Essays & Criticism on Contemporary Poetry & Literary Fiction
THIS MONTHâ€™S FEATURED ARTIST:
Illustrator, engraver and painter based in Madrid, graduated of Fine Arts in the University of Sevilla in 98. Since then he worked in different design studios and ad agencies in Andalusia. In 2004 he moves to Madrid. In June 2007 he begins to show his portfolio and after being selected amongst the 20 new talents of illustration, by the London based magazine Computer Arts, he begins his succesful carreer as an illustrator. At present he has worked with virtually every major national agencies, and is starting with his first commissions and international expansion. He has worked with numerous national and international publications, last August by the cover of the North American publishing Los Angeles Times Magazine.
FOUNDER/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Daniel Casey
Daniel Casey earned his MFA from the University of Notre Dame in 2003. In 2008, Gold Wake Press published his first electronic poetry chapbook, Well Enough. He created and has been editing Gently Read Literature since 2008. Rarely, other literary reviews will publish his poetry. He minds two cats and is the husband of a brilliant geologista. Feel free to email him.
DESIGNER/LAYOUT MANAGER Carol Jackson Carol Jackson earned her Postgraduate diploma in Arts Management from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, UK. Currently, she is working as Associate Administrator with the Norfolk ChamberMusic Festival/Yale School of Music. Gently Read Literature is her first design/layout project.
Announcing the publication of THE BEDS by MARTHA RHODES from Autumn House Press
Praise for Mother Quiet “. . . Weird, dark, hilarious, direct, otherworldly-these poems display a poet in command of every note the English language is capable of sounding. They will not be silenced: they are unforgettable.” -James Longenbach
For orders, review copies, course adoption examination copies, please email: info@autumnhouse. org or call (412) 381-4261. Click Here to Order Online or place a special order with your local bookstore. THE BEDS ISBN: 978-1-932870-53-4 54 pages | $14.95 plus shipping. Martha Rhodes is the author of three previous collections of poetry: At the Gate, Perfect Disappearance, and Mother Quiet. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Rhodes is a founding editor and the director of Four Way Books in New York City.
“The aim of poetry (and the higher kind of thriller) is to be unexpected and memorable. So a poem about death might treat it in a way that combines the bizarre and the banal: the Other Side as some kind of institution-a creepy hospital, an officious hotel or retirement home. Martha Rhodes takes such an approach in ‘Ambassadors to the Dead,’ from her abrupt, unsettling, artfully distorted, indelible new book Mother Quiet . . . Blending the matterof-fact with the surreal, as a way of comprehending the stunning, final reality, Rhodes is an inheritor of Emily Dickinson’s many poems on the same subject.” -Robert Pinsky, The Washington Post
Breathless Within The Selah: Caitelen Schneeberger on Susanna Childress’s poetry collection Entering The House of Awe
Attempted Redemption: Mary Alexandra Agner on Sally Rosen Kindred’s poetry collection No Eden
Impeccable Surprise: Victoria Lynne McCoy on Melissa Broder’s poetry collection When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother
Poetry from a Single Poem: Amy Henry on Stephen Tapscott’s translation of the poems of Georg Trakl
Finding These Dead Things: Michelle Ovalle on Aracelis Girmay’s poetry collection Kingdom Animalia
A Rarefying Alchemy: L.J. Moore on Ada Limon’s poetry collection Sharks in the Rivers
A Way to Access Secrets: Margaret Rozga on Peggy Shumaker’s poetry collection Gnawed Bones
Stories about the Digital Age: Troy Weaver on Mike Young’s story collection Look! Look! Feathers
New World like Heavy Luggage: Mitch Levenberg Stephanie Hart’s creative nonfiction collection Mirror, Mirror
Required Reading in an Election Year: Susan Tichy’s Gallowglass
About Us/Review Copies Available 2
Caitelen Schneeberger on Susanna Childress’s poetry collection Entering The House of Awe
New Issue Poetry & Prose, 2011
Breathless Within The Selah:
I hear the awe of my voice at itself, spilling from the tender napkin of my throat, ticks and shirks of consonants, hums that tripped through each
of the known vowels and words that were not, will never be, words.
All at once biting and tender, almost irreverent, yet harkening back to the sacred, the poems in Childress’s second book Entering the House of Awe come flawlessly together to form another work of literary art. Still happily reeling from treasure that is her first collection, Jagged With Love, I find this new book even more focused and compelling as a collected whole. Still, there is that familiar sense of deliberate chaos and sincerity in her writing that propels you from page to page with bated breath. Childress tackles the complexity of family relationships through a veiny “web of emerald channels” on her mother’s hands in church, then dives into the convoluted lives and tragedies of others through the intimacy and awe of a green spider. Such ardent contrast is somehow congruent. Paradoxically, the intimate scope of her lens broadens and deepens our connection to her poems. This sense of deepening is evident throughout the collection. Childress excavates some of the most heartbreaking subjects with the poignant humility of a prayer, yet floods the page with her profound wit and fervor, Once
small as a fawn I slept in the curl of my father’s arm, held in that holding pattern we know as love and soon
I was grown and soon a mandolin and soon an opalesque, a handle unattached from its cylinder and spout, desolate
with what I couldn’t name...
In spring the knots of faith trip up the spine
into the neck, shoot straight to that patchwork of nervous gray matter and what the brain can hold, dear God, such soft pelt.
How artfully she pulls back the thick skin of a moment, bending it just so, to gift us with a glimpse of its beautiful, strange inner-workings. She confronts truths, fears, and memories that are profoundly unearthed via the pocket of her winter coat, a Cassat painting, or the frightfully blanched tongue of a grackle. These are more than catalysts for her excavation, they are vessels. Almost as breathtaking as content itself is the way Childress works the aesthetic of the line. There is a Hebrew word used in the ancient poetry of the Psalms, selah, which, roughly translated, means to “stop and listen” or possibly to take a musical rest or breath. Childress uses space so deliberately in her own poems that it draws the breath of the line into a kind of selah. Her voice lends itself beautifully to this almost sacred musicality. This use of space begs the ear to bask in the sensuality of the line, yet the cadence of the poem as a whole, compels us on: ...the absurd cylindrical hope of bones, sturdy and pillaged, as the are, at once. His face is beautiful, his face hates you, the bric-a-brac of usage, the doors opening and shutting on the tongue, its dumb oil, and now you finger the cracked peppercorn of that-which-is-not-but ache hanging in your room, so you pull your hips away from him and the particles of your bodies melt from each other, that river of borrowed blood, the enterprising cells. The sensuality in Childress’s poetry is always striking. With a kind of fleshly grace, raw and unassuming, she writes into the DNA of each poem the subtle (or not so subtle) pulse of deep sensual and spiritual love. This is the most familiar characteristic of her work in the collection as a whole, and one that is laudable in her first collection as well. In a way, her poems even allow us to experience love in a more 4
visceral way through image and language. Love is illuminated through lines and spaces. Language becomes tactile and piquant under her pen, like the husk of an onion, pungent and sweet. I am often left breathless, or to use a line from one of her poems, I am often “winded with delight,” and though I find no joy in deceiving you, I will: so small translucent and green, you’ll forget these things, the slow crimp they might have made in your understanding of peril and need so that instead you’ll bend close and stare, think how intricate the world is, how delicate and composed.
