Sunday, November 22, 2015

Books Read :: September-October 2015

::Hums that "Back, back, back to school again," song from Grease II:: because indeed, indeed I am! And loving it! I have realized an important thing, though, learned only recently--despite the semester nearly at an end--my reading career will have to change. In order to get my PhD, I'm expected to be proficient in a variety of ways, and one of them is to be well-read. This sounds awesome, in a way, but is disappointing in others that can be summed up in this: my reading list is no longer my own. This doesn't mean that I can't read for pleasure or discuss, here, the books I do read for pleasure, but it does mean that I will have to change the way I read. I'm not sure exactly yet my reading schedule will adapt, but I hope to still continue to provide brief notes on the works that I do finish. As for now, I will stick to what I've always done, and that is to only write about books I've read cover-to-cover. I think, though, that this might have to be something that changes in the future. For instance, I read a number of Phillis Wheatley's poems and a few of her letters for my Early American class but in no way did I read a comprehensive enough amount of her work to feel qualified to comment on how I felt about the Penguin collection of hers that I read as a whole.

Here are the books I did manage to finish reading my first two full months in this program, both for school and for pleasure:

The Lieutenant Nun by Catalina de Erauso
I am taking a class in Early American literature where we are focusing on Transatlantic women writers, and in it we read this book by a Spanish woman who most likely would identify as a man if she were afforded today's relaxing of the strict gender binaries that have suffered the world for a long time. Obviously, many people and cultures still hold this strict binary in place, but the T in LGBT is gaining more acceptance as we move forward, which I'm glad for and hope to continue to fight for in the capacity that I feel fortunate to be able to do so as a cisgender woman. But enough about today, Catalina's story is brutal thought simply written. She escapes, steals, seduces, stabs, and kills. If it weren't for her ability to connive in a variety of ways--and her chastity, the most important trait in unmarried women, I've learned, for centuries-- she most likely would not have lived to tell her tale. Though her story was entertaining, she's a bit of an unreliable narrator; this is, in effect, a memoir but also reads sometimes like a bit of a tall tale. I loved the interesting conversations that came from reading this book, and it was quite a fast read, but it's definitely not belles lettres.

Straight Man by Richard Russo
I read this one for my Research Methods class, where we are learning how to exist within a university system, how departments at colleges work, and what it means to be a student/professor within one. This is a novel about a sarcastic, jackass kind of a guy who is the unwilling head of an English department. His life is falling apart. I was amused while reading it, and especially once I got about halfway through it, I flew through the rest. The book's plot turns when he threatens to kill a goose (the duck? the goose?) a day until the English department gets their budget, and from that moment on, I was hooked. The background story about the main character's relationship with his parents/own family weren't as interesting as the rest of the novel. I haven't read anything else by Russo, but I would pick someone else up if I needed something entertaining--this novel definitely entertained. It was a white male, though, writing about the success of white men.

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
We also read this one for my Early American course, and though its plot was entertaining and the writing tight and clear, I was continually outraged at the privilege of the narrator--and therefore probably the privilege of Behn herself. It's difficult to separate the two, though this is a work of fiction based on Behn's experiences in the New World and her friendship with Oroonoko, though that may or may not have been his name in real life. It seems that she tries to tell his story to, in a way, preserve his good name despite the horrors that are enacted upon him. I found it difficult to look past her as the narrator to appreciate his story, though, because of the position of privilege from which it was told. I was constantly aware of the narrator within the text. I did enjoy the discussions we had in class of this book, though felt we could have talked for a long time about its complexities.

Beach Story by Brian Warfield
I was happy to receive a version of this book in the mail, happy to begin to read it, happy to continue to read it, and happy to finish it. I only wish that the time I spent with it could have been more devotional. As in, this is a complex little book that weaves a Pynchon-level complexity I wish I had had more time to devote my attention to. I wanted to relish it more than I felt I could. I more enjoyed it than anything else. The way that Warfield looks at the world is different than the way anyone else sees OR tells it, and this is evident in Beach Story. Maybe more what I wish I could have gotten out of this book is to get into his head even more than this brilliant little complicated but clean novella lets me in.

