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!
HOUSE ON FIRE by Susan Yount Blood Pudding Press, 30 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos Susan Yount’s House on Fire begins with a storm, more specifically with a lightening strike that splits the “sovereign catalpa”—an intriguing symbol for the fracturing of the narrator’s self, which makes us question every “she,” “her,” “I,” and “you” we encounter in the poems. The catalpa tree is mentioned four times: twice in the first poem, once in the third poem, and then again in the final poem. In “Growing Up on a Cattle Farm,” for example, the speaker says, “Cyclops drops splatter the concrete walkway / tumbles over catalpa’s wormy roots.” These beautifully euphonious and sibilant lines hide within them deeper meaning. For instance, the image of the Cyclops—the mythic creatures who toiled in the fires of Hephaestus’s volcanic workshop—is important because it invokes the father, who later in the book is likened to a devil … chop! chop! read more!
SPHERES OF DISTURBANCE by Amy Schutzer Arktoi Books, Red Hen Press, 280 pages reviewed by Elizabeth Mosier When my mother-in-law was dying of ovarian cancer, I had no patience for fiction. That summer, I sat by her bedside, reading while she slept—Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying, sent to me by a friend who worked for the National Hospice Foundation. Though I’d always sought out stories to figure out how to live, in the face of her death, I urgently needed reality-based guidance. This spring, I carried Amy Schutzer’s Spheres of Disturbance with me as I spent long days in the hospital, and later hospice, with my father. That a literary novel could help me sort through the painful experience of losing him says much about Schutzer’s skill—and more about her wisdom. Compassion informs every line of her story about Helen, whose breast cancer returns … chop! chop! read more!
ON SNAPSHOTS by Jay Pastelak “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” —Susan Sontag On Easter Sundays, when we were kids, after mass and before we changed from our Easter clothes, our mother would parade my sisters and me out to the yard and pose us before the forsythia for a photo. Sorry—for a picture. We knew those things that came from a camera were photographs but we called them pictures because, well, that’s what they were: pictures of us. Later, I’d come to call them snapshots, these little segments of our life, but at the time they were just pictures. They were important to us, but they weren’t photographs. Photographs depicted bigger, important events: the school photographer made photographs because … chop! chop! read more!
THE MAGICIAN CONSIDERS HIS AUDIENCE by Grant Clauser The first is always family, living room arranged around the coffee table and a Mickey Mouse Magic kit hidden behind the La-Z-Boy. Handkerchiefs produce silk flowers. Three balanced balls become two, become one, then melt into the darkness of a palm, a pocket. Later counting the eyes in a night club, a firehall, the late-night train ride home— he learns to study the difference between paying attention and real scrutiny— the ones who want to see through the darkness are the enemy. The others, for whom the darkness is the comfort of sleep, something you trust to hold you through silence and doubt— those are like his interchangeable pigeons all cooing the same infuriating note. Grant Clauser is the author of the books Necessary Myths and The Trouble with Rivers. Poems have appeared in The Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Cortland Review, … chop! chop! read more!
FALL ON ME by Melissa Sarno I’m on a crowded subway, clutching a heavy book that requires two hands not one, but where to place my fingers? On the warm metal pole, or balance, maybe lean, against a door or a railing where the puff of a stranger’s sleeve already peaks through. I’m lost in rolling sentences, in the rain of words, and I am close, too close, to the tangle of her hair and the backpack strap slapping at my wrists, with my messenger bag smashed between an angry stare and the dull hum of his headphones. When she comes on, I’m pushed by someone else and then I’m flailing, slipping from the grip of memory where the period had nudged up against a space. I wonder which word had come before it, which might come next, because suddenly the page is a mash of words I have to puzzle … chop! chop! read more!