Mary Alexandra Agner on Sally Rosen Kindred’s poetry collection No Eden
Mayapple Press, 2011
The poems in Sally Rosen Kindred’s No Eden drip humidity like magnolia leaves, moisture of loss, tears from attempted redemption. Noah’s flood drowns the twilight of the U.S. south, the rural thunderstorms, hose water, swimming holes. Everything is one in the water. Kindred’s narrator grows up in a southern state, surrounded by shrubbery, dogs, dirt, and Christianity. She’s profoundly affected by the strained relationship between her parents. In “Apple Night” she begins to acknowledge each of her fears: for her parents, her body, her future, Green Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Goldrush, Bentley’s Sweet―I don’t know what I’ve come for but she is restless enough to cross the barbed wire of the fence― My legs steam where their skin lifts in hooks and stars from the fence’s blood promise. and she doesn’t care that she is not going home. She has looked at her dysfunctional family head-on but is more aware of the changes in her own body: lifting the hem of my shirt to cradle four tart moons, their skin divided from mine by black cotton. On the cusp of adulthood, she is full of need: I’m not hungry for apples. 7
Kindred’s use of the line break here emphasizes first the intensity of the narrator’s hunger by ending the line with the word “hungry” and then shows the hunger is unquenchable because it is not named but circumscribed when “for apples” appears on the next line. The poem describes the hunger by its absence, the way Edgar Rubin’s vase makes equally clear two faces staring at each other. Interspersed between the poems of pubescent Dixieland, Kindred explores the inhabitants of Noah’s ark, first Noah himself, then the animals, then Noah’s wife and her family, stretching back to Eve and Lilith. The animal poems clump together near the center of the book, climaxing in two poems from the points of view of two birds, a raven and a dove. In “The Raven’s Prayer”, the bird calls for absolution, for an end to pain, for solace after grief. The raven addresses the feminine aspect of God, chanting: Shekhinah, wipe this world’s wings clean of God’s fingers. Dip your claws into the brine and raise up moss for my wife .... Tell her grief is the name for what flies back and forth over the water This poem is about endings, about letting go. “Testament of the Dove”, which follows it, opens outward into uncertain beginnings: Don’t forsake me. I bring sour stems torn from the next green world. Survive with me: open your mouth and hope some bitter grace will fill it. When only wind comes, and wet leaves, learn to sing. But the dove has not forgotten the lesson learned by the raven’s wife: this world is directed by men, and his family’s life and livelihood are at their whimsy: There is no curse like your name, Noah, no curse like peace and lament, no song like the moonstone round the doves sing when our mouths are empty of everything But the Dixieland protagonist is still learning what the dove knows; she begs, in 8
“Flight”: “I need // to grow bracken wings”. The narrative threads of the Noah and Dixieland poems merge in “Least Breath”, near the end of the book. Kindred’s protagonist watches her young son sleeping. Afraid, she rails against God in the language of her son’s illness: Ask yourself where your boy’s wet breath belongs in God’s mean story. What does it mean that thick birds rattle and brighten the glass, that the lake beyond is still brittle, the rotting bridge you both will cross is not submerged? What comes for him, and does it sound like thunder? Wet world, never far from Noah’s flood. The young mother still sees the world in terms of birds, free to fly above the water and not fear it. But in the end, she stays landbound: We won’t need to climb the desert pine. We might walk all the way around it, thumbing faces in the bark― milagros―we might lift our heads. No Eden ends with its feet on the ground, walking into a miracle of dust and desert. The world in which we began―blues and greens, faith and fears, the unknown prices of persistence and hope―transforms through Kindred’s words into the promise of the book’s title.
Wall Street Journal
Victoria Lynne McCoy on Melissa Broder’s poetry collection When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother
Don’t let the playful title fool you—Melissa Broder’s debut poetry collection, When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother, is equal parts fun and fierce bite. From Jewish mothers to teenage waifs purging their dinners, from peyote buttons in New Mexico to love in all its complications, Broder “knows what it is to want,” to be “only bloody human.” With an ear for assonance and internal rhyme, Broder packs much of the madness neatly into tight, syllabic couplets and tercets. You won’t find any section breaks offering additional respite here. Just a delicious, endless tumble down the rabbit hole of this dizzying, drug-infested, body-image-ridden world—a world you can’t help but want to fix and fall in love with all at once. From the very first lines, we are not eased so much as plunged in. Opening with a poem called “Jewish Voodoo,” Broder conjures the book’s dark humor: Mother buys you a labia mezuzah from the fertile crotch museum of Great Neck, wrapped up in cheesecloth and chicken schmaltz, labeled: Extract embryos from the icebox. Turn her womb aquarium. Fashion grandchildren out of ghost placenta.
We are immediately rooted not only in time (given the reference to modern science) and place (the great American state of New York), but we are also rooted distinctly in the female body. This first poem sets us up for the persistent tug of war that is in store for the speaker, who continually ends up at the mercy of others and at odds with herself; our tour guide through girlhood and into womanhood acts as both prisoner and unabashed (often self-destructive) owner of her body. In “Romancing the Detox,” Broder writes:
Ampersand Books, 2010
‘til some sweet-faced junkie with a Dixie cup of juice
and methadone loves you more than his drugs
A prime example of the poet’s skilled line breaks, her impeccable surprise, and tumble from one line to the next, this poem, which comes at the end of the book, echoes this struggle with sense of self in relation to the external. In “Where is Your Vampire?” we get one of the many glimpses of the speaker’s internal conflict: I eat my third dinner on the butterfly rug:
leftover custard, yellow cake and peanut butter spooned straight from the container If I try to throw up
I must stab the heart of my throat with a toothbrush, dig big for cemetery belly
Here the speaker is at odds with her own body, which we see later, in a slightly different manifestation, in “Summer Soldiers”: Where the boys are. Boys. Sparrow spirits on skateboards,
bottles of Tahitian Treat, Rose’s Cola and blue raspberry Slurpees laced with vodka.
We have the blues because we want to be you
Here, again, the external, the other, is the ruler against which the speaker measures, and relates to, herself. But this is not to suggest that this book is simply a chronicle of teen angst, nor mere confessional. Broder seamlessly weaves these illuminating snapshots of the speaker’s past with brilliantly complicated portraits of modern-day romance—and all with a healthy dose of pop culture and social commentary. 12
Broder continuously deals with desire and sexuality with a refreshing honesty and absence of judgment. In “Why She Lets Him Go to Reno and Sleep with Whores,” the speaker believes her “American man / and his Americanness” will treat them like a gentleman then come back to Manhattan
where she’ll show a little skin.
And it wouldn’t be a complete modern love story without Broder turning her keen eye towards marriage, and of course, divorce. In her witty, un-ars poetica, “Dear Billy Collins,” she writes:
Once I used the word
touché incorrectly for 24 years. A stranger set me straight and so I married him. In “Tradition,” the modern marriage narrative continues:
When we divorce we will be a part of an American tradition, a grand incision. How will it feel to live in the percentages? Don’t be afraid
of blue days, ghostly fridges. Pain is the touchstone of progress, and this tradition we can really sink our teeth in
But alongside the comedic commentary, the poem offers us honesty of another, gentler kind:
…On the off years we’ll call each other to check in. How is the loneliness? I watch Letterman. I miss your glasses. I miss kissing off all your lipstick.
This is one of the many moments of such beautiful, startling vulnerability—the book’s own brand of redemption, however fleeting the glimpses. We see the speaker start
to recover in “The Sweet Spot” after crying in a cowboy movie, a small but important moment: remember that sadness won’t make you explode. Even in these flashes of tenderness, the collection’s consistent voice remains unapologetic and wonderfully gritty. Melissa Broder is unafraid to stare down her own humanness—perhaps the greatest gift a poet can give. Rich with music, When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother assures us that, even in our darkest corners, You are already forgiven. You know that, don’t you?
