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Staff Picks 2019

 

clap for me that's not me | paola capó-garcía | rescue press

Nich Malone recommends

Clap For Me That's Not Me by Paola Capó-García

From "TOO" (pg. 20):

I want to be straddled     maybe while wearing leather pants and heels whose soles are emblematic     I want to be stuffed with materials that are shiny     I want to shit glitter     I want the things I see to reflect in my eyes so much the reflection makes my eyeballs collapse     to be ruined by reflection

 

presence detection system | nora collen fulton | hiding press

Trisha Low recommends

Presence Detection System by Nora Collen Fulton

Reminiscent of RD Laing's lyric psychoanalytic diagramming of human relationships in Knots, Fulton blurs the systems and relations that permit us to form or destroy subjects. Rather, we plumb shallow platforms and endless linguistic chasms; wherein lie the parts of us that intrude and extrude selves, shadows, or even presences. "Tom wanted to keep the conversation going. / This time Tom played Rich's role. / Rita wouldn't answer it. / It nodded."

 

earth | hannah brooks-motl | the song cave

Jane Gregory recommends

Earth by Hannah Brooks-Motl

          They hunt us through the bitching forest

          Today is nothing in the work of art

                                                  (12)

The friendly mandate said our staff picks should be but a single sentence now, but how to make one full enough for this gorgeous book—a sentence that doesn't rot "when no one is in it"; that makes welcome the kind of "truth beyond syntax" it trades in; that honors its many moods, insights, attitudes: "Perfectly watchful, // a little bitchy," and at least as funny as hell; that says something about the magic of its couplets, e.g. "Out of the trash of the human poem / To think like that and with little acclaim"; that recognizes how good it is at lists and the color yellow—that makes you rush to make off with the graceful and relentless pursuit, the wisdom and devotions of Earth.

(quotations from pages 31, 85, 41, and 11)

 

all that beauty | fred moten | letter machine editions

e. conner recommends

All That Beauty by Fred Moten

I tried to count how many times Fred Moten wrote the word "shit" in this book and I counted 37 times. Which is only one reason I would recommend it to a friend.

"How shit go together all communicable against the state." (pg. 118)

 

lou sullivan: daring to be a man among men | brice d. smith | transgress press

Janice Worthen recommends

Lou Sullivan: Daring To Be A Man Among Men by Brice D. Smith

October is LGBT History Month, and a great way to spend it is in the company of Lou Sullivan, whose existence and activism had a profound effect on the trans community. Lou educated medical professionals about trans men, and more specifically, trans gay men, helping to improve the standard of care for peers and future generations. He built a vital network of trans men, helping people like him feel less isolated. So many times Lou was told people like him didn't exist. His courage to insist otherwise validated the existence and experience of so many others and opened the door for them to say, I too exist. As the "first known FTM AIDS case ever," he educated the LGBT community and "all of the providers with whom he interacted at the AIDS Clinic about what it meant to be trans and about challenges trans people faced." And Lou served and continues to serve as a shining example of living authentically, lonely as that can be at times. Brice D. Smith's biography captures Lou's spirit and so much more. This is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the FTM trans experience. Many thanks to Lou for his work on behalf of the trans community and for recording his amazing and much-too-short life in his diaries, to Brice D. Smith for giving us this excellent biography, and to Ellis Martin, Zach Ozma, and the Nightboat Books team, who recently published We Both Laughed in Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan.

 

autobiography of a semiromantic anarchist | monica teresa ortiz | host publications

Nich Malone recommends

autobiography of a semiromantic anarchist by mónica teresa ortiz

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A SEMIROMANTIC ANARCHIST is a great book and you should read it. Stop reading this text block and just get the book already. It's absolutely gorgeous but not in that utopia way. In that way that keeps itself grounded in a hellworld our attempts to find hope in always already exists. Easily one of my favorite reads this year.

