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Reviews

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
Rating: 10.0

So my dad’s an alcoholic. (That’s really hard to admit. In fact, this is the first time I’ve typed it out, as I’m drafting.) He’s not a monster. He never beat me or did any physical harm to me. Just had outbursts and left me with daddy issues.

So the reason why I’m sharing this is because Shane Jones’s Crystal Eaters helped me come to terms with some of my childhood. If you haven’t heard the premise of the novel here’s the rub: people in this village have a crystal count. Crystals are depleted when people get hurt, age, etc. When you reach zero you’re dead. There’s a rumor that eating rare, black crystals will increase your life count, but it’s just a rumor. Black crystals do work like psychedelic drugs though. Basically, The Crystal Eaters is a novel of addiction. Everyone is addicted to something, whether it’s their self-image as a good parent, the idea of extending their life, or they’re addicted to imbibing the psychotropic black crystals, themselves.

So the son, Pants, of the main family in the novel feels guilty because his mom is dying and he can’t really do much about it because he’s in jail for tripping balls on black crystal in public. In prison, Pants realizes that he’s an addict because his parents beat him instead of not taking the time out to understand him. That means a fuckton to me because I’m an addict, too—only to porn and alcohol. What I’ve come to realize, and what Jones reinforces in his novel, is that my dad’s fucked-upness is not my fault. It’s just how his parents equipped him. “Her father had done the same to her, and so did Dad’s, and it worked, look at them, adjusted people. She didn’t necessarily believe what she thought, but her family history was stronger than her head.” As a result, the same becomes true for Pants. And even though he feels super guilty and blames himself for his mother and dad and little sister’s misfortunes, it’s not actually his fault.

“The universe is a system where children watch their parents die,” which I take to mean, the world just spins, the city grows, the sun gets hotter. Of course there’s the chance that we’ll become addicted, too: it’s a way for our bodies to heal—a coping mechanism. We just need to examine the source of our desires. Why do I need to write? Why do I need to live forever? Why do I need to drink until my brain shuts off? If we can get a grasp as to what our motivations are, maybe we can have an easier time through life. The best we can do is not to fixate on the counting down to zero—because we will all reach zero—and, if we’re lucky, touch a heart or two on the way. Read the novel. Maybe it will help you come to an important realization, too.

3 Comments
August 19th, 2014 / 12:00 pm

HTMLGIANT Features

5 Points: “Strange Tarot” by Jamalieh Haley

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1) Reading and experiencing “Strange Tarot” is like spying on a tenuous and tense relationship in which one part of a self guides and chides the other. At some points, even, it feels like it incarnates you. (Most Tarot Poetry’s an exhausting exercise in ekphrasis. Yawn. That, or the Tarot Poems range so far afield that there’s nothing Tarot about them. Jamalieh Haley’s “Strange Tarot” is still very much Tarot—superficially, in titles, imagery and in the way the poems on the page are shaped like Tarot cards—but  indeed a strange, strange Tarot, benefiting and enhanced greatly from psychedelic imagery that only issues from a highly pressurized and agitated mental state.)

“Arrive inside your silhouette. Open the china. Do anything there.”

2) The critical element of Tarot is the relationship between the fortune teller and the supplicant. And, for me, in Strange Tarot the self is telling itself its own fortune. The self betrothed to itself. And this “conversation” (or fortune telling) within the self, which we are privileged to enjoy and shudder at, is rife with flaring tensions and instability, extrusions of cruelty and violence verging constantly towards, like suicide, a kind of desperate, ritualized and salvational make-up sex. Yes, the fire of consummation is what will save and consume.

And let me say again how lucky we are to be overhearing and looking in on this lover’s quarrel of the soul (and itself).

“throw down salvation to the beast you demand.”

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“. . .cut up your head into a paper mask and transform everything into the sun.”

3) The voice of these poems is high-strung, edgy, often cruel and sadistic, but READ MORE >

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August 19th, 2014 / 10:00 am

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Reviews

Imaginary Portraits by Joshua Ware

tumblr_mn88vlkzSh1qhn45lo7_r1_500-1Imaginary Portraits
by Joshua Ware
Greying Ghost, 2013
Limited Edition / Chapbook Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My thumb surfs Instagram. I sit at my desk to write this. I am constantly distracted by a false reality. There are people I know there. They are eating tacos, taking pictures of sunsets, their partner stares out from a small screen I hold in my palm, I press like to let them know I see them. There is no way to escape our new duality, but I think it helps to be aware of this reality. Here is the problem: what is real or more real. How do we classify reality & does this change through location, movement, isolation. Joshua Ware introduces me to a world I know well. Here it is winter. I am wearing a hat. I am looking at myself as reflection. I am not sure it is really me.

