CATS by Alli Katz “If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.” —Mark Twain [slideshow_deploy id=’12378′] Mark Twain never met my cat. Five seconds with Albany, watching him throw his body against our kitchen cabinets early in the morning (and again in the afternoon, and at bedtime) for six ounces of “classic beef” or a scoop of prescription urinary health dry food, or watching him raise his leg to lick his crotch and then forget what he’s doing, or him leaping on a tiny table that would never support his girth to try to press his face into a cactus, is easily enough to dispel the idea that a cat has any kind of dignity at all. And it’s not just Albany. You can watch my friend’s cat Walker slide across … chop! chop! read more!
THE LEMON POEM by Glen Armstrong He said “lemon” over and over. Lemon. Lemon. Lemon. Until the word was just a can of creamed lemon. The radio played a marathon of lemon songs. All over the city a million plastic boxes sang out ———-until each radio was likewise a can of creamed radio. And what of those cans? ———-Losing their edges ———-and hollow cores ———-as they proliferate? The edges? ———-The creams? ———-Undone. ———-Becoming dreams and juice. By eight o’clock ———-his yellow bathrobe ———-and gym socks ———-were no longer ———-his yellow bathrobe ———-and gym socks. Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He also edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters. … chop! chop! read more!
THE INGREDIENTS OF DOG FOOD by Kevin Tosca Each night my father dipped two fingers into meat and sauce and then passed that wet present down to Django’s drooling mouth. It was no secret. I saw. My mother saw. My father wasn’t trying to hide anything. And this didn’t just happen at dinner, it happened whenever my father ate or snacked. If three slices of cheese were to go on a sandwich, one more went to Django. If my father grabbed a handful of peanuts, Django got his share. If there were an orange to eat, Django got a segment. If there were ice cream at the end of the day, Django licked the bowl. The only food my father didn’t give Django was salad, but that’s not because my father hadn’t tried. Django just didn’t like it, which became Django lore, the one thing Django wouldn’t deign to touch: … chop! chop! read more!
OYSTERS by Merilyn Jackson I am licking the insides of the oyster shells embedded in salt on a plate black as your angry eyes like your love, cooling rapidly as lava. Forgive me. It reminds me of how much I want to lick your hair. A dance and book critic, Merilyn Jackson regularly writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Broad Street Review, national and international dance magazines on the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European literature, culture and politics. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts awarded her food-driven novel-in-progress, Solitary Host, a $5,000 Literature Fellowship and a chapter of the novel, “A Sow of Violence,” appeared in the Massachusetts Review. In 2012 she attended Colgate’s Summer Program with Peter Balakian and Sarah Lawrence Poetry Seminar with Tom Lux. Her poetry has been published in Exquisite Corpse, Poiesis Review 6 and Poetry Nook. … chop! chop! read more!
EMILY by Jan-Erik Asplund Desire not the night, for that is when people will be destroyed. Or perhaps: to drag people away from their homes. Or maybe: when people vanish in their place. (Job 36:20), variations The speed was a natural solution to Professor Flowers’s death. The only thing left to do after we had laid it out on the table and crushed it up and all was talk—and it turned out we could do that for hours. It was a beautifully orchestrated display, a symphony of run-on conversation and exuberant denial. We talked shit about the neighborhood, and what it was like to extort your parents for thousands upon thousands of dollars a year in the guise of receiving an education. We wondered if we were doing the right thing. We understood each other even when we didn’t. “It’s so messy in here,” she said. “I don’t really like … chop! chop! read more!
MIKEY COMES HOME by Karla Cordero When I was eight my father told me Mikey our pet turtle ran away from home. I dusted the aquarium for fingerprints. Made reward posters out of construction paper and outlined Mikey’s smile with jungle green crayon. I interviewed all three of my sisters and checked under each of their beds. A week later I found Mikey in the backyard. His body was a murder scene on fresh cut grass. An explosion of pink and purple organs from an unknown violence. A shell split into tiny fruit bowls soaked in fresh blood. Flies paraded on a face I could no longer identify. I buried my first body under the lemon tree with a beach shovel. I hosed down the rest of the carcass and watched a piece of intestine slide down a single blade of grass. My father came outside with whiskey on his breath. … chop! chop! read more!
LENITIVE MAN by Dan Encarnacion from “Hominids” (1) ..the quality or condition of being tortuous;….twistedness, ..crookedness, sinuosity; an instance of this — (2)…figuratively mental … .. .. … … or moral crookedness — (3)..an instance of this; or something……………. ……………that exemplifies it, a twisted or crooked object,…. ….. … …..a twist, turn, winding: tortuosity — what………. …. ….. …….can be examined in the fundus of the eye through an opthalmoscope —…………….only place on the human body where microcirculation can be directly observed .— .hemorrhages, exudates, cotton wool spots, blood vessel abnormalities:. pulsations and, the aforementioned, tortuosity ………… …… …………fourteen years old — first complete physical — pressed firmly cheek-to-cheek — told me….. …. .. …. to look away to the side away from the light — … .. … … .. ..did not want him to remove his face — his wet breath — sensed …. …. …. ……. his lips ajar — balls — on one knee — arm wrapped … chop! chop! read more!
