R e a d
Cover Art: Anarthia by Hannah Kelly
Essays & Criticism on Contemporary Poetry & Literary Fiction
GRL Art Issue:
+44(0)7912666647 | email@example.com | hannahvictoriakelly.wordpress.com Education Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama – Cardiff, Wales 2008 – 2010 PGD Arts Management University of Plymouth - Exeter Campus, England 2003 – 2006 BA Fine Art - First Class Honours Coleg Gwent - Crosskeys Campus, Wales 2001 – 2003 ND Fine Art - Distinction Recent (2011) Group Exhibitions: Vending Machine: An Installation Galleria Perela, Venice Vending Machine: An Installation Serra dei Giardini, Venice Unsigned View Gallery, England Press/ Publications: Kelly, H. 2010 The Curious World of Becky Adams. In: Becky Adams. Wales: Ruthin Craft Centre, pp. 15-20 Buckingham, M., 2007. LIFE: Curator eyes a world of art for all. South Wales Argus 10 Oct first light To create the human who is human at the dawn of ideas. Add copper + bees to create abnormalities in lipid chemistry. The result is an altered human brain with abnormal access to an altered state of consciousness which will both enchant and petrify the person experiencing it. 100,000 years ago it was the emergence of functional psychosis that directly increased creativity. Making us; technical; spiritual; artistic; musical; political. Out of ‘lunacy’ a new kind of evolutionary ascent of humankind was born. In the footsteps of this extraordinary creativity (a creativity that defines us and separates us from our nearest primitive relatives), the human world of art, literature, music, sculpture and faith can move shockingly but brilliantly forward. Hannah Kelly 2011 hannahvkelly.wordpress.com
An Other Woman: Metaxa Cunningham on Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz
You Feel Sung: Stephen Page on Gary Snyder’s Left Out in the Rain
Gathered Threads Weave: Deb Baker on Deborah Brown’s Walking the Dog’s Shadow
A Territory of Welcome: Nick Courtright on Your Father on the Train of Ghosts by G. C. Waldrep and John Gallaher
Confident & Lost: Rita Mae Reese on Shane McCrae’s Mule
Loving the Complexity of Art: Daniela Olszewska on Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty
Dirty Jobs: Ethel Rohan on Alissa Nutting’s Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
Polished Stones: Mark Jenkins on lie down too by Lesle Lewis
The Long Black Song: Alonzo McBride on Edouard Levé’s Suicide
Cute Things By Themselves Get Boring: Morgan Macgregor on Lynne Tillman’s Someday This Will Be Funny
An Other Woman: Metaxa Cunningham on Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz WW Norton, 2011 Anne Enright understands the psychology that drives human desires. Enright’s latest novel, The Forgotten Waltz delves into the mind of Gina Moynihan as she attempts to understand how she became entangled in an affair that destroyed her marriage and altered her world forever. Enright cleverly coincides the building excitement of Gina’s and Sean’s affair and its fallout with the recent boom and bust of the Irish economy. Gina relates the story of how her affair with Sean Vallely began and progressed with a mixture of dark humour, passion and introspection. Enright’s dissection of the affair from the point of view of the ‘other woman’ is brilliant. Those who have read Enright’s 2007 Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Gathering, will be acquainted with her poetically intimate descriptions. The first chapter of The Forgotten Waltz begins with a voyeuristic description of the first time Gina saw Sean in Enniskerry, Ireland:
It is half past five on a Wicklow summer Sunday when I see Sean for he first time. There he is, where the end of my sister’s garden becomes uncertain. He is about to turn around – but he doesn’t know this yet. He is looking at the view and I am looking at him. The sun is low and lovely. He is standing where the hillside begins its slow run down the coast, and the light is at his back, and it is just that time of day when all the colours come into their own. It is some years ago now. The house is new and this is my sister’s house warming party, or first party, a few months after they moved in. The first thing they did was take down the wooden fence, to get their glimpse of the sea, so the back of the house sits like a missing tooth in the row of new homes, exposed to the easterly winds and to curious cows: a little stage set for this afternoon of happiness.
Enright’s vision of that perfect moment contrasts with the imperfect image of the house among the row of homes surrounding it. The house that “sits like a missing tooth” is like Gina’s impending marriage to Connor and Sean’s marriage to Aileen. Once barriers are removed for desire, the marriages them-
selves are made vulnerable. The house is symbolic of relationships throughout the novel. The one laid open to the elements is flawed and real. The other houses in the novel that appear as domestic perfection are revealed to contain the voids created by strained relationships despite their pristine facades. Gina personifies the conflicted woman, who believes she is happily married yet succumbs to her desires only to realize that she has done something she cannot take back; she has created a wound that she cannot heal. The excitement of being with Sean overshadows her love for her husband, Connor, to the point of rendering this affair surreal and utterly devoid of intimacy:
We knew each other. Our real life was in some shared head space; our bodies were just the places we used to play. Maybe that’s the way lovers should be – not these besotted, fuck-witted strangers that are myself and Sean, these actors in a bare room.
Gina is entirely human. Enright infuses her character with the longing and disbelief of one who gravitates toward another broken soul looking for something she cannot find within herself. I love how Enright exposes the frailty of the lovers and points out the redundancy of an affair. People leave relationships that are meaningful in hopes to find something better, often ending up clinging desperately to a new disappointment of love, while leaving a wake of pain and confusion in which their families are left to thrash about. Readers like myself, hopeless monogamists, or individuals slighted by adultery will delight in the sweet irony that the actual sex between Gina and Sean is “…a bit too actual,” despite their magnetism and love for one another. Although Enright poises us to dislike and ridicule ‘the other woman’, the humour and humanity of Gina’s character makes her likeable, especially when she attempts to make the best of things:
I can’t believe I am free of all that. I just can’t believe it. That all you have to do is sleep with somebody and get caught and you never have to see your in-laws again. Ever. Pfffft! Gone. It’s the nearest thing to magic I have yet found.
Once the affair began, there was no going back for Gina. Even in reflection, she cannot conceive that things could have been any different; besides ending this affair would mean that she had lost everything, a failure that is uncharacteristic for this successful woman. This universal mistake that plagues many adulterers is best expressed when Gina states, “I had killed it; my best thing. The guilt, when it finally hit, was astonishing.” She freely admits that she wasn’t thinking about anyone but herself, but when she finally does examine the situation she makes a stunning realization:
If it hadn’t been for the child then none of this might have happened, but the fact that a child was involved made everything that much harder to forgive.
Metaxa Cunningham on Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz
Not that there is anything to forgive, of course, but the fact that a child was mixed up in it all made us feel that there was no going back; that it mattered. The fact that a child was affected meant we had to face ourselves properly, we had to follow through.
