Monday, May 30, 2011

The Firestorm by Zach Savich

Cleveland State University Poetry Center 2011. Why am I so shiny? It was painfully difficult to figure out someone else's webcam, as you can tell from the backwards text. Memorial day weekend trips! But I wanted to make sure I got to this. This book is awesome. I finished it a while ago, but I keep coming back and rereading it. The leaps of association and imagery are far yet elegant in this book, sometimes philosophical, sometimes from literal landscape to another. At one point Zach writes "Dear. Rejected for the brain study, / I surveyed a portfolio of blossoms. / Went then near donkeys. They could / teach me little but bray.  Come closer now / (meet me on the once-crossed plain). / Here is a little bit of innocence. " The poems are cerebrial and meditative, often obsessing over a single idea for pages. But through this, we see the many angles of longing, distance, and the self. These are love poems for the almost-could-be-easily-missed-experiences. A speaker on a bus, or meeting a man at a crosswalk who drops an orange. The firestorm here is in language, and the way association and connectivity explode even the smallest moments. I love this book like crazy.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

13 ways of happily by Emily Carr

PARLOR PRESS 2011.  I came across Emily Carr's work editing for a certain literary journal cough, cough and was immediately smitten with her poetry.

"13 ways of happily" is easily one of my favorite books this year.  The brevity in which she accomplishes so much is astounding.  For instance (I'm not even going to try to get the spacing correct, for which I apologise) "you are of three minds: like elegant grasshoppers/tearing each other to pieces in the unleavened/dandelions dreaming/of someone not born/yet someone who will  change/your life—"  Each stanza journeys into a world where every line ripples through the world's membrane like the horizon after an atomic blast.  And each ripple is a new simulacrum shed out an eye of what a colour throbs and could mirror.

In Carr's world, there is so much shifting and inventionthis book bleeds pleasurable aurality and surprise.  I think Breton would have a hard-on of jealousy toward the intellectualisation of Carr's surrealism—the unexpected can shape such difficult moments of profound beauty.  "on a rainspun afternoon when bombs/fall a continent away the season//flimmers like a watery jewel on the dream's/cobweb & the sparrow of what you are wakes, this/slaphappy derelict—" So many times I had to pause and acknowledge how amazingly Carr has shaped her poetry.  This is truly a book to behold and praise.  Then read again to make sure your face is still intact.

To say I have poem envy is understated like an egg—Emily Carr is writing the poems I want and am trying to write.  For this, thank you Emily Carr.  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In lieu of having lent out With Deer—Remainland: Selected Poems of Aase Berg translated by Johannes Göransson

ACTION BOOKS 2005.  There is no point of dallying—Swedish poet Aase Berg's poems are the best possible weird.  Covering 4 books, Göransson provides eloquent translations that still convey the corporeality glistening like fat in every line.  I cannot reiterate enough how amazing this book is—from the opening poem "Shard" (from With Deer): 

His fingers search the bottom of the tarn for the water lily's black vein.  Still breathes the love beast.  Still he suckles the fox-sore on my weak wrist.  In the distance the wind is slowly dying: the night of nights is coming.  But still the fetus lily rests untouched.  And still his fingers search the bottom of the tarn for the water lily's black vein.

to the penultimate stanza "we want to be remains here."  This book is adrenal dripping out ears when reality is too frightening to confront.  To say these poems are visceral understates Berg's poetry—if you told me these poems were written with seal blood or the insides of dragonflies, I wouldn't be surprised.  These poems will grab you with their tentacles.  They will put deer in your eyeballs.  If you want sleep, you will sleep in whale fat.  If you allow the Swedish landscape to hum in, "A glass deer here/branches break, thigh bones".

