February 11th, 2013 / 5:42 pm

Ben & Amy Read Chapbooks (Miscellaneous Stuff Edition)

Amy Lawless and I like to read chapbooks and review them on the internet. We used to write these together, while drinking wine and watching TV. We live in different cities now, so we do them over gchat. Here are our recent reviews:

Review 1: The Wikipedia Page for Tears


“boy with mullet, crying”

Amy:  HEY

Sent at 1:23 PM on Sunday

me:  yo

Amy:  we did it

me:  ya good job

Amy:  ha


me:  lets get into it. what’s the first item

Amy:  The Wikipedia Page for Tears:


Let’s both look at the page and go for it.

(PS my internet sucks lately so if i disappear for 4 minutes don’t worry)

me:  ok

Amy:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tears

me:  I think that last time I cried was during an Exxon Mobile commercial

Amy:  I cried this morning when I used a neti pot.  I was disgusted with myself

me:  or maybe for the new season 3 trailer of Game of Thrones


Sometimes from how homeless people on the subway smell

But what we’re looking at here is a text based explanation of tears.

I’d be more interested in a pornographic or artistic interpretation of crying and tears

So I’m going to give this page a bad review

me:  I don’t know I think I primarily  feel moved by montages with orchestral music in the background, but crying in porn in pretty poignant

Amy:  Crying in porn is great: everyone knows that.

I am also interested in crying when something is so beautiful i can’t stand it

I’m interested in me doing that

me:  I think I’m going to give this page 3 out of 5 stars, mainly because of the picture of the kid with the mullet crying

Amy:  I give it two stars because i like that it clinically describes something I do all the time

And i find that challenging but i resent it

me:  ok next item


Review 2#: The Wikipedia Page for Hula Hoops


“woman with strange and complex life”

Amy:  OK Next: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hula_hoop

Make sure you watch the video

Sent at 1:30 PM on Sunday

Amy:  I’m immediately struck with intense jealousy

I don’t think i can do it for more than 3.5 seconds.

And this woman has a strange and complex life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fire_Gypsy_performing_with_a_fire_hula_hoop.jpg

Sent at 1:32 PM on Sunday

me:  I can’t separate my distaste for public displays of semi-athleticism from the utility of information provided by this page. I think I hate this.

Amy:  Additionally this guy would be a great person to interview: The longest verified record holder is Aaron Hibbs from Columbus, Ohio who broke the record at 74 hours and 54 minutes between October 22, through 25, 2009.  He probably hula hooped in order to survive.

Do you think he had to take a piss

during those 74 hours

Oh wait you don’t care

You’re turned away from it

I give it 5 stars because you hate it

me:  I just keep thinking of Burning Man… and people who claim to be part of a “tribe” I bet you can piss and hula-hoop at the same time

Amy:  Do you think he just swatted and shook his hips while he was hooping

I mean 74 hours is a long time

All i can think about his him going to the bathroom

me:  fair enough, two stars because I’m too myopic to move past my unfounded cultural biases

but am also slightly impressed

Amy:  OK perfect. Next:


Review #3: Life Beyond the Internet

"power cactus"

“power cactus”

Amy: the next one is “Life beyond the internet.”  Doing things that aren’t on the internet.  Doing things and then not letting anyone know that they ever happened…on the internet.

me:  Sweet. Life beyond the internet

Im into that

Amy:  ok

me:  I’ve been brewing kombucha for a while now and I haven’t told the internet (until now… fuck)

Amy:  Are you joking!  You’re a champion.

I have a beautiful cactus that I stare at every day and it gives me strength.

me:  yeah I feel like a wizard. Do you have a pic of your cactus? Or should we keep it secret so it doesn’t loose its powers?

Sent at 1:40 PM on Sunday

Amy:  I will take a picture now.  And we will place it in the post.

Do you have a picture or a description of your kombucha? Is it hard? I’m into it. Is there alcohol in it?

So you feel like a wizard? why

Sent at 1:43 PM on Sunday


“organic nanotechnology”

me:  I’ll take a picture of my ‘buch  (that’s what I call it now, ‘buch, like booch). I feel like a wizard because I’m creating a lifeform(s) and then consuming them for power.