IS THIS IT by Sidney Thompson Jewell Jewell Young didn’t know what made her son happy anymore. There was a time she did, and for most of his life she did. It was why she was making this pecan pie for him, because such a simple thing had once made him happy, joyously happy, and maybe, just maybe, she hoped, she could come as close to that as she could, the way a happy memory sometimes will. Even when it was a bought thing that Cooper had desired, something she couldn’t make, a bag of army men or a baseball glove or a Swamp Thing comic book, she knew she could find it and make the finding of it her own, likely at a garage sale, last resort a dime store, and for practically nothing. Now, the venture of trying to make her son happy was an impossible trap of … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Kelle Groom Story of the Moon He held out both arms like someone innocent being arrested, showed me the long vein for the black panther he’d wanted, something Vietnam vets got, tracing his finger along where the panther would go if there was one. When it rained we went to Pakistan with pillows soft as cats, something killed. A boy carried scalding milk in a giant saucer pan, the coffee gone or cold, a girl throwing flour. A style of font was invented in the sixteenth century—does Claude Garamond feel the pretty serifs? What about the white house in trees? I’m not happy with smithereens, an Irish word, smidirin. We’ve been covered by sea dozens of times. The base of despair is speed, but acid brought all the animals in the house together, sleeping on the floor. I’ve already seen you here trying to live modestly, the … chop! chop! read more!
BALLAD by Patrick Dacey OK she’s gone let’s get setup amp cord guitar now this is romantic this is a gift D C G yep way out of tune needs a good tuning can’t remember how to tune just listen listen it all makes sense if you just listen that’s what Miles Davis once said I think maybe it was Mingus turn the keys thumb the E and A and OK we’re in tune music first then lyrics a mix of dark and light of high and low nothing too dark nothing too light it’s her birthday she doesn’t want a slit-your-wrists song and she doesn’t want some loopy gumball sing-along a ballad of course ballad in D too light, ballad in E minor too dark ballad in C C to F to D C to F to G something’s missing C to F to A minor to G that’s … chop! chop! read more!
ONE OF THOSE WORLDS by Steve Klepetar Returning from the kitchen one night, you stumble into one of those worlds where dogs breathe fog and foxes roam through orchards near where your mother grew up, a circular tower house where you looked out a narrow slit of window to call home the stars. It was April then, and snow receded slowly in patches on struggling grass. Sometimes you could fly then, on webby wings that snared early morning light. Sometimes you would slither in the mud. There was always work to do, conspiring with bushes and trees, colluding with frogs and snails and snakes. Cold mirrors lay shattered, glinting in dangerous piles. Spring rain spoke another, older language then. Streams swelled clotted consonants against your tongue. Steve Klepetar’s work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Recent collections include Speaking to the Field Mice … chop! chop! read more!
CRITTER CONTROL by Rebecca Entel I hadn’t given much thought to the snake that connected my toilet to the bathroom wall until one July when it split its plastic cap and flooded most of my house. Among other damages, the water buckled the original hardwood floors. It looked as though speed bumps had erupted in my living room. I moved out for months and months, plodding from friend’s guest room to friend’s guest room to temporary apartment. When I finally arrived back on my doorstep in October, house key poised, I found the two nails that held my mezuzah to the front doorpost still there, the very top and very bottom of the mezuzah still nailed in, the body of the mezuzah itself broken off and missing. (If you don’t know what a mezuzah is, trust that this was an ominous sight to come home to.) I soon discovered—from the strip … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Megan Denton Early Girl for Allie If they ask you how it felt, say it was like rolling barrels of yourself to the brim, poised on the edge of Spring— a delicately fizzy drink. If they ask you how it felt, tell them it’s the rusty spigot you pass on the way home, the loose valve in your mother’s heart—flittering about instead of doing its business. Even in the side yard that no one mows, tell them that you could sit quietly for hours with a story you’d never heard. You’d imagine bombs falling on the house, ones the color of the geraniums by the front door that’s already gone up into flames. You painted them hundreds of times, red birds laughing with their big, old chains messy and burning on the lily cross. And looking up at them with unpainted eyes, remember the squealing, bloody Jesus … chop! chop! read more!
VEHICLES by Leonard Gontarek 1 It is a large, pink cloud, spreading and growing larger, soft, and saturating everything this morning. The town, the smoke ejected curled from houses, some of the lights still on, the sycamore limbs, the bowl-shaped park once used for skating, now used for soccer, the day-gray sky this morning, this morning after the darkest night in 500 years. The lit rose of stone paths and outside cats, this morning, the swirl of fire vehicles, the still and shining, dark river. 2 Be a dictator of the landscape. There is less guessing, less anxiety. Leonard Gontarek is the author of five books of poems, including, Déjà vu Diner and He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs. His poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Field, Poet Lore, Exquisite Corpse, Pool, Volt, Fence, Verse, and The Best American Poetry. He has been nominated five times for … chop! chop! read more!