The Stranger Manual by Catie Rosemurgy

Graywolf Press, 2010. This book does a trick I love -- it's both funny and sad. Lines like "I agree with the central conclusion of all pop song: you're gorgeous/and I'm angry"and "Everyone looks at me as if I'm a rainbow/drawn by a slow child." Some of the poems are about Miss Peach, a sort of lyric Courtney Love hot mess nymphette stalking through small towns and various hearts. A lot of it is about beauty, and violence, also my favorites. One of the poems is about dating a werewolf. This happens.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Irrationalist by Suzanne Buffam

Canarium Books, 2010. I've been all about Suzanne Buffam since reading a few short poems of hers in the first issue of Canarium One, an occasional literary anthology I hope gets its sequel soon. That was in 2008, and the poems printed in Canarium One appear in her second book, The Irrationalist, which I am longingly looking at above. The book is in three sections, the first and third moving inspiringly between poems in an extended sequence (the Interior poems), a few prose poems, a winning revision of the sonnet form with "mixed media," and a good number of just fantastic lyrics that run her seriousness of thought through her almost whimsical tone. Enough there for a strong book of poetry, but Buffam amps everything up with section II, Little Commentaries, a section of short verses on anything from possibility, to St. Augustine, to "last lines," to "ghosts vs. zombies." Give them a shot, and I promise you'll be memorizing a different commentary every week, will see them popping up all around you in their wit and pith, and perhaps most of all, their surreal wisdom.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Inventory by Frank Lima (denim jacket edition)

Hard Press Editions, 1997. I might argue that Frank Lima is the most unappreciated poet in the history of people (and poets) being under-appreciated. This book is simply amazing. These are love poems that for once, feel alive with the joy of memory instead of crippled by what has been lost. Lima moves in and out of spanish seamlessly, but remains in conversation with poets like Neruda and Lorca (and Ginsberg, Shapiro, Koch, etc etc etc) through epigraphs, quotes, and epistolaries. They remind me of Neruda's erotic and sparse love poems, but with a modern New York City twist. Like a poem you might find in a dirty trashcan, brush off, and carry with you. This book is the first whole book of poetry I ever read. It's much of the reason everything poetry related afterwards has happened. I love this book. A sample:

"Poem From Amor" from Inventory.

100 Notes on Violence by Julie Carr

Ahsahta Press, 2010.  For the record, I photographed this several times, and couldn't get the book to come out clearly. This is a shiny book, people. Past that glossy cover, the book is a poetic catalogue of violence: acts large and small, acts that make the papers, acts that go unknown save to the victim and the perpetrator. We see violence in the hypothetical, the actual, and in dreams, all of which accrete into a portrait of the urgent voice speaking to us in these poems, fearful of not being heard, fearful of failing to record one instance.

Monday, May 23, 2011

alphabet by Inger Christensen

New Directions, 2000.This is an amazing book, both as an exemplar of translation (Susanna Nied) and as a work of art. Christensen uses the alphabet and the Fibonacci sequence as a constraint. The poems build on each other in size and intensity, and the effect is lovely -- a poet in love with the world and fearful of its destruction.


H_NGM_N BKS 2011. These are some of my new favorite love poems. Or out of love poems. Or poems that just keep trying to love everything, earnestly, often in the wake of loneliness. The email included in the end of the book is especially wonderful. The language is fresh, as these poems are really good at inhabiting a fascinating socio-political space while still remarking on the immediate self, or immediate "you and I." These poems are about needing other people, which makes them my favorite kind.

Nick Demske by Nick Demske

Fence Modern Poets Series 2010. It's bad-ass and awesome to self title your first book. These are a collection of boisterous, lyrical, sometimes obnoxious, sometimes heartbreaking anti-sonnets that meditate on (or maybe wrestle with, however you want to look at it) a notion of American "identity," and American culture. I like being punched in the face repeatedly by poems sometimes. The title becomes that which is both put on by the speaker and aggressively denied. Read it.

The Difficult Farm by Heather Christle

Octopus Books 2009. This book as object is gorgeous, but the poems are even better. They're quick, precise, and amazingly surreal. You will laugh and want to cry in the same line. AWESOME.