Amy:  LOL

me:  It’s like organic nanotechnology

Amy:  You call it “Buch”?  That’s hilarious

Is there a MOTHER

like a little yeastie you have to tend to

That reminds me i saw the movie Mama last weekend and it was laughably bad

me:  Yup my friend Lily gave me a mother to start brewing

Amy:  How many hours a week do you work on it

me:  like one or two. it’s pretty easy. making ‘buch.

Amy:  Damn now i have to start doing it.

I don’t know if i have room.  I mean New York style living and all

me:  you dont need much room.

you should do it

Amy:  I think i will. I love that stuff.

Now i feel like i have to reveal something powerful about myself, but i’m not going to.

I give life outside of the internet 5 stars

me:  No the cactus was good. I felt moved by your admission

me too 5 stars

Amy:  Perfect.


Review #4: People Freaking Out on Twitter

Ok next:

People losing their minds publicly on Twitter.
The feeling of fuck it I’m going to live tweet losing my mind on this bus/café/airport right now.


me:  haha I did this recently

Amy:  me too

You tell me yours

I’ll tell you mine

me:  I was being hyperbolic and typing in all caps, bit in reality I was just sitting quietly, but it made me laugh

Amy:  YEAH

me:  I was in a cafe

Amy:  In December, I was also in a cafe, and I had a lot of grading to do, but somehow the internal struggle of the people in the cafe blew my mind

And i started putting myself in their shoes

So i created this whole character for myself going to THE BEAN, which is a cafe i can see out of my window

Posting about The Bean became a comedy routine

me:  I think I missed that on twitter

Amy:  You know why?

It was on facebook

But i think it works better on twitter

me:  ha I miss everything on facebook

Amy:  Twitter is like designed for these epistemological freak outs

NO that’s the wrong word


me:  I woke up early and was like “I’m going to a cafe and I am going to get all this shit done,” but I couldn’t even get online, so I just sat there tweeting and looking busy.

Amy:  It’s the only way to live

me:  then my coffee ran out and I panicked and had to leave

Amy:  You didn’t have to leave

Your brain was telling you that the people who sit at the cafe all day have to be there

but you have a home you can chill at too

Cafes depress me but also give me hope for the human race

There was this one woman at the bean – i’m sure she’s there now —

me:  yeah I like them objectively… 3.5 stars for cafes

Amy:  And her whole story just really makes my mind YAWN



But wait that’s not what we’re reviewing

We’re reviewing freaking out on twitter

I give that 5 stars

me:  I love freaking out on twitter. I love it when other people freak out more than myself

Amy:  Me too

When someone’s freaking out

I go to their page and read all the lead up

and the follow up

I could name five of my favorite twitter freakouts but I’m not going to

me:  4.5 stars


OK next:


Review #5: The Trailer for “Oblivion” Starring Tom Cruise



me:  I want to review this:

me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmIIgE7eSak

Sent at 1:55 PM on Sunday

Amy:  OK

Just watched it

First of all i love the title

me:  yeah good title. I love big budget sci-fi movies but I hate Tom Cruise. I love how fucked Scientology is but I dislike organized religion. I like Morgan Freeman, but I dislike Tom Cruise. Idk. I’m torn.

Amy:  Well two things:

Amy:  1) there’s this one shot where it’s like he’s on an umbilical cord

and 2) there’s a shot where he’s obviously reading poetry

Those are both attractive

me:  yeah right. He’s reading some Keats I bet. god damn it.

Amy:  Of course

If my world were half torn apart I’d read Keats.

however, this movie looks like an apple ad

me: LOL. he loves baseball too, which is way more boring than poetry…. I don’t think I really have a point to make here

Amy:  That sci fi spaceship is a combo vibrator/ipod

me:  lol


Amy:  WELL he also is obsessed w/ the last superbowl

Everyone knows the super bowl will last FOREVER

me:  lol

Amy:  Did you know that the Baltimore Ravens were named after Edgar Allen Poe’s poem?

