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!
SCIENTISTS HAVE DISCOVERED by Charlotte Boulay that there are whirlpools in the wakes of stars. Birds run on at the mouth in different languages and the horses are lonely: we must keep mothering the empty plains. Detroit’s salt mines are becoming saltier every year, and unrelated studies show that street sweepers are seventy-five percent more effective when they whirr the curbs in threes. We’re born speaking a cinematic grammar— we spend a third of our lives dreaming in actions and cuts. There are cities underneath all the cities and streets that can only be seen from space. The bats are dying! Caves full of sleeping creatures are slowly stifling in the dark. Data is breaking out of computers and staggering down the streets on shaky legs. Oil is offering an apology. An eddy off the coast grows larger each day but can’t swallow our latitude of trash. We’re lost. We’re … chop! chop! read more!
FLYING by Grace Connolly I was wearing my turquoise suede moccasins. I was afraid they would get wet because I knew it would start raining at any given moment. There was an ominous raincloud making its way down the block. I decided I needed to leave the city. I packed a small valise with silk scarves and kid gloves and a completely impractical lace shift that I figured could double up as a cocktail dress in case the need should arise for it because after all, you never know. I carried my red umbrella with the pink beaked duck handle over my head willing it not to break or blow away. It didn’t. Thank you Lands’ End. I reached the train station and bought a ticket for the New Haven line without a destination in mind. The train left the station as the sky turned a pitch black and we … chop! chop! read more!
HUNGER by Amy Burns I was sitting at my friend Bebe’s kitchen table. She was standing at the counter using a black and yellow handled screwdriver as an ice pick. I was telling her about it while she chopped. You should have seen her, Bebe. Not a hair out of place. Perfect. I stood by the salad station and watched her until Louis told me that I was down at table three. I mean, I knew I was down at table three. I was staring at table three. When I tell you that she was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, you best believe me. She sat like a picture; real still, you know, with her middle swayed, shoulders back. Louis shouted at me from the counter. If you don’t pick up three, I’ll give it to Gwen. I’m going. I’m going, I said. Give it to Gwen. … chop! chop! read more!
THE ACOLYTES, LIAR, AND BOX by Mercedes Lawry The Acolytes Somebody drowned the acolytes. They were not wee fellows so it must have been someone with plenty of muscle. Now an emptiness hovers like a bad smog burning throats and lungs. The professionals were involved at once but clearly, their training had been inadequate and they wrapped themselves in their worn bafflement, bowed their heads and retired to their tepid soup. The amateurs were all aflutter with the cleared field and began stacking hypotheses like wooden blocks, a bit too close to the haphazard and thus, doomed to topple. One lone wolf suggested linear thinking but he was chided and threatened with banishment with the buffalo. The soothsayers kept counsel behind their red doors. The clergy blinked and tucked their hands in their billowing sleeves and were as useless as ever. Many felt it was a waste of time to … chop! chop! read more!
COUCH by Jenny Wales Steele [?] It was an okay day. I don’t understand zoos, the appeal. The kids thrill to it, sure, but kids are dumb. My nephew flounced around, did his giddy slash sissy thing. He was wearing his jester’s hat, this idiotic hat with floppy, pointy, velvet prongs, jingle bells on the ends. And his nose was all snotty. I’ve told Clay to put the kid on meds, to put an end to the wacky antics, to dam up the endless flow, flood of snot. But no. He never listens to me. He says, ‘Val, please, please.’ Anyway, the zoo. Polar bears, elephants, funny monkeys. The reek of piss and dung. And the kids saying, ‘Look, that aardvark or panther or llama is going to the bathroom.’ They’re obsessed, scatologically speaking. And don’t even bother telling them that animals don’t have bathrooms. It’s maddening. But we were … chop! chop! read more!
TOUGH by Geoff Peck You picture it: fourteenth floor of Walker dormitory. A former wrestler dangles from a window. The one they call Bisonhead has him by one ankle and another ex-teammate, a freshman, by the other. It’s late April in Oklahoma, athletic tape scaling his shins to combat the humidity, but it’s only so long before he’ll start to slip through sweaty palms. He’s the only one crazy enough to try this and that means something. Pride is all that’s left. This is your father. He lost his scholarship this term. In two more weeks he’ll lose his dorm and crawl back to Sand Springs to work in the box factory, scars on his palms from fresh cardboard for the rest of his life. He hasn’t been home since high school. The state champion. One hundred fifty-five pounds. A week after he bends Tulsa Webster’s Randy Sutcliffe into origami … chop! chop! read more!
