Gently Read Literature September 2011 Issue

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Gently Read Literature Review Essay on Contemporary Poetry & Literary Fiction ISSN 2161-2595

September 2011 Issue

Cover Art by: Ann Marie Nafziger


Gently Read Literature August 2011


















Gently Read Literature September 2011


Not long ago in Gently Read Literature I raved about Philip Appleman‘s Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie. The book wowed me with its Hoosier-slash-Big-Apple zest. It took on everything from organized religion to Appleman‘s wife‘s maiden name—and lambasted Intelligent Design as one of the dumbest notions since white supremacy. Perhaps most crucial for Perfidious Proverbs me was Appleman‘s use of formal and Other Poems: A devices in poems I found irresistibly Satirical Look at the catchy. Halfway between Mother Bible Goose and mayhem, they were Philip Appleman flawless, magically manic excurHumanity Books, 2011 sions to Ha Ha Land. Now along comes a sequel with every bit of the irreverence of Karma, but plenty more of the bitterness that distinguished the Roman satirist Juvenal from his more salubrious predecessor Horace. The sarcasm seething in Appleman‘s thirty-year retrospective volume, Perfidious Proverbs, suggests that its author, one of America‘s foremost wits, has not mellowed but, rather, is now more fed up than ever in what, thank goodness, has been anything but a doddering dotage. Not that the author‘s rage is that of an angry old man who has become a sort of Sarah Palin Tea Partier. On the contrary, Appleman‘s eminent atheistic compatriot Dan Barker, who provides a lively Foreword to this book, may come close to representing Appleman‘s credo. Be that as it may, his portraits of God reveal a deity so in love with Himself that He sacrifices everyone and everything for His Name‘s sake. The following lines spoken by God in the Book of Genesis accord4

ing to Appleman may be funny, but they are also devilishly snarky: OK, I admit I told Adam to name them, but—Platypus? Aardvark? Hippopotamus? Let me make one thing perfectly clear— he didn‘t get that gibberish from Me. The fact that the penultimate quoted line echoes the notorious exhortation uttered by President Richard M. Nixon seems totally in sync with Appleman‘s concept of God as a petty ―crook‖ capable of wreaking innumerable cosmic Watergates on unwitting believers. For that matter, the antediluvian Patriarch Noah is forced to house a gigantic menagerie in his 450-footlong arc. A lot of Appleman‘s ninepage hilarious monologue, ―Noah,‖ is devoted to catalogues of animals aboard the boat. Here‘s the beginning of a dodgy alphabetical list: Two by two they come strolling through: antelope, buffalo, camel, dog, egret, ferret, gopher, frog, quail and wombat, sheep and goose, turtle, nuthatch, ostrich, moose. . . As if meter and rhyme weren‘t enough, the poem goes on in a free -verse passage spoken by Japheth: ―We‘ve got lice, beetles—God knows how many beetles. We‘ve got bedbugs, cooties, gnats, and midges, horseflies, sawflies, bottleflies, fireflies. We‘ve got ants, bees, wasps, hornets— can you imagine what it‘s going to be like cooped up with them for a whole year?‖

Gently Read Literature August 2011

In addition to his cast of madcap Biblical monologuers from Eve to Jesus, the book‘s third section features such dubious ―holy men‖ as Reverend Euphemism and The Televangelist. For me the most devastating portrait of these men of the cloth occurs in ―A Priest Forever.‖ In six pages of sinuous conversational verse, a nameless Catholic cleric confesses his sins in front of a commission including a Monsignor and several ―Reverences.‖ Having been sentenced for ruining the lives of young boys with whom he‘s had homosexual relations, this padre knows where he‘s headed: to ―therapy,‖ as we always say, a little paid vacation with others who loved not wisely but too young. . . . Meanwhile, as I bide my time, and count my beads, and hum to myself those luscious songs of Solomon, what I‘ll be thinking about. . . is that brown-eyed boy with the graceful neck, and the lower lip that curled like a petal. No matter how many cases of pedophilia have recently embarrassed the Vatican, ―A Priest Forever‖ is no cheap shot. It‘s a bizarre cri de coeur on the part of its unrepentant demonic speaker as well as his hapless victims. If you need further proof that the Bible works in devious ways, read Appleman‘s portraits of his mother, his mother-in-law and his uncle—Godfearing Christians who counted on a measure of religious comfort in their old age. Alas, their stories are no

laughing matter. There are no punch lines, no pulled punches or jolly denouements here. What if you‘re a sucker for happy endings? Well, Doubting Philip casts off his rueful skeptic‘s cap and decks you in an upbeat conclusion. Of the three poems in his book‘s fifth and last section, ―Salvation,‖ two could even be called visionary. ―Gathering by the River‖ reexamines a couple of images of death: crossing the River Jordan and the River Styx—and opts for a third image, crossing the American Midwest‘s Wabash and Maumee Rivers before opening onto a vista of ―wildflowers, then rabbits, / then wolves singing a perfect love / to the beautiful, meaningless moon.‖ [126] Long ago, as with Prufrock, human voices may have awoken young Appleman, who ―drowned‖ in the religion practiced by his fellow hymnsinging, hosanna-shouting human beings. But one thing‘s sure: plants don‘t go to church. And so it is his final poem, ―But the Daisies Will Not Be Deceived by the Gods,‖ envisions Turning our backs on the bloody altars, we cherish each other, living here in this brave world with our neighbors, the earthworms, and our old friends, the ferns and the daisies. Amen!


Gently Read Literature September 2011


―Hatred sleeps in the white blooming lilac branch of the skull.‖ The Deep Song of Carl Adamshick‘s, Curses and Wishes

Curses and Wishes Carl Adamshick Louisana State University Press, 2011

It‘s winter in Harvard, Illinois, where the only toy the children have is their mother‘s hair and snow. Snow falling in a barrel of rusted engine parts. The speaker, like someone delivered from long illness, has one foot in this world, one in the next. As in snow, there‘s something ghostly at work in these poems. Remarkably, the effect is not of detachment but of flux, of hallucinogenic fever: The corner utility pole holds a cone of light to its mouth and is screaming at the pavement. We are almost here suffering, almost drifting through Adamshick‘s complex tone established at the outset (is it conversational, ethereal, rapturous, blue?) persists as we transition from the apparently personal to a group of political poems, also personal, and equally complex. I admire anyone who can write a poem about love or war without going cerebral or straight to camp, and Adamshick writes both. One of the most impressive poems of the collection, ―The Emptiness‖ is violence through eyes not yet inured to the horrors of war. The affect is of terrible discovery. We feel again, as if for the first


time, we see: …his body as insects lived on the continent of his flesh, lived until he was bone, until he was dirt, until his emptiness sang. I thought maybe ―balance‖ was the word to link these poems but ―marriage‖ seems more apt. Light and dark, grief and praise, personal and political, casual, elevated and densely imagistic. But the words ―balance‖ and ―meditative‖ remind me of some stagnant Zen reflecting pool. These poems are the pulse of ocean waves, the full exchange of give and take. In his more richly somber moments we‘re reminded of Garcia Lorca and Nelly Sachs and the continuity of expectation summarily destroyed by war. Violence and language, (in some cases, speech) are turned over for questioning. It was Sachs, after all, whom war struck silent with terror and whose Kabbalah confirmed; language permutates life. In ―The Book of Nelly Sachs‖ Adamshick assembles a dark elegy from his subject‘s own lexicon: The field of her tongue described ash in the treeline. And …when you talk about the night and its stars you talk about her sacrifice at the wall of alphabets In ―Iphigenia‖ (the daughter of Agamemnon sacrificed to Artemis) we are reminded the word‘s grisly potentials:

Gently Read Literature September 2011

All history comes to rest in words that appeal to your aesthetics or don‘t. Like the mind or the dead feasting, with and on itself, the further within the word you go, you only find more word, more mind, more dead. And again in ―Fluency‖: I clear the chessboard of pieces and find religion is a word, that governments are words. That is why I fear the uses of language !About a third of Curses and Wishes is comprised of short poems, many of them red-wheel-barrow-esque, and though beautiful and precise, they provide the more hum drum moments of the book. Stunning exceptions are the poem ―Sleep‖, in which the reader becomes a book in the lap of night personified. A metaphoric construction (which easily could have turned a convoluted mess) is delivered effectively in seven lines. Another example is ―The Farm‖, a four line object lesson in family dynamics: The broken stile is covered in leaves. Once I sat there and felt I was the snow holding the family‘s footprints. Besides ―The Emptiness‖, Curses and Wishes most astounding moments come in the opening and ultimate poems, ―Even Though‖ and the epic ―Out Past the Dead End Sign‖. These poems happen inside the locked system of a marriage and gracefully include the many large objects accumulated there; intimacy,

passion, boredom, and betrayal: I felt the deep bruise of a sentence and wanted to eat at the banquet of silence. May betrayal be a way home; Adamshick achieves true greatness here, most difficultly in the epic, as he oscillates between the perspectives of a husband and wife, years into the project of the other. The wife‘s lines are restrained. A song sung with a hand at the throat. She sings the staying, and sings herself divided: He‘s trying to peel her underwear down. Divorced from dreams, we have become our bodies. And that young couple showing me how they love is what I have: a nipple, a finger, an earlobe, a memory, the whole day descending like a red carpet. His navel full of semen. The poet has managed these many marriages impressively with a voice both mature and curious. The voice of a 40 year old dude who‘s worked at a Xerox for 20 years, I guess, or so the mythology suggests, Adamshick ―has not joined the ranks of the M.F.A.‘s… has never attended a writer's conference or residency.‖ True, these are not the over-workshopped corpses of poems, but neither should his bio service your reading of them. Personally, I could give a shit if the guy had an Earlship and two Ph. D.s. The work is brave and beautiful and sometimes quite strange. Please send more


Gently Read Literature September 2011



Ghost Stories from the New West Denise Low Woodley Memorial Press, 2010

poet‖ can be a dismissive term, a phrase that implies the poet‘s content is unremarkable, the style pedestrian, the voice unauthoritative, and the form lacking experimentation or coherence. None of these assumptions are true about Denise Low‘s new book, Ghost Stories of the New West. Low, who was the Poet Laureate of Kansas from 2007 to 2009 and is the current president of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, has published over twenty books, including ten collections of poetry. With self-effacing Midwestern grace, Low used her years as poet laureate to promote the work of other Kansas poets, as evidenced in her blog, but her own work is highly deserving of a close reading. In Ghost Stories from the New West, Low explores her personal and geographic history. The first poem of the book, ―For the Maiden Aunts and Bachelor Uncles,‖ calls out a detailed list of her five generations of Kansas relatives, outlining the contradictions within her blood line: ―For an uncle called Big Miller/ killed by Lenape Indians in Ohio./ For the Lenape uncles killed by Big Miller.‖ The poem sets up one of the main conflicts in the book, Low‘s mixed heritage: ―For sunken burials on grassy hillsides. Dawn brightness erases chiseled numbers/and flourishes of white marble roses.‖ In a straight-ahead tone, this poem introduces the book‘s bright light that shines on the ―new‖ west‘s forgotten natural treasures and Low‘s half-hidden past. Low, who has worked at Haskell Indian Nations University for many years,


is keenly sensitive to cultural nuances as she explores her heritage in these poems. She is careful to not to declare herself a Native American, but instead builds to a common truth: we all carry the conflicting history of our ancestors within our genes. Though her previous writing has included tributes to the Flint Hills and her mother‘s garden, this thoughtfully structured book tells the stories of the people as well as the land. In the first section, the poet ruminates about her life and past; the second section explores the ghosts of the new west, including a diversity of historical and literary figures, such as Walt Whitman, General Custer, Geronimo, and Langston Hughes. The third section highlights the landscape: canyons, grasslands, gardens, wetlands, lakes, and skies. The fourth section returns to the speaker, starting with the poem ―My Diaspora,‖ which starts ―Look. I might appear to be one small woman/but I embody a genealogy of opposing soldiers‖ and ending with a prose piece entitled ―The Haunted Secretaire,‖ which concludes that a hand-me-down piece of furniture is ―another member of the family/just moving at a slower pace./The history continues.‖ As in Low‘s earlier work such as Spring Geese and Other Poems (1984), birds figure strongly in this book as ghosts, healers, and indigenous members of the landscape.

Gently Read Literature September 2011

These poems include ―Trumpeter Swan: Photograph,‖ ―Cormorants on Clinton Lake,‖ ―Downy Woodpeckers,‖ and ―Red Tailed-Hawk: Medicine Bundle,‖ in which birds are compared to people: ―We make the same magic/with blood and breath of others‘ lives.‖ Geese in particular hold the mystical ability to negotiate between worlds. In ―Dreams of Geese,‖ a friend who is dying of breast cancer sees geese over and over again. ―Composed in the same loose wedges or alone, they move between life and death.‖ In the poem ―Faith,‖ geese seem immortal, outracing the coming death of night: ―The ensemble of geese overhead/strains, forthright, necks stretched/into the sun. They are black motes/showing no doubts, paddling wind,/outracing a sleety bank of night.‖ Unlike humans, whose conflicts leave ugly history and conflicting genetics, birds ascend earthly problems. Low‘s words are straightforward and clear, observant and detailed. She will often braid two ideas or languages together in a poem. In ―Cherokee Lessons,‖ she names edible animals—bullfrogs, crawdads, opossums, squirrels—and fruits—persimmons and mulberries— in Cherokee to conclude ―I eat the seeded sweetness and know/this summer cosmos has words.‖ Language is one of the fruits of this land. As she did in her book Thailand Journal: Poems (2003), in Ghost Stories of the New West, Low takes her reader on her travels, this time to Europe in ―How I Disappeared in Paris‖: ―…plunks

of rain ran/until the walls lay against/boulevards. I myself drained/into la Siene until le sun/ rerose. The next demain/ a barge floated through/ a ciel, non, a heaven of fog.‖ The naming of the land and its inhabitants in their indigenous languages unveils the beauty, bounty, and happiness within these unique places. One oddity of the book is its inclusion of prose pieces. Though the book announces itself as ―stories‖ in its title and the short essays are endearing and consistent with the book‘s themes, the shifts from poetry to prose could be jarring to a reader, due to the changes in tone and density of language. As the book is fairly long for a poetry collection, the author might have considered publishing these personal essays elsewhere. Having received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Lannan Foundation, Poetry Society of America, and the Roberts Foundation, Low‘s poetry has been lauded nationally. Accessible yet driven by a firm poetic style, this book is the work of an author in her prime: she controls both obvious motifs and subtle undercurrents, placing her personal experiences into a larger natural world. Low brings depth and history to her Midwest, proving that this book is worthy of an observant slow drive through its dusty back roads, not just a quick fly-over. Ghost Stories of the New West should make the Midwest proud.


