Staff Picks (December 2018)
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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Larry is a real poet who writes "real" poems. Jack Spicer was a poet who was obsessed with the real lemons, or, real lemons as a metaphor for real poems. Kearney is an acolyte of Spicer. His poems ring right, they are real, not lemons, but maybe I have that backwards, these poems are Spicerian LEMONS, real and juicy and sad and strange. "Calliope" (the title of the long poem that concludes this book) is both the muse of eloquence and "a type of steam organ, invented in the USA..." Kearney's poems are both of this time and another, there is something of the sacred in this book, of San Francisco and the stars, "I carried wood up / from the beach // and we burned it / and ate fat mussels // in broth with the butter / and bread in the night // of the three of us."
Whenever I read Jamie Mortara's work, it feels like my skin is the page they carve their words into. And it makes me want to protect that skin so that the bleeding turns to scarring and stays a while. I guess what I mean is, reading GOOD MORNING AMERICA I AM HUNGRY AND ON FIRE makes me feel like I've found a friend, one who opens me up, exposing all my jagged bits, at the same time they make me feel sacred. I guess what I mean is, at the close of each poem, I say YES, THIS, and scoop another cup of tears onto my hot and smoldering heart. Jamie's book is a meditation on gendered violence and traumaas well as so many other thingsbut it's also a reaching toward something new, some place without that violence and trauma, a place where the cycle is broken: "haven't we all stared into the night enough?". Poem by poem, I feel a hand taking mine, a finger pointing to what's Beyond. These poems want to consume all the ugliness/hurt/hate/trauma and give forward something better, a soil where the green might grow and not find a blade waiting.
Check out Jamie performing "Cornflake Girl," a poem in this collection, here.
Chase Berggrun opens R E D with "A Note on Process," inviting us to recognize the formal constraints used throughout these 27 erasure poems of Bram Stoker's Dracula. The note confesses to us another momentous process, critical to our reading of Berggrun's text: This work was written at the same time its author had begun their own gender transition. As they were discovering and attempting to define their own womanhood, the narrator of these poems traveled alongside them.
What follows is a blood-soaked, yearning (re)vision of rebirth and revenge, reclaiming the body, heart, and spirit. The speaker's claim to agency does not come quickly or quietly, but develops through their survival of domestic and psychological violence. It is this cyclic representation of strength and devastation accompanying each lurch towards freedom which speaks so authentically to what I've survived in my own life. R E D conjures fire and brimstone, thrashes through castles, breaks and rejuvenates under the soft light of the sun. My heart has longed for this epic retelling, this final avenging.
I have written this under empty circumstances to attract less attention
my deserted condition produced a cold patient steadying
a plain conclusion
at last I set out to destroy