"we should not apologize / for what we are / never going to be"

 

is god is soho rep special edition | aleshea harris | 3 hole press

e. conner recommends

Is God Is (Soho Rep Special Edition) by Aleshea Harris

I read this after my cousin told me about the first scene. Two sisters, one badly scarred from burning and the other lesser scarred but still scarred, talk candidly about going to see their sick mother. Who they didn't know was alive. She's dying. From this point the play dashes off into a Cain and Abel parable with all the violence outward facing and in the service of God herself. It's bloody and cruel. Like many revenge stories the violence is an entry point into the unbearable vulnerability of intimacy relationships. It's weird and hurts to look at but you know it could happen. It did happen.

 

target practice | carvens lissaint | penmanship books

Janice Worthen recommends

Target Practice by Carvens Lissaint

In this potent collection, Carvens Lissaint paints America as experienced from the black body, the body as target, the body constantly weathering the strain of systemic violence, racism and its legacy: the hostile glare, the unchecked hand, the flashing lights, the history of trees. Lissaint lays it all out on the page, each line a form outlined in chalk. Here the white body as aggressor is brought into focus. Ache lives here. And clarity. And mixed in, such beautiful moments of community, a brief harbor of empathy, a hand extending an umbrella in the rain, an I GOT YOU: "In awe, how we can be the life raft that floats us over turbulent waters." May this collection be a reminder to make many more such moments.

 

diana's tree | alejandra pizarnik | ugly duckling presse

Jane Gregory recommends

Diana's Tree by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated by Yvette Siegert

          13.

          to explain with words of this world

          that a ship set sail from me and took me with her.

It's a tall ask, but sometimes I go looking for a book that might return to me some sense of an interior life, sufferable or even un-. "An illuminated memory, a gallery haunted by the shadow of what I wait for. / It's not true that it will come. It's not true that it won't." DIANA'S TREE makes me pay for what I want to return, and I'm not the only one: "The cold will pay. The wind will pay." Vengeful and lapidary, this lyric sequence articulates the problem relentlessly, like a kid playing with a light switch, flicking the paranoid search for a self on and off and on and on: "These are some possible versions: / a hole, a trembling wall..." Almost intolerably beautiful, this book is full of "credulous silence," dying of explanations, a funhouse with mirrors at every turn, and everything they catch is seared, shown and made to eat its heart out.

 

moon:letters, maps, poems | jennifer s. cheng | tarpaulin sky press

Lizzy Lemieux recommends

Moon: Letters, Maps, Poems by Jennifer S. Cheng

MOON: LETTERS, MAPS, POEMS (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2018) begins with storytelling as it existed at its inception: as myth. Dedicated to "mythical women of [her] childhood," Jennifer S. Cheng writes, "In the story of the Lady in the Moon, there is only one ending: to live out her nights as a captive, over and over, as if some necessary penance, as if a sorrow to see a woman paper-thin against the lesser light." In beginning with "one ending," Cheng employs a storytelling technique reminiscent of thrillers, imbuing her poetry with a unique urgency. She also sets out to "unbuild" the tragic female narrative, for "Sometimes in order to build something, you must unbuild it first."

Such poetic logic is profoundly simple, or simply profound. Whichever. When cleaning out my closet recently, I took the advice of Marie Kondo and piled all articles of clothing in the middle of my floor. You cannot clean a mess if you cannot grasp its extent. In this sense, Cheng presents the reader with a mess of narrative. Its origin is ever changing. It has no final resting point. But in this metaphor, if her poems are garments, each one sparks joy. Cheng is more concerned with navigating the mess. She writes "to mark a new map for a body opening." The cleaning is that of the female narrative. MOON: LETTERS, MAPS, POEMS sweeps out of the expectation of sadness.

 

stage fright | kevin killian | kenning editions

Trisha Low recommends

Stage Fright: Selected Plays from San Francisco Poets Theater by Kevin Killian

I think that people tend to have a lot of preconceived notions when it comes to Poet's Theater - poets themselves especially because poets are Judgmental and there's something about the sense of amateurism that people balk at. I always find this funny because there's literally no other genre in which someone is allowed to make a mistake and then smooth it over by being like 'well that's what i meant to do, I mean I found the mistake interesting...' - only in Poetry, I guess.