Gina doesn’t make excuses for her contribution to the adultery; in fact, Sean’s daughter, Evie is the furthest thing from Gina’s mind until the situation intensifies. Once she has disrupted the child’s life, Gina feels the need to stay in this relationship to stabilize Evie’s world and learn to love the child she often feels resentment for. What started as a frivolous affair has become a new shackle of love mixed with guilt. If it weren’t for Evie, Gina would have Sean to herself. Instead Gina feels the sting of being second-best in the eyes of her lover. Her fear of becoming invisible in this relationship is strong as she explores her own issues of abandonment that resulted from her own father’s illness and premature death. Sean appears to be a father-figure replacement and lover. He fulfills Gina’s needs to be loved by an older man who is a good father, which in a perverse sense gives her comfort and inspires a jealous tug-of-war with twelve year old Evie over Sean’s heart. The Forgotten Waltz is a novel that encourages people to examine their foibles and define themselves before they make life altering decisions. Gina is a lesson to every woman who desires to escape the mundane and follow their obsessions, only to find they are locked into a similar situation tethered by their guilt.
Metaxa Cunningham on Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz
You Feel Sung:
Stephen Page on Gary Snyder’s Left Out in the Rain Counterpoint, 2005 Reading Snyder is like taking a stroll through the woods on a pleasant early summer morning, the scent of fecund earth filling your nostrils, fresh air your lungs, birdsong your ears. Sunlight flickers through the tree canopy and you blink, suddenly realizing that the woods no longer exists, that you are standing on a hillside of tree stumps, smell only sawdust and carbon monoxide, hear only the traffic on the highway behind you. You know what will follow, because the same thing has happened before in almost every country in the world, the tree stumps will be removed, the hill will be farmed or constructed with a house, and the next big rainfall will wash away the topsoil leaving only rock and shale. Reading Snyder you feel you have travelled around the globe with him, climbed mountains, been indoctrinated into Dharma, witnessed the human race repeat the same mistakes over and over again since the beginnings of recorded history—those same crimes against nature which affect standards of global life and community. Snyder’s poems are immediate and vivid. You feel plunged into his world. You feel sung to by the body earth, you feel sung to by the body universe, you feel sung to by the bodies of his lovers. Left Out in the Rain is a book packed full of high-quality poems, however, there are a few poems in the collection that could have been left to weather a bit longer before they were published. Snyder starts the collection wonderfully. In “Elk Trails,” he comes down from the mountains, sage-like, full of knowledge and learning, enlightened by the Gods:
I have walked you, ancient trails, Along the narrow rocking ridges High above the mountains that Make up your world: Looking down on giant trees, silent In the purple shadow of ravines Along the spire-like alpine fir Above the high, steep slanting meadows Where sun-softened snowfields share the earth With flowers…. 7
Dainty Alpine flowers. And from the ridgetops I have followed you Down through the heather fields, through timber, Downward winding to the hoof-churned shore of One tiny blue-green mountain lake Untouched by the lips of men………
In the snow, or napping in the mountain grasses On warm summer afternoons, high in the meadows. And their God laughs low and often At the man-made trails…. Ancient wandering trials Cut and edged by centuries of cloven hooves ….Routes and destination seemed aimless, but Charted by the sharp-tempered guardian of creatures, Instinct….
High above, the Elk walk in the evening From one pasture to another Scrambling on the rock and snow While their ancient wandering, Aimless trails. And their ancient, coarse-haired, Thin-flanked God Laughs in silent wind-like chuckles At man, and all his trails.
The meter here is natural, rhythmic. It works as an imitation of walking, stepping, in relation to the actions of the narrator and the Elk. The lines move effortlessly from trochaic to iambic, occasionally anapestic, as one would occasionally miss a step when walking upon a snow ridge, but it is never forced, never unnatural. The sibilance of the consonant s adds a slipping and sliding effect to the step. Thematically, the character has come down from the mountains realizing that man is not in tune with nature. Man needs to make his path like the Elk do, instinctively. Cleverly, the second poem follows: Out of the soil and rock, The growing sea and spring, death and winter, Out of cold the cold and rain, dust and sunshine, Came the music of cities and street, The people…… Creatures of salt, carbon, nitrogen, water….
Stephen Page on Gary Snyder’s Left Out in the Rain
The city smoke and building steel Already is no more; The music and cities of the future wait beyond the edge.
Man and nature spring from the same place, not only that, we are made up of the same materials. However, man cannot continue the way he lives. He must change to remain in sync with the world. Snyder ends on a positive point, that the method of change is just a while into the future. The first line, indented, is intelligently constructed like a fountain exuding materials. The varied line length reflects the swinging back and forth from nature to cities to nature. Similar to the first poem, the love poem “She dreamed…” works metrically like stepping, in the manner of a cougar, pacing, bounding, turning, running. Again, well done. The poem also stipulates, metaphorically, a need for man to get back to his natural ways. In “The Persimmons,” Snyder reveals something many environmentally concerned people are not aware of: …where the Great Wall wanders the oaks had been cut for lumber or charcoal by Genghis Khan’s time. Man has been destructively exploiting the earth for a long time, and this behavior has not been limited to Western culture, consumerism, and capitalism as many people now believe. The poem is structured in free verse, short-lined, densely packed like a layering of thousands of human generations. “Know,” is a poem that expands on the topic of man and nature: The trees know Stars to be sources
Like the sun, Of their life;
But many and tiny Sprinkled through the dark
When, Where has the sun gone— We all come from stardust. The sun is just one of many stars. We are just a speck in the huge universe. Snyder cleverly constructs the poem in short flowing lines so that it imitates the sprinkling down of stardust. Unfortunately, we need talk a bit about the not-so-good poems. “Song for a Cougar Hide,” is a rhyming poem set up mostly in iambic tetrameter. It is not consistent though, and some of the lines fall into trimeter:
Stephen Page on Gary Snyder’s Left Out in the Rain
The fully human time is nigh, Alas, the other beasts must die…
I have logged and I have planted Killed and birthed in measure Forgot what I learned to learn A cougar hide’s my treasure.
The meter is forced in order to get to an overly obvious end rhyme. By using archaic words like ‘nigh’ and ‘alas,’ Snyder is either lost or being ironic. In either event it does not work within the collection. And then there is the poem “Poetry Is the Eagle of Experience,” with the line ‘A whistle of Wings!’ Isn’t that a little bit of a cliché? Also, there are the poems on pages 181 and 192 where the meter is also forced and the rhyme predictable. Snyder, Snyder, Snyder—read bishop, Auden, and Shakespeare if you want to learn how to make rhyme and meter natural. Finally there is the anti-haiku ‘Spring’ that becomes a gem out of Snyder’s sarcasm. An accidentally well-done haiku. Snyder is better off sticking to free verse. There his poems flow and form to the subject matter. His muse works better that way. He went to the trouble of adding an introduction to this republication. He states that many of the poems were just exercises and playing around with forms. If this is true, why put them in a collection with so many good poems? Why not include them in another book, one about how and how not to write poems? He seems to be slitting his own throat. The poems themselves hand him the knife, as in the anti-haiku that becomes a great haiku. Writing forced meter and predictable rhyme as an anti-traditional statement does not reveal that traditional verse is bad poetry, it only reveals that Snyder was not successful at writing traditional verse. He also states in the introduction that the title ‘is not to be taken as meaning discarded or deserving neglect.’ It appears weak having to explain this. Is it because he received so much flak from readers and critics as to the quality of some of the poems? He might have saved himself by having someone else write the introduction. Better yet, to have better edited the weaker poems, or to have never published them in the first place. He does manage a bit of deliverance by ending the collection with a prose poem, perhaps an admittance of what he should be writing.