A BINTEL BRIEF: LOVE AND LONGING IN OLD NEW YORK
by Liana Finck
Ecco Press, 128 pages
reviewed by Ana Schwartz
There’s a new sort of fiction circulating, stories of young people, by young people, for young people. This isn’t YA lit. These stories range across genres, even mediums, but they all describe the ambivalence of maturing in post-post-modernity. These narratives share a sense of lostness and reflective self-estrangement. The authors are smart and the narratives are smartly-dressed. They usually take place in New York. Think Frances Ha or Tai Pei or Girls. And if, as one well-respected author of such fictions has recently described them, they at times seem “cold, lazy, [and] artificial,” they also exhibit “extreme honesty and thoroughness of […] self scrutiny.”
Liana Finck’s new graphic novel, A Bintel Brief features one such young me-person; but, although the story mines her development as an artist, it does so by digging into the past. With the distance afforded by history, and supported by the graphic novel’s relatively diffuse gaze, Finck offers a warmer, and more engaged account of a remarkably persistent theme: how one comes to feel that they belong to a community.chop! chop! read more!
ZOONOSIS by Kelly Boyker Hyacinth Girl Press, 39 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos Kelly Boyker’s chapbook, Zoonosis, is loaded from cover-to-cover with fantastical creatures, folktale monsters, and twentieth-century “freaks” drawn from the pages of Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not.” The Ripley’s characters are of particular interest because they are often postmodern updates of the original chthonic creatures of Greek myth. There is a child Cyclops, for example, a tribe of crab people, and Orthus—the less-famous, two-headed brother of Cerberus. The modern-day Orthus is the result of a macabre experiment by Russian scientist, Vladimir Demikhov, who “successfully grafted the head of a puppy onto the body of a full grown Mastiff” (“Orthus”). Time and again, as this example makes clear, the true monsters of Boyker’s world turn out not to be the wolves or the so-called freaks, whom she often treats with compassion and understanding, but the “ordinary” people. Even … chop! chop! read more!
OUTSIDE THE BOX: INTERVIEWS WITH CONTEMPORARY CARTOONISTS By Hillary L. Chute University of Chicago Press, 272 Pages reviewed by Seamus O’Malley Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists by Hillary Chute contains interviews with Scott McCloud, Charles Burns, Lynda Barry, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Daniel Clowes, Phoebe Gloeckner, Joe Sacco, Alison Bechdel, Françoise Mouly, Adrian Tomine, Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware. If you know comics you’ll recognize this as the auteur scene, and if you don’t you’ve just been given your starter syllabus. Many of these interviews appeared before, especially in Believer magazine, but those have been expanded, and several others are appearing for the first time in print. It is a valuable record of some of the industry’s greatest talents contemplating their work, their influences, and comics culture at large. There is some precedent for such a collection, such as Todd Hignite’s In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists (2007), which … chop! chop! read more!
THE GALAXY CLUB by Brendan Connell Chômu Press, 189 pages reviewed by Ashlee Paxton-Turner In his novel, The Galaxy Club, Brendan Connell, who was born and raised in New Mexico, reinterprets the landscape of a small New Mexico town, insisting that the comfortable and familiar all of a sudden feel slightly foreign. Connell has published both short fiction and several novels, notably Metrophilias (Better Non Sequitur, 2010) and Lives of Notorious Cooks (Chomu Press, 2012), and in The Galaxy Club, he experiments with making the conventional unconventional. From the first page of The Galaxy Club, Connell plunges his reader into a world that feels like it should be familiar but is riddled with the mythical and supernatural. I kept thinking that I should know this small, dusty town Connell describes—after all, I currently live in a small, dusty town. But Connell’s small town isn’t conventional. In a sense, it can’t be: … chop! chop! read more!
MANTIC by Maureen Alsop Augury Books, 68 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami This is a book of annotations, a bibliography of divination. Like any bibliography, Maureen Alsop’s Mantic is carefully researched and curated. The collection’s title, Mantic, and periodic poems within the collection, are defined by the art of divining and the many ways to do so—“Gyromancy,” “Ouranomancy,” and “Ornithomancy” to name a few—but this is not an instruction manual: Alsop lays these terms bare and explicates them through human moments in verse. As the “-mancy” titles suggest, Mantic is as a much a lexical read (or listen—read aloud) as it is an exploration of reaction; Mantic is beautiful for its teaching verse and for its honesty: with poem after poem inspired by divining, Alsop points to the many ways humanity has attempted to shape the world in its favor, whether that favor comes from desire or fear. As a … chop! chop! read more!