They have to win…for poetry

me:  no way. I mean now that you mention it, it seems obvious, but still, what the hell

Amy:  Well Poe Died in Baltimore

And not everyone knows that i guess

me:  that’s a tenuous connection at best

Amy:  Exactly

I flew over Baltimore once on a plane

me:  0 stars for the Ravens name

Amy:  and no one is giving me shit


But it’s a poet’s superbowl

I give this trailer 3 stars because I’d probably see it despite scientology and tom cruise

me:  (felt slight pang of nausea after reading “poet’s superbowl”)

Amy:  Me too

me:  I’m going to give it 3.5, because I love movie trailers, and post-apocalyptic movies

Amy:  fair enough



Review #6: A Glass of Water and the Ploom Vaporizor


a glass of water

Amy: OK next: review eating a certain food like we could both go eat the same thing and then review it (burrito , bagel, salad)

I don’t know if we’ve eaten any of the same things lately though

ok what would we eat?

me:  Idk. what do you have around the house?

Amy:  I have some tortilla chips


OH i have marinated mushrooms

bean soup (BARF)


I have other shit too


me:  I just have purple kale

and something… yogurt I think

(also, I want to review this somehow, but it costs too much: http://www.ploom.com/pax#videos)

Sent at 2:09 PM on Sunday


“discrete weed smoking device”

Amy:  Oh man that looks amazing

me:  seems great

Amy:  How much is it

me:  like 250

Amy:  Save up

The video makes it seem really functional and easy to clean

I’d give that video 4 stars

me:  yeah it seems like a mature way to smoke a ton of weed

Amy:  Super mature

Now i’m watching them clean it

Would you get purple/blue or black

me:  ha 4 stars, I agree. any weed device that’s marketed to my responsible side gets 4 stars

black, because I am fucking discreet

Amy:  Yeah and is presented in a clean and Scandinavian environs

Yeah agreed, black

I’m not even hungry but i’d drink a glass of water

me:  ok I’ll get one too

Amy:  PS that dude is so high

when he’s cleaning it

you can hear him doing that choked cough

me:  hehe

Amy:  ok i got some water

me:  ok I got my water

Amy:  what kind of water did you get

Sent at 2:16 PM on Sunday

me:  It’s tap water. We have pretty good water in Oakland. I think it comes from a reservoir nearby or something, or heaven

Amy:  Oh well aren’t you a lucky man

me:  I’m drinking it out of a mug with a picture of my cat on it.

Amy:  Which cat

me:  Tina

Amy:  I am drinking seltzer actually out of a glass that says Brooklyn on it that my mom bought me last time she came to NYC

me:  seltzer, classy.

I think I’m having a 5 star water experience

Amy:  me too.

Effervescence makes my mouth happy

It makes me feel like i’m doing more than drinking water

5 stars


Review# 7: Book Trailers for Poetry Books and Skanking Alone in Your Room



Amy: Ok next:

Book trailers for poetry books

me:  in general?

Amy:  Yeah

like as a genre

me:  I’m going to say 2 stars

Amy:  or we could look at one that i liked recently:


But i’m more interested in the point of book trailers


how many stars do they get

me:  My buddy, Dan made a killer trailer for a book I wrote called Hider Roser, and I can definitely say the time and effort he put into it was not reciprocated by its effect (I think).

Amy:  Your book trailer was amazing

But what you’re saying is that the time and effort put into it did not correlate positively with the effect on your book and shit

me:  I am sorta jaded about book promotion



Amy:  So only if it’s fun

me:  maybe it did, but I think the genre is inherently a labor of love.

Amy:  Poetry is already a member of the gift economy in a lot of ways

me:  Also, I am stoked on Raun’s new book, really looking forward to it, but I don’t like this trailer

Amy:  It’s weird right? I didn’t get the ska, but i love his work like crazy


me:  me too

Amy:  Ska music gets zero stars

ok next?

book trailers get like 2 stars then?

me:  haha, even this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvPJU9v53R0

(I’m skanking right now)


me:  lol

Amy:  All i can think is

that this guy has to live every day

on the same planet

that i live

and i find that insane

Like we’re both from Boston and that blows my mind

me:  ok, I agree two stars for book trailers and zero for Royal Oil and zero for me skanking alone in my living room

Amy:  ROYAL OIL = worst word play

NO you skanking gets 5 stars as long as you’re alone

me:  just me and the cats

Amy:  haha


Review #8: Sylvia Plath Reading Something

Ok next: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nfgtiDvvAR8#


“woman with strange and complex life”


Focus on her accent

me:  yeah what is that? is that an east coast accent?

