Essays & Criticism on Contemporary Poetry & Literary Fiction
Eastwall- 8’Lx8’Hx3’W- Found objects and Straight Pins
THIS MONTH’S FEATURED ARTIST: Megan Prosper
Megan Prosper is a 2011 graduate of Belhaven University with a double major in Visual Art and Biblical Studies. Born in Southern California, Megan grew up all over the world where her father served in the Air Force. She has a heart for integrating the arts and missions, having served on short-term mission trips in various places. “My art has always been inspired by my travels and the collections that I have acquired throughout my life,” Megan states, “I want my work to transport the viewer to another time and place.” To achieve this, she creates large scale Installation Artwork in which the viewer can actually step in to her art and walk around. Her work has been called an Immersive Experience as there is something to for each of the viewers senses to enjoy. Megan was named Freshman Art Major of the Year her first year at Belhaven; 2006-2007, she also received Belhaven’s Art Spirit Award; 2009-2010. Her art has been featured in the Mississippi Collegiate Art Competition for the past two years, winning first place in the Fiber Arts and Sculpture categories in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Megan is currently represented by Fischer Gallery in Jackson, Mississippi. She is also teaching High School Art at The Veritas School in Ridgeland, MS. She hopes to continue integrating art and missions in the future.
Contents 4 8
The Woods of Culture: Kelly Lydick on Arlene Kim Life The Insane Understandable: Diane Simmons on Deborah Clearman
A Masterful Accommodation: Elizabeth Harrington on B.R Lyon
Longing for the Center: Poppy Samuels on Joshua Harmon
From This World To The Next: Kristen Evans on Robert Fernandez
One Day, Weâ€™ll Get This Right: CL Bledsoe on Jayne Pupek
The Real Meaning of Facts: John C. Goodman on Raymond Farr
Morphing With Every Reading: Tim Stobierski on Darcie Dennigan
Slightly Better Human Beings: Jason Pettus on Bonnie Jo Campbell
About Us/Review Copies Available
Altar- 10’Wx15’Lx7’H (corner piece) -Wood Construction, Glass Bottles, Sand
Kelly Lydick on Arlene Kim
Milkweed Editions, 2011
The Woods of Culture:
Arlene Kim’s What Have You Done to Our Ears to Make Us Hear Echoes? invites readers to travel the journey of emigration, through the beauty and confusion that one experiences as they leave their native homeland in order to create a “home” in a new place. One can experience through Kim’s work, a hybrid of past and present, a mix of memory and imagination, and can feel the flickering hint of a possible future in a new place. Echoes is the self, the ghost of the self, a symbol of a familial lineage. It’s the balance of the old and the new, the in between, the sweetness of nostalgia and the uncertainty of the future. Within this complex subject matter, Kim brings through these poems the dichotomy of forced participation and the willingness to embrace the new. But an indirect question is asked throughout: How does one fit in with a new culture, with different conventions, customs, attitude, and language—without relinquishing their personal identity? And then further begs the question: What is identity? Is it a prescribed set of cultural norms? Is it a genetic formula? Does it spring forth from the personality? How does language shape this identity? And what happens when one relocates to another geographic location or country? Certainly the body does not cease to exist—meaning that identity is not just the rudimentary DNA, nor the geographic region from which one originates. The implications that Kim draws in this collection are reminiscent of a Saussureanlike identity, steeped in language and psychology as the basis for individual cultural identity within a larger familial or social clan. Throughout the volume she attempts to answer these questions. In “Translation Plundered” (42) Everything is plundered, chanced again, comrade, traitor, fence.
Gone, the feathers, plucked and traded; we had to— with just thin broth for our hunger—they owed us, but we learned their songs, didn’t we before every bird disappeared from the woods. Kim speaks of the woods as the great unknown, the mysterious, the confusing, the deep, dark woods that eat children, like cherries. Readers can conclude the woods are, in fact, the new unknown culture. Everything mentioned here has been sacrificed, the parts of self that must be left behind in favor of a “greater” force—that is culture—and in exchange, the woods, which has promised to feed us from its babbled breast, for now. When one gives up their first, native language as the primary voice and expression of culture and being, the self is, in some ways, also relinquished. The woods are also a symbol of a thing of fear, a thing so completely unknown that one cannot fathom what might be beyond the next curve of the path into that dense “forest.” At the end of the day, one retreats to their home, the place that many know as a place of solitude, of quiet, a place to rejuvenate, but this forest is what Kim knows as the new “home.” What happens when “home” has become the dark wood, the unknown filled with fear? What happens when this “home,” these woods, are everywhere? What then, when “home” is not only one’s personal abode, but everywhere one looks, foreign, confusing, frightening? What is the fear that accompanies when there is no time for relaxation or rest, when all focus and energy is spent on adaptation and survival? When does one have time to go inward? Recenter? Recalibrate? Reflect? Why not instead imagine what it would be like to escape—or rather be dragged off—as in “Tiger Brother” (43) who
prowls now, keeps watch on all the young from Mother’s line hunts what he lost, ready to take you from home, your true fear. Drag you like meat to an unknown lair, where soon you, too, will go unknown. Home, you imagine, goes on forgetting you. How simple, in some ways, if she could just be swept off under a warm, coarse coat. No more family, no more
name. Lost in strange music This complex and seemingly subversive piece ponders the idea of escapism, the reluctance to relinquish identity, the resentment and resistance to doing so, and what might happen if she were always about to meet an old woman who will catch me in the crook of her wizened arm, croon foul familiar songs, stitch me to her belly, boil away my name, marry me to her twig broom, her lonely Tiger-Brother. Kim’s graceful yet relentless treatment of this difficult topic is superlative. Just as the old woman in “Tiger-Brother” has stitched this narrator to her belly, Kim has stitched together a flawless, lyrical syntax in “Before the Fires” (49), arguably, the strongest piece in this collection. Here she talks of the disintegration of lineage, as family members are left behind by voluntary relocation. She writes: Don’t speak to us of wicks and matches. All is shadowed now, burned, blackened in the choke of ways. Mother wouldn’t like it but I’ll tell you: All our uncles died in fire. Their wax bones made our family tree. What does it mean to leave behind family members when immigrating to another country? The final two lines propose the answer: Too full our bellies—full of murder and nothing. Of what might one’s belly be “full”? What sacrifices must be made as a consequence of this voluntary choice? And what difficult, confusing, or painful complexities exist as a consequence of that choice? Perhaps readers can find the answer in “The Squirrel” (53), a prose poem working as both a personification and a metaphor for the proverbial “chase” of the nut—a 6
nice play on an American colloquialism that shows a deep understanding of the culture in which Kim has been immersed. At the same time, the tone of this piece has an underlying sarcasm, a dash of resentment, and a blinkingly clear picture of the underbelly of hope in a new land full of “promise”—greed. After which Paradise became a seditious yard. The shine grew coarse and dirty; the can shouted vulgarities. Or perhaps the answers may come from the prose poem “The Collecting” (74), the revisiting of memory, the piecing together of what was the experience of emigration: Bees and rag-winged dragonflies. A frozen mouse, teeth bared like a prize. A crow, butterflied open. What are these insects and animals? What are these fragments of memory? It is the history of the forest, she says, of ways we get lost; I would like to say how it all happened; I would like to put it right. What does it mean to “put it right”? To hang, suspended in a world that is comprised neither of what one has known, nor to what one does not belong? To speak of this world as vivid, engaging, and picturesque, would only be a disappointing understatement; Echoes will reverberate now and for generations to come. Kim’s command of the English language (as it’s implied English may not be her first language) is exquisite, and her talent for lyricism a rare gem amongst the rough rocks that will surround this volume on book store shelves. What Have You Done to Our Ears to Make Us Hear Echoes is best understood cover to cover, and will hauntingly lead readers into “the woods” of culture and back out again in order to help finally conclude that the individual’s home is truly within the heart.