Secret History or the Horrors of St. Domingo by Leonora Sansay
This one was another one for my Early American class. Sansay lived in what is now Old City Philly, so I was surprised I had never heard of her, though then almost immediately unsurprised because she was a woman writer--and, well, you know. This was an epistolary novel based on letters Sansay wrote to Aaron Burr. She split her real self into two fictional selves, sisters, and wove this interesting tale that combines fact and fiction in an un-unweavable way. While I enjoyed the letters, I enjoyed even more the history that is both spoken of and especially the history around which the tale is woven, in the face of the Haitian revolution.

The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson by Mary Rowlandson
I kept the whole original title here because it's kind of ridiculous and despite the importance of this book to the genre of the Captivity Narrative, and American literature and especially American literature written by women, I'm not a big fan of Mary Rowlandson. This is, in essence, a memoir, and as with Catalina's memoir, and perhaps will all memoirs, it feels like so much has been left out. This is not to say that I don't believe her when Rowlandson claims, towards the end, after she has been ransomed, that she was never treated unchastely, but that what we do get here has clearly and cleverly been crafted to serve a specific purpose. While this is a historically interesting text--for historians and literary scholars--it's not particularly enjoyable. I feel like I've said this of a lot of the things I've read for my Early American class, but I feel like This Is The Place I Can Say That. I VERY MUCH enjoyed talking about all of these texts in the course! I actually even dressed as Mary Rowlandson the class period before Halloween, with a "bible" and some "ground-nuts" in my "pocket"...

The Book of Frank by CAConrad
I had finished my reading for class, and a friend in my poetry workshop, a new friend, had lent me this book earlier in the semester, so I decided next to take it up. I read it in about an hour, maybe less. I was lying in bed, where I do much of my reading-for-pleasure before I sleep, and I figured I would read some of the poems and then sleep, but instead I stayed up reading it. Maybe it even took less than an hour. I returned the book to my friend, so I don't have it in front of me, but since it wasn't my book, I copied down the page numbers of the poems I enjoyed most so that when I DO get a copy of this book, I can dog-ear them. I need to reread it, and I need to own my own copy of this. I've heard for years that this is a great book of poetry, but having never gotten my hands on it myself, I didn't know so until now. I even went and saw CAConrad read a few times during when I lived in Philly--he was at one of my readings once, at Penn Book Center when I read with Mel Bentley and Jacob Bennett. I'm even more grateful than I ever was that I got to listen to him read having read this excellent, indispensable book of poetry that just feels so important, so unique, and in some ways indispensable. As in, it had to be written. It couldn't have not been written.

Avatar: The Search (vol. 1-3) by Gene Young
A friend also lent me these three slim volumes of the story of Zuko's search for his mother. I kept thinking the following things when reading it: 1) Why couldn't they have animated this and made it in to a short film/long episode/series of episodes? 2) The characters are so well developed on the show itself that I could hear them talking out loud to me within the text. 3) SLOW DOWN you are going too fast! Stop to enjoy the illustrations! You're inhaling this! There's not much left!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Exciting Things in the Mail, VI

It's been awhile since an "Exciting Things in the Mail" post, but quite recently, after moving to a new state in a new region, I've gotten some rather exciting mail. I love mail. I probably say that every time I post an update like this... But mail when you have a new address is especially great. It's like, "I am here! I really live here! Look, there's my name!" So all the best mail that I've gotten since I moved to Louisiana has been especially wonderful:

Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo
& Laura// from Strand Books
I ordered this book from Strand Books recently, when I was going through the syllabi and making sure that I had every book my professors had assigned. (See, what I am doing down here in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana is going back to school, to get my PhD in English/Creative Writing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.) I bought most of the books within the first week of being here, some from school, some from Amazon. For these last few, though, I shopped around some indie booksellers, including Strand, to see if I couldn't order from somewhere I prefer to support. Strand happened to have a copy of this title, for my Early American class, available for very cheap. Now, I could have included each and every book I got in the mail in this post, but this one is special because of the pink flowered bookmark you can see lying across the cover. When I worked at Strand back when I was getting my Masters from NYU, we would always find things that people left in books. We called these things "treasure" and, a lot of the times, we taped them up on the walls of the sections or pocketed them, or left them in the books for the people who would buy them to find. Whether this bookmark was intentionally placed into this book because whoever found it on the shelves for me and  mailed it to me is someone who recognized my name or whether this was some of that lovely treasure that people who sell books to Strand didn't bother to hunt for before turning their title over, it made me insanely happy when the book arrived. It was like a little secret message from someone, somewhere out there. Thanks, Strand.

