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Reviews

25 Points: Crystal Eaters

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Crystal Eaters
by Shane Jones
Two Dollar Radio, 2014
172 pages / $16.00 buy from Two Dollar Radio or Amazon

0. (is) The number of fucks Shane Jones gave when he wrote Crystal Eaters.

1. Like let’s be honest. Crystal Eaters really, is Shane Jones’ giant middle finger to the publishing industry and I love it. (Like, New York City, aka: where the big book-type stuff happens). (*cough* *cough* Penguin Books *cough*).

2. I like that Crystal Eaters was released via a small indie press like Two Dollar Radio and not Penguin Books. Really. And I don’t know why.

3. That’s a lie.

4. Actually, I do know why.

5. When Shane Jones wrote that article about his shitty experience with (publishing and editing) Daniel Fights a Hurricane, I kept thinking to myself: so, for his next book, is he going to try and come up with something super-boring and ultra-generic/fake for the suits so they will sign him for another deal or is he just going to keep doing his own thing and not sell out?

6. Crystal Eaters pretty much answered my question.

7. Really, for me, the experience of reading Crystal Eaters felt a little like watching Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain, in the sense that it is a contemporary fable “of what social engineering caused by greed has done to the modern world, but shows us how to live and not give in to a material world.”

8. (Isn’t it weird how the IMDb synopsis for Holy Mountain just blends beautifully with/and works as a sort of faux-narrative for Crystal Eaters?)

9. The cover, I love. It’s this highly colour-fucked version of Elias Martin’s pen drawing of the Dannemora mine circa 1780-1800. (Or, at least, what I think looks like a highly colour-fucked version of Elias Martin’s pen drawing of the Dannemora mine circa 1780-1800).

10. And it’s neat to think that the art for Crystal Eaters isn’t anything custom-made (like the covers for Light Boxes and Daniel Fights a Hurricane) but something that comes from something that already existed in this world prior to Shane Jones ever even coming up with Crystal Eaters.

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September 16th, 2014 / 2:30 pm

Reviews

A Meditation on Fearless As I Seam by Abigail Zimmer

53681ea904d1d_80495nFearless As I Seam
by Abigail Zimmer
dancing girl press, 2014
$7  Buy from dancing girl press
 

 

 

 

The blood will fill your open spaces.

I can’t get to the woods easily from where I live. I seek quiet in the city parks.

One thing people say about New Yorkers is that they are mean. I’ve found people everywhere to be whatever they are. I think here privacy comes where you make it—often in public.

I came to this book & found privacy. I found intimacy & a new language of woods.

In Pittsburgh Abi took off her shoes & ran in the rain. This was private, intimate. She was alone while we watched.

At a rest stop between Muncie & Akron Abi ran up a grassy hill & disappeared. Josh charged his phone. I took two Advil. “Your friend sure has a lot of energy,” a man said to me. I didn’t respond, gave a half grin. I live in New York, I am a woman. I have been trained in certain ways.

This book feels like nature existing in my hands. There is loss. Fragmented traveling & discovery. I hold this close. I understand.

In Chicago she made late-night toast. A crusty sourdough with goat cheese, cucumber, & olive oil. I knew I liked here right then.

A chapbook is a short breath of intensity. It fills with meaning, longing. We understand it as complete.

I say: when I look at you I believe in growth. When I look at you I feel accepted.

Fearless As I Seam opens with closing. A closing of the world. An entering in with a different set of rules. A new vocabulary. All sense of reasoning—an offering. We walk in / we are met with a greeting, a warning, a hinted loss.

Follow me as I go:

I dress in the red earth. There is no laughter.

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September 15th, 2014 / 10:00 am

Reviews

Want For Lion by Paige Taggart

front-cover-taggart-193x300Want For Lion
by Paige Taggart
Trembling Pillow Press, 2014
116 pages / $16  Buy from Trembling Pillow Press or Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’ve always demanded more from a sunset,” says Charlotte Gainsbourg in Lars Van Trier’s Nymph()maniac. ‘Sunset’ being beauty at a distance, untouchable object of desire, lion in a cage. Gainsbourg’s character wants to throw punches, to participate in beauty’s creation. No way to interact with a sunset other than blind admiration. No way to intensify pleasure, or ruin it.