Stephen Page on Gary Snyder’s Left Out in the Rain
There is a Fine Line - Wasp in Resin
There is a Fine Line - Fly in Resin
There is a Fine Line - Wasp in Resin 11
Gathered Threads Weave:
The 9th annual BOA Editions A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize prize winner, Walking the Dog’s Shadow, by Deborah Brown, is a rich collection of poems that are not only beautiful, but also thought provoking. Brown weaves a plethora of ideas and subjects through her poems: physics and space (from subatomic particles to time and heavenly bodies), dogs (real and artistic renderings), grief, the heart and its capacity for pain, literature and art, current affairs and culture, war, family history, and juxtapositions. All of these topics come together in a collection that invites readers to consider what it’s like to travel the road of human experience in contemporary America. Among the strongest poems are the title piece, which imagines grief as a black dog, “a drag on anyone’s leash”; “Don’t Ask,” which includes the line, “How do you know what you’ve left out of any story you tell?”; “Listen,” which posits, “Stars lie to each other, that’s why they/flicker. We tell stories, try to love,/ try to make sense and end up on a swing/ kicking the air out from underneath ourselves.” “The Scarlett Letter Law Struck Down in Massachusetts, Spring 2003,” includes a lush, sensual description of Hester Prynne’s embroidered “A” that evokes the Garden of Eden, pre-fall: Remember how Hester,/ a seamstress by trade, embroidered/ colored threads around and around/ the “A” she wore on her breast? Ruby/reds, emerald greens in a wild-hearted/ design, until the “A” resembled/a lush, tropical garden where peacocks/fanned their tails in invitation,/where the scent of gardenia/hovered, where ripe grapes hung/ within the hand’s grasp and poppies/hinted at pleasures alien to the New World.
Another poem which holds pain and pleasure in tense relationship is “Elegy for My Sister,” which calls cancer “another dark winter,” and marvels that “The tide of the mind is ruthless too,/if a poem can find some pleasure in a death.” Throughout the collection, readers see the poet’s mind ruthlessly gathering disparate strands, from BlackBerries and car bombs to chiaroscuro and Latin verbs. The gathered threads weave together to bring readers surprising connections even out of war or pain. For example, in “The Trap” we travel from a trail on Mt. Sunapee where a dog is inadvertently caught in a hunter’s trap to British train passengers in an old film watching Muslim-Hindu unrest. The voice in “On Not Knowing Your Father”
BOA Editions, 2011
Deb Baker on Deborah Brown’s Walking the Dog’s Shadow
warns of the danger in this situation, recalling “Oedipus is the first I know of, and that/ended as it began, with blindness.” In the next stanza, we move on to a much more banal but real contemporary warning: “But it’s also dangerous not to know/how a lawnmower works. My friend,/a sociology teacher, lost two fingertips/reaching into his . . . .” From Oedipus to machinery, in just a few lines. In this poem the leaps are unsettling, like riding on a roller coaster that seems to take the curves too fast. From the lost fingers Brown detours to Whitman’s Civil War nursing, to the narrator’s college days, to a tender moment somewhere nearer the present, with no further mention of the missing father in the title. In most poems, the ideas flow more carefully, and the general sense a reader gets from Walking the Dog’s Shadow is that Brown has a furiously busy mind, tamed somewhat by her command of craft. There is much to ponder here, but the poems are not didactic. Brown manages to teach us what she knows of the heart and mind, to wonder about the “big questions,” and to offer beauty even in the midst of unrest.
A Territory of Welcome:
Like a once-obscure indie band blowing up the blogosphere, much of the talk behind Your Father on the Train of Ghosts has been on the back story, how two All-Star poets who have yet to nail down Hall of Fame credentials got together to write a book. And how they used email to do it, trading poem for poem in a kind of lineated penpalship of collaborated prolificacy. Rumor has it they wrote 500 poems, those ambitious and/or compulsive maniacs. But the backstory is just that: backstory. And what we’ve got when the intrigue of process has worn off is one big-ass book, and a wholesale victory for conspiratorial inspiration. No doubt you could go crazy trying to figure out who wrote what, but at some point, you stop trying—based on their past work, you can seek in the poems evidence of Gallaher’s talky, effusive, delightfully random tendencies, or Waldrep’s calculated, restrained, effortless execution, but really, there’s little point in attaching one name to any given poem, even if much of the roster of 124 poems here was published piecemeal and each under one name alone. Fact is, these writers seem a perfect match for each other, and both of them, page after page, surprise, like in “You Need Not Be Present to Win”:
And then comes that moment in the process when we all have to transplant live organs from dogs into cats. There will be an exam. Or maybe this is the exam.
Much has been made of the themes found in the book, and how the title itself is a patchwork of three prominent nouns that feature heavily in the work. And though there are signals of unity and direct conversation in the book (see instances of “chrome” on pages 139, 140, 161, and 174, for example), this bounte
ous package is notable for how the ghosts are the poems themselves: most of them seem fragile narratives just barely hanging on—stories are there, they are almost always there, but these don’t feel like, you know, “narrative poems,” because there’s just something too loose for them to feel that tug of prosaic tale-telling, something too dodgy and evasive, such as this bit from “As Mastery Declines into Altitude and Forgiveness”:
BOA Editions, 2011
Nick Courtright on Your Father on the Train of Ghosts by G. C. Waldrep and John Gallaher
Another jet plane is falling from the sky and doing it so gracefully it almost seems to want to be polite, not trying to get your attention, not trying to make a statement, just giving in, at long last, to gravity, or maybe
distracted, momentarily, by a flicker in the landscape, wanting to see something close-up that’s not an airport. or this gem, from “The Carnegie System”: Another hearse parks in front of the library and you think, “Whatever happened to all those nuns?” You used to see them pretty much everywhere,
in the train and the bus stations, in the hospital waiting rooms, at the library of course on afternoons when the carpet mills weren’t running and everybody else’s fathers were slugging
doubles over at the county park.