Amy:  I think it’s Boston ish

Just like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and me

But i don’t sound like that

neither does the dude from MMB

Can you imagine being friends w/ someone who talks like that

even if that’s her performy voice


Sent at 2:28 PM on Sunday

me:  that’s a pretty good line

I like Sylvia ok. I used to love this poem called “The Eye Mote” or something like that from COLOSSUS

Amy:  the poem’s solid

I can see that.  Mote is a good word

My problem isn’t with sylvia, i love her.

I am just imagining if one of my friends used that voice like a normal voice

And how funny that would be

“Syl is rad but her voice…right?”

Sent at 2:30 PM on Sunday

me:  yeah, seems outdated,

Amy:  The video can get 5 stars for amusing me

me:  I’m going with 3 stars

Amy:  hahaha

me:  but I don’t have a good reason why

Amy:  hheheeh



Review #9: “A Voluptuous Dream During an Eclipse” by Elaine Kahn (Poor Claudia, 2012)


“woman with strange and complex life”

Amy:  HEY

me:  yo

Amy:  We Did It: Part 2

how’s it going

Sent at 1:06 PM on Sunday

me:  prett good how are you

Amy:  good good

Just went to yoga

me:  good work

I just ate a bunch of macaroni salad and coffee

Amy:  Oh man you’re going to shit really well tonight

Sent at 1:09 PM on Sunday

me:  will prolly be horrible, i hate living out the consequences of my actions

Amy:  hahahhah

OK so what are we going to review?

Sent at 1:20 PM on Sunday

Amy:  So i read Elaine’s but then lent it to Dan Hoy

But i did take a photo of a poem that I particularly liked

me:  nice send it to me

got it.

Sent at 1:24 PM on Sunday

photo (19)

“Imp, Imp” by Elaine Kahn

Amy:  Elaine’s poems have an incredibly strong voice.

me:  I like her writing. The first time I read Elaine’s work was her chapbook Customer, but her new work feels more constrained and elegant

Amy:  Agree; however, it’s the same voice

I feel like it’s a soulscream

me:  Yeah. I think my fav thing about her work is the moments of grotesqueness that come up, combined with the overt femininity. It actually reminds me of your poems

Amy:  Yeah because life is fucked up!

me:  totes

Amy:  I wish i had the chapbook in front of me

Photograph a goodone

and email it to me

Sent at 1:29 PM on Sunday

me:  I don’t have my copy anymore! lol. We suck


Well that’s a sign of a great chapbook: giving it away

That’s like all there is to say

me:  the cover is real basic, but classy, and substantial. Also, Drew from Poor Claudia did nice work on the layout. I fee like the design is some kind of new standard in chapbook design

Amy:  Totally.  I wish I were holding it right now.

me:  anyway, full endorsement of Elaine’s chapbook/work. seven thousand stars ********************************** etc

Amy:  Agreed!



Review 10#: “Legal Pure,” by Eric Amling (Greying Ghost, 2012)



Legal Pure by Eric Amling (Greying Ghost, 2012)

OK next: Eric Amling’s Legal Pure, Greying Ghost Press

me:  Nice another totally biased review. This is fun

Amy:  I am holding this chapbook in my hands.  I will give it away later tonight.

me:  I wish someone would publish a book of Eric’s work with his collages in full color

Amy:  Yeah what the fuck is wrong with people.

Eric’s collages are visionary

me:  I blame Obama

Amy:  Have you ever noticed that Eric paints images using words and these are called poems

Sent at 1:35 PM on Sunday

me:  yeah, he and I talked about that before. I feel like we like each other’s work because we are both into creating images vs. rhetoric (or whatever is the opposite of images)

Amy:  The opposite of an image is not rhetoric


I think you mean by rhetoric what Timothy Donnelly refers to as “dicking around w/ voice”

And i agree with you

me:  ha yeah that’s way better

Amy:  Yeah

me:  Tim’s a smart guy. I’m gonna go with what he said. lol

Amy:  Me too

Also I think i might have misquoted him

I think he said “fucking around”

I know it’s impossible to choose a favorite poem of Eric’s here but I think my favorite is called “Snobs”

These poems are musical also. He seems really concerned with vowel sounds that cohere and match. What’s that called?

me:  “Snobs” is a classic. Classic Amling.