Diane Simmons on Deborah Clearman
Catherine Barnes, wife of an academic who can’t leave the college girls alone, and mother of Isaac, a fourteen-year-old “nihilist,” takes a break from her life in Iowa to visit Todos Santos, a mountain town in contemporary Guatemala. There she plans to paint pictures of children for a book project. Meanwhile Isaac’s outlook will broaden; it will be better for him than the summer school her bossy husband had insisted upon. The mountains are beautiful and the people are picturesque; but much more is going on here than will fit on a postcard. The place is awash in superstition, as ancient local beliefs, especially those having to do with the terrifying, sometimes murderous “Lords of the Hills,” collide with the fanaticism of more recently-arrived Christian evangelicals. These have come to Guatemala on a mission of conversion, and they continually broadcast “salvation over tinny loudspeakers in cloying chants that echoed from the mountainsides like gnats whining in the face of God.” The evangelicals are industrious; in addition to messages of salvation they also spread terrifying rumors of devil-worship, claiming that “evil ones are coming from the United States to steal babies.” They will, the evangelicals claim, “arrive at the full moon, remove organs from the babies…and perform their blasphemous rituals right here in Todos Santos.” The residents of the town are urged to “trust no foreign face, no Peace Corps volunteer, no tourist in our hotels.” It may not be the best moment to be an American in town, especially one looking for children to pose for portraits. Indeed, the atmosphere in Todos Santos as described by Clearman seems almost over the top; could there be a place, at least in modern times, so roiled by fanatical crazyness? Fortunately, Clearman has found the sane voices that make the insane understand8
Black Lawrence Press, 2010
The Insane Understandable:
able. An old woman who runs the small hotel where Catherine stays, explains: For people who have lived through the thirty years of civil conflict called La Violencia, who have seen whole villages massacred, sometimes trapped between the government and the guerrillas, it may be that nothing is too horrible to be plausible. In addition to violence, there’s poverty and corruption and the sense that anything can happen to poor people including the loss of their children. Babies are big business here, many of them adopted by Americans. There is a lot of money to made and officials are corrupt. Who knows how many babies are stolen, how many poor young women didn’t really have a choice in giving up their child? And then, what are the Americans doing with these babies? “Here where babies are plentiful,” the old woman explains, “poor people wonder why the foreigners pay so much for the babies. Perhaps for their organs.” Catherine, initially views these fears as silly and primitive. But now there is a dawning grasp of both the extent of her own privilege as well as the limitation of her own understanding. As if to demonstrate how fear can be whipped to a fever pitch and how rich foreigners can be utterly tone-deaf to what is going on around them, a large black bus pulls into town. The bus is full of Japanese tourists who have ignored the warning that outsiders had best keep away on this day of the full moon. The people emerging from the bus are all in fashionable black and gray, some in wide black hats with hanging white veils. The tourists are weird and scary looking, especially to townspeople who have been whipped into a frenzy of fear that Satanists will be invading; the bus is attacked with sticks and stones and set alight. As Catherine is getting to know her “mountain paradise,” her wayward son Isaac, is learning that teen-age “nihilism” is much safer practiced in Iowa than in Guatemala; the guys he falls in with are cool and take him to some awesome gatherings. Only, it seems that they have also kidnapped him. He won’t be seeing his mother again unless she comes up with a sizeable ransom. Despite all these troubles, there’s time for romance, as Catherine’s guide, Oswaldo, admits up that he likes “plain-spoken and aggressive” gringas, who don’t hide behind their femininity. He would appear to be a welcome alternative to Catherine’s philandering and know-it-all husband who, when he comes down to set things right, sees only the “broken glass, plastic wrappers and dog turds,” never the riot of impatiens and calla lilies that bank the mountain path.
Covering- 5’x5’ -Coffee Filters and Thread
Elizabeth Harrington on B.R Lyon
B.R. Lyon’s poems travel far, covering a taboo relationship with an Egyptian partner, a clash of cultures, a brother who dies, a mother who represents “unfinished business,” and the “ticking bomb” of HIV terrorism. In addition to portraying the mortals in his life, Lyon invokes spiritual and ancient history, through Agrippa, Medusa, Buddha, and Jesus (who “could be that guy with his milk crate on the subway”). This book is raw with honesty, served up with lively, lyrical, intelligent language, (including “local color” snippets in Arabic), compelling metaphor and imagery, and humor and wit. Through the alchemy of poetry, the result is the conversion of life in all its sordid glory, into art. Much of the book is about the narrator’s covert relationship with his Egyptian partner (which makes them both “infidels,” with scary attendant consequences). The poignancy of longing pitted against the necessity for self-denial is reflected in several parts of the book, (“It’s unhealthy, love, what we don’t do together”), and in a poem based on a chapter of the Qur’an, in which he asserts: “I will remain an infidel…I have come to cherish love’s most benevolent blasphemies.” Lyon cites the chasm between him and his lover, in distance, and perspective. In “Trouble Is,” he says that when his Egyptian lover sees Cassiopeia “sitting upright in her chair, I see her hanging upside down. We don’t look at the same sky.” In “Self/ Undoing,” he chants a kind of mantra of the self, which is repeated in evolving ways, starting with “take a look at yourself; take a look at me looking at you looking at yourself.” On the surface an internal dialogue, it also implies a dialogue with an absent other (or an internalized, distant other), in ways that convey at once playfulness and pathos.
In terms of technique, the poems are rich with contradiction. Lyon poses riddles throughout the book: “I love my brother who’s dead. Is he now an angel?” then later, he says “He was not an angel.” Similarly, about the manner of death, he says “He didn’t cross against the light; it happened slowly then quickly. Or maybe
University of Georgia Press, 2011
A Masterful Accomodation:
he did, but we were all misreading signals…” We realize that these are not really contradictions, but different ways of seeing the truth. In “Random,” he plays with the often unknowable nature of truth: “My answer will be Yes. My answer will be No… The correct answer is indeterminate.” A recurring theme throughout the book is the body’s appetites (“God is bulimic and lets all creation know what he can’t stomach,” “What you should have eaten I spit out,” “I am a fun-loving Yank, and can stomach anything”), and restraint: “Limitation hones the ultimatums we’ve freely chosen from what our lives demand of us and holds our appetites at knifepoint.” In “Prophylaxis,” he seeks a way to hide his anti-HIV pills—a symbol of this same theme of limitation, in a country whose religious beliefs make him “unclean” (“I am not clean like your mosque but not as dirty as the hands that wouldn’t understand my stealthily gentle touch. They would push me away if they knew who I am.”) Lyon manages to transcend his story and obstacles as a gay man, to one that touches us all. This is a love story (“I am simply a compromised man who loves you without compromise but complications”), a redemptive journey that spans two continents, and a sense of finding oneself in another. As such, it is universal. His lover perceives him as “white inside,” which Lyon sees as shorthand for his American persona (“the bright lasting hope of America…the spotlessness of my stonewashed jeans”) contrasted with everything (his lover) considers “filth or in need of replacing.” In this, Lyon finds identity (“For what is white but what wants the assignment of color”), commitment, (“You are white inside. You’ve burned this into my ear so many times…this is how I know we’ll burn together a long long time”), and purity (“a white-hot purifying flame between us”). Lyon tells us, with a sense of wonder: “It’s not by chance birds fly though the air, but because their bones are hollow. A masterful accommodation.” Throughout this book, he makes us think about how we might achieve such accommodation in our own lives.