But Poetry aside, when all is said and done, STAGE FRIGHT demonstrates, at its core, that Poet's Theater is far from a theater of miscommuniques, mistakes, or infelicitous acts of speech. Rather, it demonstrates the limitations of genre itself, which is also to say, that in its expansive acts of unreality, its practice of exceeding its form, Poet's Theater is about inhabiting new worlds, new situations - as a different act of being. Not simply for the purposes of political gain, or bettering the world, but simply for the pure enjoyment of it.

Joy is something that is especially difficult to figure in moments like ours, but how can you not feel it when you put those persons most prone to absurdity and imagination in the same physical space just simply to have fun? How can you not feel it when you find some version of Isabella Rossellini rubbing up against Tippi Hedrun and Melanie Griffith? How can you not feel it when we, as Kevin writes, "act too, inhabit other realities than [our] own... as if the magical hills of San Francisco didn't already give us all the permission we needed, to become someone else, even just for one night.'

Kevin himself, with the sparkle in his eye and his Chloe Sevigny photo face was the master of this - a ringleader of mischief, and radical instigator of the joy we most need in order to find the strength to do the real work, the important political work - the joy itself, of being. This collection is a beautiful testament to the radical possibilities of this joy. So drink a beer, put on a record, and go crazy. Sometimes, it feels as though there's little we can do, but this, we can do together, on the collapsing stage of our degenerate world. Let's do it.

 

abandoners | l. ann wheeler | the operating system

Johnny Hernandez recommends

Abandoners by L. Ann Wheeler

In L. Ann Wheeler's debut collection ABANDONERS, published by The Operating System, the act of abandoning (or to abandon) seems to be a secondary reference, as the whole collection picks up after the act, in an attempt to recover the things and people that've been abandoned—in an effort to recover them from a place of invisibility. This is a masterful act of weaving in both the internal struggle and the external hardships that befall the abandoned. Whether it is abandoned children, the abandoned generation (in the wake of Hurricane Sandy) or a narrator's declaration of abandon to the wills of others, the need or gravity towards recovery is so strongly pronounced throughout the unread classifieds, advertising, footnote articles, old tweets and clipped illustrations that Wheeler seems to be reclaiming the abandoned in an attempt to adopt and splice these fragments together to give them all back their substance, and give them a piece of their own identities. Wheeler seems to suggest that all we have and all that comprises each of us are fragments that can be recovered and assembled to make a picture, but nothing comes close enough to provide us with true identity. It is this act of weaving the larger social perceptions with the internal perceptions that truly make these bodies substantial. Wheeler suggests that the fragments and tattered remains are as close as we get to having significance. Wheeler writes, "Leah is something real if no one else is there to witness it? When you were on the train to New Haven after leaving Ruth, was she real to you? Was she with you, or had you become only you again?" This is truly a vivid and intricate design of research and narrative that attempt to hold the elusive scraps of time and identity together to better capture what or who has been abandoned by the ABANDONERS.

 

extratransmission | andrea abi-karam | kelsey street press

Janice Worthen recommends

EXTRATRANSMISSION by Andrea Abi-Karam

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: "obey—or 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.

 

museum of thrown objects | andrew k peterson | blazevox books

John Sakkis recommends

Museum of Thrown Objects by Andrew K. Peterson

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.

 

sergei kuzmich from all sides | jessica laser | letter machine editions

Brent Cunningham recommends

Sergei Kuzmich from All Sides by Jessica Laser

 

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.

 

marnie | connie scozzaro | krupskaya

Jane Gregory recommends

Marnie by Connie Scozzaro

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.

 

goodnight, marie, may god... | marie buck | roof books

e. conner recommends

Goodnight, Marie, May God Have Mercy on Your Soul by Marie Buck

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.