Amy:  The phrase “Classic Amling” gets 10 stars

Sent at 1:41 PM on Sunday

Snobs from Eric Amling on Vimeo.

Amy:  We’re embarrassing ourselves.

me:  lol fuck us

Amy:  I think Eric’s poems collage words into very sad feelings

me:  good assessment

I like his sense of humor. feels totally idiosyncratic.

Amy:  What’s your favorite poem in this chapbook

me:  “Now the Pros and Cons” is pretty rad, “Psychic Till the End,” “Snobs,’ and “Ex Vivo”

Amy:  Isn’t there a poem where he addresses or jizzes into an ashtray?

me:  ha idk


ok moving on….  Legal Pure by Eric Amling, how many stars do you bequeath?

Amy:  Ten

Out of Ten

me:  I concur

Amy:  hahahha

We’re super good at this

me:  yeah, we’re efficient


Review #11: “Mall Witch” by Ben Fama Take-down Review by Ben Tripp


“pure Fama all the way”

Amy:  So “Will The Real Ben Fama Please Stand Up” from HTML GIant

me:  ok

I should say that I directed this guy (the review author) to HTML, but didn’t read his review until it went up

Amy:  that was a really poignant disclosure.

me:  thanks

I’m going for poignancy

Amy:  So first of all this review operates like a shitty review: he talks about his own relationship to a perceived “scene” – an anecdote in which he was mistaken for Ben Fama.

However the review doesn’t meet the book on its own terms and is therefore not a review.

me:  yeah the initial paragraph was immaterial

to the content of the book I mean.

Amy:  Yeah

But what does he actually have to say about the content of the book?

Sent at 1:54 PM on Sunday

me:  I think this is my favorite line, “Stylistically, Mall Witch is pure Fama all the way.”

Amy:  Pure Fama All The Way gets ten stars

Thing is –

this is conceptual poetry

and as such this guy just proved that he didn’t understand it on some level, or felt left out.  This has happened to me

when I’ve read conceptual poetry in the past

But if you’re going to review something, try to address its intention and execution

Sent at 2:00 PM on Sunday

me:  yeah. there is a lot there that he doesn’t even address, like the spirit of collaboration and friendship behind the book

Amy:  …which mirrors the convivial friendships of like Rauchenberg and Johns, etc al

I lol’ed over “The Gay Experience”

in that review

Sent at 2:01 PM on Sunday

me:  or the emphasis the collection puts on surface, IE style, clothes, ephemeral, flashy design,

Amy:  exactly.

Sent at 2:03 PM on Sunday

Amy:  and how surface can have depth

me:  Also I think the book purposefully eschews the system of values the reviewer presupposes. It’s like this dude (the reviewer) walked into a 7-11 and was like “where’s all Mark Strand books?”

Amy:  Right.

ok how many star for the “Mall Witch Takedown Review”

Let’s give him 10000 stars

Amy:  I’ll give it like 3 and a half because it prompted discussion


For prompting controversy?

And generating buzz?

me:  cause I don’t want to be a hater, just like a polite hater

Amy:  YEAH

We can do that

me:  nice

ok I think we did it



Amy Lawless is the author of two books of poetry including My Dead (Octopus Books, 2013) and Noctis Licentia (Black Maze Books, 2008). She grew up in Boston and currently lives in New York City, where she was a 2011 NYFA Fellow in poetry. Read her recent poems in Octopus Magazine, 15. Amy keeps a blog at amylawless.blogspot.com

Ben Mirov is the author of Hider Roser (Octopus Books, 2012), Ghost Machine (Caketrain, 2010) and the chapbooks My Hologram Chamber is Surrounded by Miles of Snow (YESYES, 2011) Vortexts (SUPERMACHINE, 2011) I is to Vorticism (New Michigan Press, 2010) and Collected Ghost (H_NGM_N, 2010). He grew up in Northern California and lives in Oakland.

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  1. Amy Lawless | S i m i l a r : P e a k s : :

      […] was interviewed by Interview Magazine. Some prose has recently appeared in BOMBlog and HTMLGIANT. Check out her blog for more […]