Poppy Samuels on Joshua Harmon
Broken nose, but the ear hears well enough. That’s the sense I get when I’m reading Joshua Harmon’s Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie. There’s a “capacity in branches” that helps build a natural band shell—a continuously moving skysure contraption— a glossy place where recitations are performed, echoed, and heard via tape loop. There’s a logic requiring a musical key. There’s a cataloguing, a looking out past one’s nose (nose—nascere—to know) to look-listen for what, exactly? I wanna know! What will we find? Another world besides Poughkeepsie? Will we find love? Why am I always asking these questions? Am I demented? While the poems in this collection obviously are in conversation with Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, I can’t also help but be reminded of the Joycean fascination with physiology, chapters as discrete organs, inner monologues, the Greek world, T.S. Eliot, and Leopold Bloom walking around Dublin. Maybe that’s just Modernism talking—the casualness, and hyper-consciousness, the city, the guts and kidney piss on one’s lips—and my preference for the exuberant Joyce (and the dynamic Woolf).
Unlike the backwards-looking Baudelaire, the poems in Harmon’s collection do not seem to track the speaker-poet as a social misfit incapable of transcendence, rather he’s a pseudo-naïve participant cast into trance, spellbound into visions, willing to voyage wherever the trip takes him. However, I’m not suggesting that this is a poetry concerned with transcendence or whatever. It’s not. No, the speaker-poet still shares his work with the voyeur, the stroller, the lounger, keeping himself at a remove. (Remember, we’re always reminded of the frame) But what’s compelling here is the force and determination of his spell. The poems interest themselves in something closer to the friction-joy that comes from walking around and looking: the
University of Akron Press, 2011
Longing for the Center:
imagination working so hard it smokes! Can you really build a fire by rubbing two sticks together, “as if two blocks of wood / were knocked together”? The speaker’s spleeniness, or youthful world-weariness, allows him the pleasure of looking, and looking hard. He’s receptive and alive and submits, rinsing himself so completely in place, in Poughkeepsie. The knowledge center shifts: between split log and smoke, margin and note, my knowledge unbraids itself from freed finitudes: and whatever sense of the possible the afternoon offers vanishes in a lethal twilight Between the physical and imagined, there’s a transmutation into the atmosphere. Smokiness. When perception keeps getting stuck in the steeples and tree branches, what’s there to do but wait for “the friskiest winds?” Like “leaf-debris carried curbside,” “the shapes this city assumes” maneuver into “the same shape / as agonized self / -awareness….” And that’s charming to me—the willingness to stay and sit with different modes of attention, to lose oneself on “windy avenues.” When I’m commuting on the train, I like seeing people, like me, who are not wearing ear plugs, who are not clutching their phones, who are not otherwise engaged with themselves. I like to be social in dress, and in the way I comport myself with others. I like seeing someone’s body move across the street. As I was telling a friend the other day, “I’m not embarrassed to be human.” Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie explores the art of exploration. It reminds me of John Stilgoe’s fabulous, Outside Lies Magic, a study in why we all need to look around every once in a while and follow a line. Harmon’s is a poetry that explores so it can invent. Looks “beyond the pines, / beyond the privacy fence” and looks for evening sun. In various levels of depression it asks, what is the value of loss? A: Black and white reproductions. What does the record of loss look like? How does the evening sun transform this loss? The public-private face dilemma is real; to be out in the world but privately held in one’s own thoughts. Perhaps it’s enough to be privately held and to generate smoke—a personal ether—that comes from looking and listening to the landscape. “Sparks from a jumper cable. Speech bubble filled with black marks.” Other reviews of this book comment on the sophisticated use of technique: the terrific enjambment, high/ low diction, enlisted syntax soldiers, wild modulation of voice across couplet and prose form. And those reviews are spot on. The overall effective is repetitive, rhythmic and musical. “‘All I do is push off,’ says the man in the blood-stained apron.” Push off, push open, close, collapse, expand. The kinetic energy in these 14
poems is tremendous, especially when you canâ€™t figure out if you want to describe the intensity as lyrical or more like the never-ending, all-night power that comes with the serial poem. If anything, I wanted more instances of demented, physical love (though the mice in the drawers part is terrific). More instances of strange longing cracking into song like this: train rumbles by: if I stand in the middle of the street long enough, it will come to me: Milkweed and broken sink, stand of browned goldenrod, blitz of rust-orange blow -down: yes, dear twilight, I like to be alone with scents of sill-dust and gasoline Thereâ€™s the potential for fire, right, the golden ticket in? When the only other world is really just your world but heightened in observance? Where observed thing becomes the very thing you think you can fuck and love at the same time if youâ€™re wiling to wait around long enough in the worst of conditions, and it looks like a flower, a goldenrod fence that never says no? Everybody loves street, loves the way the barby fence catches flower and pant leg all at once.
Covering- 5’x5’ -Coffee Filters and Thread 16
From This World To The Next: Kristen Evans on Robert Fernandez
Canarium Books, 2011
“We have opened our lives / upon silence and the bridge,” intone the voices in the last poem of Robert Fernandez’s We Are Pharaoh. We’re left suspended in this liminal space, the threshold between the complicated knot of language and the more tangible, every-day furnishings of the waking world, throughout Fernandez’s first collection. At first read, the strangeness and opacity of Fernandez’s lyrics appear to exist outside, or even just beside, conventional understandings of time and place or an embodied speaker. Despite, or perhaps even because of, the richness of their language, these poems cannot be picked up, dangling, from thumb and forefinger. Rather, they invite you, sure as a light bobbing through a bog, to meet them out there. This is not to say Fernandez’s poems lack heart or empathy or desire, any of the recognizably human features of poetry. In a book concerned less with bodies than with their individual parts, less with eyes and arms than with the tenor of the soul, the speaker is at times achingly direct: I remain a believer... I am best when I am with you panic, gauze-white scepter buried in the center of me... but today I am proud, spilling off in countless directions today I watch as the souls come trampling across me
Much like the speaker in this poem, the voices in We Are Pharaoh spill off in countless directions, negotiating the territory between “I” and “we” more often than the intimate relationship between “I” and “you.” At times, the intimacy and intensity of the second person address is openly eschewed and can even be read as an accusation of intrusion: “Moored, you are / too intimate in us” warn the speakers of “Lauds,” and as a new initiate into Fernandez’s world, you can’t help but agree. In this world the collective past, the ghosts in the machinery of our histories, supersedes the value typically placed upon personal, intimate spaces between individuals. Fernandez imbues these collective voices with the powerful task of dictating belonging, raising questions about selfhood and identity, the treacherous passage from this world to the next. Behind every “I” stands an implicit “we”: the omnipresent voices of the dead called into being through language-as-prayer. Often the departed “remain faceless and beyond [reach]”, although they can also serve as guides, as “[w]hat illuminates the morning.” For intimacy in these poems is a spiritual endeavor, visible primarily in the shared histories of the living and the dead, their implied synchronicities. To a large extent it is this slippage between the singular and the collective, the unity and the fragmentation of time, that casts the collection in its otherworldly light. In a recent interview with THERMOS magazine editor Zach Savich, Fernandez situates his work in terms of the uncanny: Dread (or a sense of uncanniness) is arguably a more productive starting point [than the sublime] for thinking about one’s shared finitude. It presents itself in the poem as an experience of our exposure to a groundless and irreconcilably unfamiliar world. One takes up residence in the unknown and unknowable, sustained by supports/activities (e.g. language) that are inherently uncertain, at risk. These supports, which bear the burdens of the past, provide only a temporary ground upon which a work or world might be situated. It’s impossible not to see the tension Fernandez identifies between the knowable surface of the world and its impenetrable depths as one possible framework for approaching the haunted landscapes and speakers of We Are Pharaoh. The visual surfaces of Fernandez’s poems are at once lush and abstract, betraying their own unknowable magnitude through the materiality of language. Fittingly, the collection has a number of recursive images and colors that serve as visual anchors in an otherwise placeless place: dizzying beams of radiant light, eyes set in stomachs or walls, the reds of blood, the golds of crowns. 19
Even when we touch down in a world that more closely resembles our own, as in “The Pines,” Fernandez asks the reader to negotiate familiar landscapes, while also, in many ways, refusing to provide a clear picture: We recall, looking up at the violence of spinning sky-recall a violence that took place in sound alone. Skilled, we see our arms unlock, souls trained on fresh estates. We flee from mountains, from pavilions building across the eyes in thirst and scarcity. Like “The Pines,” the poems in We Are Pharaoh ask us to imagine the unchecked desire of souls departing the violence of living in a burst of static. Fernandez invites us to project our own desire onto a landscape he offers to build with us, as we confront our own understandings and struggles with the past. And, with Fernandez serving as our guide into the underworld, we do not have to do so alone. References: THERMOS interview: http://thermosmag.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/a-conversation-with-robert-fernandez/
CL Bledsoe on Jayne Pupek
Crows are some of the most misunderstood and maligned birds. They’re considered pests, scavengers, ugly, but they’re vastly more intelligent than most people realize and, of course, what could make them more sympathetic than the fact that they make jokes? Similarly, many of the characters in the poems in Jayne Pupek’s second collection resemble crows in that they are unwanted, scavengers, often damaged characters, but Pupek’s great magic is that she manages to make these characters sympathetic without making them into caricatures. Many of these poems read as though they are monologues imagined while some poor housewife with unrealized dreams stares out a kitchen window while doing dishes, or looks back on a path not taken. The title poem is a moody contemplation on life. It begins, “You ask me to explain the livelihood of crows./I say nothing, only point to the darkening expanse//above where birds saw holes in shapes/ like themselves.” (Pupek, lines 1-5). She continues with a portrait of an almost serene cabbage farmer spreading manure, “I saw his face this morning,//tilted toward the sun, and he looked as if he felt gratitude/ for his shovel of dung, his stretch of land.”” (8-11). The narrator seems to envy this farmer for finding a peace she lacks in her own situation; “In the evening, when you go back to your sick wife,/ I won’t quarrel.” (13-14). She goes through the motions of domestic life: “I’ll stand at my stove and boil//one of the cabbages down to soup.” (14-16). But the peace of the cabbage farmer eludes her. “I’ll look out my window and watch the red eyes// of your taillights disappear down the road,/ while overhead, crows divide the sky into halves.” (17-20). The crows are almost mocking her. What can she do? “I’ll put up my hair, wash my face, and go on.” (23).
