Behind the Scenes
Books Without Covers
“The Internet” by Eric Amling
Here are the names of some manuscripts I’m reading with observations about the content of each manuscript and sample poems (the picture above has nothing to do with this post, except that it’s a collage by Eric Amling that I like). It would be rad if other people blurbed about manuscripts they are reading (their own or their friends or whatever). Feel free to share poems from other unpublished manuscripts in the comments. Also, if any publishers would like to contact the poets mentioned in this post in order to read their manuscripts for possible publication, please let me know and I’ll forward your requests to them.
Raise Your Hands Pilgrim by Sasha Fletcher
The poems are written in a sustained hyperbolic manner. Events in each poem are simultaneously crushingly intense and productively boring. The simple grammatical construction of the lines and sentences catalyzes the imaginative subject matter. The poems seem to take place in an otherworld where quotidian events like cooking dinner and listening to the radio are juxtaposed with events like shipwrecks, “packs of dogs tearing across the horizon,” people as piles of bones or turning into piles of bones, piles of bones crawling into or out of mouths and large structures burning to the ground. So much occurs in a single poem that it feels like a choose-your-own adventure story where every option you have results in you being a burnt-out, love-drunk husk. After reading this I wanted to drink an inner-tube full of whiskey and fight a cardboard cut out of myself and then be cradled in the arms of someone I loved.
poem called ‘a grand pronouncement’
How this is going to go is you are going to do what I ask of you or I will open up the sky and rain down thunder and water enough to drown your houses and shake your bones until you do what I ask of you and so what if I’ve been drinking? What business is it of yours and who the fuck asked you anyway? I have got two or three dicks swinging between my legs and they can level mountains and who cares how long since that’s been? Have you seen the volcano? because it is real and in addition go fuck yourself. I’m sorry was that rude? Here is a better question” Do you miss the world as it existed in your youth? Do you understand the power of metaphor? Are you so certain of all the things here that are real and if I told you I knew a good lullaby would you ask to hear it? Would you let me hold your children? Are you an idiot? You are going to give me that child the one there in your arms with its open mouth and vacant eyes and you are going to do that because I said so regardless of the facts presented and because you are now dead and also I am good with children.
Palm Lines by Ben Fama
Palm Lines is a discontinuous collection of untitled poems. The poem(s) are laced with coyness, innuendo, gossip and enticing privacy. Many of the poems incorporate contemporary subject matter like text messaging with astrology and mysticism. Some apply a subtle parataxis as they move from line to line and sentence to sentence. The poems feel like they take Personism to an astral level, but their tone feels as intimate as an inside joke or gchatting with a friend. The intimate, sustained tone, the roving intelligence and the ostensible taste in imagery make the longer poems especially enjoyable, but the homogenous quality of all the poems makes the collection attractive as a whole as well. Feels like the poems are backlit by those Virgin Mary candles you buy at bodegas.
Own the zodiac, own the script.
One by one my dreams come to kill.
Sometimes I leave my head to follow.
Does that make me ecstatic,
secretly holding a glint of madness
in my pocket? I think so. In the other is
a piece of gold. When I go there I think
I’ll stay a week, then go back to my
garden, full of stolen plants from
neighborhood windows, traced
simply by the smell of cake.
Please carry away any you choose,
but not that one with the leaves like diamonds,
with the flosculous rarity. Each morning its
perfume releases only for me. This is how
I come off my wheel and this is exactly how
the American South will find me.
My Dead by Amy Lawless
The poems in this collection are an admixture of grotesque honesty and incisive humor. When I read many of the poems I think, “humanity is fucked” and “beauty is often horrible” and “we are all Mark Summers, former host of Double Dare”. Many of the poems contain fluids or excretions from the human body. A number of the poems are written from the perspective of a single white female, facing the difficulties of her body, dating dudes, living in a society that punishes unhindered intellect. The section of the collection called “Humiliation Poems” is a series of poems that encapsulate horrifying embarrassment. The “Humiliation Poems” are simultaneously challenging to read and cathartic and embody many of the concerns of the collection as a whole.
THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF MY FUNCTIONALITY
My blood flows from heart to legs to toes back to heart.
My foreshortening is fucked.
Always too soon.
I’m in the shadow… I mean I’m in the shower.
When my neck has been washed, I wash my shoulders.
Oh my god I’m so alone.
I will never find a way to tell you how pale I am.
I am too pale.
Rubbing my arm, rubbing my arm.
Other body parts.
When I close my eyes, I see my blood inside my eyelids
and the air and the room.
This feels semi-public.
and the legend of the whale—
and its three hundred epigraphs.
Four thousand epigraphs.
Five thousand epigraphs.
I am in a tank.
The tank is five foot ten
It covers me like a glove, a glove with a large butt.