Gently Read Literature September 2011

Injuring Eternity A Portuguese-American poet, Millicent Borges Accardi has received fellowships from the NEA, CantoMundo, and the California Arts Council

Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble Mischievous Muse Press


Gently Read Literature September 2011


The natural fit of magical realism in a Latin American setting contributes to the ease with which American readers of literature embrace it. Authors like the Mexican writer Juan Rulfo, and the Argentinian Julio Cortazar, take the reader into characters that transcend the earthly realm. When author Peter Grandbois wrote his first novel, The Gravedigger (Chronicle Books, Nahoonkara: A novel 2006), he adopted this tradition and Peter Grandbois set it in that environment which Etruscan Press, 2011 celebrates Dia de los Muertos; where it seems most natural to listen to a character who has crossed beyond bodily existence and has become a free-floating entity. These are not characters necessarily with omniscience. It is these characters who might mislead us, for they are telling the story the way they want it to be remembered, but they might also enlighten us. The story, after all, is fluid. The role of storytelling in creating who we are, the circular nature of narrative, the way stories spin off of each other, are all a piece of Grandbois‘ first novel. As Grandbois reminded readers in his essay ―Exploring the Cracks,‖ (Writer‘s Chronicle, October 2004) Jorge Luis Borges ―believed the real world was too complex to be captured accurately through mimesis, that only by restoring magic to fiction could we approach the mystery and infinite possibility that is life.‖ He suggests that, ―it is not that imagistic literature doesn‘t exist in American letters, but rather that there is a bias towards cause and effect, mimetic modes of expression. Like the sci-

ence and technology that surrounds us, we seem obsessed with the observable world.‖ In Nahoonkara (Etruscan Press, 2011), his second novel and third book (the second was hybridmemoir The Arsenic Lobster, Spuyten Duyvil, 2008) these themes of storytelling and identity return. This time, however, they are set on a stage that except for Toni Morrison, is pretty much empty. Nahoonkara is North American magical realism. It is a moving story that recreates the Wild West settlements and mining towns of the mid 19th century, wrapped in the memories and dreams of the characters who inhabit it. The dreams mix with the moon and the clouds, the smell of wild ginger along the riverbank, the taste of dark loam beneath the porch. It‘s the same whether I dream during the day or at night. And it doesn‘t matter if my eyes are open or closed. Either way, its as if I don‘t exist. Only memories of dreams remain (3). This book, much of which takes place in a small American mountain mining town in the 19th century, incorporates elements of historical fiction with experimental fiction, but nothing that pulls the reader out of the fictional dream. The characters, who tell their own stories for the most part, are distinct and complex. The conflict runs throughout, holding the tension high, and carries the reader along the tumultuous river of story to a conclusion that made me cry for more. 11

Gently Read Literature September 2011

The chapter headings identify the voice of the chapter. Killian‘s chapters are all in present tense, and although he is the oldest child, and a fully functioning adult, he remains the most childlike, keeping the novel in that childlike space with a very non-linear sense of time: I know what Mother feels like those days when I ask her all sorts of questions. As soon as you start looking, you see that most things don‘t have answers, only questions and more questions. Children understand that. That‘s why they never linger too long on any one question; there are too many others to ask./ Every time we come to the river it‘s different. There are the big changes that follow the seasons, but there are also smaller changes… the choices the river makes on which way to go around a rock, (or simply to go over it); the sounds shifting from a ripple to a babble to a gush depending on the river‘s mood. I find myself wondering if it‘s the river that changes every day, or if we do…. I don‘t know then that we‘re born understanding and only with time do we forget. By the time we die, everything is a mystery (17). His brother Henry‘s chapters are the most scientific and analytical, for he is a Harvard trained geologist who believes, heretically, that the earth is older than a few thousand years. His brother Eli‘s voice is formed around his understanding of the New Testament. The sheriff, Wallace, and Henry‘s wife, cum midwife Elizabeth, are the roundest and most fully realized characters, and also fit the best into the traditional American novel 12

structure. The reader sees Wallace enter with hope to rise above the violence of the wild west, sees him falter and surrender. Elizabeth recreates and renames herself during the course of the tale, reemphasizing the notion of shifting identity, the interplay of our internal identity and the external world. The front material includes a list of characters in the dramatic tradition which Grandbois has called The Players. Except for the primary family, he has opted to list them in order of appearance; this, combined with the multiple points of view, contributes to the notion that life is performance, and each cast member contributes his or her memory to the story, the fluidity of truth and identity. As Grandbois has said, ―Spirit and man, dream and reality exist side by side. ― Perhaps the best thing about this novel is the author's skill with language. Every sentence is beautiful; every observation stunning. It is marked by perfect phrasing, pacing, and crafting beauty for the lover of language. During Killian‘s chapter titled ―The Tree of Life,‖ he and the midwife Jess Carter work to deliver Elizabeth‘s baby: Jess holds the afterbirth before us so we can get a good look, then proceeds to tell us of the tree of life, the blue vein running from the cord up through the center of it, a vein stronger and clearer than any vein of silver ore Henry ever found in the mountain. /

Gently Read Literature September 2011

It starts with the pulsing cord, and I reach out and take it in my hand, right there at the base, to see if the pulsing life running through it is real. I feel it as I feel my own beating heart, wondering at the force that drives it. It's then Jess takes my hand in hers and guides my finger as it traces the pulse to its source. I follow the trunk through its infinite branches and I feel the pulses as if they were singing in the branches of my brain. Outlined before me, the tree stands greater than any elm or oak I‘ve ever seen (48). During Wallace‘s chapter, ―How to Open a Napkin,‖ he is describing his ―firm belief that no man wishes to commit a crime.‖ He reveals himself as a philosopher and a writer, something that Elizabeth incredulously

questions. He tells the reader: The difference between knowing and doing…is greater than the space between stars. Greater even than the vast distance between one person and another. I believe that's the truest thing I've learned yet in this life (91). The single line from this work that stands out as my favorite has been given to Elizabeth, who also happens to be my favorite character. She is examining her life, and says: "I have heard that when some people murmur through the dark grammar of their lives, they actually believe they understand" (32). To read Nahoohkara is to see magic restored to fiction, not just the magic of a supernatural narrator, but that of an author dedicated to the craft of writing.


Gently Read Literature September 2011

Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2010 (with accompanying images by 14 artists) ―THE most seductive, original, impacting work I have seen for years. A fascinating combination of Kerouacian street-talk plus a trip through the museum of Modern Art in Chicago, plus a nod-off to Kosty's furthest out experimentalism. Magnifique!‖ – Hugh Fox Carol Novack is the former recipient of a writer‘s award from the Australian government, author of a poetry chapbook and ―spoken word‖ CD, an erstwhile criminal defense and constitutional lawyer, and the publisher of the multi-media e-journal Mad Hatters‘ Review. She founded MadHat, a non-profit arts organization whose current projects are: the Review; Review Blog; MadHat Press; MadHat‘s/Mad Hatters‘ Review reading/performance series in Asheville, NC and NYC; and MadHat‘s Little Mountain Retreat. Ms. Novack‘s writings have been published in numerous journals and anthologies and translated into several languages. Further bio, reading dates and publication details: booktour and blog. ―She has the literary equivalent of perfect pitch, like those musicians who can specify the hertz of birds and burps. Uncanny tympani!‖ -- Tom Bradley. In ―Giraffes in Hiding‖ Carol Novack proves once again that she is the all-time champion of wild, wigged out, original prose/ poetry and poetic prose. The first full-length collection of her work, subtitled ―The Mythical Memoirs of Carol Novack,‖ is a feast of fusions, inventions, myths, dreams, forms, and possibilities. There‘s no one like Novack, and here she is at her best as she chases her ontological tail round and round the intelligible, unknown worlds of her subconscious (and ours). Think Alice in Wonderland on acid simultaneously dancing with Tristan Tzara, Rimbaud, Oedipus, Pandora, Gertrude Stein, Proust, Kerouac, and that weird kid next door who ate all of the heads off your Barbie Dolls and you‘ll begin to get a feel for what she‘s up to. -- Mary Mackey ―She‘s great at creating a Freudian cage, & trapping the reader in it. 'Tis very powerful.‖ -Rae Desmond Jones 14