In “Another Love Poem,” Pupek describes an economically struggling couple. Pupek’s sardonic sense of humor shines in poems like this; “Last night, / we ate Chinese and balanced the checkbook/ on our knees.” (7-9). Even though the couple
Mayapple Press, 2010
One Day, We’ll Get This Right:
seemingly lacks prospects, they retain hope: “What do we have but this radio and the blue static of dreams?” (1). Pupek describes scenes of the lives of this couple, tending towards humor. But this tone is precarious: “These days, circumstances engulf us /with the weight of concrete. The lost jobs,/ the eviction, the weeks on Ward Six. Hours can be heavy.” (15-17). Finally, Pupek resolves to pick the path of hope: “One day, we’ll get this right, you tell me./ I believe we already have.” (22-23) She continues this theme in “Recession Song,” in which she describes total economic collapse: “We will learn the ways of the stray dogs/ roaming Camelback Road.//We will eat what we can find or kill.” (16-19). Even in an economic situation so hopeless that people would be forced to descend to animal-like circumstances, there is hope, if only it be in the beauty of the natural world and of togetherness. “Crows” is a humorous portrait of prejudice in which “My neighbor advises me to stop feeding the crows…He says the crows//bring bad dreams” (1, 7-9). The neighbor is plagued by nightmares he attributes to the ‘pest’ birds. One can sense Pupek’s narrator smirking and, when the neighbor leaves, putting out more crow food. “Red Rulers” is a song of a ‘desperate housewife’ dealing with “The drudgery of housework and sex with the same man.” (2) She continues, “Yes Peter, it’s possible//to keep your wife inside the pumpkin shell,/but be prepared for the insults// she’ll carve into orange walls.” (5-10). “I no longer recognize myself//in the mirror.” (20-22). It’s a portrait of desperation and hopelessness. Finally, the narrator states that “There are red rulers inside/the desk drawer, but I can think of nothing// to measure in inches when outside/the sky stretches blue and unbroken for miles.” (25-29) “Thoughts of Plums While Hospitalized” is a haunting portrait of cancer. Pupek’s imagery is vivid and compelling. “As a girl, she once collected plums/blackened by blight in a year of late frosts./Plums left on branches dried and shriveled. Outside her window, moth-white/mummies clung to trees for months.” (27-31). And finally, “Before She Dusts” is a pathos-ridden portrait of a life. “The body’s soot is an ungodly bird/come to roost in moldy corners.” (6-7). The narrator has come to accept that “there’s no getting rid of the grime…All she asks is an occasional reprieve” (17, 19). It comes, again, through the beauty of the natural world as, “…she pauses…to watch a hummingbird shimmer/outside the window, its green/back glistening with rain.” (20, 22-24). Pupek balances exquisite imagery and language with powerful, knowing observations. She winks at us from between the lines, though at times, there are tears in her eyes. The tragedy is that Pupek died shortly after this book was published, but she left behind two solid poetry collections and a novel. Even if she’d only left this one collection, she’d have cemented her place as a true poet. 22
Nomad- 7’x7’x7’ -Wood Construction, Fabric, and Found Objects
Nomad- 7’x7’x7’ -Wood Construction, Fabric, and Found Objects
The Real Meaning of Facts: John C. Goodman on Raymond Farr
Otoliths has built a reputation for publishing the strange and unusual and Raymond Farr’s “ECSTATIC/.of facts” continues in this vein of celebration of innovation. On opening the book, we get an inkling of what we are in for on the dedication page where there is a quotation from “dada” by Jean (Hans) Arp side by side with a quote from the popular TV show The Simpsons. Throughout this book of 27 poems, Raymond Farr follows this pattern by relentlessly revisiting popular culture in a Dada context. Dada is an anti-art movement that grew out of the insanity of the First World War. The initial intent was to destroy the bourgeois values and morality that gave rise to the unimaginable horrors of the war. Dada is purposely chaotic, random, nonsensical, offensive and disruptive – everything that polite society is not. While mainly a visual art movement, its philosophy of intentional destabilization had a profound effect on the development of poetry in the early 20th century. The poems in “ECSTATIC/.of facts” perpetuate the Dada disturbance and disruption within a post-modern frame. The pieces are in prose-poem style, arranged in columns, as if stripped from a daily newspaper. Each column is about a third of a page wide and there is only one column per page, isolating the text in bleak white space. The text within the narrow columns is fully justified, so the lines are stretched or compressed to fit the space, giving the disconcerting impression of language straining at confining boundaries. The visual effect of the gaps and closures is that the language itself becomes a labyrinth the reader must wend through, a maze every bit as convoluted and tortuous as the path of life itself.