This subversion of narrative is insistently dream-like in its quality, and like a dream, the book may have sad moments but in and of itself is not inherently sad. Despite the neosurrealist instances here, the poems always come back to the ground with the speech and objects of the modern day-to-day, like in “This Is the Part Where You Whistle”: There were children in the yards singing “I Demand a Horizon,” though I doubted they knew what they were asking for. and, later in the same poem, The box set was still in transit back then, though anything that rises in a closed system could appear to be the reason for that system. Invisible dogs on studded leashes, for example, 1-900 numbers and comment cards. If there is a nagging problem with this book, it may be this: like any LP record, shakiness in the big picture can obscure the fact that many good songs are present, and this can become even more acute when the album is a lengthy one—without a truly unifying element, critics and listeners tend to find songs that could be cut, extended guitar solos that could be shortened for the strength of the whole. Or, to be an economist about it, you could say, “when there’s so much to choose Nick Courtright on Your Father on the Train of Ghosts by G. C. Waldrep and John Gallaher 15
from, every bit is slightly devalued, as if the game is a zero-sum model, and a book is equal to one.” In other words, if a book has 60 lyric poems, it could be argued that each poem is worth 1/60 of the whole’s importance. And in this case, because Your Father on the Train of Ghosts is so long, it’s 1/124, and if you feel yourself slipping through a couple pages in a daze, it probably won’t kill your reading of the book, because you couldn’t have missed anything too pivotal, right? But maybe this is flawed thinking, and it’s precisely the book’s enormity that makes its most profound point. Because, via its cataloguing of so much and amazing ability to let absolutely anything and everything in, the collection acts as a declaration that poetry isn’t a territory for certain themes alone, but a territory where everyone and everything is welcome. Indeed, you get the feeling that if Gallaher and Waldrep found themselves at a wedding reception, no element of it would be deemed unpoetic—the fake flower arrangements, the amalgamation of unrelated personalities, the clambering at the temporarily open bar, all of these things (including the hammered speech of the best man and the doddering of someone’s doddering father-in-law) would be fair game. And it’s that vision, that biasless opening of experience and possibility, that makes this book a victory—everything is fair, everything is beautiful, everything a poem can do can be done, together.
16 Nick Courtright on Your Father on the Train of Ghosts by G. C. Waldrep and John Gallaher
“Striking and resonant . . .” –Publishers Weekly
“Powerful . . .” –S. Krishna’s Books
“[Masih’s] stories break the mold.” –San Francisco Book Review
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Rita Mae Reese on Shane McCrae’s Mule
Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011
Confident & Lost:
As the title might suggest, Shane McCrae’s debut collection of poems, Mule, concerns itself with states of divided being. The poems here explore being not only half horse, half donkey, or half white and half black (the term “mulatto” most likely comes from the Spanish word for mule), but also of being half married and half divorced, half the boy he was and half the man he is becoming. His past and future collide in moments made of equal (or nearly equal) parts wonder and dread. The introductory poem, “The Cardinal Is the Marriage Bird” and he first two sections of the book are concerned with the speaker as half of a marriage, and also half of a divorce. The poem opens with the speaker observing: The cardinal is the marriage bird / And flies a flash of dusk becomes forgets becomes / Again the body of the cardinal in the sunlight in the day The speaker asks us to imagine the bird in the room “And not in the world the cardinal is / The marriage bird.” The bird both is and is not the marriage bird; the speaker both is married and divorced. The cardinal is both a promise of spring against the snow and a red wound. It is an apt metaphor for marriage and seems to echo “A Pity. We Were Such a Good Invention” by Yehuda Amichai. If the poem owes anything to that memorable sonnet on marriage, it also succeeds entirely on its own terms.
The first several poems begin with variations on “And we divorced in…” and “We were married in….” The speaker is chronicling moments of connection and disconnection that pass without ceremony or fanfare that constitute marriage and divorce much more so than do the official rituals. Sometimes these moments are conveyed solely through metaphor, as in “In the Garden of the Ghosts of the Garden.” In this case the imagery is biblical, the original Garden reduced to a pond—“No house no flowers no fence no bushes no / Road to where a house would be.” Here we find a perfect picture of endurance, of choices that prohibit choices being made:
Up to our ankles in the mud and neckdeep in the water and we stood in the water We held our arms above our heads for forty days supported by the water and Weighed down by the water and we didn’t drink For fear that would leave ourselves no water To stand in and we didn’t piss for fear that We would pollute the water and have no water to drink…
But this is not a book concerned merely with lamenting the loss of love, or a book complaining about the endurance it requires. The marriage/divorce poems soon take up the subject of McCrae’s autistic son, who he sees at times as being half himself and half his wife, or as the poet says in the poem “After the Diagnosis,” “our son our map / Of us.” In fact one of the most haunting images comes in the poem “[We Married in the Front Yard],” as he and his wife watch their two-year-old son disappear, erased by his autism. They realize the boy has forgotten the word for “ball” and the speaker asks:
Which disappearing part was more important more our son which part to hold and which Part to let go we said the word and rolled The ball again we said the word and rolled…
In many of these poems, the reader might also detect an echo of e.e. Cummings. Though McCrae’s gift doesn’t seem to be in the way Cummings was able to create startling images by unexpected choices of adjectives (who can forget “furnished souls” or “angry candy”?), he does achieve a similar progression that seems to consist of a constant retracing of steps, a voice that is somehow confident and lost at once. You get a sense of the headlong movement and the reversals in these lines from “In No Place”:
And we divorced in any anyhow / But sudden anyhow but hurry we / Divorced in sudden hurry the affair / Become the main thing don’t want to be mar- / ried still become the main thing anyhow Already sit and don’t go out
in an- / y sudden every sudden thing In any hurry turn to salt and break (…)
McCrae frequently breaks words, sometimes in surprising places, and it enables him to get a little more out of words such as “married,” which is repeated so often the reader is in danger of becoming numbed to it. Instead, by setting off the first sylla-
Confident & Lost: Rita Mae Reese on Shane McCrae’s Mule
guage. McCrae also frequently employs virgules (/), the traditional way to indicate line breaks in quoted poems, but here serving as perhaps half-line breaks, or just as slippery slopes for meaning to ascend or descend. They indicate minor pauses and are used effectively in poems that rely largely on line breaks as sight punctuation. The speaker in Mule treads through treacherous territory. He writes movingly about his grandmother, who was largely responsible for raising him. Generally speaking, grandmothers that are worth writing about might not be worth reading about. It’s difficult to make the long-suffering heroic matriarch fresh in poetry, but McCrae somehow manages. McCrae also tackles poverty in these poems but with a light touch and a sense of humor. In the final poem, he notes ruefully that “none of us / Have money Lord or ever had.” In “Mausoleum,” he reminds us that the poor are more likely to be burned than buried, because it’s cheaper: “the poor are buried in the wall / and buried you grandmother in the wall,” where they’ll have to tunnel their way out if they are to inherit the earth. Unlike Zeno’s paradox, where one cuts the distance between herself and her destination perpetually in half and so never arrives, these poems and this book do reach a final destination. In the end, the book is, of course, concerned with unity. The last section of the book the speaker addresses God in various incarnations. While the reader may be (overly) familiar with the Lord as Friend or Shepherd, here instead he encounters the Lord as a Mouth, a Once-Incarnate-Silence, a Basket, a Migrant-Worker. In the final poem, the speaker pleads with God to gather up his family, “the wives and the liars / The husband and the liars” (and, almost as afterthought, the honest ones), and all of those who love, even if the one(s) they love maybe isn’t him. This generosity seems both willed and impulsive, half man and half horse. Despite the book’s emphasis on halves, McCrae invests his whole self in these poems which lay a stubborn, irresistible claim on the reader.
