Staff Picks (October 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.
All October 2018 Staff Picks 20% off
w/ CODE SPDPICKS
Dr. Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified before the senate judiciary committee last week. I have found it exceedingly difficult to write or read or think since then, and I am sure I am not alone. I have tried to step away from the internet and the news and even from talking to others in general just to stall the seams from beginning to open up my own past trauma to the present moment. I am unsure if my attempts at avoiding everything have helped me at all (they usually don't/ how would I even know); in any case, I am tired, and I know that I am not alone. I am sure that I am not alone (and I repeat this to feel un-alone) in feeling drained by how much we absorb how much we relive at an unspeakable, private distance.
EDWARD NORTON JUST STARED he was on his cell phone going up the escalator at Port Authority I was going down & when we met in the middle he said you are gorgeous I was 36 & so NYC in a black turtleneck & salt-and-pepper curls & just starting not to be sad or afraid (43)
This week I revisited Khadijah Queen's I'M SO FINE: A LIST OF FAMOUS MEN & WHAT I HAD ON. Queen's fast-paced, heartbreaking, darkly humorous book weaves together her protagonist's encounters with male celebrities. Within this semi-chronological narrative of events exists yet another trajectory: a deeply personal, always-accumulating sense of the extent of men's capacities for violence (which is to say, the capacities of most if not all men). Crucially, this trajectory is inseparable from the speaker's experiences with and reflections on the multiple arms of oppressive violence based on race and classall of which intersect throughout the gendered encounters in Queen's book. Linked together, Queen's speaker unravels a simultaneously candid and darting testimony of how one can survive, question, and keep moving through a web of unchecked abuses of power.
I NEVER MET DONALD TRUMP BUT I SURE HAVE BEEN GRABBED BY THE YOU-KNOW-WHAT & I really don't even want his name in my book & I almost didn't tell this story but sometimes it's important to name names & the luxury of fame is that it doesn't matter what a nobody says if you have enough money you can buy any kind of truth you want when you're a star they let you do it & actually when you're a man in general the one who did that to me wasn't anyone famous... (26)
Queen's cascading voice tender, colloquial, razor-sharp, funny as hell twines through hazy and crystal-clear retrospectives on abuse, escape, family, intimacy, and those three-second interactions with men that can leave an unexplainable stone in your gut. Queen's unyielding attention to both flickering and punctuated iterations of male predatory behavior slipping in and out of consequence and nameability captures the inbetweenness of violence as it is experienced, remembered, and out-lived.
It's such a pleasure moving through this book, which for all intents and purposes will be the "collected" David Bromige going forward. Beloved by so many for his wit, warmth, and endless curiosity, I often find Bromige's work more allusive and enigmatic than his personality ever was. Until this book came out I mostly read the later work, from Tiny Courts in a World Without Scales (1991) onward, partly because I met David later in his career and life so those were the books being published. But the arc from those early Black Sparrow books up to his persistently terrific My Poetry has been a revelation; meanwhile the previously unpublished American Testament as well the other books written in the 1980s have shown me a chattier and more journalistic Bromige I now love immensely. I guess the main thing I take from David's writing overall is an air of absolute confidence. It's incredible how adventurous and fearless his writing is, going places syntactically and semantically you know you'll never quite figure out. Confidence on the one hand, on the other an expansive commitment to the artform and the people it consistently pulls in. When I met David I had just started graduate school in Buffalo, and I was having a rocky time socially. I described to him some of the aesthetic and political arguments I had recently gotten into with my peers, expecting him to say something like "hang in there" or "remember your views are valid" or the like. Instead he said something far more challenging, still warm enough but also serious, sort of like "let's quit with the indulgence," and I never forgot it. "Well," he said, "poetry asks you to change your life." I can certainly say his life, and his writing, changed mine. I think you should let it change yours too.
I hope QUIP: AN ANTHOLOGY OF YOUNG QUEER WRITING is the first of many volumes. Seeing the Bay Area through these young writers' eyes as they inhabit and make room for themselves in that space and share it with each other makes me yearn for the queer community I never had as a teen: "we were safe in each other's presence and in the company of our words...sharing and promoting queer art as worthy of respect can alter the landscape of literature and common narrative" (from the foreword by Leila Mottley). I'm handing this anthology to you, just as I wish someone had handed me a volume of young queer voices when I couldn't even imagine, let alone name, my own. These are writers in conversation with each other, with the queer community, with their memories and experiences, with the present, past, and future. These are pieces about finding home, family, and self: "every year / the water forgives me / for not being a perfect daughter...I'm absorbing more than seawater into my skin / it feels like healing, like history, like becoming / myself" (from Fiona Deane-Grundman's "Leaving/Returning"). At a time when nowhere feels safe, and the future flickers as if it's already a ghost, these six voices give me hope. In "The Byproduct of a Homebody" Sunari Weaver-Anderson writes, "i come from the resistance. / if my granny was a panther / then ain't i everything Audrey fought for, / then ain't i the dream." Yes. May we fight for a worthy world.