Gently Read Literature September 2011


Heather Fowler is Kafka in drag, an American Marquez. If you are looking for a safe little book, one that lines up neatly with other short story collections being published today, then Heather Fowler's Suspended Heart is not the collection for you. It is a book about the fervor of love, yes, but also about the devastation and danger surrounding such a seemingly pleasurable emotion. What really wins the reader over, though, is the way she tells the story. Suspended Heart Heather Fowler Aqueous Books, 2011

The plots in these tales are magical, as in magical realism. Some poor girl in the title story literally loses her heart while down at the nearby mall. The local mall rats first notice it and then finally someone hangs it by a string between Bath and Body Works and Kleinfelter's Jewelers with the hope that somebody will come and claim it. Couples make sojourns to the organ. If it throbs before them, it means their affections are true; if it stops, their love is false. "There were the rich and the poor, people on holiday, people on Quaaludes, people who drove to Coppendale on their last tank of gas and risked a failed return just to find out what they could not determine from the privacy of their own homes." And then there are the colorful travails of the girl who lost her heart in the first place. Fowler's exquisite use of language means her poetic muse is ever present. In "Cat/Bird Love Song," Megan takes a job as a greeting card writer after a bad breakup with her last boyfriend and discovers that while "possessing no natural affinity for such leanings" herself, Max, her

talking parrot, is a love expert and with his help she becomes a Love Sentiment Specialist Never a typical parrot, able to whisper in Megan‘s ear, able to recite not just memorized lines about crackers or other such parrot-speak, he created his own verses for his beloveds, and, because she fed him, stroked his lovely feathers, and affirmed his self-confidence, he gave these verses to her, truncated and dumbed own for the packaged love market the wondrous aisle of cards populating grocery stores everywhere from there to Des Moines. Eventually Max himself falls in love and Megan is left to find her own way, for the other side of love and humor in this book is tortured abandonment, deep down despair. "A Companion to Minnow Lake" is another gem that will keep you up too late at night as Cecil, who has outlived everyone in his family except for his overly religious and somewhat bossy daughter, Camille, nevertheless seeks her out. After burying his younger brother, his wife, his father, and especially his mother, after suffering an acute heart attack, Cecil can finally quit his law practice, one he never wanted it in the first place, but pursued with the hope his mother would find him a little less of a failure if he followed in his father's footsteps. In this story, too, love and the heart is what it's all about. It is the blissful presence of love that makes life worthwhile when one is seeking its presence or the torturous absence that forms people into who they are as adults.


Gently Read Literature September 2011

Cecil arrives at his daughter's rural property, which she rents cheap from the bank until it can be sold to an unknowing tourist. All the locals know it's haunted. The property has a lake on it, but, "There were no trees but willows around the edge, their weeping tentacles sweeping down and caressing the lake's liquid cover." Cecil feels warmer towards Camille than he ever has, but he also begins to hear voices from his past, phantoms that seem to lure him to the murky depths of his daughter's property. Is death a second chance, the ability to love the people in your life more or better than you did when they were alive? Or is it a nightmare of spirits coming back to haunt you? Cecil, like the rest of us, must make this discovery on his own. There are stories in this collection in


which girls have razor blades coming out of their skin—the better to keep all pain away. In another, Godiva wears a paper dress through a contemporary beach town in Southern California telling her horse, "Whoa, whoa, Stud Boy. Easy there," finally admitting, no matter how her liege scolds her, she misses the food of the old days, "the way a woman could stuff herself without fear, without diets, without compulsion to show a toned physique." So engaged will you become in this passionate collection, that if you're anything like me—an angry mass of books stacked by my night table, angry that I haven't picked them yet—you may wish one of Fowler's stories might be no good so you can move through the book faster. Not going to happen.

Gently Read Literature September 2011


The Botanical Garden Ellen Welcker Astrophil Press, 2011

You could read Melville's Moby Dick. You could travel the world. You could read about the plight of immigrants and refugees in The New York Times and discuss them over dinner. You could visit the border. You could ship out on a whaler or ship out with Greenpeace. You could give birth, remain childless or try intro-fertilization. Or, you could read Ellen Welcker's "The Botanical Garden." (Astrophil Press 2010). The poem makes a great thematic companion to any of the above activities. At the crossroads of Welcker's poem, fetuses, whales, refugees, immigrants, and aliens intersect. The poem travels by invoking the names of exotic locales around the world — countries of islands and enclaves — and explores rites of birthing, passage, and injustice. Why read poetry? Non-fiction typically fulfills our dogged pursuit of knowledge. These days, we want fast facts, conclusions. We want to be told. We want to be smarter. But The Botanical Garden grows facts. Did you know? "The heart of a whale may weigh 1,500 pounds." You can learn a lot about whales, refugees, detainees immigrants and aliens here. You can learn the definition of an asylum seeker and the differences between a refugee and an undocumented immigrant. You can hear what's polluting the ocean: plastic nurdles and chemical weapons dumps. However, in The Botanical Garden facts run wild but are not abandoned. They are interspersed with fictions, "A subtropical whale; the color of papaya." Words are trans-

posed to give facts new meaning, "while migrating the refugee surfaces." Rather than expounding or straining to provide an objective report, the author goes exploring and the reader, setting sail within words, must also enter a mode of exploration. In The Botanical Garden, you will encounter new ideas and unfamiliar arrangements that challenge preconceived notions. The contextualization of words, the unexpected nearness for example of "echolocation" and "ultrasound," floats the reader into new territory. Listen: "The cries of whales sound eerily like the cries of displaced peoples." You will begin thinking about the problems of polluted oceans, drought, and displaced peoples, while a few seeded facts blossom into Welcker's ponderables: "The heart of an immigrant may weigh as much as a nation-state." "Counting is a system that does not involve seeing." "Truth is a manipulation of language. Sometimes. Not always. Don't be sorry." "How we move away from drought and how we move toward it." With globalization, the distance between people has cinched. The world's problems are not problems of one place. Our borders are shifting and ill defined. Countries struggle to maintain them. We can leap from location to location. There's magic in this movement. Welcker's poem captures this experience and recreates it.


Gently Read Literature September 2011

While reading this work, it may be worthwhile to Google a passing reference to "refugees Aug. 1995" and find many references to refugees around the world including, via the International Action Center, "In early August 1995, the Croatian invasion of Serbian Krajina precipitated the worst refugee crisis of the Yugoslav civil war." You may or may not be able to repeat this experience. It is fun to imagine how Welcker might have written The Botanical Garden. You can see her cutting her sentences off pages strip-by-strip and spreading them out in a pool of skinny paper boats across her living room floor or taping them against a wall to flutter. Because of sections like this, "I feel you. The soft tapping, the rolling pressure, the lopsided plash. It is me. I am. The whale in your belly." you may imagine the poet doing this work whilst looming over her words with a pregnant belly. It's frightening and almost unimaginable to think she wrote the poem in order line after line


sitting still. Such a creation could not have come from a feverish, jungle flow, but appears to have coalesced from many influences over time and in the wake of much slow, strategic planning — like a garden. The world — the work reminds us — is a complex, multi-faceted place. And it is playful. Welcker uses the poet's bag of tricks: tantalizing metaphors, restless ambiguity, repetition, rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and general keenness for the sound. She co-opts bureaucratic jargon, "Oceans are largely considered a waste management option." to rebirth it in a new world. Sentences are repeated and strategically placed, "When I say you, I mean this is love." The poet's words plash together. Surprising for a work that channels whales and oceans and transports the reader to big thoughts and far away places the actual book. It reminds us to dig our minds into the fertile loam of poetry to grow.