Paige Taggart shares this relationship to beauty. It’s not beauty until you draw blood. In Want For Lion, she wages war on meticulousness, employing a poetics of action, a space where beauty stems from ambition and the art of mistake-making. “There are rooms for mistakes, that shit is human, and land, and plant. Like a quilt of gold floating down the river.”

Beauty is not striking a golden pose, but falling well. I recently fell of my bike, completely unprompted, in the middle of a four way intersection, all the cars stopped at the red. A pedestrian asked if I was hurt, shaking his head, holding in laughter. I waved, “Only my pride!” How beautiful could my fall have been had I been wrapped in a quilt of gold?

*

In the section “Starts with Herds,” Taggart starts three poems with the same phrase, each time breaking it differently:

care about nothing

then care about everything

-

care about nothing then

care about everything

-

care about

nothing

then care

about everything

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September 12th, 2014 / 10:00 am

Virtual Book Tour: Désirée Zamorano

Tour Banner

Mercy Amado has raised three girls, protecting them from their cheating father by leaving him. But Mercy’s love can only reach so far when her children are adults, as Sylvia, Celeste, and Nataly must make their own choices to fight or succumb, leave or return, to love or pay penance. When tragedy strikes in Sylvia’s life, Mercy, Celeste, and Nataly gather support her, but their familial love may not be enough for them to remain close as the secrets in their histories surface. Forgiveness may not be accepted. Fiercely independent, intelligent, they are The Amado Women.

Today is the last stop of Désirée Zamorano’s virtual book tour celebrating her new novel. Below, read a bit about Désirée’s life as a writer, one that should not be chosen lightly.

More years ago than I care to admit I sat at a Bouchercon (mystery) conference and listened to the writer Patricia Sprinkle speak about the “seasons” in a writer’s life. I had two small children, taught 5th grade, and had committed myself to carve time out of my day to write. But, I had given myself a daily quota that I was daily unable to make. Ms. Sprinkle’s presentation reminded me that there would be different seasons in my life and to not beat myself up for being unable to make my arbitrary quotas. I took her words in, deeply.

las comadres la

For decades I had one dream: to have a traditionally published novel that I could find on the shelves of a bookstore or library. Ten years ago, overwhelmed by unrealized dreams, and by what seemed like vain hopes and years’ worth of hours of writing (all these words—to what purpose?), I remember lying in bed and praying for God to excise this writing aspiration from my heart. Instead, I found a book that saved my artist’s soul: Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See.

Today is a very different time. Right now, I feel like the poster child for perseverance. When Cinco Puntos accepted my book, which would realize my dream, I released all the bitterness and resentment of my pre-published life. And I realized how ridiculous I had been, all these many years, to allow one thing to define me. One. How ludicrous. What, as they say in the psychology biz, a cognitive distortion. I wouldn’t wish it on my nemesis. Well, maybe.

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September 12th, 2014 / 9:55 am

Reviews

25 Points: New Tab

new tab
New Tab
by Guillaume Morissette
Véhicule Press, 2014
224 pages / $19.95 buy from Véhicule Press or Amazon

1. Morissette’s second full-length is set in a hip neighborhood in Montreal. Characters drink cheap beer, ignore their parents, promote cinema.

2. As an American, the most striking cultural moment in this Canadian novel was when two of the characters discussed, without guilt, never having seen The Shawshank Redemption.

3. New Tab tells the story of roommates born on Craigslist—their complex negotiations with landlords, utility companies, each other.

4. The narrator Thomas, a writer in his 20s, sulks through a dayjob designing video games for palmheld devices. At night he sneaks beers into dance clubs and hosts house parties. He attends a Creative Writing Program where he befriends the hard-partying, socially uninhibited Shannon. He falls in love with Romy, a walking distressed sweatshirt. Recalling a breakup conversation with Romy to Shannon, Thomas admits: “it’s like we were talking about golf.”

5. While reading this novel I kept thinking of my mother: Girls grow up faster than boys do.

6. New Tab is a page-turner.

7. I read it on vacation. I also read other books. I kept swiping out of those books to get back to New Tab.

8. I read on beer-stained hammocks and undercrowded chicken buses. I read in a colorful doorway and at a taco bar where body-obsessed Australians were puking up cheladas. I wanted to read New Tab when I couldn’t digest soccer. Like on July 4th during a long lunch when it took me the whole meal to realize Germany was in brown and the French were in black.