THE ELEPHANT by Erika Price He got the news in the usual way: via Twitter. At 5:00 am when he’d already given up the prospect of sleeping (the thrum of his across-the-hall neighbor’s Skrillex ebbing into the rattle of the broken refrigerator), his phone silently lit up, providing an oasis of attention. @scoliosis: Sounds like @brafshu is at Middleheartst in a coma #sad He sat up, pulled the iPad out from under the spare pillow, and cast its light on his face. He pulled up Facebook. The first post, at 4:26 am from a former high-school peer, Misty Siler. Soooo sad to hear about @BraffleyShumaker. Our prayers are in your heart! At first he pulled the iPad away and stared into the kitchen. He remembered the tin of white chocolate cocoa his mother had mailed in a recent care package. He asked himself, just how could a prayer be in … chop! chop! read more!
Poetry Editor’s Preface, Cleaver Magazine, Issue No. 6 by Teresa Leo Cinematic. That’s the word that comes to mind reading the poetry selections from this issue of Cleaver Magazine—poems with many sweeping and carefully chosen images woven into the terrain of the verse to convey both the glorious and the traumatic. The image is to these poems as perhaps architecture is to film for Finnish architect and writer Juhani Pallasmaa, who explores this relationship in his book The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema. He describes “cinematic architecture” as that which “evokes and sustains specific mental states . . . terror, anguish, suspense, boredom, alienation, melancholy, happiness or ecstasy, depending on the essence of the particular cinematic narrative and the director’s intention.” Pallasmaa is interested in how “space and architectural imagery are the amplifiers of specific emotions,” how cinematic architecture allows the viewer to insert him/herself into the world … chop! chop! read more!
THE INSIDES by Brooke Schifano In the train, you listen to a story about a shaman, feet braced against the wall in the part where you stand on the circle cut into the floor. If this were a human arm you’d be standing atop an elbow, encased in fluid and surrounded by the mess of nerves and vessels pushed up next to you, as close as the satchel of the stranger standing in the middle. The shaman performs psychic surgery—jams a steel rod up the nostril of the woman and moves his arm, back and forth, around the cavity behind her brain and the satchel man catches the grimace on your face as you imagine a spatula scraping spaghetti sauce out of unfinished ceramic and want to vomit, or grab his hand and tell him what you’ve heard. In the ocean, you were afraid of the otters. Your foot would … chop! chop! read more!
STEADY MOVE ITS OWN STILLNESS by Connor Towne O’Neill Of the seven septuplets that live in their grandfather’s grandfather clock, only the seventh—the blind one—spends time on the pendulum. While the others spin the balance wheel, study iambs to the slip-and-catch of the escapement, regulate heart-rates to the second hand, the blind seventh pendulums alone. Her weight skews time, oblongs the steady swing. The grandfather who sets the grandfather clock, dead-reckons it against high-noon in Columbia, PA, notices the loss of seconds daily. Using his grandfather tools, he recalibrates to the new-weighted sway of his granddaughter’s blind penduluming. He speaks softly, silently, to his daughter’s seventh blind septuplet and nods in time to her every response. In his winding he feels the lost seconds return, the plasticity of the moment congeals again. The sight of his seven grandchildren in his grandfather clock are themselves a grandfather’s clock. Now in time … chop! chop! read more!
PORTRAITS OF FRIENDSHIP Oil on Canvas by Ilana Ellis [slideshow_deploy id=’11008′] These past few years, my work has been fueled by two passions that tugged me between them. The first is that I want to be a painter of great skill. And the greatest skill takes years of continuous training and practice, which I still need. The second is that I want to paint life. I want my works to be so real they almost breathe, and so fluid they seem caught in motion. So when I focus on the ongoing problem of increasing my skill, I often have technical realizations that allow me to see the world as if I have never seen it before. After a few days of being stunned by the overwhelming beauty of everything, I am desperate to capture what I see in paint. Which leads me right back where I started, because inevitably there is something wonderful … chop! chop! read more!
