Staff Picks (September 2017)
Omg, we love small press books! And these are some of our favorites. Now they can be some of your favorites too...if they aren't already. Be sure to check in every month for a new handful to add to your reading list...lists...so many lists.
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I know that all of you poets out there love poetry. But I sometimes think that we love our poets more than poetry. We love their minds and their hearts. If you even somewhat agree then this book is for you. THERE YOU ARE: INTERVIEWS, JOURNALS, AND EPHEMERA is an incredible, fantastic journey into Joanne Kyger's mind & soul. We should all be thanking Wave Books and editor (and fantastic poet) Cedar Sigo for making it exist in the world. There are so many gems in the book you won't be able to put it down. Here's a few of my favorites: Joanne's "Bird Notebooks" from the 1980's, "Buzz Time," a recollection of the Buzz Gallery Group, so many interviews, so many thoughts on other artists like Joe Brainard and Robert Creeley, a fantastic letter from Philip Whalen, etc., etc. You should buy this book and go into Joanne's wonderful mind. You'll never want to leave.
OPEN EPIC is about a modern woman in her environment. She and it are both open. I want to say she occupies her territory but that sounds imperialist and this is not that. The epic here is one of strength and continuity in the face of brokenness. "No tougher meat" "no better HILDA" There is a feeling in "Hilda's Hunting" of being in a western. There are horses, guns, wolves, nights, axes, beasts, and dark woods. HILDA, who is always capitalized, revels in verbal power and the ability to survive in and manipulate this wilderness of language. She hunts, thinks, reacts, planshas pain and pleasure. Her "woods are a treatise"
The phrase "open epic" suggests a narrative that is ongoing and large in its implications and yet made of daily life. Events are intimated but not described. As a reader I found I was continually grateful for the openness of OPEN EPIC. It allowed me to relax into the many possible meanings, to follow out the implications, and to have a new experience of the text with each rereading.
"Home out of (dark) woods
Moist & warm"
Stripped down words and phrases throughout the book allude to stories and situations that are contemporary and yet seem ancient. In particular the last section "Plural Bell," evoking the great Anna Livia Plurabelle section of Joyce's Finnegans Wake, takes from that text a permission to use a convoluted, polyphonic, transmuted vocabulary to create an allusive, allegorical, phantasm of a somehow dangerous life. Here the "she" in "[s]he would / know" "[p]ostpones the question" of something like life and death (including a "[l]anguor over language") to leave us hanging and yet satisfy our desire to go on.
OPEN EPIC is beautifully produced by Delete Press with an intriguing drawing by Norma Cole on the cover that evokes water, clouds, legs and a sort of stick being that made me think of the strange elongated statue of the statue of Anna Livia located in Croppies Memorial Park in Dublin. When asked about the subject of the visual work Norma commented "The drawing? It's just a drawing I made....," nicely rhyming with the openness of this epic.
"Tones effluent some
Thing in the vein of"
Sourced from a series of disparate illustrations, advertisements, screenplays, sourced text and magazine scraps, THE SCIENCE OF THINGS FAMILIAR is first and foremost a romp through ephemera from another time, but it's also an experiment in the formulas of sentimentality and nostalgia. From an excerpt of the brilliant Joan Crawford classic Johnny Guitar, to an esoteric pseudo scientific drawing labelled 'Diagram of an Argument,' what becomes collected are not simply products of a time placed proximal to each other, but specifically crafted constellations designed to illicit within us a sense of the uncanny, the artificial generation of recognition and identification that art is so keen and quick to manipulate. What happens when feeling becomes calcified into a genre or a form? And what happens when these shards are shored up against each other, shifted into another context, another time? THE SCIENCE OF THINGS FAMILIAR swirls up time and space in a way that is sometimes beautiful, sometimes uncomfortable, and always disjunctive, forcing us to take note of our own location, our own circumstance, in a fashion we might not otherwise.
Ana Božičević's newest Birds, LLC collection, THE JOY OF MISSING OUT, can be likened to staring at the night sky, at the constellations and making a mythology based in the deeds of feminine heroes and accomplishments. This mythology is not set in some far distant past or in some exotic location, it is a mythology that wraps itself around the present, in a world of emojis and relationships. There is a beauty of grandeur in every moment as it is experienced through Božičević's eye. There are exquisite moments of quiet luxury and moments of long worn love that resonate like the sliding of silk sheets in a quiet room. This collection will linger and seduce you into wanting that one perfect moment when everything makes complete sense or that one moment that provokes you to destroy everything your world is. When she writes, "I glimpse that moment when / I will be / Forever the one / More absent / Forever the less desiring / And will have paid / The price of flesh / For the total randomness / Of my failures here on earth / Guided but not explained / by the light / Of an unsubstanced star / And I shake my ass," she celebrates the basis of a mythology that is completely exposed as nothing but gas and movement and inference, in this mythology of the present there are no guiding lights, no heroes, and no villains there are only actions and meanings, as they are interpreted by each person's own wants and desires. Please read through this amazing exploration of the newness of direction.
I recently watched Taylor Sheridan's latest release, Wind River, a murder mystery that, among other things, explores the economically and geographically unforgiving nature of rural life in Wyoming. I must have been thinking of this film when I picked up Joe Wilkins's FAR ENOUGH: A WESTERN IN FRAGMENTS. His distilled story offers a counterpoint to Sheridan's film. It verifies certain truths of the rural life it depictsit is harsh, economically depressed, often lived through with the dangerous salve of narcotics and alcohol. Above all, it contains a stark beauty that is best imagined through the careful eyes of someone who has the sensibility to recognize it as such. Wilkins's at times pitch perfect language imagines Montana as a place where the "horizon [drinks] the spill of sun from the sky," and where the "Snowy Mountains [go] blue-black" at dusk. These fragments are a mosaic that never stray far from the archetypal cowhand named Willie Brown, a young man who loses his thumb in a grotesque roping accident with a "winter-born Angus," one in which "he felt the rope grind hard down on bone." The book is more than a character study; it is a sustained look as a small town community surrounded by the mountains. It does what all good narratives do, it teaches the reader about its subject matterin Wilkins's case the people and their animals, the land and its weather patterns, and how they all coexist in the same habitat.