Staff Picks (June 2019)
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.
All June 2019 Staff Picks 20% off
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Marie Buck grapples with residual angst after an alternative adolescence, various early 2000's period specific body modifications, eggs, debt, and violence in these pages. Happier but possibly more fraught subjects include dicks that are being rubbed and there's fluid everywhere. Her cat shows up and her boyfriend too.
This is a good book to give your crush if your goal is to impress, endear, and still be a little bit aloof.
If the ugly real has an aggro ear, MARNIE is its better mirror. If something about mid-late spring is kind of hell, and it is, take for my May staff pick this radically beautiful book, full of feelings and smarts and feelings that smart, like so: "but something not right / not real nor / unreal, a realer catastrophe / not beautiful but something / so beautiful / it became all I could think..." I think it would be great to read this book on a lake or borrowed pool, floating on one of those garish swans. No matter. MARNIE will hold you wherever you read it, recognize all of us "suckers drinking infinity in this / prick lake called pain." Oh and also, it just might break your <3.
It's an occupational hazard: poets read and read (or some do anyway) and so a lot of poetry books end up saturated with literature, as if they're just highly specialized texts about the not-quite-as-popular-as-skiing life of reading. Jessica Laser, in her terrific first book, doesn't seem to resist that saturation at all, instead running headlong towards it to such an extent that for me it kind of flipped around, becoming a vision of life in which literary thought, books, and the problems of form have magically become the mundane. The book's title comes from a passage in Tolstoy (reproduced as one of the book's epigraphs) while the fascinating last section is all direct quotes, footnoted, from classic literary texts. In between there's a number of different stylistic approaches and poetic series held together by one of the least sentimental, least over-wrought, engagements with thought and ideas I've read in awhile. I found much delightful oddness to the language and constructions in this book, as if Laser's emotive expressivity was being passed through some kind of English-to-English translation machine (which, again, felt consistent with the value for world literature in the poems). The play between sincerity and rhetoric is another of the great delights of the poems; the lines are resonant and layered and never dumb; all in all it's an exciting initial book working hard to pull literature away from literary value as mere affection.
Andrew K. Peterson's MUSEUM OF THROWN OBJECTS is a Thanksgiving cornucopia full of the disgusting detritus you'd find while walking the labyrinth of your local grocery store parking lot: half legible lists written in marker on crumpled paper, pennies, bird droppings, seashells, chewing gum, nails and screws, the occasional streak of spilled congealing steak blood. It is both LOL funny and elegiac (I'm West Coast, I like elegiac), Peterson is a master of form, he has a lot of form-fun in this book, his poem "Reading Kenneth Koch" is a good example (I love this poem):
sometimes I think
gee, that's very true
I'm glad he said it
other times gee,
that's also very true
I wish I'd said it
then "turn round"
(who said that?)
It was really nothing
the wind ringing in his change"
see what I mean, LOL but also "hmmmm"...
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Andy has a pretty terrific take down of me as his former roommate, it's on page 110 if your curious, it starts off "O that I have pilfered your precious handtowel!" and only gets better from there. Please read this brilliant book.
I finished EXTRATRANSMISSION with the "oomph" of air being knocked out of me, my ears ringing. Andrea Abi-Karam's deep and moving first book is about the "AMERICAN TRAGEDY," the bodies crushed under its star-spangled boot: "obeyor get pushed to the edges / it's more vulnerable there but / at least you can see the outside / of that moment they failed you...". Trauma, anger, shock, grief, numbness, and loss seep up through the lines, fill the white spaces of each page, and spill out into the reader's hands. If you read this book (and you should!), the tap of fawn hooves might echo in your nightmares, a desert squeeze your heart slowly dry. You may look up into the looming shadow and be unable to find its edges.