INSEL by Mina Loy Melville House, 176 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin You, dear reader, consummate seeker of literature in all forms, of voices in all languages, of song and fragment, of tome and flash, of ancient and modern: writers, books, are slipping through your fingers. It isn’t your fault. There’s too much to read. Every other minute, they say, a new genre is born. You can’t, certainly, keep up. The idea of it is absurd. Worse yet, there are other things to do besides reading. After all, it’s nice out, cherry blossoms are swirling in the wind, a vortex of pink feathers alighting the street corner. Maybe the best thing to do is simplify, streamline the library. Return to the classics after all these years. Read all of Dickens. Run through the American pantheon. Default to Shakespeare, or Edgar Allan Poe. No? No, of course not. Don’t be silly. … chop! chop! read more!
ELSA by Tsipi Keller Spuyten Duyvil, 187 pages reviewed by Lynn Levin As I began reading this short novel by Tsipi Keller, I found myself enjoying what I thought was going to be a leisurely experience with chick lit. Nothing too demanding, nothing to worrisome. Elsa, at the start, is as much about the jealousies of girl friendships as it is about the protagonist’s desire for some overdue sex and true romance. About a third of the way into the book, however, the narrative becomes increasingly disturbing as Keller skillfully pitches the fascinating but dislikable protagonist, thirty-nine-year-old Elsa, into a gradually darkening labyrinth of seduction and danger. I so wanted to reach into the story and shake Elsa. “Get out of there while you can!” In the meantime Gary, Elsa’s wealthy middle-aged date, whispers in her ear in a velvet voice, “You’re a fool…So trusting.” Elsa is the third in Tsipi … chop! chop! read more!
FOXES ON THE TRAMPOLINE by Charlotte Boulay Ecco Press, 64 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami You are in a field, a forest, or on a shore; you may have never been here before, but it brings forth some immense longing. Until last summer I had never been to the prairie, but it is strange how I miss it now—I miss its monolithic emptiness, and how it made me feel like a tiny monolith myself. We miss something or someone because we feel we belong there or with them. The speakers of Charlotte Boulay’s debut poetry collection, Foxes on the Trampoline, feel their selves or their emotions belong in or to other, natural beings. Boulay articulates this longing through natural imagery—though not as descriptions, as per the nature poem’s tradition, but as part and parcel of the human experience, juxtaposed to want, love, and loss. Take “Senza,” (Italian for “without”) from … chop! chop! read more!
TwERK by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs Belladonna, 110 pages reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat The challenge in reading sound poetry is to try to grasp the full depth of the work’s significance without having the performance as a guide. The challenge for the poet, then, is to craft work of equal aural, intellectual and emotional stimulation. In her first full-length collection, TwERK, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs creates seemingly infinite layers of meaning that meld to produce critical social statements on both a global and region-specific scale. Certainly, experiencing her interactive performance adds nuanced shades of perspective, but the poems themselves are wealth worth reading. Diggs’s lingual acrobatics often focus on syncretized cultural elements that speak to a new societal fabric. Opening the collection with a verse from “Genesis” that refers to a monolingual world, Diggs then plunges us into Babylonian chaos. She entitles the first section “anime”—those of Generation X and beyond will … chop! chop! read more!
FLYOVER LIVES: A MEMOIR by Diane Johnson Viking, 265 pages reviewed by Colleen Davis It takes guts to become a writer. Not because it’s a dangerous profession, but a person drawn to serious writing often discovers that there’s no clear employment path. Some people pursue newspaper or magazine jobs, and these positions can offer training and guidance to novice writers. But for those like me, who feel no calling for hard journalism, becoming a writer has meant making a series of strange, often irrational, choices. The careers of beloved authors provided me with my only roadmap. Unfortunately, most of the writers I admired were men who never faced the same social dilemmas (marry/don’t marry; kids/no kids, etc.) that stymied me, a resolute female from birth. Despite the gender issues, Fitzgerald and Hemingway inspired me to pursue the expatriate tradition. I traveled in France, Brazil, and Japan. I moved to Mexico, … chop! chop! read more!