There is a sense throughout the book of the importance of language. In an insightful and stimulating journey, Farr vividly demonstrates how language can shape worlds. The reader is invited to investigate the relationship between language, meaning and
culture. Post-modern poetry can sometimes appear to be nothing more than clever word games, but Raymond Farr shows that unconventional poetry can be used to express real depth and understanding: Each Fact Is a Tenement Onslaught of language is the onslaught of a difficult pearl. Being formed until told. Interchangeable parts rev against forming a second sentence aloud. In the mists of seven am. Hangs language on winches steeped in conveyance. Is a rope like a meter? The amber light of meaning stares back. Its book on the subject is the rose of our stanchion. We stand looking forward. Awkward for metaphors. The reader is taken on an intense and often playful walk through landscapes of significance in which we are faced with “the menace of the promise, the real behind the real.” And where can we find the meaning of our existence when every moment we are brought up against with something as “fundamental as chaos”? In Farr’s world, we need go no further than the American suburban culture of generic mega stores, chain restaurants, popular music and blockbuster movies for our answer. In reframing these ubiquitous icons in discursive language, we discover a reality where “Marcel Duchamp is singing songs once sung by Doris Day.” This Might Be City Anorexia or Maybe Ocala, FL I’ve Found There‟s a bright rubber substance we call chasing a dachshund through a small crowded Zaxby‟s; called eating the earth at the edge of our neighborhood. The street we are on is an organ or 26
cell engorged after sunset When we begin again, the sun is adjacent to the Goodwill on Easy St. The pigeons here mock us. On our left is a Wal-Mart. The Wal-Mart we frequent sells sleek little iPods that store 9,000 songs… Things are not, Farr shows us, as they seem – the daily reality we experience is not the only reality. “The real world is never the most real thing to you.” With an astute sense of phrasing and rhythm, Raymond Farr explores the interplay of language and culture by taking us through “all possible versions of a straight line” to learn that there is “a cubicle in a circle after blue skies on Saturday night.” We are urged to take linguistic responsibility for the structure of the present instance through being reminded that, “We are the consequence of cause & affect,” and that only “moments ago there was the illusion of nothing.” The dialectical “I” in these poems is our collective aloneness in the desert of constant traffic noise. Despite our need to belong, we are ultimately alone, members only of ourselves. Overwhelmed by the lies we tell ourselves to make the terror of existence bearable, our lives become “a dream we dream to the end of the world.” Farr invites us to strip away all the pretence so we can listen closely to the amorphous flux of the real, where perhaps we will hear “the prayers of angels being answered in the dark,” and glimpse the inner heart where “answers are vague” and the “only true conclusion, we conclude, is always inconclusiveness.” In the end, we have only our shadows to lose. The poems do more than provide a new perspective; they actively engage the reader in re-thinking the world we live in by showing how one act or event can have many possible meanings. Opening up these possibilities makes life an essentially Dada experience. “The motionless irony stays till the end.”
Fordham University Press, 2008
Morphing With Every Reading:
Tim Stobierski on Darcie Dennigan
Darcie Dennigan’s book of poems, Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse, opens with the poem “I Sense a Second Heart,” which quickly establishes the unique logic that permeates this 66-page collection. “We used gum to get out gum, grease to remove grease. With me this logic stuck – When quiet got too much I put in earplugs or hit the one I meant to clinch.” It is the logic of folk-remedies taken to the extreme, a logic of doubles and repetitions, where one thing does not necessarily lead to the thing you thought it would, and it sets the reader up for what is to come. The poetry in this slender book is devoted to double-takes: to mythology and hagiography retold through a contemporary lens; to words morphing from one meaning to another; to the seeming reincarnation of a family patriarch through generation after generation, triggered simply by the bestowal of a name. And though the poetry in this collection is varied, we are forced to view the poems through the somewhat irrational logic established in this first poem: “I saw the way to feel my heartbeat was to beat it – with pots and skillets, with umbrellas, with bullets – I killed my heart to feel it.” And yet, though irrational, it is this logic that gives the poetry strength. 28
Dennigan is a poet that composes more than just poetry with her verse – she composes alchemy, an alchemy of words. By giving her words properties and mixing them together, she – and the reader – can watch what happens. For example, in the poem “Etymology for Clam Diggers,” we see the word “break” doing just that – breaking down into “bray” and “ache.” Like an unstable element, it breaks down into a baser form. Or there is “The New Mothers,” a prose poem which thrusts the reader into an orphan hospital so understaffed that there are not enough nurses to comfort every child, a world where to say a thing is to make it real. “To comfort the babies,” the speaker explains, the nurses “wrapped some clocks in blanket scraps” to mimic a mother’s heartbeat. “That was the order of how we began to make mothers. We made them meter –” But meter and mother are two completely different words, with completely different meanings and connotations. How can you replace one with the other and expect everything to turn out fine? It’s like removing carbon from a chemical equation and replacing it with phosphorus: if you don’t know the properties of the elements you’re working with, and the effects they have on each other, then you don’t know how they will react. You don’t know what the outcome will be, just as the nurses didn’t know what the outcome of their swap would be. “The words were so close in sound, and we were such suckers,” the speaker explains, as the consequences of the swap begin to set in. Dennigan writes her poetry with a narrative style that calls for a suspension of disbelief. In her poetry she creates worlds with unique rules – like the logic of her first poem – that the reader must simply accept in order to appreciate the work. For example, there is the long, two-part poem “Sentimental Atom Smasher,” which places the reader – quite literally – in the center of a joke. Only in this joke, the guy that walks into a bar refuses to be “the guy” that walks into a bar; he knows he is in a joke, but he refuses to play along. Or there is “Orienting in the Land of New Pirates,” a poem where “energy is the only life,” where men “suckly gas pumps” and “surf on oil slicks.” Sure, you could go ahead and say, “Psht, yeah right, like that’s possible,” and then feel all smug about yourself for seeing a point where the poet had the facts wrong. But the thing is, Dennigan isn’t working in the same world as us. In our world, baseballs are made of rubber, cork, and twine – but in the world of “Sentimental Atom Smasher” they are made out of nostalgia atoms. The poet didn’t get the facts wrong. The facts are just different in the world of this poem. If you look at the poetry literally, you are going to severely limit what you take away from the experience. But lose yourself in the worlds that Dennigan has crafted – accept the logic – and you will walk away from this book with a slew of new perspectives. 29
Pick up a copy of Dennigan’s book, and you’ll see the virgin Saint Ursula juxtaposed against six girls celebrating a birthday in a bar, the “gleaming pelvic bones of virgins” against “bathroom groping” and “lemon-drop shots” (“Eleven Thousand and One”). You’ll see Augustine’s City of Gods against New Jersey during the blackout of 1977, where “gods [sit] in the dark, eating fishsticks” (“City of Gods”). You’ll see May Day, the ancient holiday celebrating fertility and life, against the Apocalypse, the epitome of destruction (the titular poem,“Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse”). You’ll see prose poems and couplets and lines so long that the trim of the book was changed in order to accommodate them. You’ll see a poem consisting of a chain of emails, and another that takes the form of a bureaucratic memo. In short, pick up a copy of this book and you’ll have a collection of poetry that you’ll find yourself going back to again and again. It is a book that begs to be re-read, and one that morphs with each re-reading. This is a book written by a poet confident in her own style and logic – and, as I’m sure you know, those happen to be the best.
Beautiful & Ugly: CL Bledsoe on Ed Madden Lethe Press, 2011
This collection revolves around the image of Abraham sacrificing his son, and the choice to do so. Madden begins with “Sacrifice.” The narrator differs from Isaac in that there is “no angel there to stay [my father’s] hand.” The narrator states, “He loves his god more//than me.” Of course, this could be taken literally, or colloquially to mean ‘He loves his god more than I do.’ Both meanings introduce important themes for the collection. Madden describes a troubled childhood with vivid language. “Dust” begins, “Not every home has this loneliness…” Madden continues: “It’s September, the pokeweed heavy with berries, goldenrod gliding the ditch./ The barn smells of soybeans and rats, bean sacks netted with web,//fretted with dust and hunger.” Madden’s narrator observes but finds no comfort in what he sees. “You stand there in the dark,/ listening for a distant car, the combines rumbling in plumes of dust// across the field…” Madden is at his best when describing the rugged beauty of his Arkansas childhood, perhaps due to the difficult emotions he’s dealing with. But Madden doesn’t smear the page with sentimentality; he handles these scenes much more subtly. “Promise” begins with beautiful language, “Levees wind like snakes along the lanes/ of rice. Daylilies throng a well pool’s rim…The pool// is still, the water clear. The pump has stopped./ What did you hope to find?” It’s a melancholy scene, charged with mixed emotions. The narrator does find something: a turtle shell. “There is no body, but two eggs spill/ to the grass, two dull rubber stones/ in a cask of bone, a promise gone rotten.” Madden continues, “The lilies rise, forgotten, the filed lies still--//the shell remains in memory like a shield.”