Amy Henry on Stephen Tapscott’s translation of the poems of Georg Trakl
Oberlin College Press, 2011
Poetry from a Single Poem:
Stephen Tapscott’s new translation of Georg Trakl’s poetry illuminates an internal dimension to the poet that is often ignored in favor of the more external and controversial elements that sidetrack a serious discussion of the poet. Trakl isn’t well-known, but those who’ve heard of him are likely to think of his mental illness, suicide, and suspected incestuous relationship with his sister and stop there, leaving examination of the poetry aside. Tapscott lets the reader know immediately that his translation isn’t going to cover the scandalous factors of Trakl’s life, or categorize him as disturbed genius. Instead, “I wanted to try to register, in English, that droll ascetic tone. I tend not to hear the cri de Coeur of a young Expressionist victim…” This viewpoint is new and recognizes that the six years of Trakl’s writing career contains much deeper elements than controversy. In fact, viewing him as a victim seems to minimize much of the breadth of his lasting oeuvre. Tapscott finds wit, bravery, and elegance in the few poems Trakl wrote: His lyricism is lean and acute: pointing lucidly toward what both is and is not there, firm in its stillness. In his silences I hear confidence, not victimized muteness, and I see clean, conscious craftsmanship in his sentences, lines, and patterns of repetition. With this in mind, Tapscott’s translation looks instead at Trakl’s contemplation of self, and notes that in his poems, Trakl “details dynamic facts of the physical world – seasons and landscapes and times of day –as if they were already constituent elements of the self.” In doing this, Trakl creates an indivisible line between the exterior and internal, making each element stronger and yet more fragile.
In his Foreword, Tapscott mentions the essayist Martin Heidegger who wrote extensively about Trakl’s work. “Every great poet creates his poetry from one single poem,” Heidegger stated. Heidegger states that he feels that one underlying cur-
rent, a single unwritten poem, outlines the work of each individual poet. It begs the question stated by Karsten Harries in his essay “Language and Silence: Heidegger’s Dialogue with Georg Trakl” (boundary2: Winter 76 Vol 4 Issue 2): “Even single poems are often too ambiguous to rule out different, even antithetical interpretations. Is such ambiguity only superficial, to be penetrated by more searching interpretation? Can we assume that a particular poem possesses one determinate meaning?” The interpretation Tapscott seems to deliver in this collection is that the language comes first, and that only within the complexities of the language and semiotic images that Trakl chose can an understanding be reached. In his essay, “From the Evening-Land to the Wild East,” Richard Millington wrote that that the poems contained “visions of natural and historical decline that within the poems themselves are figured concurrently on several time-scales: diurnal, seasonal and cultural-historical” (German Life & Letters, Oct 2011, Vol 64 Issue 4). That this could apply internally on the part of Trakl is reasonable, especially in that Millington notes Trakl’s “symbolic geography” as well as his literal locations in Austria. Most of the poems take place out of doors, at night, with the play of shadows in action in the words. In Helian, the movement between locations in that symbolic geography is most obvious. Never still, it appears that Trakl’s words make the same journey as his subjects: motion is always present either in the walking or in the streams of water or wine, even the flight of birds, It’s lovely, the quiet of the night. On a dark plain We meet shepherds and white stars. When autumn has come, A solemn clarity appears in the grove. Gentle, we drift beside red walls, Our wide eyes following the flight of birds. At evening white water settles in urns. Millington spoke too of the “semantic nuances” that Trakl’s poetry contains. In discussing the poem “Evening Song”, Dean Rader (Masterplots II:Poetry Jan ’02) notes that the poetic device “that Trakl employs in almost every one of his poems is silence…and Trakl is also fond of silencing objects that cannot speak anyway,” At evening, when we walk the dark paths, Our own pale forms appear before us. When we feel thirsty, We drink white water from the pond, 16
Sweetness of our poignant childhood. ….And yet, when dark harmonies haunt the soul, then You appear, Whiteness, in your friend’s autumn landscape. All of the details that Millington refers to are apparent in this poem, and the “if… then…” style of the poems suggests a forward motion that is unified and purposeful. “We” becomes the variable that can change the meaning of the poem per the reader’s impressions. Color is another factor that is repeated throughout Trakl’s poems, however, the usages are never typical. The wine is brown, not red. Dew is black, not clear. Silence and sleep are both depicted as blue in some poems, black in others. What is intriguing is how he chooses these colors to seemingly catch us off guard and re-examine the cultural images of what a color should mean. Trakl’s tragic death, after days of horrific experiences, makes many of the poems that much more meaningful. Yet, we have to remember he didn’t know how he’d die when he wrote these. Clearly distraught, and likely emotionally damaged already, he couldn’t have known of the chain of events that left him in charge of a hospital of wounded soldiers who he was helpless to assist. The mobs outside and bodies and decay all around him…one can only imagine that the exit he chose made sense in the world of madness he was locked into. Christian Hawkey’s book, Ventrakl (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010) is an excellent companion to Tapscott’s translation. In it, Hawkey analyzing Trakl’s work but uses radical ways to translate the work: experimental translation that literally rips Trakl’s poetry apart and reconfigures it in a way Trakl would likely sanction. Hawkey also dissects photos of Trakl and experiments with an imagined interview. Combining that book with this would give any reader a solid background in Trakl’s works, history, and indelible contribution to Austrian and global poetry.
Michelle Ovalle on Aracelis Girmay’s poetry collection Kingdom Animalia
BOA Editions, 2011
Finding These Dead Things:
“Kingdom Animalia” contains multitudes: Puerto Rican family history, dirt, and the animal realm, to name just a few. Girmay fills the space she inhabits with all she carries, perhaps in hopes of making sense of what has been lost or jumbled. For me, the book can be summed up in two lines from the poem “This Morning the Small Bird Brought a Message from the Other Side:” “I want to know what to do/with the dead things we carry.” These “dead things” are not simply the tangible, but are also comprised of all that is invisible and ever-present: relationships that have waned, forgotten body parts, even the childhood self. She carries these dead things everywhere. Girmay names some of these places in “Portrait of the Woman as a Skein:” “Sometimes you are a broken barn./Sometimes you are the street & trees./Sometimes a spool of purple string.” In the title poem, Girmay is riding the subway, thinking of her brother and mortality. In the last lines, she writes, “Whole years will be spent, underneath these impossible stars,/when dirt’s the only animal who will sleep with you/& touch you with/its mouth.” Sometimes these “things,” whether a spool of purple string or musings, must kiss the dirt. Girmay makes use of animal imagery to breathe life into the abstract. In “Self-Portrait as the Snake,” the poet remembers a childhood memory of playing in her grandmother’s yard. She writes: I am looking back to when I was a girl; now my body’s a flash of poison on the floor… …This is what a girl has in common with the lightning. 21
To a child, animals are curious, sometimes magical, creatures. This wonder is shed during adulthood. Girmay uses the natural image of shedding skin to mimic the maturing process. The poet remembers this curiosity and, while she does not try to squeeze into that skin, she does perhaps regain that missing shock of lightning. Girmay recognizes that she is influenced in many ways by her Puerto Rican heritage. She explores the subject of family roots in a quirky manner with the poem “Ode to the Little ‘r.’” The poet recalls all the times she has pronounced her name with a lilt in the “r” and how others glossed over that humming. She is not the first. This has occurred with many ancestors before her, such as Roberto and Margarita. Finally, the neglected “r” defends itself: But “r,” little propeller of my name small & beautiful monster changing shapes, you win. You fly around the room, little bee…” The poet’s use of animal imagery to make sense of human memory is strange and unfamiliar. But in this strangeness, there is a connection to the human spirit that says “No more!,” takes on wings, and recovers what has been lost through neglect. In the poems of Kingdom Animalia, Girmay takes out all the dead things of her life, turns them around in her palm, and watches them shed; sometimes they become a broken barn, other times they are buried. And in this looking she holds a mirror to peer within, observing sights that are by turns gritty as dirt and shining as a bee’s wings in sunlight.
