Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hand to Mouth: Kristy Bowen's the shared properties of water and stars (Noctuary Press, 2013) & Rodney Gomez's Mouth Filled with Night (Northwestern University Press, 2014)

Dear (r),

Is it thawing out where you are?  Our snow is finally melting, revealing, once again, the autumn leaves.

This past Halloween, a lot of things happened (nothing happened).  I tried to make a stir fry and did not "wok" it, to say the least.  A group of trick-or-treaters in suits declared that they were dressed up as pharmaceutical business owners.  And I read Kristy Bowen's gorgeous prose-poetic collection of interlocking fairy tales, the shared properties of water and stars (Noctuary Press, 2013).  I would've written you, but there's something about the book that resists interpretation, the way other people's dreams resist interpretation:

AUTUMN works every angle.  Kills every
angel.  The blonde girl skips class, hangs out
in the bathroom and smokes cigarettes,
presses her lips against the mirror.  Her life
eddies and pools in the hollows of her
bedroom.  The bears make too much noise at
night, tipping garbage cans and lowing in the 
dark.  She dreams a lake at the bottom of a
staircase.  Dreams a door at the bottom of a
lake.  The rabbit man stands in his window
silently and watches her as she hangs the wash
on the line.  She sighs and places her hand on
the damp back of her neck.


The collection inverts itself, angle to angel and back again.  The internal manifests in and as and through the world of dreams, beasts, archetypes: "Every shoebox marked open me" (10); "Hundreds of bears lumber outside her/windows.  Her mouth like an open seam" (11); "She keeps track of the bears that/clamor through each of their houses each/night.  The big bear and the little bear in the/sky" (14); "the bears inside her begin shuffling/their way into the cavity of her chest" (15).  & that's just the bears.

the shared properties of water and stars was running through my mind today when I opened up Rodney Gomez's Mouth Filled with Night (Northwestern University Press, 2014).  In addition to the rich cross-cultural exchange & intricate neo-mythology detailed by Ed Roberson in his forward to the chapbook, Gomez writes the landscape on the body in poems at once starkly contemporary & brilliantly neo-Romantic: "no allegiances/cutting the river root/with the tip of my folded tongue" (6); "All that was left was a/desert, dense with thirst.  This is what happens when you unravel a/thing already unraveled--the body finds another body to cover/the void" (7); "When we lurch & run//our hands along the warmth/of fire and neck,/we almost forget//how metal scrapes/against the tongue" (12); "So what are you?/And there is silence.//Notice how nothing that matters has a mouth" (34).  

My favorite of all was the chapbook's refraction of Keats's This living hand:

The Hand

Midnight some time ago, I severed my hand & let it loose in the sugar
cane fields outside my home.  The next morning, being so drenched
with want, I remembered how much a good hand is worth & went to
find it.  It was panting at a nearby well, next to a neat row of baskets
filled with cane.  Thinking it would easily reattach, I pressed it against
my wrist--but strangely the hand didn't fit.  It scuttled away & I 
followed, arriving at a city of cardboard in the brush where a highway
of hands flowed, swollen & tired.  My true hand was there, struggling
to pull a time clock into a tattered shoebox.  Under the lid was a 
bleeding pinpoint--glowing hot, too bright for my eyes--accepting
into itself all our loveless works.


Dear (r), can you blame me if I read this as a statement of poetics, a poetics at once brutal and intimate, worthwhile and loveless, historicist and dissevered, embodied and collective?

Happy spring thaw, my friend.  Tell me what you find.

Yours ever,

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I kept finding pearls (faux) on the ground

Happy New Year, dear Reader!  We hope these first days of 2014 are full of good conversations.  For example, Alice Notley interviewed by Claudia Keelan (see Image I).  Or Claude Royet-Journoud interviewed by Jacqueline Pluet.  And we're still not over this conversation between Susan Howe and Maureen McLane from a couple winters back.

We can't wait to read the best poetry of 2014 with you!  Until then,

stay warm,
R & (r)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

luminous musings

In case you missed (r)'s review of Ange Mlinko's Marvelous Things Overheard over at LARB, enjoy it on your lunch break!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

School Supplies

Happy sweater weather, oona-naut!  What are you reading as the colors turn?  We're leafing through the following:

•  Every aesthetic movement needs its bard, & life in the suburbs is no exception.  Check out our (r)'s interview with Stephen Burt about his new book, Belmont (Graywolf, 2013), over at Bookslut.

•  We're pretending David Shook's Our Obsidian Tongues (Eyewear Publishing, 2013) is a notebook Jerome Rothenberg lost on his way back from the field.  ("The sun rises each morning without human sacrifice./The misery of the city is enough" (13)).