by Geoffrey Gatza
BlazeVOX , 168 pages
reviewed by Carlo Matos
Geoffrey Gatza’s Apollo is an all-out assault on the reader, like facing an opponent who senses you’re about to wilt and so presses the action. Every time we think we know what he’s doing, another surprise comes our way. And this is how good conceptual poetry should be—not just the simple execution of a clever conceit but a text that threatens at every turn to burst from the inside out and take the reader with it but never does. Taking the shape of a souvenir program for a one-night performance of Stravinsky’s ballet of the same name, the book contains a myriad of Dada-like exercises: poems generated by a John Cage-like method of assigning words to each square on a chess board and to each piece and then playing out the game between Marcel Duchamp and then US chess champion, Frank Marshall, at the Chess Olympiad in Hamburg in 1930 (accompanied by pictures of each position and a cat), an Arthurian legend based on the Lady of Shallot, a three-act play where Duchamp somehow manages to play himself as Rrose Sélavey (his female alter-ego), and a business letter to the director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, who kicked the author out one day for the mysterious offence of carrying an umbrella—a moment so Duchampian it is the perfect coda to this ready-made text. In “Fifteen Hundred Hours,” Rrose Sélavey says, “The consciousness that bound these obscurities. . . together/ was overgrowth.” It is a perfect metaphor for the entire collection, for this paean to Gatza’s modernist heroes who perform his ballet: Duchamp, Sélavey, Max Ernst, Gertrude Abercrombie, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, and Dizzy Gillespie.chop! chop! read more!
THE NO VARIATIONS: THE DIARY OF AN UNFINISHED NOVEL by Luis Chitarroni translated by Darren Koolman Dalkey Archive Press, 256 pages reviewed by Ana Schwartz Because we were late in arriving, because we were late in departing, because we didn’t care that we’d be late, and, above all, because those from whom we waited turned out to be ourselves, which is to say, the others, the ones we called, ‘the slow ones.’ – The No Variations Readers can only hope to be included in that community, that “we,” for the community described so affectionately here makes this one of the most memorable passages from The No Variations, Luis Chitarroni’s dense and often disorienting new non-novel. The passage appears early in the text, while expectations of narrative continuity still hold purchase. Lateness, in fact, extends hope for a plot, and with its charisma buys patience against the frustrations of plots subsequent absence. … chop! chop! read more!
AMERICAN SONGBOOK by Michael Ruby Ugly Duckling Presse, 144 pages reviewed by Ana Schwartz Imagine a road trip across America, probably in the summer, “in the good old plastic gasoline / Pell-mell summertime.” Of course, music will be an essential part of the journey, probably radio hits. Headed East, perhaps, the lyrics of each song traverse both geography and time: a path paved in words. The lyrics to these songs linger in memory, but they’re also so ephemeral—though the words remain, their thrill often fades along with the little experiential details that make any such trip unique. Between the transient intensity of experience and the permanence of a material archive, exists poetry, transcription of verbal and nonverbal song on a page, lending it a more lasting presence. Each poem in Ruby’s latest collection, American Songbook, riffs on or responds to a canonical piece of American pop music, and appears chronologically, … chop! chop! read more!
MAURICE SENDAK: A CELEBRATION OF THE ARTIST AND HIS WORK Curated by Justin G. Schiller and Dennis M.V. David Edited by Leonard S. Marcus Harry N. Abrams Press, 224 pages reviewed by Tahneer Oksman In a collaborative comic strip published in The New Yorker in 1993, cartoon versions of Art Spiegelman and Maurice Sendak amble through a forest littered with their own creations peeking out at them from the background. Sendak’s character wisely pontificates, “Childhood is deep and rich. It’s vital, mysterious, and profound. I remember my own childhood vividly…” In the final panel, he adds, “I knew terrible things. But I knew I musn’t let adults know I knew.” Those of us who grew up reading Sendak’s beloved children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are—which is to say, very many of us—undoubtedly recognize in those words the strange and titillating worldview that belonged to the wolf-suit wearing Max. In … chop! chop! read more!
THE UNDERSTORY by Pamela Erens Tin House Books 169 pages (originally published by Ironweed Press in 2007) reviewed by Ashlee Paxton-Turner I began Pamela Erens’ The Understory to find the main character, Jack Ronan Gorse, peering inside his coffee cup to reassure himself that he is indeed drinking black coffee. As someone who also only drinks black coffee, I identified with Gorse’s need to ensure the absence of cream and sugar. Of course, Gorse’s habit has an interesting origination; it developed after once finding sour milk in his coffee. This first introduction to Gorse is a telling characterization of him; he is a man in love with his habits and his routines, yet at the same time, restricted by them, using them to repress his desires for love and companionship. Gorse even goes so far as to insist that he cannot tolerate the company of other people, yet he is … chop! chop! read more!