 

weak link | rob halpern | atelos

Brent Cunningham recommends

Weak Link by Rob Halpern

Who doesn't love a miscellany? I'll often choose a book of odds and ends over a book of, uh, evens and beginnings? Anyway, in WEAK LINK we get a melange of items that haven't made it into Rob Halpern's last few books: essays, stray poems, notes for a workshop he is teaching. One pleasure of this kind of read is that you don't feel bad skipping around a bit, which is something I do with all books but here I don't feel guilty. This is heady stuff—Halpern knows what he's trying to do with the art form, it's ambitious, and he can articulate it. We used to say "poet-theorist" but I guess that might be old fashioned by now. Thankfully Halpern's work eludes the pitfalls of the academic and the idea-heavy by staying close to physical bodies, specific locations, complicated erotics. He doesn't let the personal or the political relax into their respective realms for a second, which makes it all wildly unstable and inconclusive. The first piece in this book, where Halpern seems to be trying to stare all the way into and past a Gerhard Richter painting, to grasp all its layers and historical meanings at once, is a nice microcosm of the Halpern style insofar as it causes you to think harder than you thought possible about concepts like "forensic" and "cover" and, at the same time, feels almost Beckett-like in its inability to reach a firm conclusion. To me Halpern's work suggests that you can think forever but you're always back in your body, controlled in turn by the state's armies. He says as much in the terrific "THE WOUND & THE CAMP, or VISCERAL SOLIDARITY: Some Notes toward a Radical Queer Poetics," a piece that acts as an ars poetica of sorts. "The effort is to make distant and reified bodies—bodies reduced to things—proximate and intimate, while trying to make palpable the militarization that has captured our life-world."

 

such a lonely, lovely road | kagiso lesego molope | mawenzi house/tsar publishers

Janice Worthen recommends

Such a Lonely, Lovely Road by Kagiso Lesego Molope

In SUCH A LONELY, LOVELY ROAD, Kagiso Lesego Molope writes movingly about the many challenges Kabelo Mosala faces, not only as a young black gay man in South Africa, but also as the beloved son of parents who expect him to continue the work of his father and follow a prescribed path, and as a smart, determined doctor facing the AIDS pandemic and its effects on his friends and the place he grew up. Molope captures the conflict that comes when one struggles to find a balance among the needs of community, family, and one's own heart. This is a story about duty, self-acceptance, and ultimately love. No journey is free from heartbreak, but Mosala finds his own way on such a lonely, lovely road.

 

fiercer monsters | youssef alaoui | nomadic press

Johnny Hernandez recommends

Fiercer Monsters by Youssef Alaoui

To pronounce reality into being, or to extend or seed a part of oneself into the fabric of the world—this is the material of Youssef Alaoui's latest collection of short fiction, FIERCER MONSTERS, published by Nomadic Press. A collection, broken into four sections and bookended with explorations of the alphabet and the materiality of language and creation, that explores language as both a means of expressing and exploring the imagination and serves as a vessel of the narrator, mooring itself on the shores of reality—hoping to found a new colony. Alaoui's collection is filled with mythical and spiritual parables and fables, each centered on the idea of a creator pronouncing into existence a world that is a negotiation between the voice and the material of experience. In one of his early stories in the collection, "Night Window," he writes, "It was at that point that the top of your head let out a bubbling river of fog. No, it was more like an entire grey ocean of alphabets scribbled on wave caps pouring from nowhere and reeking of barnacles voicing unpronounceable ancient languages and staking claim over the sleep diaries of every misshapen midnight orphan like you [...] your window is black. There's little reason to stay awake, and no reason to write unless the dream was mine all along." Nuggets of gold are dispersed throughout this entire collection, and if you pay attention each minor proclamation adds and adds until a tidal wave of reality washes over the reader. Not only does the pronunciation of a world begin to manifest but the reader also begins to form an outline of the narrator, as if every word encapsulates a piece of Alaoui himself. This collection is a statement and a love letter (to language and the potential of language) to create and transmit worlds both internal and external. Seek this collection out for every moment you imagine a world in every word.

 

lost privilege company | blunt research group | noemi press

Nich Malone recommends

Lost Privilege Company, or the book of listening by Blunt Research Group

LOST PRIVILEGE COMPANY OR THE BOOK OF LISTENING is composed from the case files of inmates in the earliest youth prisons in California. These poems explore the narrative of oppression, how those narratives are compiled and documented, are imbalanced, and how they might be revisited to explore something contrary to their original purpose. Named after the isolation ward at the Whittier State School, a symbol of California's disturbing history and engagement with eugenics and forced sterilizations that once inspired Nazi Germany, this collection explores the silences and isolation of the deliberately suppressed. The collection lacks a single-author, focusing instead on the collaboration between the histories contained in the case files and the names of the children the poems overlay. This book isn't to be missed.