THE THING ABOUT A BOAT-IN-A-BOTTLE IS NOBODY STEERS by Erin Peraza Two figures sit on the bamboo gangplank jutting off a model pirate ship. A man and a woman. They aren’t quite to-scale, and slightly over-sized as they are, they can’t explore the cabin space below or stand lookout in the crow’s nest. So they dangle their legs over blue-green silicone that feigns at ocean waves beneath them. Their relationship is more fragile now, contained in glass, than it’s ever been before. She’s a wide-eyed citizen of the world—packs a light suitcase, counts passport stamps—and he’s just grateful to have found a way to get out of town without ever having to leave it. Time feels different inside a bottle, on a ship, at sea. There’s no telling how long they’ve been inside. “Balmy,” Faye had said when she first arrived. She emerged through the bottleneck, jumping with two feet … chop! chop! read more!
PLATITUDES by Joshua Isard The only platitude anyone should ever offer is I love you. It is the only phrase that they know is true, that you know is true. You’ll be fine, you’ll be great, everything will work out—those phrases aren’t meant to make you feel better, only to forget the problem until you’re at a safe distance from the speaker. The only person who told me the truth was my boss. My boss who puts an away message on his email every night when he leaves the office and once looked at my phone and asked what I do with that glowing rectangle gizmo. He shook my hand, congratulated me, asked if it was planned—and then he said that anyone who doesn’t tell me how hard this is going to be is just slinging bullshit. He said that the happiness getting happier, that’s all true, but the other end, … chop! chop! read more!
KENTUCKY SNAKES by Shaun Turner Me and Dorsey worked with Gross Lumber down in the woods behind Viola Creek and we’d cut our share of trees. In the woods, not even Lloyd Gross cared how many beers we drank. All the loggers—usually men from McKee—would split a paper-bagged six-pack around noon and just relax. A bird-call would echo, and the foliage would brush against itself, and the insects would hum just behind the brush, and we would puncture our cans with a long metal churchkey in a way that felt smooth, natural. Two years ago, Dorsey was buzzed and he spotted this black rat snake coiled on a pine branch about five feet up. “If it were a copperhead, it could’ve bit me on the neck,” he said, pulling a piece of line from his pocket. “You place the snare where they least expect it,” Dorsey looped the wire into … chop! chop! read more!
IT’S THE NOISE YOU MISS MOST IN THIS GIANT NEW WORLD by Henry Margenau As soon as Ray’s wife had walked out, all the appliances stopped working, like she took all the electricity along with her. The refrigerator stopped humming and a few light bulbs blew out. The television wouldn’t turn on because the batteries in the remote had died. The angry voices were silent. Everything stopped but the heartbeat of the mantle clock, which ticked away sheepishly as if not to disturb the quiet. It had been a long while since Ray was alone. He didn’t know what to do with himself. He made a turkey sandwich without the crust and ate it and then decided to go out. He put his hat, coat, and gloves on and called up the stairs, “I’m going,” before he realized what he was doing. When he left, he still closed the door … chop! chop! read more!
“Believers” was named a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2015 BELIEVERS by Elizabeth Mosier The sauceboat showed up in a bag of filthy artifacts dug up at the National Constitution Center site. To my untrained eye, it was just another dirty dish for a volunteer technician like me to wash, label, and catalogue. But judging from the buzz in the archaeology lab the day the ceramics collector visited, this piece was important, even precious. The archaeologists believed they’d unearthed a Colonial-era treasure: an intact example of Bonnin and Morris soft-paste porcelain made by the American China Manufactory in the Southwark section of Philadelphia. Corroded and discolored, the sauceboat didn’t resemble the company’s 19 known surviving pieces (sauceboats, tiny baskets, pickle dishes, and stands) exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Tests to determine its chemical structure were inconclusive and the underglaze blue-painted decoration was gone, but the sauceboat … chop! chop! read more!
