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
Sent at 1:23 PM on Sunday
Amy: we did it
me: ya good job
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: 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
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
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
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
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.
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
Review #4: People Freaking Out on Twitter
IF THEY PLAY ONE MORE SONG BY THE NATIONAL AT THIS CAFE IM GONNA POUR THIS LUKEWARM COFFEE ON MY FACE
— Ben Mirov (@Benmirov) January 22, 2013
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.
THIS ONE IS IMPORTANT
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
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
Review #5: The Trailer for “Oblivion” Starring Tom Cruise
me: I want to review this:
Sent at 1:55 PM on Sunday
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
Amy: WELL he also is obsessed w/ the last superbowl
Everyone knows the super bowl will last FOREVER
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
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
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
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
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
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
Review# 7: Book Trailers for Poetry Books and Skanking Alone in Your Room
Amy: Ok next:
Book trailers for poetry books
me: in general?
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
book trailers get like 2 stars then?
me: haha, even this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvPJU9v53R0
(I’m skanking right now)
Amy: ZERO STARS
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
Review #8: Sylvia Plath Reading Something
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
LEMON WATER CHICKEN WATER WATER MAKE ME WRETCH
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
me: but I don’t have a good reason why
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
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
Sent at 1:24 PM on Sunday
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!
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
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
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
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?
Out of Ten
me: I concur
We’re super good at this
me: yeah, we’re efficient
Review #11: “Mall Witch” by Ben Fama Take-down Review by Ben Tripp
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.
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.
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,
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?”
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
We can do that
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.