From the poem overlaying "Uriah": "his chief joy / to collect rubbish and / tear up / American flags any / he could get and burn them / oh, I don't know, I just play around / as a method of discipline / the boy's mother put coal oil on paper lit it / and held it to her children's feet / the boy's sister / Mary is a pretty girl / with a nice alto voice but almost too lazy / to use it...".

 

grenade in mouth | miyo vestrini | kenning editions

e. conner recommends

Grenade in Mouth: Some Poems of Miyó Vestrini, edited by Faride Mereb and translated by Anne Boyer and Cassandra Gillig

This exciting new translation of selected works from Italian/Venezuelan poet Miyó Vestrani is like one of those anxiety hangovers where you can't sleep and you can't eat but you're angry and sad and you don't know why. You forget about time and really anything that isn't directly in front of your face while somehow simultaneously terrified the world could suddenly implode.

Her work seeps in under doors into private space then quickly zooms out suddenly self conscious and insecure.

          I fluff the pillow,

          I suck my thumb,

          and I hope that El Flaco comes.

          There are days like this.

 

marnie | connie scozzaro | krupskaya

Trisha Low recommends

Marnie by Connie Scozzaro

A refreshingly acerbic treatise on living in a state of dissipation – MARNIE's speaker spreads herself thinly across oceans, discursive registers, and varying social states, refracting back poems that choose critical humor over political hand-wringing; sardonic sharpness over pastoral poetic purity. And yet, despite its wretchedly intelligent send-up of a world in which little makes sense and even less feels like its worth making sense of, MARNIE has, at its heart, the dark earnestness of a really good love poem, which is to say "something not right / not real nor / unreal, a realer catastrophe / not beautiful but something / so beautiful / it became all I could think:". In other words, I'm all in – can't wait to discover whose laughing face I'll see as I reach the end of this maze, this double suicide pact of a book. I can feel the razor flush against my neck.

 

eroding witness | nathaniel mackey | selva oscura press

Jane Gregory recommends

Eroding Witness by Nathaniel Mackey

Somehow out of print, ERODING WITNESS, Nathaniel Mackey's first book, is back thanks to selva oscura in a limited edition that corrects a number of errors in the original, as the front matter tells us. I picked it up as a reward for having gotten through February—month of "panicky / music / I'd cut / if I could"—nearly, to let the inexhaustible beauty & lure that this book is help me out to make it through. In ERODING WITNESS, "The distance / persists, like a grudge." Squint in it and awake to a "world / on the run if not yet on its / knees." Get it & learn a dance to throw yr "ass, the ocean / in."

 

score and bone | maw shein win | nomadic press

Johnny Hernandez recommends

Score and Bone by Maw Shein Win

Reading through SCORE AND BONE, Maw Shein Win's debut collection with Nomadic press, the reader experiences the disconnect that accompanies physical trauma or injury. It is a collection that imparts a sort of disassociation or phantom limb with one's own physical being. It is a collection split into 2 sections: "Score" and "Bone." "Score" seems to be imparting an isolating viewpoint that likens the act of watching film and describing actions and scenes to the experience of feeling removed from one's own body. "Score" seems to be the section of the collection that simulates trauma for the reader, as much as can be communicated through language. When Win writes, "I recognize her voice because it's my voice, I don't know that name because it's his / name. You thought you heard my voice, but it was your voice. I think your voice / has a name, but it's my name," she is illustrating this separateness, this other-ing that comes from both an intimate connection with one's own body and its trauma, and its distancing from one's own experience of being knocked clear out of one's own skin. The second section of the collection, "Bone," seems to lock the consciousness of this other in one's self to illustrate the dilemma of being so isolated and so separate from the physical that all that remains is observation of the self and the associations that arrive in a stream of consciousness. Win writes, "The scar is a girl and the wheelchair is a woman. The crutch is butch. The / drugs are good. The light is dry. The bed isn't there," The experience is no longer happening in reality...it is solely a surreal association of thoughts, images and sensations that flatten the experience of existence into a sort of thought that could disappear with a slip into unconsciousness. Win's collection is nothing short of beautiful in its attempt to capture something that exists in neither the perceived or the one being perceived—in the experience or the absorption of the experience. It is a gem to be uncovered and explored in another Nomadic collection.