CUTMAN by Marc Labriola If the needle swung from side to side, it would be a girl. If the needle swung in circles, a boy. Lailah’s three sisters lay her laughing in Ben’s arms as her mother dangled the needle above her belly. Each woman willing the azimuth of the needle like an ancient geographic divination. No one agreed on the gender of the needle and thread. Lailah’s mother saw a boy. The youngest sister swore it barely moved. The sister who had sworn off men blamed Lailah for the cryptic emanations of her body. Her mother, laughing her head off, mapped out Lailah’s body as the tree of life—naming ten parts of her body from head to toe which formed the ten Sephirot where God was broken into male and female. Lailah and Ben were silent in their pose. They had both distinctly traced the needle as it … chop! chop! read more!
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LADY WHO ALWAYS REQUESTS TWO NAPKINS AT MY RESTAURANT by Melanie Sevcenko Dear Miss or Mrs., First off, although my hostess shift covers only the lunch crowd on a Monday through Friday basis, I am well aware that every day when you leave us at 1:30pm—after you request two cloth napkins, and after you swallow three bites of Today’s Special—that you will be back in five hours for dinner. And sometimes, forty-five minutes later, when you remember the dessert you ordered while you sit in the parking lot and reapply your lipstick to your muttering lips in the rearview mirror, until they come together to blurt “Dessert!” and you will come back inside to join us. And because I never see you when evening falls, and because I’d rather not discuss your potential thievery with my co-workers, I am left only to wonder if you … chop! chop! read more!
SUNDAY IN VENICE by Julie Kearney The alleyway was paved with humped dark stones like so many dead or hibernating turtles. On either side of these stones, walls leprous with peeling plaster inclined inwards towards a sliver of grey sky. The man walked ahead trundling his suitcase, the woman followed dragging a matching one. Their wheels made a thunderous noise on the stones. ‘Wait for me,’ the woman called. Her face was red. The man kept walking. ‘Will you stop?’ she called more loudly. ‘Are you deaf or what?’ The man stopped but didn’t turn round. ‘That’s it!’ she said when she came up to him. ‘I’m not going another step!’ She wiped her sweating face with the back of her hand and said without looking at him, ‘I hate you. Why don’t you ever listen to me? If you’d listened to me we would have got off the vaporetto at … chop! chop! read more!
MAGIC TRICK by Circus He presses the deck of cards into her hands and says: Shuffle. As you shuffle, think about all the cards in the deck. Concentrate on a single card, but don’t choose one, just hand the deck back to me when you have the image clear in your mind. She does as he says. Her mind settles on the three of spades. She returns the deck to him. He takes it in one flat, outstretched palm and rests his other hand over the top card. He concentrates for a moment, eyes closed, then fans all the cards and, without hesitation, chooses one at random. He holds up the card. It is the three of spades. Is this the one, he asks. She nods, but it is clear she’s not impressed. Nice trick, she says, but I can do better. Prove it, he says. She smiles. She leans … chop! chop! read more!
MAINE FARM by Peter Beck Maine I. Four Season Farm, June. When I first started farming I thought I’d eat well, but the truth is no one eats worse than a young farmer. After a full day of pulling weeds, the last thing you want to see is another fresh vegetable. My friend Rob ate what he called “The Special,” and that was his everyday sandwich: two pieces of bread, one on top of the other. His “Special with Cheese” was two pieces of bread with a slice of cheese in between. “The Toasted Special” was two pieces of toast. Alex ate Fluffernutters all day long, and his hands were even dirtier than ours because of the sticking power of the marshmallow on his fingers. Greg ate better than any of us, but only because his girlfriend moved in with him, and she had nothing to do but cook. The … chop! chop! read more!
MISS TORRES WOKE US EARLY by Beth Seetch Just before a) Death We sleep upside-down, toes at bed’s head, pajama seams chafing our buttons tender unless we remember to turn them inside-out and put cold spoons under our pillows. Walking slow in fast snow, we pass blue houses. The houses we leave leaven into loaves like shoes full of gifts. Miss Torres woke us early just before b) Dawn We forget our silent-movie dreams and dance to dress our tops and bottoms. We carry her lilacs and open our books, confident in our heads and the pages that shade them. Miss Torres woke us early just before c) Dusk We will not chisel our desks with our pencils, grind days between our molars, or lapse into tired sedimentary naps. Our ankles will never be pestles, work gristle to sidewalk cement, for Miss Torres woke us early just before d) Dark … chop! chop! read more!