L.J. Moore on Ada Limon’s poetry collection Sharks in the Rivers
Milkweed Editions 2010
A Rarefying Alchemy:
Water and birds and brush fires and ghosts have at least this in common: they are guided and compelled by larger, unseen forces: gravity, wind, and memory. In Ada Limon’s Sharks in the Rivers, this dynamic interplay of forces merges the human emotional world with the seemingly separate world of the animal, and even the inanimate. Limon abducts her reader into a skin-shifting landscape, showing us effortlessly how we already slip from form to form without really realizing it—how we are swept away, seemingly obliterated by experience again and again yet “the ink bleeds out the day’s undoing / and here we are again: alive.” Limon is willing to travel for us, as she tries on bodies, we wear hers—willing for us to go closer to the edge and look over into our greatest fears: madness and nonexistence. “Naked, I have no pocket to put you in,” so she puts us inside herself, and somehow that self is also inside of us, and this inside-outness, this moving into and out of skin and shape, “our bodies unskinned/ and unadorned, making our way to the place our beating belongs,” describes the boundless movement of the psyche in a world constricted by finite time: “our bodies of bronze and blood,/ our end still ending, our reach/ only missing and missing the door,/ we still keep walking, we still ask for more.”
Limon performs, through word and image, an alchemy as seemingly impossible as rarefying common rock into a precious metal, though hers is arguably more breathtaking and perilous, as she takes on the most difficult, terrifying, and paralyzing questions we have as human beings: “what happens after-feather? After we have accomplished the tasks assigned to us,/ and eventually burst out of our names.” Limon’s language is as deft and acrobatic as her psyche, moving from the concrete and conversational: “it’s been a year since Jess died, she said/ I always knew it would come down to pills in the applesauce” to the shape-shifting lyric she uses to reveal the phantasmal bestiary she makes of own body, her memories, the flitting
joys and fears that have roosted in her belly: “invisible birds that have muscled deep into an actual nest of suspended song.” Sharks in the Rivers constantly reveals darkness and light to the reader, flashes of insight offered up through the transformation of the poet’s internal struggles, which are also everyone’s struggles: “this is not a unique story—what we have in our hands is an unsolvable thing.” But the true accomplishment here is that the poet tackles these knotty existential themes in a way that is effortless to read. She points out again and again, that what may appear most common, most banal— “the rain and the radiator, a lion in a cage, the small rooms, so stifling”—are our entranceways into faceted and brilliant spaces where all of the shapes of possibility live, where that terrifying awareness of our coming end can make us alternate between feeling “fist-like and wild,” and “unhoused by a hissing magnitude.” Limon doesn’t get stuck nattering on pet obsessions, or flying into windows or brick walls, she sings and flexes her way around obstacles, taking us with her into contradictory spaces and showing how it is possible to live there in a kind of uneasy, triumphant equilibrium: “let me be the first to admit, when I/ come across some jewel of pleasure, I too want/ to squeeze that thing until its seedy heart/ evaporates like ethanol…I want to be a physical doll, just for now,/a stupid, splendid thing,/ tumbled into the touchable day.” V
Margaret Rozga on Peggy Shumaker’s poetry collection Gnawed Bones
Red Hen Press 2010
A Way to Access Secrets:
Gnawed Bones, the title of Peggy Shumaker’s 2010 collection of poetry, is wellchosen. Not that the work is skeletal or carnivorous. Quite the contrary, these poems have flesh as well as bones. They succeed at being simultaneously kind-hearted, full of hunger, and full-bodied. The title suits them in that it successfully pulls together thematically their wide range of subjects. These poems reflect on memories of childhood as well as more recent experiences of growing older and facing mortality. They consider some conscious choices, but mostly circumstances imposed by the choices of others and by accidents. The settings are landscapes and seascapes, ranging from Arizona to Hawaii to Alaska. The language includes a sprinkling of Spanish words, a handful of medical terms, and a poignant passage as written by a native Alaskan woman in love with “a white man/with a thousand promises/ [who] in his misunderstanding advises her” (71). What the poems hold in common is that they represent events Shumaker has mulled over, gnawed on, until they express her thinking about those experiences in a way that is spare without denying complexity, clear without erasing a sense of mystery. Shumaker, now Professor Emerita, had a distinguished career as professor of English at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is also the founding editor of Boreal Books and currently serves as Alaska State Writer Laureate.
Gnawed Bones is divided into four sections. The first section “July Twilight on the Chena” is set in Alaska, the Chena being a major river that flows through Fairbanks. The initial poem bears the section title and serves to exemplify two key elements of Shumaker’s style in these poems: precise details and quiet metaphoric turns of thought. The first two stanzas, each six spare lines, each present key details of the red fox on the riverbank: his “skinny /shins flailing” as he leaps a fallen birch log; “the inked tip/of his lavish tail” disappearing from sight. The third stanza then angles wider to see the salmon and beaver “keep /secrets too” (5). Finally, ever so subtly,
the human is hinted at in that the tree the beaver chews is “every mouthful a word, / a world untold” (5). The reference to words at least for me calls to mind humans who pride themselves on language and in particular poets who value small details for their implicit meta-suggestions. The overall effect is to set a tone of complex sympathy, a connection at a reserve of distance, between humans, those on “our riverboat,” and the rest of the natural world. It also suggests the collection’s theme of chewing on, or gnawing, the bones of unacknowledged stories, or stories not yet told, perhaps not previously even formed. This first section of the book also contains the title poem, “Gnawed Bones” that explores further natural metaphors for language. It begins with a question. If language is bones, hard parts of speech, what do skulls of pack rats crushed into owl pellets have to tell us? (13) Here, too, is the mystery of how humans are part of the natural world yet distant enough from it so that the relation between word and bone is a matter of conjecture and hypothesis rather than simplistic statement of fact. But the “if” clauses add up, so that the turn in this poem is toward a resolution to enhance that relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world. If every day re-enacts creation, if we live here, now in the first world and the last, let us speak in our bones languages of water from all skies, from deep underground. (13) This section ends with lyrical prose, “Dive, Three Definitions.” Of the three definitions it is the last one that hits closest to home with the appearance of a first person speaker who provides help for Harry, a man who fell and “started this long 26
descent into the mysteries of the body” (25). Here, too, the poem turns toward a wider application of the individual details. The synchronized movements of pairs of Olympic divers on TV are “Like the long married, like Harry and Suzie, their life together never easy. The intense concentration, the consideration of the other, the inevitable plunge” (25) The second and third sections of the book flash back to childhood scenes. The second section, “Mystery Aisle,” focuses on the father, “The Provider” as he is called in the poem that opens this section, a poem Shumaker subtitles with the dedication “for my father” (29). The father that emerges in the poem, though, is a sometime father, not dependably there, not happy as provider: “You soured selling Chevys/and office machines” ((30). The daughter, the speaker in the poem, confesses Father, I am ashamed how ashamed of you I’ve always been, when I know so little and that little learned by leaving (30). Other poems in this section chronicle the father’s restlessness, allude to his marriages, and show the reconciliation at his death. “Beyond Words, This Language” is one of the most beautiful poems of reconciliation and death I can imagine—just three lines. The lines are subdivided to enhance the parallelism, but mostly, it seems, to provide a sense of open space, space to reflect and to grieve. The morning I was born you held my hand The morning you died I held your hand What’s left