Three Hyacinth Girl Press chapbooks!

Next up are these three chapbooks from my publisher, Hyacinth Girl Press. I was without an address for a bit, and I have a subscription to the 2015 season of all chapbooks coming out from HGP, so when I was finally settled down here, Margaret had those that she'd been waiting to ship sent off to me. They were some of the first mail to arrive to me here, and I was grateful! Included are Traveling by M. Mack, The Midway Iterations by T.A. Noonan, and My Mother's Child by Pamela L. Taylor. I am so happy to share a publisher with these poets, and I'm looking forward to when I can read these. HGP books are always beautifully rendered: they're tied with ribbons, they're well thought-out layout wise, they're colorful, and their quality of writing is always superior.

Beach Story by Brian Warfield! 
Finally, Beach Story by Brian Warfield! This was sent to my Dad's house when his address was my mailing address, and I only came across it after I moved here. Warfield told me once how much he loved "little" books, books that you could fit into your pocket, books that were small in size but not in vision. He may not have said all of those things exactly, but he expressed a sincere love for small presses that were literally small, and that was the first thing I thought of when I saw Beach Story. For what I know, Warfield has been working on this novella for awhile, and I'm looking forward to the day when I sit down and read it. That's the beauty of the packaging of a novella. It's something you know you can just sit down and do, and finish. Warfield's writing is often adventurous in emotion if not plot, and I'm looking forward to adventuring into this little book.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Books Read :: April-August

Wow, I know, I know. It's been awhile since I've posted. But I've been reading! Perhaps not as much to "finish books", though, which is typically what I am broadcasting in posts like these. My goal for total books read this year might not be met. Again, though, this doesn't mean I am not reading! I am just reading differently. Right now, I have my nose in an anthology about English Studies, a book of 16th century poetry by Sor Juana, and the in/famous rhet/comp textbook They Say, I Say.

My not-posting is mostly due to recent dislocation-- not of any limb, but just moving. I was living in Philadelphia back in April--by the end of May, Geoff and I packed up our house, moved out of it, couch-surfed for a few weeks, and wound up living in a camping trailer on a hayfarm for the summer, after which I packed up a car and drove down to Louisiana, where I am currently enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

All of my books aren't here with me yet in Breaux Bridge, LA, so my annotations of what I read aren't going to be as thorough. My distance in time as well as space from having read these books might also make what I have to say shorter. But I mean every word.

Now that I'm situated, here's what I read since I last told you about what I read:

Pelican by Emily O'Neill

The poetry in this is like if your friend were talking to you from really deep inside of herself--from a place that you know is difficult to talk from, but this friend is making it sound like it's easy for them to be talking about these things, mostly because it's so hard. The death of the speaker's father occupies the space of many of the poems, which is a terribly difficult thing to write about, yet the poems that tackle it are nuanced and varied, and it's part of what holds the collection together in a delicate way, like the delicate way the speaker is able to speak the poems before or without falling totally apart herself.

Nuero / Mantic by Chris McCreary

Caitlin McCormack did the art for the cover of this book. I diagrammed one of Chris's poems and took a picture and sent it to him. I remember liking the clarity of anger in this collection of poems-- the speaker didn't come off as an angry person, but someone fed up with certain things about life, past and present, and ready to air those grievances in a way that made them clear rather than made it sound like complaining. There was a nostalgic tone, too, that was effective, even though what McCreary is nostalgic for is not what I'm nostalgic for in a few different ways. I like when writers evoke nostalgia in a relatable way even when their proper nouns aren't my own.