LAB CHILD THEOREM by Deborah Purdy Automatic habit like a rifle, pistol or pilot, the beach doll hermit told him to hold the bracelet, the bracelet told him to blame the rich hotel, the cloth heir, the rambling hot chili. He touched the bridal cloth hem and breathed in the child moll— the label torched him label child mother blame cloth hider blame child other beamed torched hill. Originally from Virginia, Deborah Purdy now lives in the Philadelphia area where she writes poetry and creates fiber art. She earned BA and MA degrees from Hollins University, and an MSLS from Clarion University. Her poems have appeared in Apeiron Review, The Milo Review, The Found Poetry Review, and other publications. Image credit: Petealward on Flickr … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Darren C. Demaree I. EMILY AS A GRAND ASSUMPTION Tide & fog, the shore lines up like an army, slow to defeat, powerful with neat tongues tucked in to avoid the swallow of salt. It’s not a defense when Em carries lightning to make glass near the ocean. It is, however, only mine, my dream that she buries death there to threaten the moon with cause. x x x II. EMILY AS DART AND PIVOT Asleep, never resting the humming lamb of the wonder, of labor & of cupping, springs even in conjecture, at the owl of fresh desire. It is night & there are no shadows. Emily is waiting for me. Darren C. Demaree is the author of As We Refer to Our Bodies (2013, 8th House), Temporary Champions (2014, Main Street Rag), and Not For Art For Prayer (2015, 8th House). He is the recipient … chop! chop! read more!
MAGDALENE’S DREAM by João Cerqueira That night Magdalene dreamt about Jesus. She was wearing a green overall and gloves, her hair was protected by a plastic cap, and a mask covered her mouth. She was in a large laboratory, looking through the lens of a microscope. All around her there were similarly dressed people—some sitting, others standing, each engaged in a different task. All of them were concentrating intently, and no one spoke. She worked for Monsanto. The evil gene-manipulating, pesticide-and-defoliant-inventing multinational. But, weirdly enough, Magdalene was happy. Absorbed in her work, as if nothing else existed other than that experiment in genetic alchemy. Like a goddess about to create a new species, more perfect than all the others she had engineered, Magdalene the scientist took delight in her experiments. However, as is always the case in lucid dreams, the awareness of this pleasure disturbed her. There was a project: to … chop! chop! read more!
NOTICING WATER by Nancy Agati Public Art As you travel along the river—any river, stream, creek or body of water—what do you notice? Do you see the changing currents, the light that bounces and travels from wave to wave? Do you feel the rush of water at a rock’s edge? Can you hear water lapping at the shore? Do you sense the flow that ceases to part as it travels? I believe that there are times when one becomes acutely aware of the act of perceiving. There are moments when a heightened sense of awareness highlights things that might otherwise go unnoticed. Trying to accurately describe this sensation, this shift in perception, is difficult. There is a certain silence in the experience, it overcomes you and narrows your focus. Like a camera the eye zooms in, crops, and brings into view specific visual aspects of life. Objects in nature can … chop! chop! read more!
“Space and Time” was named a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2015 SPACE AND TIME by Amelia Fowler 1. Since very early childhood, I have had a recurring dream of a white room so bright it is dimensionless, boundaries of wall and ceiling bleached invisible. It is a nightmare, a preoccupation that bleeds into waking. I think it could be real, hidden under the opacity of matter. Awake, I imagine tearing away the black paper of the night sky; a wall of cold starlight stretches immense and glaring—at my feet, scraps of night. Or, I scratch at the dark paint, freeing shreds of light; outer space gathers under my fingernails like ink from a pen or blood from a scab. I feel I could even peel my body back, starting at the fingers of my right hand. What is left: white absence, a perfect silhouette cut out of … chop! chop! read more!
LITTLE FEATHERS by Andrea Rothman The bird lay shivering on the lawn, their faces reflected dark and alien in his button eye. The other eye, the one on the left side of his head, was shut, or possibly gone. A clot of blood and barbs seemed to fill its place. The woman, called Anne, scooped him awkwardly into a kitchen towel and carried him across the juniper-bordered path to the house, her daughter Anne Marie skipping merrily behind her. Set against the hardwood kitchen floor, the bird perked up, flapped a wing and began hopping between mother and child. With only one eye visible he seemed to be winking at them, in some overlooked gesture of gratitude or appreciation. “He’s not going to die, is he, Mommy?” “I don’t know.” “Let’s keep him.” The woman stepped back, wishing she’d left the bird to die. Blood-encrusted feathers trailed behind him, feathers … chop! chop! read more!
PHOTOBOOTH by Thomas Devaney Black-and-white film is instant toner for Americans and their famous tans, our fantasy faces, free of talent and a free shot. What summer looks like when the sound is on: bronzed, burnt, black, and red. Just look at us crushing our crush: our closest friends are as close as we get. There’s no need to point out anyone: Fresh. Lusty. Full-sized. Bad. All clamor, no fear our every move is enterprise. The second hand swimsuit. That hoodie. A soda face and a T-shirt slogan that can’t be read— and then nothing. We, free, and again out of the last frame, all of us together. One strip left behind; and by now the sea shook loose, and who knows how many stories have been concocted. These pictures aren’t private photos that our mother mailed to our father. She went to the drugstore to take those. We were … chop! chop! read more!