The third section, “Our Mother of Sorrows” begins with poems about childhood in the Arizona desert where sandstorms, “howling like divorce” (64) wipe out dream homes children sketch in sand. While Our Mother of Sorrows may be the name of a nearby school, it is a name that also fits the mother who is a major figure in this third section. Her presence, however, seems punitive and dysfunctional. Ac27
cording to the title of one poem and a line in another, she commanded the children, “Go to the Broom Closet and Pick Out a Stick.” What the stick might have been used for, whether the children were then beaten, is left unsaid as the poem becomes a collage of square dance calls, the mother’s complaints about being burdened, and natural images that help identify her world weariness. It is clear, however, that the children fear their mother. “We were afraid/she could see our secrets/even from her grave” (65). The mother’s death does not bring with it a moment of reconciliation as did the father’s. Instead in a page-long poem of parallel fragments, each beginning “The reason,” the speaker grieves for all that is unfinished in the children’s relation to the mother, in the mother’s own life; the mother is buried “under s stone with no last name” (“Asthma” 67). Indeed there is much here to gnaw upon. Several poems later, in “Sky of Souls,” we get a sense of that ongoing process of mulling over unfortunate events that occasioned choices perhaps to be regretted. A holy man Once told me a child can atone for her mother’s death wish. Beneath these soul-spiked lights I believe he might be right. I shall atone (69) The long ‘o’ and long ‘i’ sounds repeated in these short lines slow them down and give the poem its meditative tone and its sense of complex resolution. The closing section of the book, “Naming What We Hold in Our Hand,” plunges the reader immediately into the world of surgery, loss of consciousness, anxiety, and profound questions, such as those in “Pale Woman on Stretcher”. Weeks later, reading dictated notes, I find out a machine breathed for me for two days. Where are they, those days? Where are those days that slip away surely as breath? (88). Though the surgery to remove the speaker’s, presumably the poet’s, spleen, apparently injured when she was hit by an ATV, is successful, the recovery is painful, the healing slow. The double-spacing of the lines serves as a visual equivalent of the 28
slow movement back to health. Even simple tasks, like taking a shower, require “Inhuman strength” (97). To get to the window of her room, she says, “I hobble” (98). In the title poem of this section, she lists a series of familiar objects, items she holds in her hand, as if taking a test of her memory and mental ability. Naming these common objects then occasions deeper, metaphoric reflection conveyed later in the poem in another list. Here she names what she wants to identify for the doctor by touch alone what our hands hold shooting star red aurora mist forest life after this life (100). This well-unified final section of the book is the masterful culmination of all the attentive observation, rumination, grief and atonement depicted in the poems that precede it. These poems show the strength that emerges through such processes of gnawing on the very bones of life. There is so much more careful observation, music, meditation, and clear, though complex, thinking in the poems of this book than a short review can capture. Peggy Shumaker’s Gnawed Bones is a book to buy, to read and re-read, a book to turn to when in need of a way to access the secrets of the natural world including one’s own life.
Stories about the Digital Age:
Troy Weaver on Mike Young’s story collection Look! Look! Feathers
Word Riot Press, 2010
Mike Young’s first collection, Look! Look! Feathers, is constructed around a strange miasma of word-fuses linked to paragraph-bombs, stories that leave your brain painted with a chaos you somehow understand. Young’s sentences burn off the page, his stories cinders in the aftermath. You have to quickly clear away the smoke so that the stories themselves don’t leave you in the dust they’ve turned. These are stories of loneliness and alienation, of moving away from home for the first time and what that experience must be like, not for the ones who left, but for the ones who were left behind. These are stories about the Digital Age, punks, brothers, city workers, waitresses, and football coaches. But ultimately, I think, these stories, at the core of them, are truly about our inability to communicate with one another anymore. Doesn’t seem too incredible, does it? No. But what makes it so is Young’s ability to transform this inability to communicate into a new form of communication in and of itself. Witnessing is profound, nice words and phrases, that’s just the icing on the cake. And in this collection there is plenty of icing. Take the Table of Contents, just go ahead and take a look at the Table of Contents and tell me you are not in the least bit interested in what these stories may or may not be screaming about: The Peaches Are Cheap Burk’s Nub Look! Look! Feathers Susan White and the Summer of the Game Show The World Doesn’t Smell Like You What The Fuck Is An Electrolyte? Same Heart They Put You In Snow You Know and Snow You Don’t 30
Mosquito Fog Stay Awhile If You Can Restart? Restore? No Such Thing As a Wild Horse
You can see it, can’t you? The kind of word-orgasm you’re headed for? You can almost feel Young’s style bubble in your veins like a lava lamp. These stories smack of life and energy and degradation and redemption and death and Internet and posture and eggs and bacon and tiny babies and medicine cabinets and drugs and alcohol and America. These stories put all of these things in the most immediate and modern of contexts, so that at times they nearly feel Sci-fi. But they are not Sci-fi, not even close, not even in Burk’s Nub, where Burk tells everybody in his school that he can connect to the Internet in his head, just by pushing a little nub on his hand. It’s not Sci-fi. No, it’s more real than that. Yet it isn’t Realism, either. It’s some kind of compound beautiful thing. Maybe even one we don’t have a word for yet. Though they are often entertaining, the more you read them, the more you absorb them, you realize that these stories are much more than the entertainment value they supply. Through all the weirdness and grit and confusion on these pages, something bigger emerges. It comes on as nausea, but not too ugly or painful. It’s the nausea of looking at your reflection in the mirror too long. For all your flaws, all your qualities of blemish and resistance, you accept yourself as testament to yourself, and remember a time when it wasn’t so difficult to do so. I’d say Mike Young has America by its balls. I can only hope he keeps hold of them. In fact, next time I hope he slings them in a vice-grip and locks it down. I want Mike Young to take on the pride and swagger of America. I want him to wear a Technicolor Dream Coat, and become the new balls of America, America’s pimp maybe.There is only one thing I disagreed with him on, through the entirety of LLF, from No Such Thing As a Wild Horse: When I grow a beard, just a chinstrap maybe, and people believe me about things, I will say this: there is no such thing as a wild horse. The wild ones were made by God to buck the ghosts. Well, uh, uh, uh, not so fast Mr. Young. You have bucked the ghosts, and done it expertly, twelve times in a row and spanning two-hundred pages, each one a little better than the last, and I salute you for what greatness I know is still to come.
Mitch Levenberg on Stephanie Hart’s creative nonfiction collection Mirror, Mirror
And Then Press, 2012
New World like Heavy Luggage:
On the cover of Stephanie Hart’s mesmerizing memoir, “Mirror Mirror: A Collection of Memoirs and Stories,” there is a picture of the author as a young girl in a fur coata coat that looks like the coat of her ancestors. The young girl looks sad and more than that fearful and distrustful. Her eyes look askance, off the page, furtively into an uncertain future. This is a book about survival-surviving the ghosts of a past top heavy with tragedy and tragic figures-the dead and the living who haunt her. In the opening chapter, “Dinner at Our House,” Hart describes her memories of dinners at home as “a screen of moving images, some indistinct and some familiar.” This memory—as are so many of her childhood memories—dark and shadowy, laden with loneliness and fear of familiar strain distrust and distance. “The distance between the table and my room,” she says, “feels like a continent of linoleum.” Her father “chews noisily and wipes his face with the back of his hand.” He tells her “you can’t trust anyone.” Her mother, though “more genteel, embroiders smoke rings in the air with her cigarettes.” She seems at times like that wicked queen in Snow White who constantly looks in the mirror on the wall for the confirmation of a beauty she feels she has wasted and which now seems to be fading. And it is this mirror that haunts Stephanie as well. “I see what my mother sees,” she says. “I want to hide that fat, stupid, ugly little girl away from everyone.”