Part of Madden’s alienation stems from the overbearing religiosity he touched on earlier, and touches on throughout the book. This is intertwined with his own sexual awakening, which is at odds with the biblical interpretation expressed through that religiosity. But if the family and community failed him, Madden found a new family, a
new community. Madden is a gifted poet. Sensuality underlies many of his poems. More than one of them is a meditation on the aftermath of lovemaking, the perfume in the air in spring. Madden balances poems of love, poems of loss, and poems of place with compelling language, hopefulness and loss. Madden cherry-picks his words; he’s spare and clean but his images echo far beyond the page. And more than that, Madden is that rarest of things these days: a poet with something to say. This collection is heartbreaking and life-reaffirming. It’s beautiful and ugly and, in a word, it’s poetry.
Vessel- 15’Lx6’Wx8’H -Wood Construction
Vessel- 15’Lx6’Wx8’H -Wood Construction
Jason Pettus on Bonnie Jo Campbell
The more critical examinations of novels I do, the more I’m starting to realize that our enjoyment of them—and I mean in this case a deep, lasting enjoyment that stays with you even years later—relies not just on the typical issues of plot, character, style, etc, but also such subtle topics as that author’s ability to make that situation come alive in this magical, hard-to-define way, the ability to confound our expectations, the ability to take characters that we may despise at first and literally force us to develop a deep empathy for them, through sheer will and storytelling skills alone. Because, when you really think about it, it’s not the projects that exactly meet our expectations that ever stay with us for long—that’s merely entertainment, a way for us to pleasantly wile away the time when we’re bored—but instead the ones that surprise us, that maybe even anger us at first, the ones that force us to look at a situation in a new light whether we want to or not. And when these projects are at their best, they have the ability to literally transform us, to make us understand the world in a better, more complex way than we did before; and this is really the goal of the arts when all is said and done, not just to entertain but to explain the world to us, to examine difficult situations in intelligent ways so that we might become slightly better human beings by the end of it all.
That’s certainly the case, for example, with Bonnie Jo Campbell’s phenomenal new novel Once Upon a River, which almost since the first day of its existence has been touted as the frontrunner for the 2012 Pulitzer, a prediction looking more prophetic with each passing month; because not only is it exquisite in all its technical details, almost a given when you consider Campbell’s past (she’s a well-loved Michiganbased professor who has already either won or been nominated in the past for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Eudora Welty Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship), but it also possesses in spades this exact elusive quality I was talking about before, all the more astonishing for being set among uneducated hillbilly trash in the rural outskirts of Kalamazoo in
W.W. Norton, 2011
Slightly Better Human Beings:
the 1970s. Because let me make my biases clear right away—I actually grew up in such an environment myself, only in Missouri instead of Michigan, maybe not so blatantly white-trash in my case but certainly surrounded by white trash at all times, and in many ways my move to Chicago in the ‘90s was in an attempt to get as far away from those kinds of people as possible without actually leaving the country; and so when I first picked this up and it looked like it was going to be yet another misguided academic ode to the “savage nobility” of racist, ignorant, backwoods monsters, needless to say that I was disappointed, given how much fawning praise it’s already received in just the few months it’s now been out. And indeed, if I hadn’t been reading this on specific assignment for another literary journal besides my own, the chances are likely that I would’ve never made it past the excruciating first fifty pages, in which we watch our beautiful yet semi-feral sixteen-year-old sharpshooting heroine Margo Crane first get raped by her leering, drunken uncle, then get blamed for it by the rest of her family, then witnesses her dad get murdered from a shotgun blast right in front of her, and then takes off in a rowboat up the Kalamazoo River in search of her slutty, borderline-retarded mother, who immediately abandoned Margo at the exact moment she stopped growing taller at fourteen, under the justification that she “was a woman now” and no longer needed parental guidance. No matter what your opinion on the subject, all will agree that that’s a lot of hillbilly trash to deal with in the first fifty pages of a novel, and those with even the slightest negative opinions of hillbilly trash can’t really be blamed for giving up on this book in angry disgust before even reaching chapter five. But then a remarkable thing happened, which is that Campbell started pulling me into the story more and more, not so much expanding the plot itself but rather its underlying message and even general milieu. And indeed, I take it as a lucky coincidence that I just happen to be reading George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels right now as well, because both projects surprisingly deal with the same topic at their deepest, most bottom levels—namely that, far from the chaotic, dark, backwards, black-and-white world that Enlightenment scholars painted the Medieval Period of Western civilization (i.e. 500 to 1400 AD), an attitude that historians in the 1700s almost had to adopt for political purposes, life under a form of violent quasi-anarchy is actually a lot more complex and sophisticated than many give it credit for, with an ever-shifting series of rules and alliances among all the people in that community, a realpolitik give-and-take that can many times produce its own strange form of peace and stability, apart from the usual structure of government, judges and police that we in the West now take so much for granted, precisely because of these old Enlightenment scholars painting such a doomsday picture of what the alternative is. Because the more you read of Once Upon a River (set almost entirely within 36
nearly lawless rural locations, I should make clear), the more you realize that Campbell means for this hillbilly trash and their “shotgun justice” to be a grand metaphor instead of a literal portrait, a stand-in for any number of situations from real life where the concept of “law and order” is shaky at best, from Medieval Europe to modern Middle East failed states to even post-apocalyptic science-fiction (ask me how much this book reminded me at times of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road); and that what Campbell is mostly interested in exploring are the complicated and highly politicized ways that the people in such an environment create a form of law and order for themselves anyway, the exact organic process that brought us our modern governments and judges and police in the first place, instead of these institutions springing forth from the ground fully formed in the 1700s like Enlightenment historians would have us believe. And that’s a much more interesting thing than listening to some Starbucks-sipping professor drone on about the “savage nobility” of Jerry Springer guests, and especially with Campbell examining it within such a unique and unexpected setting; and in fact that’s the main reason to even read this book, is to watch our street-smart (river-smart?) protagonist negotiate these choppy political waters for herself, learning step by step and with plenty of mistakes how to survive and even thrive within this dangerous lawless world of constant sexual and physical assault, or at least with the threat of random assault hanging over everything like a giant dark cloud. Of course, this being a smart academic novel, Once Upon a River abounds with literary allusions as well, and in fact I suspect that Campbell meant for this to be at least partly an homage to the various classics of rural-US literature that I assume informed her in her own youth; for example, both Annie Oakley’s biography and the Foxfire books come immediately to mind, mostly because of Campbell specifically referencing them by name several times, and it’s easy to detect strains of both Mark Twain and Henry David Thoreau in there as well. And this is to say nothing of the recent Hollywood hits True Grit and Winter’s Bone, which also feature tough, closelipped teenage girls as their main heroines, negotiating dangerous and lawless rural environments on their own. But perhaps the most direct nod to another literary work here is one that Campbell never explicitly mentions, but that hugely informs this manuscript if you’re familiar with it already, which is William Least Heat-Moon’s criminally underrated Blue Highways; a Native American who had lost touch with his ancestral roots, Moon set out in the ‘70s on a real-life cross-country trip, driving only on forgotten back lanes (the literal “blue highways” on an old 1930s map of the US he used to navigate his trip), with the resulting nonfiction book partly a loving ode to American regionalist authenticity and partly a sad elegy to its rapid disappearance, being choked to death in those years by the first big migration of malls and fast-food chains to the rural countryside. And indeed, I think it no coincidence at all that one of the most important 37
side characters in Campbell’s book almost exactly matches the description of the real Moon when he was actually making his trip back in the ‘70s, and I give a lot of kudos to her for creating such a sly ode without ever coming out and just saying, “And did I mention that I adore Blue Highways?” Ultimately it’s hard to imagine how this novel could be any better than it currently is; it’s as thrilling and bloody as a beach read, as astute and beautifully written as you would expect from someone with Campbell’s credentials, chock-full of horrible men and subtle references to feminist theory but without letting any of the equally horrible women off the hook either, the entire plot propelled by one of the most fascinating literary characters I’ve come across in a long time. And like I said, more important than any of this, Campbell achieved the truly remarkable feat of changing my mind while I was reading it, making me understand both my own rural background and my various ex-girlfriends in a profound new way, a way that lets me come to more of a resolution about both subjects than I had possessed before picking up this book. And that’s why I’m happy to announce that today Once Upon a River becomes the first book of 2011 to receive a perfect score from me, a truly unforgettable experience that deserves every accolade it’s received. I urge all lovers of great literature to pick up a copy as soon as possible, and I eagerly look forward to seeing how it will fare come next year’s awards season.