Shut the fuck up with your purple eyeshadow.
A glove with a large butt.
When the sun sets, we will shower again.
I don’t know what I would do without this pool of grain
A beach, the Australian crawl,
figuring out the math for piss in chlorine
and still being clean.
When I was toddler my sister Molly and I took a bath together.
I pooped. She was alarmed in a way I did not recognize
from the times I had peed in the tub. I mean—
It was just me.
Didn’t Suspect the Forcefield (tentative title) by Eric Amling
These poems are composed of densely packed images linked together by vertiginous humor and bolstering mystery. If this collection were a person, it would be a monkey grinder who plays terrifying clown-music but sells affordable hallucinogens. At first the poems seem ostensibly weird, but after a while the weirdest thing is that everything in them seems quotidian. It doesn’t seem extraordinary that “Everyone lives to love and everyone dreams to kill,” because it’s true. “The simple light that enters and rests upon a gently warmed pimple” is not an exotic light. The only strange or exotic thing is that one might find the light or the pimple or any of the observations in the collection strange in the first place.
The most beautiful laser beam soldered the eye of my beloved.
I am not a Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleader’s father’s boyfriend.
I am a superior eater of ribs who only dines to violins.
So conscious but so free-bird in my supple domestic ogling.
A religion arrived like a wounded party letting in the cold.
It’s rare people make any appearance in these collected works.
Though it is people who love access to prohibited areas.
Everyone lives to love but continually dreams to kill.
Blame the overweight shadow of a treasured fruit.
The muffled bells of an ocean’s waves over a serial killer’s sand dune.
The simple light that enters and rests upon a gently warmed pimple.
My pillow’s black box recorder containing my calculated comeback.
And all of these works will be filed in a custom matrix.
In this reality the stars walk the walk but still get cancer and die.
From humanity’s necks will come simultaneously dueling national anthems.
A shattered martini’s olive rolls across the rented hall.
There in the olive’s red center would be the voice of the olive.
My beloved eyes the empty aquarium recycling its own water.
Want for Lion by Paige Taggart
Poems in this manuscript seem sculptural in the way their mercurial grammar determines their shape and movement from line to line. One of the most distinct things about these poems is the manner in which they outstrip their own poem-like qualities, expanding their boundaries in surprising ways. Poems tend to establish their stabilizing characteristics, only to defy them at the next turn. Breaking the rules of categorization is the central concern of the manuscript, defining its subject matter and the structural nuances of each poem. Many lines will swerve tangentially away from the ostensible subject put forth at the poem’s outset and then return or move farther into their own ether. Poems tend to fluctuate from expressionistic applications of language to direct confessional statements to surreal images. Reading this makes me feel like it’s possible to do anything in a poem.
I am a gateway drug
my problem is that I
get inside you and infect
you, I am infectious
my vocabulary is a curse
and my window, a harpoon
of light, I make your insides
rattle like tight rope-tension,
a tenor drum, I also drum
monkey-style in your head, that
beat for social dominance,
this art is not for sale
I’ve actually raised the stakes
for moving day, I’m selling all
my goods at twice the price
I paid, why, because I can and
I want to get laid and move to
Japan, there is no restaurant below
my apartment now, and I’d love
to dine on the dining room floor, what
a spectacular way to live far
from the pragmatic gluttony of
piracy, the web is really sucking
it all out of us people, there’s a
Whittling a New Face in the Dark by DJ Dollack
The lines in this collection have a lapidary quality that foregrounds the realist content of the poems. The poems are adamantly set in the ‘real world’ and choose domestic and or familial subject matter as their central focus. Themes like violence, failed relationships, and suicide are examined in personal detail. The collection seems set against working class New York. The tone of many poems is affronting and severe in an engaging way. None of these poems are humorous or lighthearted, but that seems like ‘the point’. Each poem is like a record of perseverance in an otherwise bleak world of Sisyphean challenges and unvarnished disappointments. Reading this collection reminded me of the consistent low-level of existential pain one experiences on a daily basis living in New York and how that pain translates into art.
The pistol-clean mouth
is oiled and you will marry
Here is a winter
a meter, warm
pocket knife dull
in the pocket
for your pearl fingers.
For the pearl-
I don’t know how
to put this.
Snow showing the air.
a patch of ice,
hacking through it.
Divisive wind you
don’t dare think
has a place. The weight
until what you ask for
is there: your name
stamped into plastic,
printed in ink,
carved into bone
and you look up
these hands these
hands and say it aloud.
Thanks Amy, DJ, Sasha, Eric, Ben and Paige for letting me do this. I have a bunch of other manuscripts from poets like Sampson Starkweather, Jillian Weise and Brandon Johnson that I didn’t include this time, so maybe I’ll do another post like this in the future.