This all seems the grimmest of fairy tales, a castle by the sea full of frustration and guilt-the parents bring the burden of their past into the new world like heavy luggage. When little Stephanie asks her father to tell her something he did in his childhood, he says, “I remember walking along a river on a cold night. I had a lantern in my hand, so I could see my way in the dark.” How poignant, how sad- this inherited past of darkness through which a little girl must struggle to overcome, whose only escape from this reality will be through her imagination. And it is from the ashes of reality that the poet, the author, is born.
In the chapter “Mimi Freeman,” the author relates the moment her “muse,” Mimi, shows her paintings of fruit “that looked real enough to bite into.” Again, it is the imagination, it is art that appears real to Stephanie. It is truly the sensual poet that begins to emerge. Sensation, wonder, spiritual immersion becomes all- as it becomes her means of survival: ‘Let the colors speak,’ Mimi later tells her, and she will hear them: “Red sounded like a drum. Yellow like kites flying; green like the rush of water.” Mimi helps her lighten her otherwise dark world with light and color, to find “colors and shapes everywherelater on she will notice how “even in the darkness . . . I hear her voice, which has become my voice, too, ‘What do you see? What do you hear?’ Later on, while spending an afternoon with her mother’s magician friend and future husband Richard, Stephanie will notice how the “sunshine comes through the windows and paints us all in afternoon colors.” At the same time, always merging reality with fantasy-“a patch of cold comes from Richard’s direction…Richard smiles and winks at me, kind of pretend evil like Captain Hook just before he sends the pirates after Peter.” For the author, every dream, every fairy tale has its dark side as well as its bright side. In the very same chapter- once more fusing real life and fairy tale- she speaks of her mother in whose eyes she warily waits for “storm clouds to appear,” the mother-object of both love and fear- who “blows smoke rings like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.” Reality, pain intrudes everywhere—not only in the family but in the world around her s well-the girl next door who along with her family dies in a fire, the classmate from boarding school found murdered in her Bronx apartment. We see in the chapters that follow the steady growth of the child into adult-the imaginer into poet. Beautiful language and poetic imagery lace the narrative—At Boarding School she and her friend Barb “watch the moon like a giant coin in the sky move toward us.” In “Seasons” paragraphs could easily be poems as when she speaks of her friend Samuel and herself:
Arms wrapped around each other, we traversed the city Buildings looked brazen in sunlight Trees newly green seemed to stretch in their skins. I watched his shadow emerge on the pavement As my smaller shadow walked beside his.
Ultimately, the author’s language, her very life becomes transcendent as she reconciles past and present. In the chapter “On Friday Nights,”-- my personal favorite since for me it is so identifiable with my own family-- the author describes her “mother’s mother’s kitchen” which becomes a living prose photograph—her family, her 34
past, integrated into her poetic imagination-no longer the frightened little girl, the victim of a family from which she must escape into fairy tales but more the objective, self-contained adult/artist who seems to have transcended her past and can now look back with sympathy, compassion, understanding, and the poet’s wary eye for those ghosts that will always haunt her as our own ghosts haunt us. She says of her great grandmother: “She fills the folds of her white cotton dress like a monument to patience.” While praying her voice is “so low could enter another sphere.” How wonderfully she describes her family with such intimate and detailed clarity-this “profligate group” her grandmother is “determined to give legitimacy to”-- her Aunt Rose “warned against passion, the underwater dance from which one may never emerge . . .” Her daughter Anna who sits in front of her mirror to “watch herself become Ava Gardner . . .” who will “let her tongue linger over her bottom lip.” There’s Uncle Nathan who “folds into a parody of himself” and whose wife Betty has to beat off all his female admirers “with her fists when they knock at her door.” There’s the profligate patriarch Grandpa Joseph whose “face resembles the painted face of the man on the herring jars he sells in his grocery store” hoping “to escape” to his mistress Lena later that night, whose “silhouette” he sees “in the eye of the candle his wife is lighting.” Is there any wonder that despite her determination to keep this family together, the grandmother “has only a small ration of love left?” “Disagreeable words,” Hart states in the chapter “Decisions,” came off their tongues and settled under them; they took pride in being enraged and disgruntled.” It seems, ultimately, that the more answers she may come up with in relation to her spiritual and emotional attachment to her past-to her family and its effect on her own ability to survive in the world- the more questions she will have—as she says in “The Philosopher’s Path,” I wondered if my mother’s creative spirit now belonged to me along with my father’s dreams of achievement. I wondered how I could find my own path to enlightenment, allowing me to embrace life and face death with courage and equanimity. . . I wondered how the intuitive sense of what I thought and felt could become louder than any other voice. And as she continues to wonder, to question, Stephanie Hart continues to flourish as a writer and poet. This wonderful memoir, richly lyrical, skillfully detailed, is a testament to that.
Susan Tichy’s Gallowglass
Ahsahta Press, 2011
Required Reading in an Election Year:
According to Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.” Indifference is a term hurled at the average American quite often, by other supposedly more active and alert Americans and by the world at large. What Susan Tichy does so masterfully in her new book of poetry, Gallowglass, is expose our collective indifference by closing the gap between us and them, bringing to the same page the theater of war and mundane daily life “at home” and exploring all the different kinds of violence we perpetrate and are subject to in order to remind us that “we” is allinclusive. The book was written in a state of aftermath. Tichy’s husband had served in, and survived, Vietnam thirty years before dying in a hiking accident. There is a pervading sense of the irony of this death in a time when the U.S. is involved in multiple foreign conflicts. Tichy writes in her author statement, “Gallowglass is a book about grief, both public and private; it asks how to grieve in a history and a culture so permeated with images of imperialism and war.” Her poems are influenced by the lament of Scottish war ballads along with phrases captured from war reportage. Each poem is a collage, each line presenting wartime images from different times and geographies, concentrating widely divergent global experiences on the page. “Ice or Salt” careens from Afghanistan, to Iraq, to a respite from the immediate action (presumably in the U.S.), to the U.S. bombings of Japan in 1945: In the mountains of Afghanistan, he told me, the light is just like home. Woodsmoke to keep the bugs away, and wind makes even the short grasses shine. In Faluga, soldiers go crazy: on-board computers and puncture-proof tires. ‘Hayride through a combat zone and none of them showed any fear.’ 36
It’s another ordinary day: silver prose and photographs, orgies and gladiators. A mallard stands puzzled at the edge of a swimming pool. ‘Now that’s all over, the hell with it, 50 square miles of Tokyo burned.’ It’s reel-to-reel tape but the voice doesn’t seem to explain. Gallowglass begins in its first section with a series of Ghazals. According to John Hollander’s Rhyme’s Reason: A Guide to English Verse, “Ghazals are couplets, also apparently disjunct from each other, assembled into poems written in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Turkish. Both lines of the first couplet, and the second lines of all the following ones, end with a repeated refrain (Radif) and, just before that, a rhyming word (Qafia). The poet signs his name pseudonymously in the final ghazal.” Tichy is the first to recognize the political implications of appropriating another tradition’s form, noting, “‘American Ghazals,’ I call them, because I wish to acknowledge the occupation of foreign soil, and because, let’s face it, they are to real ghazals what American cheese is to real cheese.” The only formal constraint she keeps from the traditional ghazal is the couplet. In the eponymous “Gallowglass” specific phrases repeat, (“I went in to buy a nifty pen,” “a lover’s arm lying between”), but not as regularized refrains. The speaker is inhabiting a world where every violence evokes other violence—the strike of a copperhead is the speed of a bullet, a buck hit by a car juxtaposed with a bloody-lipped boy with a sack of cans at the market juxtaposed with “a teenager machine-gunned in two” juxtaposed with a wedding party taking pictures. The result is overwhelming in its rapid-fire presentation of images where there is not enough time to judge, only enough time between the lines to recognize what is going on and move to the next couplet.