Gently Read Literature September 2011


K.C. Lauer opens Bad Girl Gone Mom, her memoir of drug and alcohol addiction and recovery, with an author's note referencing A Million Little Pieces. ―When I first read James Frey‘s A Million Little Pieces, his memoir about alcohol addiction, I identified with his rage and inability to believe in himself,‖ Lauer writes. Lauer's harrowing and ultimately hopeful depiction of her earlier life Bad Girl Gone Mom may remind some of Frey's memoir, K.C.Lauer though Lauer attests she's done her Xlibris, 2010 best to fact-check where possible: ―As I worked on this memoir, I used school records, photographs, medical records, and other pieces of memorabilia to construct the story with factual and accurate details to the best of my ability and recollection. I have not embellished the story, I did not feel I needed to; the actual events were raw enough on their own.― Given the obstacles she's had to overcome, Lauer's memoir could be no one else's but her own. Lauer was born with a cleft palate, a condition that wasn't discovered until after her parents left the hospital with her. Somehow her doctors wouldn't notice until Lauer's teen years that she was also born with vaginal agenesis, an underdeveloped vaginal canal. In Lauer's case, she had no vaginal opening. One had to be surgically created. Lauer writes poignantly of her sense of being a sexless being turned into an artificial woman, created expressly for the purpose of male pleasure. ―I did not feel lucky,‖ she writes. ―I felt violated and manmade. I did not understand how I could be missing parts and I did not fully understand human, embryonic

development.‖ By the time she had her surgery at age 15, Lauer no longer considered herself a virgin; she and a boyfriend had been having interstitial intercourse without knowing any better. Then, she writes, ―A couple of months after the operation, the doctor handed me a box of six dilators. They were hard black plastic dildos that I was supposed to use to keep my vagina dilated. The smallest one was about the diameter of a pencil and the length of a pinky finger, and the largest was equivalent to a grown man‘s erect six-inch penis. I had not asked for them and I did not want them. I hated the fact that I was required to use them. I did not want to know how to use them; they made me feel embarrassed and dirty.‖ Lauer had already turned to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain of being different. After her surgery, she added promiscuity to her list of selfdestructive behaviors. I don't mean that to sound negative toward teenage sexuality in general. Some teens have sex because they enjoy it or because they fall in love, but Lauer wasn't one of them. She seemed to be out to prove to the world that she was a "real" woman in the only way she could figure out how to. This led her into destructive relationships, two bad marriages, sexual abuse and generally being used. As one can guess from the title, Lauer got pregnant and had a daughter, despite the uterine complications that are sometimes associated with vaginal agenesis


Gently Read Literature September 2011

. ―It was a miracle I was pregnant, in so many ways. I knew the moment I walked down the aisle that I had made a mistake getting married but it had been too late. At the time, I crossed my fingers and hoped that life would get better with Phil, but in fact, it got worse almost immediately.‖ Her transformation from ―bad‖ girl to mom was slow and, at times, painful. ―The calamities of motherhood hit me quickly,‖ Lauer writes. ―I spilled a cup of coffee on her while I was nursing for the first time. Right away, I knew I was destined to fail. How could I have been so stupid?…The coffee had only been lukewarm but it awakened me to the possibility that it could have been much worse. Eventually she transitioned from recovering addict to responsible parent.‖


Lauer suggests this book be shared with teens who might be headed down the same self-destructive path. It's not what would typically be considered a "young adult" book. It contains explicit depictions of sexual acts, including acts in the context of a Dominant-submissive relationship. However, mature teens who struggle with drug use, alcohol addiction or abusive relationships may relate to Lauer and learn from her experience. She concludes with this bit of advice to readers young and old: ―Know that this too shall pass. Give it a minute or two. Walk away from what ails you, and give yourself a chance to succeed. I believe in you. You too can be the captain of your soul.‖

Gently Read Literature September 2011


―We‘re all going/ to the same place‖

Emily Kendal Frey The Grief Performance Cleave State University Poetry Center, 2011

Emily Kendal Frey‘s The Grief Performance sets the reader on a journey of loss and absorption. The poems eschew the plaintive cries of traditional elegy in favor of a nonspecific grief characterized by a certain flatness, an emptiness. The poems mention specific deaths, a sister, mother, father, various ―you‖s and even the poet, but the subject of the book is not so much the particular losses. The individual ―deaths‖ are mentioned and then dropped without much reflection, working instead to a cumulative effect—there are a lot of dead bodies that pile up by the end of the book, if we are keeping score. Instead of narrating the circumstances of particular loss, the book maps out the emotional cognitive states of loss and grief. The journey of the book is tied to the desire to connect with world, to parse it out, to absorb it within the body of the text and the poet‘s corporeal body as well. At once the poet wants to join the dead and acknowledge the ways in which they are still with her: What can I say about the distance? Here, body inside my body. Here‘s a night-blooming cereus, light attached. (―Your First Bed‖) Grief becomes a more generalized state, perhaps melancholic, a way to hold onto the things that we lose and will continue to lose. Things become embedded in things—beds, bodies,

sounds. The final section, a long poem ―Meditation on a Meditation of Frost,‖ finds the poet‘s earlier desire to connect to the world through a kind of absorption, to take a ―body inside my body,‖ extended. The poem begins mouthing the words of others—fragments of quotation pepper the poems, and they seem aware of their own making, a reflexivity of subject and form. The poem asserts ―A play is only the set/ of actors available/ that day.‖ Various memories, people, and images come into the absorptive sphere of the poems: ―There are three dead people in me.‖ And the flatness of tone, with its occasional discursive interjections into the otherwise tight lyricism and images, confirms the acceptance of this fate to lose. Early on, at the end of the first poem and punctuated by the six consecutive poems titled ―The End‖ which conclude the first section, it‘s clear that we‘re all heading to the same place—death. While there is certainly a flat matterof-factness in the poet‘s tone, the language is seldom dull. Startling images and scenes create the emotional resonance of the poems, building a world for the reader to momentarily inhabit. In ―Love Letter,‖ the poem that begins the second section, Kendal Frey adds to the fleeting sense of life and love that pervade the book with her use of rich particulars: This letter is not liver-spotted or decaying. Ferns feather this letter. Never will this letter be referred to as an institution, nor will it endure or persevere. 21

Gently Read Literature September 2011

The tensions amongst these competing elements--the rich particulars of images and of language, the haunting lyricism and ghostly music, and the flatness of tone and acknowledgement of the various ways in which we are ―faking it‖—combine to create an unsettling inquiry into grief and very what-ness that composes the self. Also present in this poem, and throughout the book, is an interrogation of the very state of grief. How does one write about grief? Once mediated into a poem, how does grief function as a performance? And the larger question that the reader extrapolates, one that leads us back to the themes of absorption throughout the book—How is the formation of a self also a performance? The first lines of the book help to humorously set up this dilemma: To be separate is to be the smallest bit angry I‘m not reading enough blogs I should be more up to date with people‘s blogs (―The March‖) The poet undercuts a seemingly earnest search for a larger human connection by lamenting her failure to keep up with various blogs, the places where we publicly perform our selves, all the while commenting on the distant and impersonal ways in which we present ourselves. ―Bit angry‖ also sug22

gests a computing bit, i.e. a single 1 or 0 state; a bit is the ―smallest‖ unit of digital data. So what then is the relation between these different accounts of the self that begin the two sections, the blog and the non-decaying, non-liverspotting letter? One might think of a blog as ‗immortal‘ because it doesn‘t decay or get spots. Then again, these sorts of things can get erased all at once. But we‘re also told that nothing on the internet ever goes away completely. Perhaps this limbo state serves as a descriptor for the human condition as affected by loss. The people and things we lose, like deleted blog posts, are all cached somewhere, or so we are told.