Confident & Lost: Rita Mae Reese on Shane McCrae’s Mule
Anarthia Series 21
Loving the Complexity of Art:
Daniela Olszewska on Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty
W.W. Norton, 2011 In her new book The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (W.W. Norton, 2011), Maggie Nelson draws on examples from a wide variety of the visual and performing arts in an attempt to address the question(s) of the purpose(s) of creative cruelty. Special attention is paid to the work of Antonin Artaud, Francis Bacon, Marina Abramovic, Paul McCarthy, and Brian Evenson, but one needn’t be familiar with all of these artists’ oeuvres in order to appreciate the book—Nelson, a teacher at heart, gives enough background information to allow art-world novices like myself to keep up with her. Cruelty isn’t interested in the kind of formal innovation that shows up in Bluets, Nelson’s devastatingly brilliant 2010 memoir/essay/ poem centered around her ways of experiencing the color blue (Seriously, go read Bluets, if you haven’t already. I like Cruelty a lot, but if you were only going to read one Nelson book ever, go with Bluets.). Cruelty is a more “traditional” essay/assay, more in line with the works of Susan Sontag or Annie Dillard than, say, Wayne Kostenbaum or Anne Carson, but this is by no means a criticism of the piece, the more sedate formatting goes well with Nelson’s straightforward tone.
Nelson doesn’t have anything against cruelty. She isn’t bothered by the blood and guts of a Kathy Acker book or the blood and feces of a John Waters film. What offends Nelson is the disingenuous explanations of cruelty that get offered up by some artists and their critics. She abhors “brutality being used as a bluff or a bludgeon.” Nelson pushes her readers to revaluate art-makers’ tendency to hide behind the skirts of Aristotle and Freud. While many art-makers claim the cruelty they depict engenders a therapeutic catharsis, Cruelty points out that some shock-and-awe art seems to lack an ability to engender empathy between the viewer/consumer and the object of cruelty. She wryly notes that, “what was at stake for Aristotle, vis-à-vis catharsis, were the emotions of ‘pity and terror’ aroused by the play, not the ability to hold down one’s lunch while watching a woman being forced to drink internal organs that have been ground up in a blender.” (If you feel like spending the rest of the day hating all of humanity, go ahead and Google “Captivity movie trailer.”) Nelson does not attempt to mark anything like a high/ low art divide—contemporary choreographers and performance artists get just
as much criticism as Hollywood snuff-lite Blockbusters and prime-time television. Cruelty is very clearly unsympathetic to censorship. Nelson takes time out to (gently, un-cruelly) take down the self-appointed cultural gatekeepers whose solution to cruelty in art (and in “real life”) is to slap it with a NC-17 rating. She shows readers that, in the right hands, cruelty can help further an aesthetic is truly thought-provoking, paradigm-shifting, epoch-shattering, etc. Nelson is reluctant to come right out and tell readers what qualities she thinks these “right hands” should possess. The closest she comes to offering any kind of guideline or rule is when she suggests that productive cruelty should complicate rather than simplify, should raise questions rather than demand answers. This book is not a polemic against cruelty or violence in art; it is an assay interested in dismantling (or, at least, loosening the bolts of) the monochromed stories artists and critics tell themselves about the aesthetic and/or moral value of cruelty and violence in art. Nelson refutes all slogans and one sentence manifestoes. She loves the complexity of art too much to allow any of us to get away with simple explanations.
Loving the Complexity of Art: Daniela Olszewska on Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty
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Ethel Rohan on Alissa Nutting’s Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls Starcherone Books, 2010 Alissa Nutting’s debut collection, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, chosen by Ben Marcus as the winner of the Sixth Annual Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction, contains eighteen exceptional and highly imaginative short stories. In my third reading of Nutting’s much-acclaimed collection, I approached the fantastical stories as contemporary fairy tales and explored what each revealed about people and our culture today. I discovered that for all the fabulism, dark humor, absurdity, and the grotesque in this collection, ultimately each of the eighteen female narrators portrayed here are heartbreakingly real and individual, and all are seeking love, an end to suffering, and meaning in life and in death. In traditional fairy tales there are the usual formulaic elements: damselin-distress; handsome, male hero; evil villain and foil; journey as quest, helpful secondary character, and of course the ‘happy-ever-after’ ending. I paid special attention to these latter elements during my latest reading of Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, seeking out in Nutting’s stories how she re-imagined and re-invented these archetypes and themes. In the collection’s first story, “Dinner,” our narrator is the sole woman boiling in a kettle of broth along with five other men, all about to be killed by a chef and his two “goons.” I read the kettle as a microcosm of our world and the people inside, boiling to death, as representative of humankind. One of the five men inside the kettle, an Elvis lookalike, reads like Nutting’s nod to contemporary culture’s fixation on celebrity. The man “trying to cry” reads like fear and suffering personified. The “raving, old man with the missing leg” represents the marginalized and invisible in our youth-andperfection-obsessed culture. The “tattooed man” represents crime, evil, and the lack of conscience that’s all too prevalent today. The fifth man, our narrator’s love interest, is the antithesis of the traditional male hero: ordinary, feminine and very much mortal. Among the men, we have extremes of young and old, sorrow and joy, love and hate, heart-filled and heartless, hope and hopeless, and Nutting portrays them all with compassion and originality.