9. Morissette has a considerable talent for dialogue, and by that I mean everyone is written the same way.

10. I was eager to read New Tab after reading Morissette’s first book, I Am My Own Betrayal. I remember being deeply moved by this thought in the poem “Vaster Emptiness Achieved”:

We write poetry, people hate us, do we really have to hate each other also?

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September 9th, 2014 / 1:46 pm

Reviews

More Surface: Androgynous and Ambidextrous

IMG_5506More Surface
by Michael Harper
Snoot Books
$10 / Buy from Snoot Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving poetry readings with my women writer friends, it is not unusual to hear gripes from certain Betty Friedans among us about the Old Boys’ Club of Portland Poets, the Old Boys’ Club of Literature, of the Galaxy, etc. When I hear these statements, I usually reside in a state of polite ambivalence—what would we like these men writers to do, begin their reading with a formal acknowledgement of their privileged white penis status? Well, this is exactly what Michael Harper did at the debut reading of his chapbook, More Surface, one summer rooftop night. Harper’s reading began with the chapbook’s first poem: “Growing Up With A Middle-Class White Penis.” This poem places the reader at a ground zero from which things, phenomena, feelings, etc. are both reported and questioned with an essential ruthlessness. For example, we move from lines like “the penis bones’ connected to the   no-crying bone” to “But molting complacency     is a naturally learned yearning.” One of my favorite lines from another Portland poet, Emily Kendal Frey, is: “Am I smart enough to be androgynous?” Well, Michael Harper’s poetry is that smart. More Surface exhibits a vast range of perception, voice, form and bravery.

Poems from the chapbook’s first section, “Utopiates,” wander through the device-laden, cyborgian streets of today’s consciousness—hashtags, buzzfeeds, instagram, a wasteland of apps. From “The Conjugation of Friendship:”

There will be an app
to make the ceiling of your bedroom look like stars
because looking at actual stars will make us feel
small & alone

Do you think anyone is staring up
at this same sky app as us?
I don’t know dear it’s not done loading

These lines expose the human needs and fears underpinning our reliance on, our addictions to, our devices. An actual starry sky that once incited wonder and awe, replaced by a technological rendition, a utopiate, that creates an illusion of control and significance. Along with dark humor, this piece possesses a simple sadness, an unabashed isolation: “I feel my hands/ are telephones.” This desire for connection expressed in casual language echoes poets like Frank O’Hara, his Lunch Poems. Works like “The Demollification of Waking” also transcend the “cavern of the cell phone” for the heights of the heart, but here the sentiment is bald and dark, of “migratory flocks of fear.” Fear of getting up in the morning, of staying in bed, fear of repeating past mistakes because what has even been learned:

I fear tomorrow I will wake up
eight years ago and have to do it
all again knowing just as much
as I don’t know now.

My fear builds an altar in the hearts of others
where I learn that the opposite of fear is losing yourself.

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September 8th, 2014 / 10:00 am

Reviews

25 Points: Wish I Was Here

wish_a

 

1. I cannot explain how excited I was to see this film. I watched Garden State and listened through the new soundtrack to prepare for, what I figured was going to be, an emotional experience.

2. The opening monologue was a little unnecessary. (I think he says the same damn thing, like, three times throughout the whole film.)

3. Zach Braff must be one of those “California Dads” who yell obscenities in front of their children, smoke weed in the drop off lane in front their kid’s school, is an unemployed “artist,” and is constantly having an existential crisis.

4. Zach Braff seems uncomfortable with being Jewish.

5. Things I didn’t expect to see in this film: Zach Braff masturbating.

6. This is the most attractive I’ve ever seen Kate Hudson.

7. Thought it was cool when I realized that Zach Braff’s son, Tucker, (played by Pierce Gagnon) is the “Rainmaker” from Looper. (How the hell did he get into this movie?)

8. Zach Braff clearly has daddy issues. (See Garden State for further evidence.)

9. Can’t believe Zach Braff doesn’t at least have a part-time job or something. His father pays for his children’s schooling, his wife brings home the bacon, and I guess Braff just sits there and studies his lines all day.

10. What I learned from this film: God doesn’t care about your dreams.

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September 4th, 2014 / 2:26 pm