LE PAIN D’AFFLICTION by Steven Anthony George The piercing, relentless buzz rises and falls in pitch. It starts and stops for only a moment, before resuming again near the upper corner. I have been cared for in this same room for nineteen years now, I think. It is difficult to say for certain. Most days are like any other, except for the weather, which changes almost daily here in the spring. Raindrops tap gently on the unbearably narrow window. On days such as this, I am not permitted to go into the courtyard. I try, through the aggravating buzz, to focus my eyes on the stark, white ceiling in order to again project mental images of my memory of Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc: the questions of the tonsured judges, Joan’s responses, the exact words of a simple county girl, not in armor on a field of battle, but in … chop! chop! read more!
THE TIMES, THEY WERE A-CHANGIN’ West Philly Days: A Photo Essay by Stephen Perloff [slideshow_deploy id=’12401′] When I arrived at the University of Pennsylvania as a freshman in 1966, men were required to wear jackets and neckties to dinner—and most of us wore jackets and ties to football games. The men’s dorms in The Quad were several blocks from the women’s dorms at Hill House, and you couldn’t have a woman in your room past 10 p.m., and maybe a little later on the weekend. But there were confounding juxtapositions and experiences. Who was that strange guy with the huge head of curly hair and the button that said “Frodo Lives”? What did that mean? (Most people now don’t know that The Lord of the Rings trilogy started to become a popular phenomenon in the U. S. in the mid-1960s.) And then there was the war in Vietnam. Back home … chop! chop! read more!
MAKING EGGS by Carly Eathorne A thousand ways to make an egg, and I’m attempting one: over-easy. But there past the blotches on my kitchen window gleams the hourglass on the belly of the black widow – she, too, is making eggs. Her process commences with the drape of her naked legs against her homespun silk, and the swell of her abdomen silhouetted against the sunrise, hot and full like my skillet. Her suitor comes running like yolk. She only eats her mate if she is hungry — what woman isn’t? We finish our meals together, comrades in breakfasting for one. Carly Eathorne recently received her BA in English from Western Washington University. In the past, her work has appeared in Inkspeak Magazine, and she received a Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest Merit Award in 2012. She is happy to call several locations in the Pacific Northwest home, and … chop! chop! read more!
THE TASTE OF OTHERS by Madeline Zehnder She walks gingerly toward the man chopping onions, who turns but does not shake her hand. Later she will learn this was politeness; right now she thinks he is rude. He criticizes the oil she picks for her salad dressing, causing her to cry and consider quitting. In May, she saves his menu with an asparagus dish so fresh and vital they cannot help but kiss for hours behind the stock pots. In June, he finds her cleaning knives at the sink and confesses that his estranged wife has returned. She hurls a cleaver and runs, leaving the other blades to rust. Another year, another kitchen. She is filleting sole when he walks in, his empty hands telling her everything. Madeline Zehnder received degrees in English Literature and Music from Smith College. She lives in Cambridge, MA, where she works for a Harvard … chop! chop! read more!
BORDERLAND by Amber Officer-Narvasa The rainwater dripped lasciviously—as rainwater in New York will do—through the sidewalk gratings and down through the mottled, cracked, brown-stained ceilings of the Grand Street subway station. He was standing near the MetroCard machines, begging. Good writers, so they say, show rather than tell. So I will show you my mother doing a double take, being struck by his youth or his voice or that mysterious thing which stops us now and then and renders us unable to walk away. I will show you the three of us going back up the subway stairs into the tepid light. I will show you us walking down the street, around the puddles and past the fish market, into a crowded little canteen that no longer exists, where noodles and tea could be had for two dollars. There are few places in this city where noodles and tea can … chop! chop! read more!
BEAUTIFUL UGLY by Sue Granzella The temperature outside was 107, but it was hotter where I was that day in 1989, bouncing around with three friends in a dilapidated bus bound for Chihuahua, Mexico. Air-conditioning on this journey was simple: wrench the cockeyed windows up as far as they would go and pray to God the airflow wouldn’t be blocked by someone else’s sweaty body. My t-shirt was plastered to me, unable to breathe against the synthetic backrest. The years had sculpted a deep depression in the seat that had encircled my butt for the last two hours. It felt like longer. We sped through desert unblemished by buildings, the sky and horizon merging in a cloud of dirty beige. Then we stopped at a flat structure with the sterile angles of a little green Monopoly house. Except it wasn’t that vibrant grass-green but a faded minty color, coated by a … chop! chop! read more!
LIVING ARRANGEMENTS by Tammy Delatorre I. Landlord & Tenant Fresh out of college, I rented a tiny two-bedroom in the slums of San Jose. It was a cold, lonely house. In the winters, to get warm, I had to turn on both the heater and stove. Still, it was a steal at $650 a month. “Why should I charge more? I’d just have to hand it over to Uncle Sam,” said Ron. His wrinkled face and jowls made me think he’d had enough tenants to just be straight with me. Ron also owned the small one-bedroom in the back lot, and several other houses throughout San Jose. On the first of the month, he’d roll by for his check. I heard he was a millionaire, but he drove an old Ford truck and lived in a house badly in need of a woman’s touch, or at least some modern fixtures. … chop! chop! read more!