Music, the Brain, & Ecstasy by Robert Jourdain

Brain science! Music! Two of my favorite things! Admittedly, I wasn't entirely on board at first with the very explicit way this pop science book broke down music ("like, this is how the ear listens, wow!" and  I was like, "yeah, let's get to the interesting part already...) But once I got into it--and once I got into the writer's ideas and facts about music and the brain, I couldn't help but look at the composer figure and exploration of his (god, they were all male) brain in comparison to how a poet/any other type of artist's brain might work. For that reason, and for what it helped me understand about why we love certain songs above all, I liked this book. It overly focused on male composers writing classical music, though, and I wish it had delved more into popular music or jazz, actually, especially.

A Taxonomy of the Space Between Us by Caleb Curtiss

I read a lot of poetry books about death this year. Did I do this on purpose? Are poetry books that center around grief/losing someone something within the cultural consciousness of publishing right now? (These questions are coming from someone who almost exclusively wrote a month's worth of poems about the dying, death, and grief of her dog.) this was a chapbook--a beautiful print edition-- and so often what publishers seem to look for in such a short collection of poetry is something to hold it all together. Caleb's writing was more, though, than musings on the death of his sister, and his talents to put together verse were showcased in a variety of ways. There isn't just one way that Curtiss writes a poem, it seems--he lets them out like a pianist switching from a sonata to something jazzy to a funk motif, and I appreciated that variety, even if they all led us back, in a way, to the same sad subject.

USA Trilogy by John Dos Passos

One of the reasons I read so few books this summer was because I read this monster three-novels-in one realist novel from the early 20th century. It was a collection of voices that protested the war, led or joined labor unions, were women entrepreneurs and workers when being such was still not the popular path for women, etc. It read like Zinn come to life. There was no one main plot arc or narrative, which made the novel both easier and more difficult to read. Names, when they recurred, were from so many pages ago that flipping back sometimes and reminding yourself of who they were didn't even always help. However, the more you read the book, the easier, for sure, it became. It was interesting to me how I was drawn to/affected by certain characters' stories more than others.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

After recommending I read this book multiple times, my cousin Mike gave me this book--and he wasn't the only person who recommended it. In a sort of fantastical Pynchon-minus-the California way, this novel traces the story of a hacker investigating a complex computer virus in a digital world that it's difficult to believe was thought-up in the early nineties. This is Stephenson's most popular novel to date, and it's easy to see why. I have already recommended it to a variety of different types of people and readers. Its main character's name is Hiro Protagonist for christ's sake. Once I got to the climax, I couldn't put the book down, and even then found myself exclaiming things out loud like, "Oh shit!" and "Oh yeah!" as though I were watching some sort of anti-capitalist, feminist action film that I didn't want to end.

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold

This book imagines the life of the wife of Charles Dickens, whom at first is difficult to sympathize with, despite the author's desire to give her a voice in a time when she had little/none. However, as the book proceeds and you learn more about the woman, ability to empathize, at least, with her grows. The simplicity of the plot is compounded by the difficulties of being a woman in her time and particularly of being a woman in her position. What the novel might reveal about the fictionalized Dickens (renamed for the novel) presents a new light to look at the real Dickens in, for sure-- but having not ever read a biography of Dickens himself, I am hesitant to "believe" anything about him without first investigating something based in reality. It was a quick, enjoyable read, recommended by a friend, and I was happy to have the opportunity to discuss a book with a few friends that we'd all read. The last three books I read this summer (the Stephenson, this one, and the one below) were all recommendations/books lent to me while I was living on the farm.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Another book handed to me by a friend. This was the last book I read on the farm, and I truly got enveloped in its world. I'd like to say that this is character-driven fiction set in the late 1800s/early 1900s, but the book's setting, a northwestern Orchard, is so integral to the plot of the book, I don't think I can only say "character-driven"-- and then what happens, and how easily it all seems to make sense but come so unexpectedly as you're reading, makes this also very plot-driven. This is an incredibly well put together story of love--but not romantic love--, home, family, and morality that surprised me and made me cry more than a few times.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Books Read :: March 2015

I know that it's halfway through April, but these are still the books I read in March:

The Great Night by Chris Adrian
I picked this book up from a thrift store because a friend of mine had mentioned he liked the author a lot. It was a "retelling" of a Midsummer Night's Dream in modern day San Fransisco and it took me forever to get into. I liked the last fourth of it a lot, but it took me the first three quarters to really like the book. I wish the resolution, which was the most intriguing part, made up more of the story. The intersecting storylines weren't as interesting as the one storyline at the end, even if it all kind of circled around meaningfully...

Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
I picked this up when I stayed over a friend's house in New York and needed something to read before I could sleep. (I read a lot right before bed, yet still, somehow, manage to be a decent reader. I, of course, don't only read right before bed... Anyway.) This collection got nominated for a bunch of prizes and I think won some and I remember, as I was reading it, thinking, yeah, I can see why. Sometimes poetry collections have visible threads like this one did: reflections on the death, the suicide particularly, of a brother. It was moving and the verse was elegant and breaking at the same time, and I was glad I read it and I was glad my friend's let me take it home with me because I wasn't finished. I still have it, but I will have to get it back to them.

Animal Farm by George Orwell
This was a reread for class-- I taught the book in a First Year Writing course and needed to reread it to teach it. When I read a book to teach it, I read it differently than I read it for pleasure? Does that make sense? I was glad to reread this book to teach it. It's fairly simple on the surface, but there's really, actually, a lot going on.

The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe
This is a book by a Japanese writer, to continue my trend of reading books by Japanese writers. It was a very understated novel with a character in it who commits suicide and then his friend trying to understand their friendship through cassette tapes he had left him before killing himself. I have read three books this year that prominently feature a suicide, though the other two were poetry books (Zeller, Rasmussen). At first, I thought that this book was going to be a magical realist novel because of the way the main character talked to his friend/brother-in law who had made the cassette tapes and the way that they kind of talked back. I thought that the friend would somehow find a way to communicate to the main character from "the great beyond" via the tapes, but that was not the case in a magical realist way--more of, in an "I-left-these-remainders-of-our-life-and-friendship-behind-for-you-in-case-I-did-this" kind of way.

We Know What We Are by Mary Hamilton
This is a chapbook of short-short stories that won the Rose Metal Press chapbook contest one year. I really liked the stories, and I was glad that I read them. They seemed to all fit together even when they didn't. I've read a lot of the winners of this contest, and, if I'm remembering correctly, I always like the stories in the same, "hm-Gigantic-Sequins-would-probably-consider-publishing-these" sort of way.

Balzac & the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dae Sijie
I think because I had been reading so many Japanese novels, I decided to stay on the continent with this short novel, translated from the French, by a Chinese-French author. It was almost like historical fiction-- I learned things about China I never knew-- but it also kind of read like a fairy tale in a way. I remember rereading the author's biography multiple times because what I was reading felt so real, I kept thinking This must've happened to the author! I would have to do some more research to confirm this. It was a great story, a quick read, and it really spoke to the power of literature, which is a theme I surely can get behind.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Books Read :: February 2015

Perhaps I've been putting off writing this blog because I am disappointed in myself with the number of books I actually wound up completing during February. I could defend myself-- it's a short month; I was busy working three jobs and mailing GS out to the world; it was one of my saddest and most stressful months in a while-- but the one very noticeable thing is that I didn't read much poetry. And there is no defense for that. I read poems online. I read submissions for GS. But I didn't pick up a book of poetry and commit to it. Here's what I did read:


1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
I started this back in January as my "long" winter reading, and it took me into mid-February to finish. Sometimes, when I take awhile to read a book, I silently berate myself over it. With this book, I didn't want it to end. In fact, I was disappointed when it ended. Not with the ending itself, which works, but with the fact that so much-- as, I suppose, "in real life", whatever that is, especially in context with  a book like this-- goes unanswered! I loved the parallel but sometimes not exactly parallel storylines and the inevitability of certain things. Even though I knew that certain characters seemed destined to meet up and live on, whenever their lives were in danger my heart still raced. The book was 3-in-1; in Japan, the books were published separately and then collected together as one. This makes me think that there should be a fourth book. I wanted that much more of it, that I would READ an entire fourth book, and I almost think that there HAS to be one in the works. I just have so many questions.(SPOILER ALERT) What happens to Fuka-Eri? Where does she go? She obviously has great weird power, but is that diminished now that her father is dead and Tengo has left 1Q84? While her storyline is the most compelling to me in 1Q84, I'm curious also about the fate of Sakigake and the Little People. Does it go on? Does it diminish? Do they find new people to communicate through? What exactly were they communicating and why in the first place? Did they "create" 1Q84 simply by existing in it? And when Aomame & Tengo leave to the world of the backwards Tiger, what is different about that world and the world they came from before 1Q84? Are the Little People not able to access the new world? Their child--who is s/he and do the Little People continue to seek the baby once it's born, even in a new world, or is that possibility lost because of the backwards tiger world? I could go on. But I'll stop.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Geoff and I found out that our dog was dying just as I was finishing 1Q84. I have great memories of reading the huge tome with her at my feet, and when I finished it, I wasn't sure what to read next, so I stuck with Japanese writers and read this book, a novel. I had read a book of Yoshimoto's short stories back in December and really liked them. This book had a same strange but sad tone, and it was populated by grief. The characters seemed to all be grieving something, and if they weren't, they soon found themselves doing so. There was one long story and then another shorter one. I found it very appropriate that I was reading this novel while we were in the grips of losing Jezzy, and the peace that she writes about grief with is so powerful. I dog-earred a lot of pages to return to when I need them, when I feel as though my sadness is suffering. Yoshimoto understands, but writes about it so eloquently that it's almost soothing to the soul.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Books Read :: January 2015

As Goodreads keeps track of my "2015 Book Challenge", I won't be doing so here. Instead, I'll just be writing about the books I read each month. Note that I don't really consider what I write here to be "reviews" on what I've read, but more like notes and thoughts.

Anyway, I spent most of the month reading a novel that I am still not done with: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. It's excellent, and I can't wait to tell you more about it when I'm through. Though I am so enveloped in its world, I am not necessarily looking forward to being finished with it. That's how I know I am really loving a book. Here's what I DID finish reading last month:


The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Little Brown, 2002)
I was nearly done with this towards the end of December, but the holidays kind of got in the way with  finishing. I didn't want to rush just to finish it by a specific calendar date. I loved the narrator in this book. That might be a weird thing to say, but it's definitely weird when there's a dead girl narrating a book from heaven-- and it's well done. When I say heaven I mean "heaven". There's nothing overly "God"-centric about this book to make it unreadable. The idea of god in the book is more like a "higher power" than anything central to one religion, hence making the book appealing to agnostics to christians to buddhists. I can get down with that. As long as you're willing to suspend your disbelief (or pump up your faith, whichever you choose.) ::Spoiler Alert:: I wanted, as I so often do with books, MORE from this book. The narrator knows the identity of her killer for the whole book, so the readers do too. Many characters in the book also seem to have it figured out, but they can never quite catch the guy, which is frustrating. I can't imagine how difficult the ending to this book was to write for Sebold, but I wish that there would have been more resolution on earth, rather than just in heaven. Perhaps this is selfish of me! The best scene at the end is with Ray and Ruth by the sinkhole and then at Hal's motorcycle shop. There's also a great scene at the end with Buckley and the father. These scenes do provide some sort of closure, and I was definitely crying a lot at the end during both of them. Perhaps tying everything into too neat a knot would have taken away from the insane power of these two excellent scenes? There's a movie that goes along with this book. I want to see it.

Man vs. Sky by Corey Zeller (YesYes Books, 2012)
This was the first poetry book I read in 2015 and day-amn. I got this book because we published Zeller in GS 5.1, and I wanted to read more of his great work. The prose poem we published isn't included in this stunning collection, which is written in the voice one of Zeller's friends who committed suicide. What a hard thing to write about, and Zeller does it with such clarity and grace and truth that literally I was saying "damn" a lot when I was reading this. Some of the poems (I almost called them "Chapters") were more mystical than others that were more visceral/literal and still others that were haunting but cheerful maybe at the same time? Here's a line from "The clock on the bed and the white horse sad as the island":
"Finally, I have become what I always wanted: a room without a door, a field without a sky" (43).
I want to write more about this book at some point, but I needed to step away from it. The book was sort of glowing like hot coals when I was done with it, and I needed to put it down before I got burnt out on its wonder. That sounds crazy, but I have a strong attachment to its subject matter, as does anyone who has been touched in any way by the difficulty of knowing someone who has taken his/her own life. This is an extremely powerful book of prose poems; read it.