In “Dinner,” Nutting’s female narrator is a refreshing model of womanhood: flawed, voluptuous, fierce, brave, love-full and lustful, hopeful and doubt-filled, and altogether remarkable. She says of her soon-to-be beloved companion in the kettle: Since we’re about to be eaten, I lower my standards and choose to be bold. “I love you,” I say. It’s coming from a good-pretend place. I just want to pack as much into these last few moments as I can. She’s doomed, but she’s no damsel-in-distress. Rather she’s empowered and achingly real and mortal. The chef and two “goons” appear to represent fate or God and harken back to a Beckettian rage against the arbitrary cruelty of life and of death. I have read this tender, absurd, grotesque, and brilliant story many times and every time the story has a profound affect and I am almost moved to tears. Nutting depicts many extraordinary moments in “Dinner.” One of my favorite and most heartbruising moments is when our narrator is left alone inside the kettle, the five men already hauled out and carried to their deaths, and she thinks, “You can bear anything if you know you’re not alone.” I was also struck by how the narrator, in her final moments, daydreams that the five men already removed from the kettle are not dead, but seated around a table with knives and forks aimed, waiting to feast on her. These moments of our narrator’s uncertainty, paranoia and her fear of being betrayed rang true and deeply human. However, our narrator rejects her daydream as fancy and in her final moments renews her faith in her companions and ultimately in humankind. For all the horror in “Dinner,” I found the story uplifting, a testimony to our ability to be noble above all else and to live and die with dignity and amidst love: This daydream dampens the horror of my fate like a bowl placed over a candle. You can bear anything, I tell myself, if you know you’re not alone, and the cold air stings my cooked skin as the men lift me into their arms. Their fingers are strong with knowledge; I’m only going where the others have already been. In the futuristic world of Nutting’s story, “Ant Colony,” space on earth is limited and humans are mandated to host living organisms. Our female narrator, an ex-model and commercial actress, chooses to host ants in her skeleton and skull. There’s a moving parallel in this story between the ants, now mutant and eating the narrator from within, and the cancer that killed the narrator’s mother. It’s fascinating and chilling how the unconventional narrator withheld affection from her dying mother: When she began dying I didn’t want to watch; I usually grew angry when she’d ask me to come see her in the hospital. The cancer overtook her body until she looked parasitic herself. Near the end, if I felt her lips on my cheek when I was hugging
Dirty Jobs: Ethel Rohan on Alissa Nutting’s Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
her I’d pull away—I knew it was ridiculous, but I was afraid she was somehow going to suck out my beauty. This entire story is fascinating and disturbing, and its final stages in particular rival the best of what few horror stories I’ve read. In every way “Ant Colony” challenges and re-imagines the traditional fairy tale, especially in its terrifying representation of rage, vanity, entrapment and powerlessness, all of which reads painfully true of contemporary society. In Nutting’s “Gardener,” the sixty-two-year-old female narrator is locked in a loveless and now thirty-day sexless marriage, her body and spirit yearning for attention. Despite the personification of ceramic animals and gnomes, reference to the rabbit hole, and the story’s many other similarities to Alice in Wonderland , “Gardener” also debunks the traditional fairy tale. Instead, Nutting offers readers a thrilling, older female narrator with unabashed sexual desire and a body that’s widening, drooping and very real. Over the course of the story, our narrator takes great leaps in identity, sexuality and power. Note her mindset early in the story when she stands over her sleeping husband: “My skin was flushed and my towel robe hung open, slowly absorbing the sweat from my body. Wake up and look at me, I thought, I’m presenting you with all that I have.” And then notice her shift and sense of empowerment mid-way through the story when she first makes contact with the male garden gnome she’s found herself attracted to: When he stepped into the light of the flame, a tight grip washed through me and I felt the vertigo of six decades falling away. My mind seemed new and just-born—I could only stare at him and make heavy breaths of wonder. There’s a delightful reversal of the traditional fairy tale’s male/female dynamics in this story that I admire and applaud. The narrator is sexual and proactive, her husband sexless and inert. Despite the repeated presence of literal and figurative death in this story, the sense of ‘coming alive’ and reinventing ourselves is palpable and I found myself cheering for these lusty gnomes and our fully realized narrator. If fairy tales exist to reveal ourselves and our culture then “Gardener” champions change and is a powerful ode to the possibilities modern-day life holds for empowering ourselves and being true to who we are and what we need and want. The frequency of death and absence of the ‘happily ever after’ ending throughout Nutting’s powerful and memorable story collection consistently dispels the many gender-based myths-made-beliefs in Western culture. The collection also serves to correct the untold damage the traditional fairy tale has wreaked on countless generations of young minds, e.g. the damsel-in-distress, rescuing, male hero, and happy-ever-after. In “Dinner,” the narrator muses, “I wonder 28
Dirty Jobs: Ethel Rohan on Alissa Nutting’s Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
if there will be anything after death.â€? These stories repeatedly speak to that great mystery and refuse to allow us look away from our mortality. The stories also serve to underscore the fragility and great possibilities of life. This collection presents eighteen very different narrators and eighteen very different professions, and all testify to the ultimate unclean job for humankind: Life.
Mark Jenkins on lie down too by Lesle Lewis
Alice James Books, 2011 More than any other genre, readers of poetry often bring preconceived notions of what a poem should or shouldn’t do. Any poem outside these boundaries is summarily dismissed as not poetry. It’s hard not to think of two often-quoted ars poetica poems, either Marianne Moore’s slight self-loathing: “I, too, dislike it” or Archibald McLeish’s commandments in couplet: “A poem should not mean/ But be.” It becomes a challenge for poets and readers of poetry (who are often one and the same) to constantly revaluate their ideas of poetry. Lesle Lewis’s poetry challenges poetry conventions in its own understated way while incorporating some elements from haiku. A quick glance through any of her three collections will yield a combination of prose poems and sentences set adrift in white space. Her lines spill to edge of the page, if not over, avoiding shorter and more expected line breaks. Many of Lewis’s poems often resemble a collection of polished stones. Each consist of narrative haiku-like fragments that create tension between detail and abstract understatement. The opening poem “Sex in the Farmyard by the Light of Mars” is a study in contrasts. The speaker and partner, notice each other “we attempt a mild form/of honesty” but even more so notice their surroundings, “the afternoon slants in and cows stare out.” This poem sets up the collection as its poems manage to balance the interior and the exterior of the speaker, they clearly exist on a physical level, but have an intellectual underpinning as well. While not a haiku in form, these seemingly sparse lines together create poems grounded in time and space, a preoccupation that most classical Haiku share, as Robert Hass notes in his introduction to The Essential Haiku “The season reference was called a kigo and a haiku was thought to be incomplete without it” (xii). Consider these lines from “August,” one of six poems in the collection that have months or seasons in their title: We float face up./ When we look back, there’s no ahead.….The frogs think we are weeds./ We’re in the mood and going down.” Lewis lets readers connect the thoughts and events of each poem with enough room for play. Unlike Haiku, these one-sentence stanzas often come 31
across as humorous, cerebral one-liners: “What if difficulty of access to the unconscious is its only/ defining features?” (“Bear Questions”) and “We are odd together” (“happy flags in the fall”) which seems like a variation on growing old together. Lewis’s strength often appears in a poem’s closing lines, something that many poets and poems struggle with. A professor of mine once called this “ending anxiety,” a kind of uncertainty about how best to end a poem. Even when the poetic lines seems to have wide leaps, the final lines of many poems in the collection like “Sugarloaf,” “The Sky is Overcast as My Head,” and “By the River” pull taunt. “By the River,” which also closes the collection, looks back on a life spent by rivers. It closes with: “I think it is good to leave civilization slowly.” Likewise, lie down too is a collection to leave slowly and return to often.