Gently Read Literature September 2011


Otherwise, Elsewhere David Rivard Graywolf, 2011

―Since the 1960‘s, when the term was coined, we‘ve heard about the ―typical‖ male mid-life crisis, characterized by hair plugs, a Corvette, and hanging out in singles bars. However, in an interview on CBS Sunday Morning, Margie Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, declared the male mid-life crisis dead in the water – either a thing of the past, or never extant at all. According to her recent research, only ten to twelve percent of men ever experience a classic mid-life crisis. Instead, most men and women find mid-life to be an enriching time in their lives – a time to appreciate the wisdom gained from experience; a time to interact with both their children and their parents, and gain insights from those relationships. These themes of mid-life serenity and insight permeate David Rivard‘s new collection, Otherwise, Elsewhere. The title poem of the collection takes on the myth of unresolved youthful dreams, in the form of listing many possible directions that are available to us in our early adulthood, and how the choices we make affect who we become, ending with these final two lines: ―all those lives & destinations that might have been mine, but weren‘t -- / because there are two kinds of distance between us—towards, & away.‖ David Rivard‘s self-effacing wit and intellectual twists have permeated his work, but are especially refined in this collection, built around a strong, narrative arc, with frequent autobiographical references, and mention of friends, mentors, and family. In this collection, Rivard meditates on the different seasons of life from the per-

spective of gratitude and grace, while retaining his characteristic edgy quality, laced with humor. Technically, one of the many strengths of Rivard‘s poetry is his talent for musicality and lining. These poems breathe off the page, but guide the eye as well as the ear. His poems come in all shapes and sizes, but each one compresses and expands the language in a very effective and deliberate manner, whether it‘s ―Manny Ramirez‖, with lines that dance across the page as if they are stealing a base, or ―Wishes‖, written in couplets, or ―Hidden‖, written in one stanza, with long lines. Rivard is a master of lining in a way that creates grammatical tension, increasing the pressure on the poetry that draws the reader toward the eventual fundament and resolution. Gratitude, and how we come to it, is a recurring theme, reinforced by the relationships between the narrator and others, as well as with himself. For example, in the poem ―Lives‖, Rivard begins with these lines: ―Like a bit of shoelace snapped-off / and tied back on by tight knot, frayed / each of us lives attached / to the ridiculousness of suffering…‖ The poem goes on to explore this idea, the common experience of feeling pain and watching others suffer. It spins artfully into the narrative firstperson, and moves into that perspective of grace with these final lines: ―The street is wide enough to hold my oldest / most dazzling wishes, but not to let me touch them. / Put them alongside the sound / 23

Gently Read Literature September 2011

of Pablo Casals near flawless in playing Bach‘s cello suite tho / and all experience stretches.‖ This idea of being on the verge of enlightenment, and being grateful for the opportunity, runs like a thread through the entire collection. Though many of the poems address memory and aging, most celebrate the perspective that comes with maturity, as well as the circular nature of life events. For example, in the poem ―Plural Happiness‖, which seems almost an epistolary poem written to his wife, Michaela, Rivard celebrates the wedding of a woman who attended their wedding as a little girl. Two poems, ―To Simone‖ and ―Somewhere Between a Row of Traffic Cones and the Country Once Called Burma‖, explore the joys of realizing that a child is growing older and wiser, and celebrating the changes in both the child and the parent – those private moments of pride. Yet another poem ―Bantam Tricycle‖, takes on the guilt felt by the narra-


tor‘s healthy elderly mother, as her friends begin to fail. Though the narrator is hopeful for health in old age, the poem ends with this caveat: ―we think we / know the cards we are / dealt, but do we?‖ Otherwise, Elsewhere is a book that succeeds on several different levels: as a cohesive, enjoyable, yet challenging collection of poetry, and as an example of a master poet‘s musical, lining, and rhythm virtuosity. In it, the reader will recognize the past, accept the present, and look forward to the future – but not without considering some difficult and challenging questions about regret, grace, and memory. As the final lines of ―Master of the Offer‖ declare: ―… Time / to give up what‘s left of arrested development. / Time to cancel your appointment with faithlessness.‖ Otherwise, we‘d be elsewhere, probably back in 1965, driving a Corvette, and behaving badly.

Gently Read Literature September 2011

In Surrealities, SFPA Grandmaster Poet Bruce Boston brings together 29 poems surreal and about surrealism. Along with seven poems appearing here for the first time, this volume includes reprints from leading genre and literary publications such as Chiaroscuro, Dreams and Nightmares, Paper Crow, The Pedestal Magazine, and Strange Horizons. Also includes six original and striking Rorschach illustrations Boston has created specially for this collection. “Here, the surreal beauty of a muscular mind, poems like evil flowers, cachinnating snow monkeys, blue-eyed chateaus, scarlet snails. Here, all the boats are drunk, all the architecture soft and hairy, all the nights lit by giraffe fire, butterfly blaze. Here, Bruce Boston – investigating an horizon first mapped by Celan and Eluard, Tanguy and Tanning – rummages through each tree’s drawer, behind perception’s door, to find disturbing but strangely familiar shapes for language, longing, and love.” --Bryan D. Dietrich, author of Universal Monsters. “Reflect that science fiction owes its greatest unpaid debt to surrealism, for suspending our disbelief in an invented future works best when our critical faculties are distracted and engaged by images from the unconscious. Now comes science fiction poetry's greatest practitioner, Bruce Boston, to repay a part of this debt in Surrealities, which is at once an introduction to the uninitiated, a handbook for the journeyman seeking to gain mastery, and an intoxication to those of us who fancy ourselves connoisseurs of the strange.”–Lee Ballentine, author of Dream Protocols “Boston utterly transcends convention, highlighting many aspects of human experience inaccessible through the use of more traditional methods. Reading these poems is like embarking upon a trek through ‘the depths of dreams,’ the ‘infrastructure’ of the soul itself! I celebrate the release of this work, a collection to which I shall, no doubt, frequently return.”–John Amen, author of At the Threshold of Alchemy “At times furious in its assault on the senses. At times curious in its nonchalance. This vein of poetics suits Boston oh so well. Like when he takes flight from a straight narrative thread and employs his vocabulary to high and exigent purposes, as in ‘The Lateral Eclipse of Bound Sunsets.’ And when he makes the mystery melancholy, as in ‘Stray Acquisitions.’ A master class on the motive/ emotive powers of language.” –Robert Frazier, author of The Daily Chernobyl.