•  We read Vijay Seshadri's 3 Sections (Graywolf, 2013) in the heat of summer, & we still can't shake this poem:

Family Happiness

On our first date, I told my wife
I was a lesbian trapped in the body of a man.
Everybody says that now, of course,
on TV and radio, alternative media outlets,
tattoos and bumper stickers, but this was long ago, when
none but the brave (who deserve the fair)
would come up with something like that.
She smiled the pleased and goofy smile that flowers in her big eyes,
and I thought I had her.
Looking back now, though,
I can see her appraisal of me rounding to completeness.
I can hear her cognition firing.
She knew it.  She knew even then
the truth it has cost me the aeons to acquire,
climbing and climbing the broken stairs:
I'm a man trapped in the body of a man.
I clutch the smooth walls and see through his eyes
the oil fires and containment units,
the huge clawed gantries strung out on the twilit polar horizon.
Through his alloyed ears, I hear
the objects of his scorn, his compassion, his hatred, his love
crying out and crying out.
Half my arms are his arms.
Half my face is welded to his face.
The other half mouths his clumsy ironies.
"Life is war," he says.
"Tragic," he says.  "Tragic."
The simulacra are marching everywhere,
and deep in the caves the chimeras are breathing.


Hey, Vijay.  (May we call you Vijay?)  Elizabeth Bishop & Philip Larkin called.  They want their collaborative poem back.

•  It's fitting that we came to Kristina Marie Darling's Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012) a little late, invested as it is in Romantic refractions, in ephemera, in the postscript and the footnote, in definitions & redefinitions.  ((("you were like bits of broken glass/when the jewelry box shattered//night & the ocean's coldest shore" (2).)))

•  Speaking of cross-genre experiment, we're fascinated by Martha Ronk's Transfer of Qualities (Omnidawn, 2013), a book of prose poems that crosses over into experimental criticism.  ("Hamlet refers to 'the book and volume of my brain,' and with the one word, 'volume,' points simultaneously to books as volumes of written words and to the volumes of space inside the globe of his skull.  The oscillation of the two meanings, between the 'book' as mentally conceived and the book as an object to be picked up and held, a thing to be read, the volume Ophelia, as directed by her father--'Read on this book, that show of such an exercise may colour your loneliness'--lures him with, makes a reader of the play helplessly intimate with this character who is as mere words as unreal as the clouds he sees as camels or at least says he sees, an insubstantial pageant" (35).  Exegesis as the only thing that's truly lyrical?  You're preaching to the choir.

•  & while we're heading back to school (see!  we told you, you can trust us), let's not forget Ciaran Carson's IN THE LIGHT OF (after illuminations by arthur rimbaud) (Wake Forest University Press, 2013), the kind of literary/critical homage we wish we could (let ourselves) write.  It's a translation of a translation in the tradition of Spicer's After Lorca--"I've brewed my blood.  Paid all my dues.  I really do come/from beyond the tomb.  Commissions?  That I've done" (34).

Our trend forecast?  Poetry is/as criticism, translation, & afterthought.  A new identity politics.  The best of the bad modernisms making a comeback.  Plaid & lace.  However you pull it all together, school's definitely in session.

Yours ever,
R & (r)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Across the Oonaverse: Bath, England

Dear (r),

Jane Austen lived here slash didn't like it.

But, as I hope we've established by now, I'm not Jane Austen.

I picked up Carrie Etter's The Tethers (Seren Books, 2009) & a self-published chapbook by James Anderson called Zebra Skin (ephemera & Rimbaudelairianism being among my many weaknesses).

Perfectly curated Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights, my new favorite bookshop 
(the cozy chairs tell you everything you need to know)

Can somebody tell me what "glocal" means?

I liked Anderson's pamphlet/chapbook most for its postcard-like qualities ("I tied a lock to the bridge and writ J & Bath" & "Bath is a dream from which I never wake") & for its cross-genre staging of textual encounters ("The stranger had a single espresso and rested a selection of books on the table [...] she understood herself at a wholly new angle, which would not have happened had she been with someone familiar").

Speaking of, I was so glad to encounter Carrie Etter's book, which articulates its own timid, reluctant, almost logistical faith:

                               [...] Poseidon, the presumably
not arbitrary god who saved them.


                     [...] so I listened 
with dismissive boredom

and watched the girl who spoke
of souls in all creatures
breaking pencils in her lap one by one
through a once inexhaustible supply.


bank to bank: there is no universal
for what keeps us aloft, but O
I cherish it.


All day, each day, the world was at dusk,
the change of light incidental.
When at last I walked to the postbox, afternoon
was everywhere.  I had decades to live.

Dear (r), skepticism can be pretty gorgeous, no?

I read Anderson & Etter (& also Austen (The Watsons)) on the lawn in front of the Royal Crescent.  There was a guy with an aggressively loud boom box, so I also listened to some classic reggae hits.  

Did the Romans read in the bath?

& then I left on a train.  That's pretty much it.  Tell me where you're headed next.

Yours always,