 

neighbor | rachel levitsky | ugly duckling presse

John Sakkis recommends

Neighbor by Rachel Levitsky

At once paranoiac and funny Levitsky's NEIGHBOR charts (literally, using a superscript cipher of her own devise) the oftentimes fraught relationship we have with those living next door, above and below, "because he shames me / I cannot hate my neighbor." No one is named in NEIGHBOR (unless you count "Rational Response," "Noetic N. Delirium," and "Voice" names), they remain "Neighbor," that omnipresent (and weirdly intimate) threat of the abutting other, their strange noises, routines, smells always invading one's space, "and so there is Neighbor / and then there is my neighbor."

 

and it begins like this | latanya mcqueen | black lawrence press

Janice Worthen recommends

And it Begins Like This by LaTanya McQueen

In the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (as LaTanya McQueen points out, "the only museum dedicated to documenting the life, history, and culture of African Americans"), a woman tells McQueen, "Look, we're here, aren't we? Just remember that if it gets too much again. We're here and we're going nowhere." This moment comes near the end of a collection of essays that explores McQueen's personal history, the women who came before, and the America that was and is. It walks roads made and traveled by the mostly unheard, traces patterns of oppression from slavery and its continuation in the prison-industrial complex down to the culture in academia that dictates who and how one may have a voice, a presence, and authority. In her quest, McQueen looks at the ways in which history can be denied, hidden, and rewritten by a white hand and laments the lives that disappear beneath it, but her book is also a testament of survival and the ways that history may be reclaimed, of the clues one brave woman might have left and the truth so many brave women live: "I know the past does not belong to us, that there is nothing we can do with what's already been done, but there is now." This is such a beautiful journey about the stories that form a person, the stories denied and reclaimed, and the stories that must be told.

 

total recall | samantha giles | krupskaya

Jane Gregory recommends

Total Recall by Samantha Giles

"It's pretty hard to forget." Brutal and tender, this book made me a little weepy and a little undone, a lot of alive. So it's the book I choose to carry me into the New Year. It'll carry me and I'll carry it right next to "the back of all [I've] got left." It is crazy wise, so it knows "it's hard to know what to carry forward," hard to know what to do with what is left—left in the mind, left out, left alive or behind. With material grace, though, it tells you some things you might try to do with what it is hard to know and not know, like here: "check the pulse / of the chased / and the chastened / fasten a kind of impossibility / in the rendering / of fat and fact / make what / was once / human / and / reform / what gets left / it is you." TOTAL RECALL is a book I know I'll turn to again and again, and it is a page turner, too. Its voice is singular and fierce, its intimacy hard-won. I say back to it: if you have to leave me, leave me with this.

 

our rimbaud mask | anna vitale | ugly duckling presse

e. conner recommends

Our Rimbaud Mask by Anna Vitale

David Wojnarowicz did not live to see his work enjoy this most recent attention incited by a huge retrospective at The Whitney in New York City. David left this plane 26 years ago from AIDS in his home in the midst of a hot New York Summer. Perhaps his most famous work is Untitled (Buffalo); a close up photograph of a model from the Museum of Natural History of Buffalo being run off the side of a cliff. It was the cover of a U2 album and sold at auction 4 years ago for $125,000. To many underground fans before and after his death the most influential series of his photographs might be what is known as Arthur Rimbaud in New York. Anna Vitale's essay goes in deep to look at how this series relates to her work on suicide. Arthur Rimbaud did not die of suicide & neither did Wojnarowicz. Still, I ugly cried to this while reading this out loud in my room with the space heater on. It's good for that.

 

 

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