SMALL by Michael Head He stood staring out the peephole and waiting for the girl who said she’d come. She was three days late and he didn’t have a television so he mostly stood staring out the peephole and counting the seconds. It didn’t bother him that the power had been shut off for five days or that the rent was a full week overdue. He had twelve thousand dollars in a backpack and he was waiting for the girl who said she’d come. She would bring one thousand grams of Small and they might fuck and she would leave. He was thirsty and wanted to run to the vending machine down the hall but if she was on Fast she might come and go before he got back. So he stood staring out the peephole and waiting for the girl who said she’d come. He started getting Small when … chop! chop! read more!
HOW A GHOST IS MADE by Sean Jackson This is the part that gets to Shelly every time: running past the Horner’s fence with a big, bright smile on her face. It can’t be the sour pucker that she wants to display. It has to be a buoyant expression, otherwise Mingyu will talk about it in the clubhouse. So she sprints along the freshly painted pickets (Mingyu Horner isn’t one to forgo spring improvements) and bares her teeth, chin high, shoulders back, and a proper curl to her lips. The Shih Tzu scrambles through the flowers behind the fence and leaps at the wheeling legs, yapping and clawing at the wood. “Fuck off, Roxy,” Shelly says through her teeth. The sprinklers click on and the Belknap’s maid appears down the sidewalk, searching for the morning paper. Shelly flies past her, doesn’t even nod hello, her mind locked in on the … chop! chop! read more!
by Charles Forsman
Fantagraphics Books, 67 pages
reviewed by Stephanie Trott
For the first potion of one’s life, summer is a welcome three-month respite from the seemingly stressful remainder of the year. Like the buds of a flower, it is a period of joy in the face of few commitments and responsibilities. But somewhere, as those flowers begin to fade and adolescence sets in, we become forlornly reminiscent of those times as we’re caught in-between one concrete stage of life and another. Charles Forsman’s Celebrated Summer tells of one such swan song, recalling the alternating experiences of two teens as they trip both literally and figuratively in the midst of one teenage summer.
Told through the perspective of Wolf, whose gentle nature is masked by his large frame and sprout-like mohawk, we join a transient trip from the suburbs to the shore. Wolf’s partner in crime, Mike, is a sassy-mouthed whisp of a teenage boy who initiates both trips, leading Wolf down the rabbit hole with two tabs of LSD and on an unnecessarily elongated drive. Mike is clearly the alpha-male in this friendship, though Wolf—who describes himself as “a pretty nervous guy on the inside”—does not seem to object. Rather, he willingly goes along with Mike’s dominant nature as a directionless passenger of his own fortune.chop! chop! read more!
PRAYER OF CONFESSION by Jen Karetnick Finishing Line Press, 28 pages reviewed by Amanda Hickok Jen Karetnick’s Prayer of Confession pulls the reader into an intimate, enclosed space—often either a private, domestic space or a suspended moment—that is alternately comforting and suffocating, at times a place of productivity and rebirth and at times a stifling, labyrinthine funhouse that consumes and destroys. In these spaces, identity is either recovered or lost—fragments of the self add up to a whole that is seemingly cohesive and meaningful, or become increasingly disjointed. Karetnick’s images of these spaces—homes, motels, coffins, temples, and the body—as well as the barriers to the exterior world—veils, glass, windows, apertures—recur throughout her poetry. An additional recurring element that serves to further complicate the issue of identity is the reflected image of the subject—caught in a window, mirror, photograph, or the eye of another—that is simultaneously intriguing and repulsive, humanizing and … chop! chop! read more!
BALTHUS: A BIOGRAPHY
by Nicholas Fox Weber
Dalkey Archive Press, 656 pages
reviewed by Gabriel Chazan
When looking at the paintings of Balthus, the viewer can’t help but react. Seeing paintings of young and often pre-pubescent girls and women in poses loaded with a strange sexuality, there is no possibility of cool remove. The viewer is made to consider actively their role in looking at the young women in these sometimes cruel, always compelling, provocative and often beautiful images. Balthus’s images have a strange, almost dreamlike hold, as they look back at us, impenetrable and confrontational. Balthus himself is somewhere in them yet distant. He wished his life to be separate from his work, something to be never included in exhibits or official publications, only “a misleading and harmful screen placed between the viewer and painter…paintings do not describe or reveal a painter.” He almost entirely obscured the true facts of his life, recreating himself as a count and rendering himself a challengingly elusive subject for biography. He placed the most responsibility on those looking at his work to react to whatever sexuality or darkness they might find in the work as their own perception.chop! chop! read more!
ALL OF YOU ON THE GOOD EARTH by Ernest Hilbert Red Hen Press, 96 pages reviewed by J.G. McClure In her classic “Some Notes on Organic Form,” Denise Levertov argues that “Rhyme, chime, echo, reiteration…not only serve to knit the elements of an experience but often are the very means, the sole means, by which the density of texture and the returning or circling of perception can be transmuted into language, apperceived.” When a formal poem is doing its job well, it couldn’t exist in any other way. In All of You on the Good Earth, Ernest Hilbert takes on the sonnet form with every poem. At their best, Hilbert’s poems use that form to full advantage, revealing depths of meaning that would otherwise remain inaccessible. Take a poem like “Drift,” which describes of timelessness and isolation, a purgatory. The poem begins in suspension: The sky is warm and heavy … chop! chop! read more!
