnitsky is a cannibal, feeding on the body of poetry, fueling verse at once hot-blooded and aching with pathos.