Polished Stones: Mark Jenkins on lie down too by Lesle Lewis
The Long Black Song:
Alonzo McBride on Edouard Levé’s Suicide
Dalkey Archive, 2011 These words, “long, black song” are used in the novel to describe a motif the character in Edouard Levé’s book mentally runs in repeat according to the narrator who tells the story beginning with his friend’s suicide. But he says that he does not know what this motif means or from where the character heard the line. The lines are not actually repeated in the book. But we are told by the narrator that these lines “resurfaced in the unconscious unexpectedly.” Ha. Just like a song, we are given a structure to the book and a way to find pleasure in the moment even while knowing that this book’s existence is due to the suicide of the main character in the book. Make sense? Let me explain. No song is the lyrics inherently and no song is the words about the song. The song is the package of the lyrics, the music and the stories we tell ourselves about the song. Levé’s beautifully structured novel(?) fits the bill perfectly. It opens with the suicide of the character. This is the non-word of the song that drives the rest of the words therein. And of course, the narrator could not possibly know what the character was thinking when he relates the “facts” that his friend left his tennis racket behind deliberately so that he could shoot himself loudly and have his wife find him immediately afterward. These are precisely NOT the items that friends and relatives of self-killers have access to – the inside of the suicide’s mental state at the moment of the act. We could think of the act of suicide as Act 1 in the writing. And like every Act, it has its own dramatic arc and closure so that the next segment can show itself on the stage. Plus, while we the audience are enjoying the writing of the scene, we are not thinking too much about meaning, or how it relates to the rest of the work. And in this case, because of the nature of the book about a life/death, Levé has crafted a way to allow himself and his audience of readers a way to ponder that dramatic Act 1, and as a result, suicide itself. I, as writer, am not just telling you the reader this either. Levé presents perfectly suitable clues about the writing itself later in the book when he writes, “Only the living seem incoherent. Death closes...events…we resign ourselves to finding 33
meaning…” (17). The actual suicide at the beginning is simultaneously THE event and ONE event in the book because in this case any life that ends gets analyzed. But suicide “rewrites” (Levé suggests) the entire story from the beginning. Like a good song, this novel is made up of segments of time/action in which different narrative elements and moments in time from the character’s life are presented in fragments. We are given hints – hints that allow the reader to “rewrite” the story again for ourselves - thus building little events and endings /beginnings throughout the book. Brilliant. We the audience are not allowed to distill the “facts” from our own words about those facts. For example, on pages 37 and 38, the narrator recounts the character’s obsession with little details of existence, the constant flow of life, and that later on, when alone, the character found more value for himself in analyzing those moments and making their meaning and their “truth.” I am not saying here that all reality is about our telling of it, but Levé certainly pokes at the idea with his style in the novel. Yet he makes the point that the character does not believe any of his own meanings. He prefers to read other people’s meanings in good books. And this last point about reading is, as if we did not already see it, in the section of the book in which the character’s suicide and the narrator’s ruminations states its most profound evidence that this book is ALSO a book about writing as much as it is a book about analysis of events and making meaning. Again, brilliant. For even though we are told that the character prefers others’ writings to his own, we are also shown a most magnificent example: The narrator states that his friend also preferred writings of dead authors as opposed to living ones. Levé’s intelligent inclusion of this example seems to be two-fold. The first reason is that he says it is easier to think about authors from times past because if they were living, their books would be as incoherent as any single life. And secondly, the character has just given justification for his suicide. Or rather, that’s what the narrator says. Nevertheless, this is where the words “about” the song and the song are indistinguishable. We only have the artifice itself and relationships to it. Edouard Levé accomplishes all these features and many more in this novel of vignette after vignette. And just like a good song, he changes rhythm throughout and concludes with a series of short poems – items that could easily be put to music. And to top it all off, just a few days after Levé submitted his novel to the publisher (originally in French in late 2007), he also committed suicide.
The Long Black Song: Alonzo McBride on Edouard Levé’s Suicide
Cute Things By Themselves Get Boring: Red Lemonade, 2011
Morgan Macgregor on Lynne Tillman’s Someday This Will Be Funny
There are 21 stories in Someday This Will Be Funny, Lynne Tillman’s collection from Red Lemonade, and they cover the range from micro-fiction to polemic to near-essay. For me, I think the book is best summed up by one of Tillman’s own characters. In The Original Impulse, a young woman ruminates on her abandoned photography career:
Outside, the bare branches of February trees looked like what he was saying, an image she might have shot once - recognizable metaphors, a formally interesting composition - but what did it really do. What was it a picture of.
This is what most of the stories here left me with: recognizable metaphors, a compelling composition, but ultimately, a whole that never develops. Or, develops but doesn’t do anything. There are pieces where Tillman gets is right (and when she gets it right, she nails it), as in Playing Hurt, the no-frills story of a woman whose male lover asks her for a loan, and More Sex, a brief, brutal rumiation on the fickleness of sexual fantasy. While the tropes are familiar, Tillman uses what we already know to prove why clichés are clichés: because they’re true. She digs right into the heart of them and says, ‘See. We’re all doomed.’ The best story in the collection is Dear Ollie, and I scarcely say that this one alone is worth the fifteen dollars:
Dear Ollie, It’s been a long time. I think of you sometimes, and I know you think of me. I take perverse satisfaction in that, even in the jaded ways you dis guise me in your so-called fictions. I really don’t care.
The layers of self-deception in Dear Ollie are simply juicy, made more so by the fact that it ends with the narrator signing off: 36
Whatever, Lynne Tillman NEW YORK, NEW YORK
But the majority of the stories here failed me in a major way. The Way We Are is a cute anecdote about going the movies with a poorly-behaved friend. Cute, too, is A Greek Story, where the narrator recounts a friend telling her (or him: Tillman often leaves the narrator amorphous) about getting into a screaming fight with an American Customs official. But unlike the pieces that hold up, no larger truth develops here. And cute things by themselves get boring. Other pieces should be essays, while still others would make great monologues, but neither read like compelling stories on the page. Tillman plays with true life, too. In Give Us Some Dirt, she imagines the thoughts of Clarence Thomas in the throes of the Anita Hill scandal. The result is somewhat interesting, but soon obliterated by the egregious Later, an absurd and treacly little ditty where Marvin Gaye and John Lennon sing each other’s songs to one another. There are some lovely moments in this collection:
Maybe the devil was chasing her and me. Because we laughed off and on for about a year more, and then we had less to laugh about, and then nothing to laugh about. I don’t know, we grew to distrust each other, and stopped being friends.
Men grew on trees, there were so many of them, they dropped to the ground, and rotted, most of them. Unfortunately, like a nice but forgettable photograph, this snapshot of a writer’s work will be going into some dining room drawer, to be pulled out and dealt with only when I move.
Cute Things By Themselves Get Boring: Morgan Macgregor on Lynne Tillman’s Someday This Will Be Funny
lost horse press
is pleased to announce the publication of
IN PRAISE poems by
ometime in the spring of 2007, Ray Amorosi, from whom I had not heard in twenty-five years, called and read one of my own poems into my answering machine. I called him back. He called me back. This went on for a couple of weeks until, once when he called he announced that he’d written a poem, and then he read it. It began, God, it’s Ray. Thank you for the storm that passed north of us and for the thought of lime. Never have our tomatoes been so sweet. The poem just melted me and I said so. He mailed me a handwritten copy (his hands have suffered some damage and it’s hard for him to type). The following week two more arrived, and a week or so later there were two or three more. All had the totally original slant and language I remembered so well from the earlier work, but all of them, too, had this great embracing sense of gratitude for both life’s darkness and its light. I began typing the poems as they came in, sending them back to Ray for proofing, and sometimes sending them out on his behalf to journals, where they were quickly snapped up. After some months it was clear that we had the makings of a coherent and spectacularly unusual book. This book. A phoenix of a book rising out of the ashes of long silence as though there were no tomorrow. And there isn’t; the poems say this again and again: there’s today, refreshed, troublingly and laughably bemused, trickster-ish, reverent, irreverent, glowing and infused with the world’s ironic loveliness. This book will make you happy. —Christopher Howell order directly fr om lost horse press:
LOST HORSE PRESS 105 Lost Horse Lane | Sandpoint, Idaho 83864
Voice: 208.255.4410 | Fax: 208.255.1560 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Web: www.losthorsepress.org or contact our distributor:
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON PRESS PO Box 50096 | Seattle, WA 98145-5096 Phone: 206-543-4050 | Fax: 206-543-3932 | Orders: 800-537-5487 Visit our Fall/Winter 2011 digital interactive catalog featuring book trailers for several of our titles at www.washington.edu/uwpress
isbn 978-0-9800289-9-7 (cloth) • $25 isbn 978-0-9800289-8-0 (paper) • $18 poetry • 6 x 9 • 96 pp
hat do we look for in poetry? For my part, I know that I want emotional authenticity, integrity with respect to truth, and a backlog of experience that brings wealth and weight to the language. Ray Amorosi has given us a book that satisfies these desires amply, again and again, surprising us with its fierce rightness, its dark humor, its fundamental humanity. In Praise does not earn its title lightly. Amorosi truly understands the value and difficulty of praise in this troubled world, and provides it in poems that shine with insight and clarity.