FUJIKO NAKAYA, FOG ARTIST by Myra Lotto On the last Saturday morning of April, my husband and I put our two young children in the car for the hour-long drive to New Canaan, Connecticut. We were on our way to attend the opening event for my aunt Fujiko’s newest art installation, Veil, on display at architect Philip Johnson’s former residence and National Trust Historic Site, the Glass House. Fujiko Nakaya, or “Fuji” as her family calls her, is an artist working with fog as a medium. As many times as I’ve described her work, I am always surprised by what should be, by now, a predictable reaction of bewilderment. That morning, my five-year-old son was no different: “But Mommy, how does Fuji make fog?” “She uses nozzles to turn water and air into fog. “Can Fuji make ice like Elsa from Frozen?!” “No, just fog.” Across a forty-year partnership with … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Susan Charkes To Catch The Ocean In Your Bucket You Have To Point Your Bucket Toward The Shore remember the time you forgot that bird’s name? the one that sings all night if you’re not listening. you wake to snow on the lawn: that’s how you know you missed your calling. seagulls can drink sea water yet dragonflies choke on dragons. words are not the answer, but they hold it for safekeeping. mist fogging your glasses obscures the haze. ◊ Hollows 1. you would peel an orange in a single long strip, making a beginning and an end. 2. to addle a goose egg: coat with corn oil, smothering the embryo. place it back in the nest: she won’t know the difference. 3. blind fish nibble at numbered ping-pong balls cast into the underground river whose mouth has never been found. Susan Charkes lives in southeastern Pennsylvania … chop! chop! read more!
GROWING UP by Devin Kelly She is naked save for pink socks, and her pale young behind squeaks as she slides, or inches, down the balustrade. The sound echoes off the wooden floorboards and she imagines a tiny creature screaming in short bursts. She cannot determine if the screams are pained or joyful. All things contain a little of both, she thinks. Twirling, orbiting around the living room, she laughs as only a child can laugh at the midnight hour when her parents are asleep and the dark, turning world seems to house a different sort of life. Pale moonlight filtered in slatted lines across the floor. A painting on the wall of a high-heeled woman in a red dress with legs splayed in mid-dance. She recalls something her dance teacher said just a week ago: “All life is a delicate balance between love and hurt.” She did not know … chop! chop! read more!
ON THE Q By Tricia Park Someone is singing “Rocket Man” on the opposite side of the NQR stop at Prince Street. “I miss the earth so much, I miss my wife; It’s lonely out in space; On such a timeless flight.” The black pillars stand tall, sprouting like steel trees from the train tracks, holding up the street as the singer’s guitar competes to be heard over a trumpet wailing at the far end of the platform. Now the downtown train blows its horn, a loud f-sharp, and through my earplugs it sounds like an amplified cello. I look up, expecting to see a cellist somewhere and wondering if it’s someone I know, someone I went to school with. And I think of you and the day you played your cello outside in Central Park and how that brown beagle stopped and wouldn’t leave, holding his owner steadily in … chop! chop! read more!
BIRDS / NERVES by Max Bartlett There’s this bird. It’s nighttime, and there’s this bird. And he’s flying, and who knows how long he’s been flying, because that’s not what’s important. The thing is there’s this house. Everything outside the house is dark, and the house is warm and bright. And there’s a window openSo he flies in. You would too, don’t pretend you wouldn’t. But he can’t stop, he has to keep on flying. Across the room there’s another window open, and it’s dark outside. That’s it. Dark before, dark after. A few seconds of light and sound and heat and after that it’s back to nothing. He keeps flying. No choice. He passes through the other window. 29. She’s in a downtown café with her mother. Not that you can tell, from the outside. She looks like the older woman. Back hunched with scoliosis, left leg folded … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Deirdre O’Connor A Man and A Name A man fucks a woman, then is smitten by another with her name. He is like the sky’s coincidence, never the same cumulonimbi, but always the sky. He is in the look of the gift horse, the whites of the horse’s eyes. Together, the man and the woman inhabit a certain reddish gray like hydrangea dust in lace at an inn they might have visited; apart, they live the finest distinctions, the first-name basis of difference which hates what it might love. A name is a tool, after all, a strategy, not a hat rack, though both have cursive elements, branches and hooks. Even a name, like desire, can be owned not at all. Braid against better wishes. The self is winter’s luxury for the alone. ◊ Self Portrait as Autistic Sky Nothing I can name, but in perception there’s … chop! chop! read more!