Dark Regions Press, 66 pages, ISBN 978-1-937128-13-5, $9.95


Gently Read Literature September 2011


Pigafetta Is My Wife Joe Hall Black Ocean, 2010

―Gertrude Stein once said, ―I write for myself and others.‖ In her works, her poems especially, we can feel the insular moments, the personal elements we are excluded from. And yet, since the work is a printed thing, delivered to an audience, we‘re invited to eavesdrop; we‘re offered a wink. We‘re taken up by the these moments and trust forward (often violently) into the greater pursuits of the poems. We‘re let in, and then carried. In Joe Hall‘s Pigafetta Is My Wife, we experience this phenomena doubled over, as though punched in the gut. Hall takes up language from the journals of Antonio Pigafetta, a linguist, conquistador, and crew member under Magellan in the late 1400s early 1500s (as well as, it is clear, significant research from that period), and splices it with a personal, parallel journey, separated from love, destroyed by distance, peril, and illness. Pigafetta was one of 18 survivors who returned from the voyage. Pigafetta‘s language and experience is repurposed and redirected. The simple and simultaneously urgent phrase of address, ―Dear Cheryl,‖ becomes a kind of insistence for survival. The address returns like a mantra, or like coordinates or points of axis, points in this book‘s own poetic circumnavigation. In the middle section of the book, ―Epilogues,‖ it is written: ―Cheryl, I need to stop imagining that / some straight line connects us, district / to cornfield, & below this line the seafloor.‖ All over this work is the futility of point A to point


B, suggesting, perhaps, that all journeys are an attempted circumnavigation. Hall writes: Dear Cheryl, listen/ when one dies, husband or wife, the other lies on the corpse/ foot to foot, hand to hand, mouth to mouth/while the dead one‘s hair is cutFor what seems like a long time/ we are six hundred miles apart. The living/are not without the dead/ & the dead are still changing. I think you/ climb a chair to hang heavy drapes across a doorless doorway. In reaching/ up, I think your head & shoulders tilt backwards/ & by these increments, you are closer/ to me, in the pale mirror/scent of camphor/sent of cloves/

In Pigafetta the address insists, it demands that we put our feet back on the floor. The contemplation of space is at once deafening and heartbreaking, ―& by these increments, you are closer / to me, in the pale mirror.‖ By these increments we, as readers, are closer to the speaker, we see ourselves in the meantime. We are all Cheryl, in a sense. The collaged language and research is at once both intimate and distancing. Should Hall have stopped at letting Pigafetta‘s experience speak for personal journey this project would stand as a beautiful and honorable accomplishment. The work, however, does not stop at this. It is simply the undercurrent that gives the project‘s larger pursuits greater resonance. By elevating Pigafetta‘s experiences to the present, our collective contemporary struggles, violence, and culture classes are felt with startling and disturbing poignancy. Hall writes:

Gently Read Literature September 2011

Once our voices crushed the intervening soil & saltwater, black oaks/ fluted reefs, tulip trees, fields of wheat, schools of fish & corn/ into the cement of interstate clovers, they connected/but don‘t heal, or the wild blade of comment lost/ in the widening sky. Hell/ s, involved with the dummies of this vertigo/not caring about what you‘re saying/ though it goes into the silently pivoting/ satellite Connections that don‘t heal, the ―wild blade of comment lost‖ in the midst of over-commentary, what disappears in the electronic atmosphere, the ―silently pivoting / satellite‖ to be lost forever… the blade is both weapon and mirror, destructive and self-revealing. In the final section of the book, ―Disaster Shrines,‖ a grouping of discrete, though related, poems, Hall attempts to confine experience in form, largely in sestina and pantoum. At first I wondered if the pursuit of form was simply an act of play by the author, but then, it seems, in this last section we‘re finally asked (and Hall has earned) to consider the ways in which language itself is capable of containing experience. Thrust into forms the language often resists being confined. It shatters and breaks the boundaries of its constraints.

cumnavigator & National Cathedral‖ the language is dense and dispersed, fragmentary, the evidence of an unkempt mind: I don‘t want this or worry, I want, or, I want—/camera aimed at St. Take This Thought, taste of iorn/ to be Pigafetta or you, priestess or eaten boar, to be/ the space between the father‘s thumb & my forehead/ or, on the shore, an old woman in Spanish armor/x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x /or I don‘t want this or worry, I want, or, where/ you are, I am, changing Joe Hall‘s offering to us, Pigafetta Is My Wife, is at once disturbing and heart-warming, foreboding and emotionally resonant, violent and intimate. In this ambitious and incredibly nuanced debut collection Hall has demonstrated he is a force to be reckoned with. It turns out, I‘ve learned, all voyages are destructive to the body, as this book is (and pleasantly so).

By the end the circle in our circumnavigation is not entirely complete. We‘re meant to go around and can never quite return to where we started, even if we‘ve survived the journey. In his final poem, ―Pantoum 2: Unfinishable, with Cir27

Gently Read Literature September 2011

September Contributors James Reiss‘s most recent full-length book is Riff on Six: New and Selected Poems (Salt Publishing). These days his run-ins with the Bible, as well as the Muse, occur near Chicago. In the last four years he has won trophies from the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) for his reviews of independent radio productions. His personal Web site is

Lisa Wells is the author of Yeah. No. Totally., a book of essays (Perfect Day Publishing, 2011) Her poems and essays have appeared in journals. More recently; Coldfront, Plazm Magazine, Ecotone, and Dunes Review. Bedouin Books will release her chapbook this fall. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Kathryn Kysar is the author of two books of poetry, Pretend the World and Dark Lake, and the editor of Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches at AnokaRamsey Community College and the Loft Literary Center.

Robin Martin is a freelance writer, publishing work in Narrative Magazine, Word Riot, Calaveras Station, and American River Review, among others, and is also a staff reviewer for the San Francisco Book Review and the Sacramento Book Review. She received an honorable mention for flash fiction and another for creative non-fiction in the 2008 Soul-Making Literary Competition of the National League of American Pen Women, and is the chapter coordinator for the Northern California Editorial Freelancers Association. She offers publishing consultation, performs evaluations and critiques of manuscripts and writing tutorials as well as editorial services, including substantive and line edits for papers, e-books, traditional fiction and non-fiction with her company, Two Songbirds Press. She can be reached

Bonnie ZoBell has received an NEA, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, the Capricorn Novel Award, and a story from SmokeLong Quarterly was included in Wigleaf's Top 50. One of her stories was recently nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize by The Los Angeles Review and another published by Storyglossia was named as a notable story of 2010 by storySouth's Million Writers Award. She received an MFA from Columbia, is Associate Editor of The Northville Review, and teaches at San Diego Mesa College. More of her work can be found at


Gently Read Literature September 2011

Shel Graves is a reader, writer and utopian thinker who lives in Everett, Wash. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College. In addition to poetry, she has a fondness for feminist science fiction and 19th Century literature. | @utopianista

Erin O'Riordan lives in the Midwestern United States with her husband and co-author Tit Elingtin. Her short stories, essays, and film reviews have been published in numerous magazines and websites. She loves myths and folklore and refuses to choose any one faith. A trap designed to catch her should contain dark chocolate and espresso drinks, and she can be found online at or the Pagan Spirits book blog at

Megan Kaminski is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, most recently Collection (Dusie, 2011) and carry catastrophe (Grey Book Press, 2010). She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Kansas, where she directs the Creative Writing Exchange Program and the Undergraduate Reading Series.