THIS ONE SUMMER text by Mariko Tamaki illustrations by Jillian Tamaki First Second Books, 320 pages, reviewed by Natalie Pendergast Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s 2014 graphic novel This One Summer follows the lives of two summer cottage friends in their early teens. Rose and Windy spend this last summer of innocence testing the proverbial waters of adolescence as well as the actual waters of the Awago Beach where their families summer. The girls have heard things over the years, things about miscarriages and abortions, but this one summer, they experience the emotions of women and girls who are actually entangled in such adult problems. What Rose and Windy thought were simply mistakes to be avoided become a complicated mix of desire, pain and decision-making. Jillian Tamaki’s navy-violet-grey art expresses movement by way of diversified frame angles covering a single scene and comfortably suturing earlier panels with later ones. Often de-centering the … chop! chop! read more!
by Don Riggs
Texture Press, 120 pages
reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat
In his new collection, Bilateral Asymmetry, Don Riggs explores the balance—or the imbalance—between art and life, and the inevitable synergy between the two. His illustrations illuminate his poetic concepts, offering the reader a fuller texture through which to experience his work. In the manner of the old masters, Riggs offers provocation with deceptive simplicity.
The first section, Gallery Opening, is an exercise in ekphrasis. Riggs entwines visual and literary art, reminding us how genres and mediums can and should inspire each other. Indeed, the opening poem, “Still Life,” creates a robust picture in the style of Vermeer, of the tortured artist struggling with the space between inspiration and craft. “Pagan Mystery in the Renaissance” further exposes the shifting boundaries between words and worlds, exploring Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses and how misinterpretation led to a masterpiece that inspires fantasy. Readers needn’t be familiar with the works in question in order to see them in Riggs’ imagery, and to understand the works’ impact on both the writer and the world, though the poems make you want to physically experience the artistic works.chop! chop! read more!
MY STRUGGLE: BOOK THREE: BOYHOOD by Karl Ove Knausgaard translated by Dan Bartlett Steerforth Press, 432 pages reviewed by Ana Schwartz Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow If all one reads is Proust, it might be easy to forget that some young boys—a lot of young boys—are really fascinated with the body and its messy, abject creations: excrement, urine, semen, saliva. What a relief to see that Karl Ove Knausgaard is, at least in this respect, less Proustian than the great hubbub would have it. You have probably have heard of his six-volume memoir-novel, My Struggle. Most famously, Zadie Smith, in a tweet, called it her “crack.” The third volume, Boyhood, translated by Dan Bartlett and published in London earlier this year, has, thanks to Steerforth Press, finally arrived here in the states. This installment takes readers back to the childhood of the narrator-protagonist, roughly from when … chop! chop! read more!
TALKATIVENESS by Michael Earl Craig Wave Books, 104 pages reviewed by Anthony Blake In a recent column of The New York Times, leading poets were once again asked whether their genre could ever regain its relevancy. William Logan’s contribution “As for relevance, poetry does not need to be relevant. It needs to be good” and David Biespiel’s assertion “Does poetry matter? Yes. Can poetry be more relevant? No.” paint poetry as a rogue agent that doesn’t need the approval of its peers. For a bleaker view of things, throw in David Orr’s depiction of poetry as “the weak sister of its sibling arts, alternately ignored and swaddled like a 19th-century invalid, and that will change only by means of a long, tedious and possibly futile effort at persuasion.” A comprehensive picture unfolds. For better or worse, poetry isn’t relevant today and cannot, or cannot easily, become so again. And yet, … chop! chop! read more!
BIRDS ON THE KISWAR TREE
by Odi Gonzalez, trans. Lynn Levin
2Leaf Press, 140 pages
reviewed by J.G. McClure
It’s the Last Supper. The apostles pray earnestly as Christ radiates a heavenly light, bread-loaf in hand. It’s a scene we know well, with a key difference: dead-center of the canvas, surrounded by corn and chilies, a roasted guinea pig splays its feet in the air.
This is a prime example of the Cusco School of painting, an artistic movement that developed during Peru’s colonial period and that forms the subject of Birds on the Kiswar Tree. As translator Lynn Levin explains in her notes:
Painting flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Peru when Spain sent highly-accomplished painters, some of them painter-priests, to the Andes in order to evangelize the people through art and art instruction. The Church, however, put severe restrictions on the native artists: they were permitted to paint only religious subjects. The artists responded by producing work that was pious, syncretistic, and subversive. In hidden nooks in churches, Quechua artists painted angels with harquebuses; they furnished the Garden of Eden with Andean birds, trees, and flowers…chop! chop! read more!