Eastwall- 8’Lx8’Hx3’W- Found objects and Straight Pins
January Contributors Kelly Lydick’s writing has appeared in ditch: poetry that matters, shady side review, SwankSpeak!, Java Magazine, Switched-on Gutenberg and Mission At Tenth. She also has forthcoming work in Thema. Her story Love is a Piece of Gravel Lodged in the Brain was nominated for the 2011 Dzanc Books “Best of the Web,” and her work has also been featured on KQED’s The Writers’ Block under the theme “Silhouettes.” Kelly is the author of the chapbook We Once Were (Pure Carbon Publishing, AZ), and the experimental work, Mastering the Dream (Second Story Books, CA). In addition, Kelly is a certified Gateway Dreaming™ Coach. Her website is: www.kellylydick.com
Diane Simmons’ short fiction collection, Little America, winner of the 2010 Ohio State University prize for fiction, will be published by the Ohio State University Press in June. Her short story, “Yukon River,” was a runner-up for the 2010 Missouri Review Editor’s Prize. Other short fiction has appeared in numerous journals such as Beloit Fiction Review, Blood Orange Review, and Northwest Review.
Elizabeth Harrington is a poet, blogger (www.eharringtonpoetryblog. com), and non-fiction writer. Her poems have appeared in a number of journals, including: The Hudson Review, Field, Connecticut Review, and The Sun, and in an anthology about divorce, “Split Verse.” Her chapbook, “Earth’s Milk” (2007), was first runner-up in the Main Street Rag Chapbook Contest, and “The Quick and the Dead” (2010), took first prize in the Grayson Books Chapbook Competition.
Poppy Samuels is a critic living in Chicago.
Kristen Evans teaches and studies writing at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her poems have appeared in recent issues of Jellyfish and GLITTERPONY, and her critical prose can be found in Kenyon Review Online and Rain Taxi. She serves as assistant managing editor of jubilat.
CL Bledsoe is the author of the young adult novel, Sunlight, three poetry collections, _____(Want/Need), Anthem, and Leap Year and a short story collection called Naming the Animals. A poetry chapbook, Goodbye to Noise, is available online atwww.righthandpointing.com/bledsoe. A minichap, Texas, was published by Mud Luscious Press. His story, “Leaving the Garden,” was selected as a Notable Story of 2008 for Story South’s Million Writer’s Award. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 3 times. He blogs at Murder Your Darlings, http://clbledsoe.blogspot.com Bledsoe has written reviews for The Hollins Critic, The Arkansas Review, American Book Review, Prick of the Spindle, The Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Bledsoe lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland.
John C. Goodman has published two collections of poetry, Naked Beauty (Blue & Yellow Dog Press) and The Shepherd’s Elegy (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press); a novel, Talking to Wendigo (Turnstone Press) which was short-listed for an Arthur Ellis Award; and the non-fiction work Poetry: Tools & Techniques (Gneiss Press). He currently lives in the Gulf Islands, British Columbia, Canada where he is the editor of ditch,(www.ditchpoetry.com), an online magazine of experimental poetry.
GRL Tim Stobierski is a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut. A freelance writer and editor, he has interned for two summers with Yale University Press in the acquisitions department and is currently seeking a career in publishing or editing. His poetry and essays have appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines, most recently The Grey Sparrow, Stone Highway Review, Emerge, Wildflower Magazine, and The Good Men Project Magazine. Since having work published in the Grey Sparrow, he has also been working with the journal as a volunteer reader and editor.
Jason Pettus is the owner of the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (cclapcenter.com).
About Us Gently Read Literature publishes monthly in-depth reviews of contemporary poetry and literary fiction as well as the occasional original essay pertaining to aesthetics, writing, or culture. Gently Read Literature is always looking for reviews, criticism, and essays on contemporary poetry and literary fiction. Although we are open to examining all styles of poetry and fiction (and, therefore, all poets and novelists) we prefer those authors/presses that do not typically get the attention they deserve. Our guidelines are simple: 500 words minimum with no maximum, with as much direct textual analysis as possible. Contributions should be emailed to Daniel Casey, editor, (firstname.lastname@example.org). “GRL submission” should be in the title of email, and must be in the body of the email or attached as a MS Word document. All contributions should be plainly formatted—12 point font, Times New Roman or the equivalent, single spaced. Because GRL publishes monthly, contributions are consid-ered on a rolling basis. Gently Read Literature is edited and maintained by Daniel Casey, all comments or questions can be directed to him at email@example.com or mailed to Daniel Casey, 223 Eastern Ave, Oberlin, OH 44074.
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True Stories from the Future, A. Molotkov, Boone Dock’s Press Heavenly Body, Leah Stenson, Finishing Line Press The Way We Live, But Kimmelman, Dos Madres Press Ennui: From The Diagnostic and Statistical Field Guide of Feminine Disorders, Deborah Hauser, Finishing Line Press One Bird Falling, CB Follett, Time Being Books Unexpected Shiny Things, Bruce Dethlefsen, Cowfeather Press Glass Harmonica, Geoff Bouvier, Quale Press Melons and Memory, Helen Peterson, Little Red Tree Publishing The City, Our City, Wayne Miller, Milkweed Editions The Book of What Stays, James Crews, Bison Books Entering the House of Awe, Susanna Childress, New Issues Poetry & Prose She’d Waited Millennia, Lizzie Hutton, New Issues Poetry & Prose Say Sand, Daniel Coudriet, Carnegie Mellon University Press After the Firestorm, Susan Kolodny, Mayapple Press Still, Matthew Cooperman, Counterpath Press Absence is Such a Transparent House, Aby Kaupang, Tebot Bach The Weary World Rejoices, Steve Fellner, Marsh Hawk Press The Hands of Strangers, Janice Harrington, BOA Editions Kingdom Animalia, Aracelis Girmay, BOA Editions House Inspections, Carsten Rene Nielsen, trans. David Keplinger, BOA Editions Gospel Night, Michael Waters, BOA Editions Transfer, Naomi Shihab Nye, BOA Editions The Spite House, Elizabeth Knapp, C&R Press Concertos, No Collective, Ugly Duckling Presse Cursivism, Will Hubbard, Ugly Duckling Presse The Hermit, Laura Solomon, Ugly Duckling Presse Journal of American Foreign Policy, Jeff Hoffman, New Issues Press Underdog, Katrina Roberts, University of Washington Press Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You, Lea Graham, No Tell Books Flies, Michael Dickman, Copper Canyon Press No Father Can Save Her, Julene Tripp Weaver, Plain View Press Remains to be Used, Jessica Baran, Apostrophe Books The Disinformation Phase, Chris Toll, Publishing Genius A Fast Life: Collected Poems of Time Dlugos, ed. David Trinidad, Nightboat Books Memory Future, Heather Aimee O’Neill, Gold Line Press Ethics of Sleep, Bernadette Mayer, Trembling Pillow Press Downtown, Lee Meitzen Grue, Trembling Pillow Press Flower Chart, Lisa Fishman, Ahsahta Press Homage to Homage to Homage to Creeley, Joshua Ware, Furniture Press Books The Crows Were Laughing In Their Trees, Peter Conners, White Pine Press 44