A small blue book / It fits well in my hands. Small poems / Coy, they coax & murmur / I know you / the shape of darkness

You are dressed for winter, a chill in the air. Waiting. What forms do we take when met with a lens? How do we become a recreation/abstraction? How are we changed?

You sit atop a gray river / side rock, as water rush / swallows your voice, drowning you / by volume. The poet relocates to a new city. A traveling between two regions. Wind gusts through our private stillness. We are always somewhere. There is a struggle in always knowing where you are. Is it supposed to make you different? Should we expect change? Your muted / mouth opens a space for / poetry

Hello, avoidance. The escape plan proposal is returned, rejected. I sit at my desk with coffee. It is cold now. I feel this speaking to some part of me. No matter how surrounded I am there is loneliness in my body.

IMAGINARY PORTRAIT

In an otherwise darkened room
computer-light illuminates the contours of
your face, mimicking the neon shine of
an interstate motel sign that burns
through cornfield and prairie grass
somewhere in Middle America, as you drift
into a reverie of body parts, hoping to avoid looking at
yourself while you look at yourself
in a mirror. But your reflection
returns to you always in words
and the charred remains of cornstalks.

READ MORE >

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August 18th, 2014 / 10:00 am

Sunday Service

Jos Charles

Jos Charles is a southern california writer and founding-editor at THEM – a trans literary journal. They have poetry published (and/or have publications forthcoming) with BLOOM, Denver Quarterly, HTMLGIANT, Metazen, Radioactive Moat, boosthouse’s THE YOLO PAGES, as well as variously online. Their writing has also been featured on Huffington Post, BitchMedia, Entropy, Medium, The Fanzine, The Quietus, interviews with GLAAD, LAMBDA Literary, Original Plumbing, and other pieces forthcoming.

Justin Marks: Why Should I Read YOUR Book ????

justin-marks

ok, Justin, so why should we read YOUR book ???

Why should you read my book? I have no fucking clue. I don’t even know why I wrote it, except that doing so was part of a compulsion I have to make things, and the only means I have for doing that, the “talent” I have, is writing. Writing in general, poetry in particular. If it were different, I would have written a novel or a memoir or a scholarly book or something YA.

My book is none of those things. There is some narrative, but it’s pretty fractured, as they say. There are characters, but not the kind you really get to know. I present them from my point of view only. It’s poetry, for Chrissakes! The lyric “I.”

The book is about me and my life, but also other lives I wish I’d had. Or think I wish I had. It is about struggle, though is decidedly not “My Struggle.”

Overall, it’s pretty adult. By which I don’t mean porn, though there is a fairyou going to miss me amount of sex (not) happening in the book. It’s about trying to be a grown up and how much that fucking sucks. It’s about choosing a life and then having to actually live it (auto correct tried to change “live” to “love”). It’s about making decisions and having to live with them, which also fucking sucks.

It’s about broken bones. And booze.

Life, death, love and (un)happiness. Kids.

And then, by the end, it’s about realizing what a sick piece of shit you are and having to live with that. Having to figure out a way to be a better person, behave responsibly because, really, the way things are going, it’s just not going to end well.

Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s about something else entirely. I don’t know. You tell me.                         (Justin Marks, 8/2014, NYC)

Author Spotlight / 4 Comments
August 16th, 2014 / 10:00 am

A “Conversation” with Rauan Klassnik (1)– (Huh??)

xx ahhhh the magic of poetry

Ahhhhhhh– The Magic of Poetry

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This is the first of an occasional series in which other people ask me serious and stupid questions about my sex life, how much money I make, gender fluidity, etc, etc. And then I step up on to the stage to give the straight and skinny with as much panache, delicacy and hulking wisdom a human soul can muster post Henry Miller (Ha Ha Ha ha ha):

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This started up when I was bored and tweeted:

talk shit

a call for help!!

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I guess I was really bored. And I guess I was a little bewildered by some interviews I’d read online recently. (It’s better when they call themselves “conversations” and use phrases like “writing process.” . . . I wish I could get all religious here like crazy old Henry Miller. Fevered and romantic. Like a barbecue of militant, bible maniacs: teenagers at an Amy Grant concert.)

So, anyways, Timothy Volpert answered my distress call, sent me some questions, and here’s the Q and A:

READ MORE >

Author Spotlight / 5 Comments
August 15th, 2014 / 11:40 am