—David Young “This is heaven,” the poet writes in In Praise, “to expect nothing,” and with this insight Ray Amorosi has emerged from his twenty year exile from poetry like someone from a long journey, with stories to tell about a vibrant and illuminated inner landscape particular only to the best of our poetry. Driven by an original and enigmatic quality of voice that organizes this collection of diverse poems, Amorosi has discovered what James Wright called the poetry of a grown man, and it is more than worth the wait.
—Bruce Weigl I think these poems are pretty wonderful. They feel like the inside of rapture and defeat, but they dart and swerve a lot, which are movements I do not associate with rapture, and that interests me. I like the mixture of lusty and yeasty, along with a kind of innocence that seems attached to receptivity and light. And I like the astonishment that feels unlike any contemporary poetry I know; the voice, while not archaic or dated in the least, seems to come out of some earlier time. I think of Donne and Roethke begetting a voice.
—Michele Glazer RAY AMOROSI was born in the North End of Boston in 1946. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has written two books of poetry—Flim Flam and A Generous Wall—both published by Lynx House Press. Amorosi has taught at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Northeastern University and North Adams State College. However, his main enjoyment was teaching creative writing in high schools across Massachusetts. The energy and the subtlety of the students’ experiences taught him what it means to be a poet.
October Contributors Metaxa Cunningham has a BEd degree from the University of Alberta, specializing in English Literature. She writes articles and book reviews for several online magazines, including blissfullydomestic.com. Metaxa has her own book blog at www.metaxacunningham.com. She is also a regular blogger forskirt.com.
Stephen Page is the author of The Timbre of Sand and Still Dandelions. He holds a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from Bennington College. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize for Poetry, a Writer-in-Residence with stipend from the Montana Artists Refuge, a full Writer Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant.
Deb Baker is a writer, insatiable reader, and reference librarian. She blogs about books at http://bookconscious.wordpress.com/
Nick Courtright’s poetry has recently appeared in journals such as The Southern Review, Boston Review, and Contrary, and his first book, Punchline, is due out next spring from Gold Wake Press. A chapbook, Elegy for the Builder’s Wife, was published in 2010 by Blue Hour Press, and he’s Interviews Editor of the Austinist, an arts and culture website based in Austin, Texas, where he teaches at St. Edward’s University and lives with his wife, Michelle, and son, William. Feel free to find him at nickcourtright.tumblr.com, or write him at email@example.com.
Rita Mae Reese has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Stegner fellowship, and a “Discovery”/The Nation award. She is a graduate of the MFA program at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Her first book, a collection of poetry entitled The Alphabet Conspiracy, is available from Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press. She is currently working on a second collection of poetry entitled Apocrypha: The Lost Books of Flannery, a biographical treatment of the Southern writer Flannery O’Connor.
Daniela Olszewska is pursuing her MFA at the University of Alabama while she works for H_NGM_N, Switchback Books, and The Alabama Prison Arts & Education Project. CITIZEN J, her first full-length collection of poems, is set to be published in 2012 by Artifice Books.
Ethel Rohan is the author of Hard to Say, PANK, 2011 and Cut Through the Bone, Dark Sky Books, 2010, the latter named a 2010 Notable Story Collection by The Story Prize. Her work has or will appear in The Good Men Project, The Chattahoochee Review, Los Angeles Review, Potomac Review and Southeast Review Online among many others. She earned her MFA in fiction from Mills College, California. Raised in Dublin, Ireland, Ethel Rohan is now a resident of San Francisco, California. Visit her at ethelrohan.com.
Mark Allen Jenkins completed an MFA at Bowling Green State University and is currently a PhD student at the University of Texas at Dallas. His poetry has appeared in Memorious, minnesota review, Muse & Stone, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere.
Alonzo McBride currently lives in Chicago, Illinois and writes essays and reviews on literature and film. He also updates a blog-in-progress at: http://theloosestgravel.blogspot.com/, experiments with aphoristic thought and is working on his first novel. In the day-to-day, he rides his bicycle year-round and grinds his own coffee beans.
Morgan Macgregor is a reader living in Los Angeles. She reviews for Bookslut, Three Guys One Book, Full-Stop Magazine, and BookBrowse, and she blogs at Reading in LA. Her favorite novel is The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and sheâ€™s working on one of her own that wonâ€™t be nearly as good.
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, (gentlyreadlit@ gmail.com). “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 considered on a rolling basis. Gently Read Literature is edited and maintained by Daniel Casey, all comments or questions can be directed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Daniel Casey, 223 Eastern Ave., Oberlin, OH 44074 .
Available Review Copies POETRY Say Sand, Daniel Coudriet, Carnegie Mellon University Press After the Firestorm, Susan Kolodny, Mayapple Press American Busboy, Matthew Guenette, University of Akron 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 43
Memory Future, Heather Aimee O’Neill, Gold Line Press Rust Fish, Maya Jewell Zeller, Lost Horse 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 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 Rage & Bone, Kathryn Nuernberger, Elixir Press 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 Lily Brown, Rust or Go Missing, Cleveland State University Poetry Center The Great 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 Helsinki, Peter Richards, Action Books Campeche, Joshua Edwards, photographs by Van Edwards, Noemi Press 44
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 Available World, Ander Monson, Sarabande Books The Smaller Half, Marc Rahe, Rescue Press 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 Grief Suite, Bobbin Lane, CW Books How To Live on Bread and Music, Jennifer k. Sweeney, Perugia Press Paternity, Scott Owen, Main Street Rag 45
FICTION 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 30 Under 30, editors Blake Butler & Lily Hoang, Starcherone Books 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 Master of Miniatures, Jim Shepard, Solid Objects 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 Giraffes in Hiding: The Mythical Memoirs of Carol Novack, Carol Novack, Spuyten Duyvil Color Plates, Adam Golaski, Rose Metal Press Look! Look! Feathers, Mike Young, Word Riot Press They Had Goat Heads, D. Harlan Wilson, Atlatl 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 Felicity & Barbara Pym, Harrison Solow, Cinnamon 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 46
From the Hilltop, Toni Jensen, Bison Books University of Nebraska Press Life of a Star, Jane Unrue, Burning Deck The River Road, Tricia Currans-Sheehan, New Rivers Press