DARK. SWEET.: NEW & SELECTED POEMS by Linda Hogan Coffee House Press, 421 pages reviewed by Amanda Hickok Opening Linda Hogan’s Dark. Sweet. is like coming upon the entrance to a dark cave and striking a match to find the interior covered in Paleolithic paintings. Her imagery is primordial—simple, direct representations of the natural world that recur throughout her poetry to tell and retell the history and oral stories of the Chickasaw, her own personal history, and her concerns for the present. The same images are reused and recast with each poem, accumulating new layers of meaning as her writing progresses from the late ’70s to the present day. The reader is steeped in her distinct personal symbology—a poetic world bursting with animal and plant life, ubiquitous water and sky, fragmented bodies, houses, and cities, and glimpses of tribal communities against the antithetical contemporary American society. Also like entering a Paleolithic … chop! chop! read more!
TITULADA by Elena Minor Noemi Press, 75 pages reviewed by Anna Strong From its first pages, Elena Minor’s TITULADA announces its commitment to experimentation and resistance to easy characterization in a single poetic or linguistic category. English is invaded by Spanish, typical grammar and punctuation are dispossessed by mathematical symbols, poetry itself is invaded by prose and even drama. Readers enter these poems with trepidation, uncertain of where the floor will fall out from underneath them, but that not knowing, the discomfort with which we read these poems is a crucial part of the immense pleasure of reading them. Minor’s dedication is “For all those upon whose shoulders I stand” and these poems certainly owe much, visually and typographically speaking, to e.e. cummings. But where cummings mainly broke up words and messed with punctuation for visual effect, Minor’s additions, subtractions, and radical indentations suggest what is linguistically possible with even … chop! chop! read more!
THE FORGOTTEN MAN: A New History of the Great Depression Graphic Edition text by Amity Shlaes illustrations by Paul Rivoche 320 pages, Harper Perennial reviewed by Jesse Allen The new graphic novel edition of Amity Shlaes’s The Forgotten Man, illustrated by Paul Rivoche, is a thorough historical account of America during the Great Depression years. From the starkly illustrated cover of the masses—grim faced men with shadows for eyes, in a sea of Stetson wearing unfortunates—to the beautifully rendered illustrative black and white style on each page, this book is a visual treat. Spanning from 1927 to 1940, Shlaes is able to cover a wide swath of economic and cultural changes. While the crux of the book is “the Forgotten Man,” the working class men and women who thrive or suffer depending on how the government is able to deal with the economy in light of recent disasters, this book is about historical … chop! chop! read more!
HOME LEAVE by Brittani Sonnenberg Grand Central Publishing, 259 pages reviewed by Michelle Fost Brittani Sonnenberg’s debut novel, Home Leave, unfolds as a lyrical meditation on loss, geographical place, expatriate experience, sibling rivalry, family, and growing up. Sonnenberg writes with clarity about the messiness of the expat Kriegstein family’s lives. To tell her story, Sonnenberg begins the opening section improbably from the point of view of the mother’s childhood home. Yes: we hear from a house. What I liked very much about the novel is that it continued in this way, rough and tumble in its narration, jumping from first person accounts in the voices of the family, third person voices, first person plural voices, and so on. Home Leave has the fitting feel of a kid landing somewhere without concern about fluency but a willingness to tell her story using the language that works. Sonnenberg captures beautifully what it’s … chop! chop! read more!
SELECTED POEMS by Mark Ford Coffee House Press, 146 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami Mark Ford’s Selected Poems is one loquacious houseguest. Appearing unexpectedly at your door one soaked evening, the speaker of these poems immediately pulls at the thread of your surprise as you prepare them some tea. Despite being visibly traveled the speaker is quite chipper, and as the details of their arrival unfold your home crowds with characters from British literature, mythic Roman gods, but also heirlooms—such is the cultural capital of this collection: both of the world and of the self. While this chronological sampling of Ford’s previous three collections spans twenty-two years, along with new poems, the writing is consistently and uniquely Ford throughout. That is not a remark on growth, but rather Ford’s authority: here is a poet who confidently knows his craft. While there is a twinge of John Ashbery in Ford’s writing—one … chop! chop! read more!
by César Aira
translated by Katherine Silver
New Directions, 88 pages
reviewed by Ana Schwartz
The Little Estancias
What’s the name for the genre of writing about a house? House tourism exists, but what about house-writing? It would be a good word to have on hand when reading Argentina: The Great Estancias, because whatever that genre is, this book is the exemplar. An estancia is a large estate originating in colonial settlement of Latin America and supported by agricultural industry, usually livestock. Despite regional variation across Latin America (and the use of different names, like hacienda), they generally consist of a large central house and several smaller edifices across acres upon thousands of acres of land. True to the title, the nation of Argentina is the primary subject of this book. Its history and culture are beautifully recorded in the photographs by Tomás de Elia and Cristina Cassinelli de Corral, alongside the descriptive text by César Aira.