These images refrains seep into the other ghazals of the first section. In “Lead Belly” the immediacy of the violence depicted (“Hot gun and a round cooked off through hip and thigh and bulkhead”; “Some things you know immediately: ‘twenty minutes until shock kills him,’ Gray matter spilling out of his head’) brings the danger to soft flesh too close for comfort. Tichy pairs this with the central couple’s walk in the woods and the irony of a husband who survived Vietnam only to die of an outdoor fall 30 years later. The violence done to a body is violence no matter how it happens. These poems disturb because of its unrelenting focus on what most Americans do their best not to think about—that loss isn’t something that only happens “over there”. By placing the spectacle of war violence next to more familiar images on the home front, Tichy asks the reader to enter into a discomforting proximity with horror. The last poem of the section, “One, Two” leaves the reader with: “My notes say this: a red poppy blooms where it is not wanted, a not-quite red poppy./ Which marks it as American, and less acquainted with grief.” One
might read the project of Gallowglass as an attempt to foster such an acquaintance. The seriousness of this endeavor does, in places, lead to lines that are heavy-handed in their implication of the reader. For instance, “Summer is Brief, Cities are Large” opens with, “You can lie on the couch watching baseball / But that well was stuffed with bodies and then with sand.” The tone is strident. But if this is initially off-putting, it begs the question: Isn’t it appropriate given the context. Later in the poem the speaker sputters, “So what are you going to do about it? / Just what the hell are you going to do?” The frustration is palpable and loaded with a challenge to the reader. Taking the book’s epigraph from Yeats—“…but everything personal soon rots; it must be packed in ice or salt”—as a clue to its structure, it seems as though Tichy has packed her own grieving experience in the larger societal morass. As the book progresses, the cacophony of the external world quiets somewhat. The final section, “Book, Land, Night,” is made up lyric poems of an “I” and a “you” separated by insurmountable obstacles—time, war, death. The speaker laments, On the Golan I lived in a shack on a hill I slept on a cot in a locked compound
Eight miles from tracer fire On the river you slept between gun mounts In the pools of shit and fear On the river you called For blank for blank for peace and it never came It is an imagined space wherein the speaker and her addressee (loved one?) inhabit different versions of war. In “To or From,” the speaker travels through the mountains of a foreign country and, in so doing, is reminded of her dead husband. “Photographs of you on a hundred summits / A hundred cairns a hundred faces yours.” If the first half of the book deals in closing the space between “us” and “them” in order to expose the connection between Americans going about their peaceful daily life and the effects across space and time of our military-industrial complex, this part of the book softens the edge of that connectivity, exploring the humanity of the individuals living in those times and spaces: On the trail to the mountain A man was building a footbridge A boy was driving a pair of pigs
A woman was carrying indigo On everypart of her body On part of its body The roe fawn crouched at my feet Was carrying snow It is as though the speaker, having finally arrived at what is human in a world that seems determined to eradicate humanity, can now return to the site of her own loss, addressing her husband lying dead on that mountain: And the helicopter lifting you I don’t know: is it to or from? Sun glints off rock at timberline Sunlight on the points of waves on a choppy river Picas ate your hatband Ravens were near your body But they left your eyes alone And this I call kindness: Your head tightly bandaged So it did not fall apart Your face washed the body bag It is a stark, unsentimental cataloguing of the scene, as if all of the poems that went before, in their consideration of other horrors, were preparing the speaker to be unflinching in displaying the image of her own grief. At this point Tichy has succeeded in making indifference an impossibility, rendering each image in the book a palimpsest and laying her own, most personal, loss atop the pile. The most striking quality of Gallowglass is its sincerity and ambition to address the groundlessness of grief in the monkey-minded, non-sequitur-heavy digital age. This is the rare book that is innately political without getting bogged down in the “message.” Its gravity comes from Tichy’s deft layering of the disparate images of our militaristic moment, and her bravery in making it intensely personal, rather than the canned rhetoric of a political agenda. 39
Caitelen Schneeberger is a poet, a published composer and musician, teacher, and community herbalist. She holds a MFA in Poetry from Ashland University and has published poetry in Alehouse Press. She currently resides in Albuquerque with her husband, daughter, and baby number two on the way.
Mary Alexandra Agner writes of dead women, telescopes, and secrets in poetry, prose, and Ada. Her latest book is The Scientific Method. Sheâ€™s currently interning for Under the Microscope. She can be found online at http://www.pantoum.org.
Victoria Lynne McCoy holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Union Station Magazine, Used Furniture Review, and MUDFISH 17, among others. Victoria is the 2011-2012 Frost Place Work Fellow, a member of the louderARTS Project, and has facilitated workshops for high school students with PEN American Centerâ€™s Readers & Writers program. She currently lives in Brooklyn and works for Four Way Books.
Amy Henry is a freelance writer and reviewer who is obsessed with Eastern European fiction and global poetry. She reviews both at her website,www. theblacksheepdances.com. She spends her time reading, writing, and wrangling an octopus. When that wears her out, she watches the BBC and acquires an accent.
Michelle Ovalle is a New Jersey poet who holds an MFA from Drew University. Her poetry and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in the Edison Literary Review, Adanna Literary Journal, Precipitate Journal, and the anthology Dear Sister. When not writing poetry, Michelle enjoys photography, mosh pits, and red dresses.
LJ Moore’s poetry, essays, and photography have appeared in Spectrum, Midnight Zoo, Danse Macabre, Coracle, 14 Hills, Limestone,Jacket, Kalliope, Transfer, Goetry, Sidebrow, Instant City, We Still Like, Artsmith, The Chiron Review, The Bold Italic, and Quiet Lightning. Her book, F-Stein, tells the story of family through pop culture, science, and the paranormal in the form of a replicating strand of DNA. LJ’s book reviews have appeared in Jacket, Rain Taxi, Publisher’s Weekly, Examiner.com, and Litseen. She is a co-founder of Small Desk Press, and is now a director/producer for Invisible City Audio Tours, which brings writers, composers, and visual artists together to create permanent (and free) public art installations in the form of self-guided audio tours . L.J. Moore was a 2010 writer in residence at Headlands Center for the Arts, and lives in San Francisco, where she spends her weekends piloting a pirate ship powered by rubber bands.
Margaret Rozga’s first book Two Hundred Nights and One Day won a bronze medal in poetry in the 2009 Independent Publishers Book Awards and was named an outstanding achievement for 2009 by the Wisconsin Library Association. Her new book Though I Haven’t Been to Baghdad , recently released by Benu Press, features poems about her responses to her Army Reservist son’s deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
GRL Troy Weaver lives in Wichita, Kansas. He is twenty-six years old. His stories and novels have been rejected by PANK, The Collagist, Publishing Genius, Black Warrior Review, Dalkey Archive (they were nice), and New Directions, just to name a few. V
Mitch Levenberg has published essays and short fiction in such journals as The Common Review, Fiction, The New Delta Review, Fine Madness, The Saint Annâ€™s Review, Confluence, The Assisi Journal, and BigCityLit. com. His collection of stories, Principles of Uncertainty and Other Constants was published in March 2006. His memoir on adopting his daughter from China will be published this winter. He teaches writing and literature at St. Francis College and lives in Brooklyn with his wife, daughter and three dogs; his website is mlevenberg.blogspot.com
Trina Burke is the author of Great America (Dancing Girl Press, 2011) and Wreck Idyll (Dancing Girl Press, forthcoming). Her poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Bone Bouquet, Rhino, and Hunger Mountain. She lives in Seattle.