Kris Bigalk's first collection of poetry, Repeat the Flesh in Numbers, is forthcoming from New York Quarterly Books in 2012. Her poems have recently appeared in Water~Stone Review, cream city review, Silk Road, and Hip Mama, and are forthcoming in Rougarou. She is the recipient of a Minnesota Individual Artist Grant in Poetry, and was a poetry contributor at the 2010 and 2011 Bread Loaf Writer's Conferences. Past president of the Two-Year College Caucus of AWP, she founded and now directs the creative writing program at Normandale Community College, and curates the Banfill-Locke Reading Series. She lives with her husband and children in the Twin Cities.

Moriah L Purdy is a poet and academic professional currently living on Maryland‘s Eastern Shore where she is the Assistant Director of the Writing Center at Washington College and an instructor in the departments of English and Education. She has an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University where she served as the Poetry Editor for Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art. Her poems have been featured or are forthcoming journals such as DIAGRAM, Marginalia, Fringe Magazine, and Word For/Word. She occasionally posts musings to a blog at


Gently Read Literature September 2011

About Us Gently Read Literature 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, ( "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

Available Review Copies Contact Daniel Casey at ―

POETRY What Have You Done to Our Ears to Make Us Hear Echoes?, Arlene Kim, Milkweed 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 Curses and Wishes, Carl Adamshick, Louisiana State University Press Flies, Michael Dickman, Copper Canyon Press No Father Can Save Her, Julene Tripp Weaver, Plain View Press Remains to be Used, Jessica Baran, Apostrophe Books The Disinformation Phase, Chris Toll, Publishing Genius A Fast Life: Collected Poems of Time Dlugos, ed. David Trinidad, Nightboat Books Memory Future, Heather Aimee O'Neill, Gold Line Press 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 Here and Now, Stephen Dunn, WW Norton 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 Pinko, Jen Benka, Hanging Loose Press This Strange Land, Shara McCallum, Alice James Books What's This, Bombardier?, Ryan Flaherty, PleiadesPress Inspiration 2 Smile, Nate Spears, Unbound Content This is How Honey Runs, Cassie Premo Steele, Unbound Content 30

Gently Read Literature September 2011

POETRY (cont.) In New Jersey, Julie Ellinger Hunt, Unbound Content Before the Great Troubling, Corey Mesler, Unbound Content 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 Suspended Somewhere Between, Akbar Ahmed, PM Press Wisdom Teeth, Derrick Weston Brown, PM 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 Young of the Year, Sydney Lea, Four Way Books On The Other Side, Blue, Collier Nogues, Four Way Books Torn, C.Dale Young, Four Way Books Blinking Ephemeral Valentine, Joni Wallace, Four Way Books Track This: A Book of Relationship, Stephen Bett, BlazeVox Books The Goodbye Town, Timothy O'Keefe, Oberlin College Press 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 In the Common Dream of George Oppen, Joseph Bradshaw, Shearsman Books Either Way I'm Celebrating, Sommer Browning, Birds LLC Kings of the Fucking Sea, Dan Boehl, images by Jonathan Marshall, Birds LLC Rust or Go Missing, Lily Brown, Cleveland State University Poetry Center The 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 A Fire-Proof Box, Gleb Shulpyakov, translated from the Russian by Christopher Mattison, Canarium Books Ennui Prophet, Christopher Kennedy, BOA Editions Remnants of Another Age, Nikola Madzirov, translated by Peggy & Graham Reid, Magdalena Horvat, Adam Reed, 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 Becoming Weather, Chris Martin, Coffee House Press Easy Marks, Gail White, David Roberts Books How Long, Ron Padgett, Coffee House Press Laughing Butcher Berlin Blues, Mark Terrill, Poetry Salzburg (chpbk) Bear in Mind, Anne Whitehouse, Finishing Line Press Historic Diary, Tony Trigilio, BlazeVox Books Born Palestinian Born Black & The Gaza Suite, Suheir Hammad, UpSet Press Strata, Ewa Chrusciel, Emergency Press 31

Gently Read Literature September 2011

POETRY (cont.) Helsinki, Peter Richards, Action Books Le Spleen De Poughkeepsie, Joshua Harmon, University of Akron Press Campeche, Joshua Edwards, photographs by Van Edwards, Noemi Press Song for His Disappeared Love, Raul Zurita, translated by Daniel Borzutzky, Action Books Breathing in the Dark, Howard Schwartz, Mayapple Press Faulkner's Rosary, Sarah Vap, Saturnalia Books Prodigal: Variations, Ed Madden, Lethe Press You and Three Others are Approaching A Lake, Anna Moschovakis, Coffee House Press Mapmaking, Megan Harlan, BkMk Press The Paris Poems, Suzanne Burns, BlazeVox Books I & We, Joseph P. Wood, CW Books Chinese Notebook, Demosthenes Agrafiotis, translated from Greek by John Sakkis & Angelos Sakkis, Ugly Duckling Press 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 Chapter & Verse: Poems of Jewish Identity, Conflux Press Circular Migrations, Brenda Bufalino, Codhill Press Hereafter Landscapes, Jody Azzouni, The Poet's 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 Glass is Really a Liquid, Bruce Covery, No Tell Books Incarnality: The Collect Poems (with audio cd), Rod Jellema, Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Four of a Kind, Mark Neely, Concrete Wolf Poetry Chapbook Series Sleepers' Republic, David Gruber, Astrophil Press Death Obscura, Rick Bursky, Sarabande Books Variation, Sudie Nostrand, March Street Press In Canaan, Shane McCrae, Rescue Press Outtakes, Charles Wright, 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 Love in the City of Grudges, Will Nixon, Foothills Publishing The New Make Believe, Denise Newman, The Post-Apollo Press The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom, Leslie Scalapino, The Post-Apollo Press Beyond the Fire, Mary Leader, Shearsman Books Naked Beauty, John C. Goodman, Blue and Yellow Dog Press Rude Girl, John Sakkis, BlazeVox Books Your Mouth is Everywhere, Nick Twemlow, Racquetball Chapbook Tournament (chpbk) God, Seed, Rebecca Foust & Lorna Stevens, Tebot Bach Press The Ache of Appetite, Rachel Hadas, Copper Beech Press FICTION To Assume a Pleasing Shape, Joseph Salvatore, BOA Editions Janet Planet, Elanor Lerman, Mayapple Press Memory Sickness and Other Stories, Phong Nguyen, Elixir Press They Could No Longer Contain Themselves: A Collection of Five Flash Chapbooks, Elizabeth Colen; John Jodzio; Tim Jones-Yelvington; Jean Lovelace; Mary Miller, Rose Metal Press Ambient Parking Lot, Pamela Lu, Kenning Editions Insomnia and the Aunt, Tan Lin, Kenning Editions 32

Gently Read Literature September 2011

FICTION (cont.) 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 Another Burning Kingdom, Robert Vivian, University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books Sensation, Nick Mamatas, PM Press The Wild Girls, Ursula Le Guin, PM 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 Please Don't Shoot Anyone Tonight, Dave Newman, World Parade Books The Cannibal of Guadalajara, David Winner, Gival 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 Ventriloquism, Prathna Lor, Future Tense Books (chpbk) Neo Phobe, Jim Feast with Ron Kolm, Unbearable Books They Had Goat Heads, D. Harlan Wilson, Atlatl Press The Wind Came Running, Marianne Gage, Plain View Press 3/03, Chuck Wachtel, Hanging Loose Press The Underbelly, Gary Phillips, PM Press Pike, Benjamin Whitmer, PM Press The Shame of What We Are, Sam Gridley, New Door Books 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 The Rat Veda, James Chapman, Fugue State Press Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows, Leslie Scalapino, Starcherone Books Bartleby, the Sportscaster, Ted Pelton, Subito Press



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