VELVET RODEO by Kelly McQuain Bloom Books, 42 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami Between a single dawn and dusk, I shadowed a speaker through adolescence and into adulthood, from young summers in West Virginia to liquored confessions in Mexico. Kelly McQuain’s Velvet Rodeo is a rare chapbook that spans such lengths—though, that is one of poetry’s potentials: every verse paragraph a vignette. And yet while McQuain’s poems are distinctively narrative, they are rife with imagery; from nature to anatomy, McQuain’s imagery evokes experience, from discovering one’s body to discovering parental fallibility. It is fitting then that Velvet Rodeo’s opening poem, “Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers,” begins spiraling outward, from pastoral aesthetics to something more existential: Your brother and sister run to catch the horizon. You wade slowly through the lashing, alive with combustion, eager for bursting. This hill, once a forest, has long been cut low, untilled, rock-strewn, stubbled … chop! chop! read more!
EDISON’S GHOST MACHINE by Jennifer Faylor Aldrich Press, 86 pages reviewed by Nodar Kipshidze It may be useful to discuss the inevitable. The unavoidable. Ancient mythology has done this well. After all, it is the myth of Prometheus told time and time again of perpetual trauma—of the unavoidable eagle descending down upon him from the heavens, pecking at his liver, or heart (as scholars contest between the two organs). But perhaps it is important to distinguish between the morphologies of the inevitable. That discussing this sort of inevitable fate is no different from the dogma of the unavoidable, only complicated by contemporary sophisms. The sort of: it was in his nature, the, he was going to fall back in with the bad crowd no matter what. The sort of unavoidable I discuss here, tonight, is the sort of act we ourselves commit, knowingly going into something we know will fail … chop! chop! read more!
IMAGO by Lindsay Lusby dancing girl press & studio (chapbook) reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke In many ways, Lindsay Lusby’s chapbook reiterates the themes of every poet—loss, recovery, the perplexity of navigating the adult world. But Imago, in the concisest of ways, defies a typically cliché approach to these matters through weird and compelling symbolism; on the surface level, the collection is about a girl and her pet eggplant. The reader enters Lusby’s work knowing, and taking as a given, that “The girl and her eggplant / would not be parted” (1), with only a brief epigraph on etymology and psychoanalysis to alert them of the deeps ahead, not to mention the strange realization that they, too, would not be parted from this anthropomorphized vegetable. In the interstices of this work (created in large part by the poet’s choice to number certain poems as “1 ½,” “3 ¾,” etc.), it becomes … chop! chop! read more!
by Bruce Covey
Noemi Press, 122 pages
reviewed by J.G. McClure
Think about the change machine outside your car wash: you put in a dollar, the machine spits out coins. Not a neat bundle, but a jangling tray-full. Now think of William Carlos Williams: “A poem is a machine made of words.”Now give William Carlos Williams superpowers and have him beat the hell out of the car wash while musing on Pokémon, Barthes, and metapoetics, and you’ve got a sense of Bruce Covey’s Change Machine.
Covey knows the canon well, and treats it with a mix of comic distance and yearning. Take a poem like “29 Epiphanies.” The speaker has read the classics and gleaned a lot of meaning from them – just not quite the meanings the authors had in mind. From Coleridge, we get “Just leave the albatross the fuck alone.” From Blake, “A lamb is different than a tiger,” from Dante, “Beatrice is out of your league,” and from the Greek myths, “Styx is another name for shit’s creek.”chop! chop! read more!
AGOSTINO by Alberto Moravia translated by Michael F. Moore NYRB Classics, 128 pages MR. BOARDWALK by Louis Greenstein New Door Books, 316 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin MUSEUMS OF INNOCENCE In September 1980, military officers took over the Turkish government. Soldiers arrested 500,000 people, executed some of them, and installed martial law. Ultimately, the coup ended years of political and economic instability, but most remarkably it led to Turkey’s integration into the global economy, and eventually its status as an emergent power. Gone were days of economic and cultural isolation—a shared national innocence that novelist Orhan Pamuk has so daringly and insistently memorialized in the novel Museum of Innocence (2008)—and before that in My Name is Red (2003) and the memoir Istanbul (2005). In these books he has rebuilt and recreated a deeply provincial, yet colorful and highly idiosyncratic world that otherwise was trapped in his head. This same instinct … chop! chop! read more!
I COULD SEE EVERYTHING: THE PAINTINGS OF MARGAUX WILLIAMSON by Margaux Williamson Coach House Books, 164 pages reviewed by Gabriel Chazan There’s something otherworldly about the actress Scarlett Johansson. Earlier this year she played an alien in Under The Skin and, in one of the most striking paintings in the artist Margaux Williamson’s new book, I Could See Everything, she plays the universe. The painting, called I thought I saw the whole universe, is a portrait of Johansson—or more precisely the infinite landscape represented by her wearing Versace for The New York Times. The dress is hypnotic, with what seems like a galaxy in the center. The dress becomes covered in shimmering stars and triangles. Something approaching the vastness of the universe can be seen emerging in Scarlett Johansson’s absented figure and the dress, from this magazine page. This is even further eclipsed in the later painting study: universe in … chop! chop! read more!