ON LOVING WOMEN by Diane Obomsawin Drawn & Quarterly, 94 pages reviewed by Amy Victoria Blakemore “On Loving Women”: it sounds like a treatise. But Diane Obomsawin does not deliver the usual tome with this intimately illustrated collection of coming out stories, nor does she intend to. In contrast to similarly named philosophical texts such as Aristotle’s On the Soul or Arthur Schopenhaur’s infamous On Women, On Loving Women presents ten vignettes of first love without explanation or elaboration: they are whole ideas, answers unto themselves. And they are utterly delightful to read. Obomsawin begins each short narrative in On Loving Women with the speaker’s name and a single- or double-panel snapshot of her in her natural habitat: in a chair with a drink or dressed as Zorro, sword and all. For one speaker, Catherine, Obomsawin forgoes props to highlight her big, awkward eyes. These introductions could have easily verged … chop! chop! read more!
THE WORLD’S SMALLEST BIBLE by Dennis Must Red Hen Press, 232 pages DURING THE REIGN OF THE QUEEN OF PERSIA by Joan Chase NYRB Classics (new edition), 215 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin GROWING UP, MID-CENTURY Childhood is a kind of endlessly swelling pregnancy; the womb stretches and through the amniotic fluid of rooms and voices, odors and faces, the adult world becomes slowly traceable yet still distant, incomprehensible. Once in a while it ruptures and the child is forced to “grow up fast.” Otherwise, it’s the child who must give birth to her adult self. But perhaps I’m oversimplifying: for every child, eventually, will have to negotiate the various thresholds to the adult world and will do so not in a linear progression, but rather in some sort of prolonged iterative process of seeking and receiving, receiving and seeking, a rain shower that comes and goes, once in … chop! chop! read more!
DEAR GRAVITY by Gregory Djanikian Carnegie Mellon University Press, 104 pages reviewed by Anna Strong At the beginning of the fourth section of Gregory Djanikian’s Dear Gravity, in a poem titled “Beginnings,” the speaker, one of two “giddy / amnesiacs of the present” under the ‘disapproving glance of history’ gestures outwards: Here’s a new window to turn to, here’s a cloth to clean the mists (“Beginnings”) Though the poem comes at the beginning of the penultimate section, it is in many ways a suggestion for how to read the entire collection: as one enormous room of infinite windows to turn to, an insistence on presence in each individual poem, and an acknowledgement that history, however disapproving, is unavoidable, in both poetry and in memory. So many of those windows look out on landscapes and cityscapes, from Alexandria to Arizona to Philadelphia. Language preserves the memory and the feeling of those … chop! chop! read more!
MORE THAN YOU KNOW by Melissa Malouf Dalkey Archive Press, 240 pages Reviewed by Elizabeth Mosier Melissa Malouf’s More Than You Know intrigued and perplexed me right from its disorienting start. I’d barely landed on the first page when I fell down a rabbit role with narrator Alice Clark, chasing characters I hadn’t yet met: Hannah Jensen and her husband Bradley, always called Mr. Jensen; Barbara Delaney from Las Vegas; the “three dead young men,” Eric Langland, Richard Stone and Darrell Farnsworth, grad students in English and American Literature at UC Riverside. Unmoored (by early retirement) from teaching at a California community college, Alice doesn’t decide so much as she is compelled to travel cross country to Vermont to confront the Jensens and her role in her friends’ deaths. Through Las Vegas, Cheyenne, Omaha, and Peoria to the Jensens’ home in Chittenden, Vermont, Alice pursues a psychological mystery for which … chop! chop! read more!
THE OLD MAN AND THE POOL by Anastasiya Shekhtman Regardless of which creative field you look at, there is always talk about process. This postmodern world has rendered form and content inextricable in many ways, so when I look at work, it is always the same question that comes to mind: how does the form inform the content? Are there traces of the process in the work the artist presents? Much of the writing that I love does not humor such inquisition. Even lines related through a colloquial voice are likely to have been subjected to meticulous editing, were crafted in the grand scheme of the piece. Without access to the revision process of admired work, I often find my own attempts to write plagued—paralyzed, even—by self doubt. This project began very much like every other attempt, which is to say, by an overwhelming of imagery and inspiration from the … chop! chop! read more!