Driftology by Deborah Bernhardt
Bernhardt came up from Knoxville to read at the GS/PSG Impossible Instructions opening night show/reading, and I bought her chapbook and full-length that night. She has a way of writing poetry that, to me, lets me in on how freaking amazingly smart and talented she is without it feeling like showing off. I feel like, in a totally different way, Natasha N. Nevada Diggs can do the same thing. I feel like both of their poems are penetrable, but only when I'm really willing to work-- that was what taking a class with Avital Ronnell at NYU felt like, too. I loved it because everything was so illuminating because my brain doesn't necessarily work like that. I like a poem--or a series of them-- that makes you work but rewards you at the same time. The poems in this chapbook that I read that were my favorite were the one that referenced Twin Peaks ("Driftology [Episode 3"]) and "Aktionspreise".

Outlook Good by shoney lamar
This chapbook-length comics collection was a long time coming. GS published one of shoney's comics in its 2.1 issue, and it was radical to read them here. They are definitely what one could call "poetry comics", which is what GS is running a contest for RIGHT NOW so I felt it was amazingly accurate that I was reading this book during the poetry comics open submission period! (It's open 'til March 15th.) Anyway, shoney sent this to me in the mail, and I read it all in one sitting and then went back and reread some of it and it's probably something that I will keep returning back to over time. The characters are almost all both likable and unlikeable at the same time somehow-- this makes them appealing in a variety of ways. The language is always precise and if not poetic on point. The drawings are black & white & minimalistic but effective. I also enjoy the handwriting.

Activities by John Dermot Woods (Publishing Genius, 2013)
I accidentally read this collection of comics pretty much back to back with Outlook Good. I needed something shorter than 1Q84 to bring with me to work, and I happened to grab this off of my "why the hell haven't you read this yet" shelf which is also kind of my "to read" shelf but it's too full hence why I am calling it my "why the hell haven't you read this yet" shelf. This book of, probably also poetry comics, is something I also believe I will find myself coming back to again and again. There's something sad, strange, and/or beautiful on every page, and most pages have all three. I am so glad there are books like this in my life.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Exciting Things in the Mail, V

Back in 2012, I last posted a blog titled "Exciting Things in the Mail", and since then, there have been many times when I have wanted to resurrect the impetus behind this repeated post. So, less-than-but-almost three years later, I bring to you three things I got in the mail: one I bought, one I contributed to, and one sent unprompted--all wonderful.


This is a Twin Peaks Pin-ups calendar that I bought off the internet because how can you see this and not buy it? I'm not sure. You yourself can and should get one here. The art and product is from Emma Munger, who spends her time transforming many of your favorite characters from cult and popular shows alike into pin-ups. If you explore her website/social media, you'll find characters from Broad City, OITNB, Parks & Rec, and more. Go follow her on every website she is followable on. Meanwhile, I am sitting here staring at my favorite log lady, whilst also knowing what day of the week it is all month.

Next up, we have this badass issue 5.2 of Bone Bouquet, where my poem "In 24 hours exactly you will be getting your hair done" appears, alongside great work from other writers such as Willie Lin, Ginger Ko, and Liz Page Roberts. It's one of those lit journals you can just devour because of its length but at the same time want to spend time with because-- it's pretty damn good. FUN NOTE: in the forthcoming issue of Gigantic Sequins, 6.1, we were inspired by the back cover of this issue of Bone Bouquet to also list our contributors only by their last name. Also, peek the check. Yes, this lit journal pays its contribs! This makes me want to come up with a business model at GS where, by 2016, we too can pay our contribs. It wouldn't work for us now--we pretty much make enough money to put out each issue & that's that. But maybe I'll chat with the nice folks at CLMP, and we can figure SOMETHING out. Thanks for being inspirational mail, BB!

Next up, we have Dog with Elizabethan Collar, the debut publication of selva oscura press, which Ken Taylor (GS 3.1) sent to me in the mail. We at GS do a lot to promote our contribs, and it's awesome when they think of us and send us something amazing they've worked on that's come to fruition. This awesome books contains poetry from Ken and artwork by a number of different artists. It's kind of awesome, and I'm excited to read and spend time with the whole thing.