The Open Light: Poets from Notre Dame, 1991-2008, edited by Orlando Menes, University of Notre Dame Press What’s This, Bombardier?, Ryan Flaherty, PleiadesPress Kingdom Come, John Estes, C&R Press The Illustrated Edge, Marsha Pomerantz, Biblioasis The Cold War, Kathleen Ossip, Sarabande Books As Much As, Allan Peterson, Salmon Poetry Naked Woman Listening at the Keyhole, Sophia Rivkin, Mayapple Press Left Glove, Mac Wellman, Solid Objects Fully Into Ashes, Sofia M. Starnes, Wings Press About the Author, Larry O. Dean, Mindmade Books (chpbk) The Yellow House, Robin Behn, Spuytend Duyvil Stranger Air, Stacie Leatherman, Mayapple Press Tropicalia, Emma Trelles, University of Notre Dame Press Pretend the World, Kathryn Kysar, Holy Cow! Press Torn, C.Dale Young, Four Way Books Track This: A Book of Relationship, Stephen Bett, BlazeVox Books The Afterlives of Trees, Wyatt Townley, Woodley Press Dreamlife of a Philanthropist, Janet Kaplan, University of Notre Dame Press Undone, Maxine Scates, New Issues Poetry and Prose Rhapsody for Lessons Learned or Remembered, Georgia Ann Banks-Martin, Plain View Press The Relenting: A Play of Sorts, Lisa Gill, New Rivers Press Kinesthesia, Stephanie N. Johnson, New Rivers Press Fishing for Myth, Heid E. Erdrich, New Rivers Press Birds of Wisconsin, B.J. Best, New Rivers Press Either Way I’m Celebrating, Sommer Browning, Birds LLC Kings of the Fucking Sea, Dan Boehl, images by Jonathan Marshall, Birds LLC Rust or Go Missing, Lily Brown, Cleveland State University Poetry Center The Grief Performance, Emily Kendal Frey, Cleveland State University Poetry Center Say So, Dora Malech, Cleveland State University Poetry Center The Firestorm, Zach Savich, Cleveland State University Poetry Center The Girl Without Arms, Brandon Shimoda, Black Ocean Ennui Prophet, Christopher Kennedy, BOA Editions At the Bureau of Divine Music, Michale Heffernan, Wayne State University Press Grief Suite, Bobbi Lurie, CW Books The Body, The Rooms, Andy Frazee, Subito Press How Long, Ron Padgett, Coffee House Press Historic Diary, Tony Trigilio, BlazeVox Books Born Palestinian Born Black & The Gaza Suite, Suheir Hammad, UpSet Press Strata, Ewa Chrusciel, Emergency Press 45
Helsinki, Peter Richards, Action Books Campeche, Joshua Edwards, photographs by Van Edwards, Noemi Press Breathing in the Dark, Howard Schwartz, Mayapple Press Faulkner’s Rosary, Sarah Vap, Saturnalia Books You and Three Others are Approaching A Lake, Anna Moschovakis, Coffee House Press Mapmaking, Megan Harlan, BkMk Press I & We, Joseph P. Wood, CW Books No Eden, Sally Rosen Kindred, Mayapple Press Annulments, Zach Savich, Center for Literary Publishing/Colorado State University Expedition: New & Selected Poems, Arthur Vogelsang, Ashland Poetry Press The Homelessness of Self, Susan Terris, Arctos Press Circular Migrations, Brenda Bufalino, Codhill Press While I Was Dancing, Steve Clorfeine, Codhill Press Climate Reply, Trey Moody, New Michigan Press I-Formation Book 1, Anne Gorrick, Shearsman Books Cargo, Kristin Kelly, Elixir Press The Other Place You Live, Jane O. Wayne, Mayapple Press Sleepers’ Republic, David Gruber, Astrophil Press Death Obscura, Rick Bursky, Sarabande Books Why We Make Gardens, Jeanne Larsen, Mayapple Press Logorrhea Dementia, Kyle Dargan, University of Georgia Press The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway, Jennifer L. Knox, Bloof Books The New Make Believe, Denise Newman, The Post-Apollo Press The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom, Leslie Scalapino, The Post-Apollo Press Naked Beauty, John C. Goodman, Blue and Yellow Dog Press Your Mouth is Everywhere, Nick Twemlow, Racquetball Chapbook Tournament (chpbk) Venus and Other Losses, Lucia Galloway, Plain View Press Iteration Nets, Karla Kelsey, Ahsahta Press The Ache of Appetite, Rachel Hadas, Copper Beech Press This Is Not About What You Think, Jim Murdoch, Fandango Virtual The Houdini Monologues, Karl Elder, Word of Mouth Books Mosquito Operas, Philip Dacey, Rain Mountain Press The Best of (What’s Left Of) Heaven, Mairead Byrne, Publishing Genius Incidental Music, Jane Joritz-Nakagawa, BlaveVox Books Night Songs, Kristina Marie Darling, Gold Wake Press Gospel Earth, Jeffery Beam, Skysill Press The Iron Key, James Longenbach, WW Norton The Smaller Half, Marc Rahe, Rescue Press Praying to the Black Cat, Henry Israeli, Del Sol Press The Smaller Half, Marc Rahe, Rescue Press 46
No Other Paradise, Kurt Brown, Red Hen Press The World in a Minute, Gary Lenhard, Hanging Loose Press All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song, Rebecca Foust, Many Mountains Moving Press Wet Information, Jillian Brall, ZoeWo Press Gnawed Bones, Peggy Shumaker, Red Hen Press These Indicium Tales, Lance Phillips, Ahsahta Press Realm Sixty-Four, Kristi Maxwell, Ahsahta Press In the Function of External Circumstances, Edwin Torres, Nightboat Books How To Live on Bread and Music, Jennifer k. Sweeney, Perugia Press Paternity, Scott Owen, Main Street Rag
FICTION Lunch Bucket Paradise, Fred Setterberg, Heyday Books All Her Father’s Guns, James Warner, Numina Press The Silver Wind, Nina Allan, Eibonvale Press The Louisiana Purchase, Jim Goar, Rose Metal Press Hystera, Leora Skolkin-Smith, Fiction Studio Books Lightning People, Christopher Bollen, Soft Skull Press Feather, David Rix, Eibonvale Press (PDF) Access, Xu XI, Signal 8 Press (PDF) Animal Sanctuary, Sarah Falkner, Starcherone Books The Cisco Kid in the Bronx, Miguel Antonio Ortiz, Hamilton Stone Editions Destroy All Monsters & Other Stories, Greg Hrbek, Bison Books Bohemian Girl, Terese Svoboda, Bison Books The Tiger’s Eye: New & Selected Stories, Gladys Swan, Serving House Books Inheritance, Jane Lazarre, Hamilton Stone Editions Hassie Calhoun, Pamela Cory, Scarletta Press Our Jewish Robot Future, Leonard Borman, Scarletta Press To Assume a Pleasing Shape, Joseph Salvatore, BOA Editions Janet Planet, Elanor Lerman, Mayapple Press Memory Sickness and Other Stories, Phong Nguyen, Elixir Press Ambient Parking Lot, Pamela Lu, Kenning Editions Insomnia and the Aunt, Tan Lin, Kenning Editions A Marriage of Convenience, Andrew Plattner, BkMk Press Green Gospel, L.C. Fiore, Livingston Press Trigger Man, Jim Ray Daniels, Michigan State University Press Instructions for Living, Laurie Blauner, Mint Hill Books/Main Street Rag Sensation, Nick Mamatas, PM Press Love/Imperfect, Christopher T. Leland, Wayne State University Press Funeral for a Dog, Thomas Pletzinger, WW Norton 47
January 2012 Issue