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.
Available Review Copies POETRY I Was There For Your Somniloquy, Kelli Anne Noftle, Omnidawn Aerial, Bin Ramke, Omnidawn Harm, Hillary Gravendyk, Omnidawn Chinoiserie, Karen Rigby, Ahsahta Press Sancta, Andrew Grace, Ahsahta Press My Love is a Dead Arctic Explorer, Paige Ackerson-Kiely, Ahsahta Press Engima and Light, David Muschlecner, Ahsahta Press Obedience, Chris Vitiello, Ahsahta Press The Cupboard Artist, Molly Tenenbaum, Floating Bridge Press The Folding Star, Jacek Gutorow, translated from the Polish by Piotr Florczyk, BOA Editions The Reindeer Camps & Other Poems, Baron Sutter, BOA Editions Litany for the City, Ryan Teitman, BOA Editions Pointed Sentences, Bill Yarrow, BlazeVox Books Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck, George Kalamaras, Elixir Press Soutine: A Poem, Rick Mullin, Dos Madres Press Secrets No One Must Talk About, Martin Millitts Jr., Dos Madres Press From the Viewing Stand, Dos Madres Press Call the Catastrophists, Krystal Languell, BlazeVox Books One Sunday Morning, Anne Whitehouse, Finishing Line Press Make Yourself Small, Michelle Brooks, The Backwaters Press Glass Harmonica, Geoff Bouvier, Quale Press Book of Fire, Cary Waterman, Nodin Press Pomegranate, Sister of the Heart, Carlos Reyes, Lost Horse Press
Vanishing Horizon, Gerry Lafemina, Anhinga Press Kibbe, Suan Azar Porterfield, Mayapple Press The City She Was, Carmen Gimenez Smith, Center for Literary Publishing (Colorado State University) Our Lady of the Ruins, Traci Brimhall, WW Norton Night Chant, Andrew Demcak, Lethe Press Uselysses, Noel Black, Ugly Duckling Presse Forage, JoAnn Balingit, Wings Press Into the Snow: Selected Poems, Gennady Aygi, translated by Sarah Valentine, Wave Books Notational, Jane Joritz-Nakagawa, Otoliths Field Work: Notes, Songs Poems 1997-200, David Hadbawnik, BlazeVox Books Hagar Before the Occupation, Hagar After the Occupation, Amal Al-jubouri, translated by Rebeca Gayle Howell with Husam Qaisi, Alice James Books Road of a Thousand Wonders, Jeffrey Joe Nelson, Ugly Duckling Presse Indios, Linda Hogan, Wings Press Pith & Amber, Carah Naseem, Fugue State Press Afterimage, Damon Krukowski, Ugly Duckling Presse Little Winter Theater, Nancy Kuhl, Ugly Duckling Presse Re-, Kristi Maxwell, Ahsahta Press No Grave Can Hold Me Down, Aaron McCollough, Ahsahta Press Slot, Jill Magi, Ugly Duckling Presse One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t, Jacqueline Waters, Ugly Duckling Presse 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 Melons and Memory, Helen Peterson, Little Red Tree Publishing The Book of What Stays, James Crews, Bison Books 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 Hands of Strangers, Janice Harrington, BOA Editions Transfer, Naomi Shihab Nye, BOA Editions Concertos, No Collective, Ugly Duckling Presse Cursivism, Will Hubbard, Ugly Duckling Presse The Hermit, Laura Solomon, Ugly Duckling Presse 45
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 Remains to be Used, Jessica Baran, Apostrophe Books The Disinformation Phase, Chris Toll, Publishing Genius Memory Future, Heather Aimee O’Neill, Gold Line 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 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 Track This: A Book of Relationship, Stephen Bett, BlazeVox Books 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 Fishing for Myth, Heid E. Erdrich, New Rivers Press Birds of Wisconsin, B.J. Best, New Rivers Press Kings of the Fucking Sea, Dan Boehl, images by Jonathan Marshall, Birds LLC Rust or Go Missing, Lily Brown, 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 46
Grief Suite, Bobbi Lurie, CW Books The Body, The Rooms, Andy Frazee, Subito Press Historic Diary, Tony Trigilio, BlazeVox Books Born Palestinian Born Black & The Gaza Suite, Suheir Hammad, UpSet Press Strata, Ewa Chrusciel, Emergency 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 Annulments, Zach Savich, Center for Literary Publishing/Colorado State University FICTION Pot Farm, MattGavin Frank, University of Nebraska Press Small, Economies: Stories, John Palen, Mayapple Press Twelfth & Race, Eric Goodman, Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press A Hole in the Ground Owned by a Liar, Daniel Pyne, Counterpoint The Infernal Republic, Marshall Moore, Signal 8 Press Niagara Digressions, E.R. Baxter III, Starcherone Books The Innocent Party: Stories, Aimee Parkison, BOA Editions Tales from the Dew Drop Inne, Kenneth Weene, All Things That Matter Press Insomnia and the Aunt, Tan Lin, Kenning Editions Make It Stay, Joan Frank, The Permanent Press The Keepers, Mike Maggio, March Street Press All the Roads that Lead from Home: Stories, Anne Leigh Parrish, Press 53 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 Feather, David Rix, Eibonvale Press (PDF) Access, Xu XI, Signal 8 Press The Cisco Kid in the Bronx, Miguel Antonio Ortiz, Hamilton Stone Editions Destroy All Monsters & Other Stories, Greg Hrbek, 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 Janet Planet, Elanor Lerman, Mayapple Press Insomnia and the Aunt, Tan Lin, Kenning Editions A Marriage of Convenience, Andrew Plattner, BkMk Press 47
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 Events Film Cannot Withstand, Zach Savich, Rescue Press At Home Anywhere, Mary Hoffman, New Rivers Press American Fiction: The Best Previously Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Authors, Volume 11, Kristen J. Tsetsi, editor, New Rivers Press This New and Poisonous Air: Stories, Adam McOmber, BOA Editions Death-in-a-Box, Alta Ifland, Subito Press Halal Pork and Other Stories, Cihan Kaan, UpSet Press The Cosmopolitans, Nadia Kalman, Livingston Press/University of West Alabama Calendar of Regrets, Lance Olsen, FC2/University of Alabama Press The Wonderful Room, Bryan Woolley, Wings Press Color Plates, Adam Golaski, Rose Metal Press 3/03, Chuck Wachtel, Hanging Loose Press The Underbelly, Gary Phillips, PM Press Pike, Benjamin Whitmer, PM Press Yield, Lee Houck, Kensington Books Fort Da, Elisabeth Sheffield, FC2 We Know What We Are, Mary Hamilton, Rose Metal Press How We Move the Air, Garnett Kilberg-Cohen, Mayapple Press Dream Fishing: Stories, Scott Ely, Livingston Press Under the Small Lights, John Cotter, Miami University Press In the Time of the Girls, Anne Germanacos, BOA Editions Attention Please Now: Stories, Matthew Pitt, Autumn House The Kasahara School of Nihilism, Ben Brooks, Fugue State Press Robot 9 in Wonderland, Louis Phillips, World Audience The Rat Veda, James Chapman, Fugue State Press Flashing My Shorts, Salvatore Buttaci, All Things That Matter Press (pdf copy) Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows, Leslie Scalapino, Starcherone Books Bartleby, the Sportscaster, Ted Pelton, Subito Press From the Hilltop, Toni Jensen, Bison Books University of Nebraska Press The River Road, Tricia Currans-Sheehan, New Rivers Press
Review Essays on Contemporary Poetry and Literary Fiction