Ugly Ducking Presse


On Poems On

On Poems On
by Sandra Liu
Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012
28 pages / $8  Buy from UDP







Even though there’s nothing particularly insular or fragmentary about Sandra Liu’s work, it’s still difficult to grasp exactly what’s going on in the book because of the restless nature of the poems’ wanderings through landscape, experience, character and image.  Nominally this is free verse written in standard syntax, but individual lines or sentences in Liu’s poems aren’t trustworthy indicators of what might come next.  This is always a good thing, because the unpredictability adds to the poems’ allure and as I read through the chapbook I found myself drawn closer and closer to whatever sharp turn the poem might next, unless there’s no sharp turn or the poem cuts off abruptly.  The poems in On Poems On are a ceaseless lateral movement along or between landscapes either literal, linguistic, or informative that leave you with a sense of having visited a location or moment without being allowed to linger long enough for details of daily life to become mundane.

This isn’t to say that the poems are particularly wild, save for the punctuations throughout the book of often deadly violence; the work is measured and light, and could pass as graceful observational poetry if there weren’t more at work, like the aforementioned violence.  A good example of this is “Static,” in which dryly delivered information about the geography of and south of Indonesia is woven together with scenes of rioting crowds gunned down by state forces:

          From New Guinea, a stretched
archipelago, grenades, AK-47s,
household bombs and machetes alternate with an underwater
topography, flats of nadir in several areas of the city and extended airscaping
leading to Halmahera,
itself comprising four peninsulas, each,

a 12-year-old boy, drawn out by congeries of islets,
traversed by SUV.


Comments Off on On Poems On
October 12th, 2012 / 12:00 pm

Book Giveaway: Applies to Thorson

Here’s a chance to win a copy of Maureen Thorson’s Applies to Oranges, which is one of the top five most beautiful books of 2011. No doy, it comes from Ugly Duckling Presse so that means it’s impeccably designed and intentionally detailed: good paper, letterpress cover, set in a typeface I hadn’t heard of (Bembo). But I don’t let that overshadow the poetry, which I first read and thought, “Damn, these are consistent.” They are the melt-in-your-mouth variety. You read one in a comfy chair after work and let it mellow. There’s an orange in every poem, and every poem is about 15 lines long and just one stanza. Earlier I thought the poems were quiet, but reading the book again now I realize no not quiet, tense. For instance, this sartorial sorrow:

If we had lived a hundred years, I’d say
give me washed leather, milliners’ pins,
Battenburg lace looped in orange silk.
Let me learn the politics of exclusion–
six hundred threads to the inch. In place
of island chic, a native’s pretend servility,
I’d dress to show that sorrow can harden
into a surface more starched than any collar,
more formal than the pleats of a skirt
as its hem dusts a dim corridor. It sets.
It makes creases I’ll never press out. READ MORE >

Author Spotlight & Contests / 30 Comments
June 24th, 2011 / 9:34 am

NYC: cool thing at the PL this Tuesday

Periodically Speaking hosts SUPERMACHINE and 6X6 (UGLY DUCKLING PRESSE) magazines—

Ben Fama and Matvei Yankelevich in conversation with
(and readings by):
Macgregor Card
Corina Copp
Dorothea Lasky

Founders of influential literary mags 6X6, SUPERMACHINE, and the former GERM, with writers they’ve published over the years, discuss the past, present and future of literary publishing, after brief readings.

Tuesday, April 12 · 6:00pm – 7:30pm

DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room, The New York Public Library
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building @ 5th Ave & 42nd Street
New York, NY


Web Hype / Comments Off on NYC: cool thing at the PL this Tuesday
April 10th, 2011 / 12:19 pm

The title poem in Natalie Lyalin’s UDP chapbook, Try a Little Time Travel, is funny. It begins:

Try it a bit, instead of sexing
One night. Close your eyes,

And think, Grandmother,
I’m coming to you, live!

(link to purchase)

I like capitalizing the first word in every line in poetry. Some people think it’s old fashioned. It doesn’t mean anything really, I just like it.

All the poems are good. Here’s a bit from another one, where the title is the same as the first line of the poem (a convention I also like, though not as much):

Jesus shows inside his flesh.
He is airy marbles and we are
All looking at his un-pain

Author Spotlight / 26 Comments
September 19th, 2010 / 12:45 pm

The CIA Bought Me This Nifty Headband: Ugly Ducking Presse Stands Accused

In some dizzying crinkle of web logic, I’d like to share not only a post on another blog but the comment stream of that post, which features an interesting discussion of small press successes, funding, avant-garde tendencies, dissonance/dissent, and the CIA.

The post in question is Shonni Enelow’s spotlight of Brooklyn-based Ugly Duckling Presse, which publishes strange and exciting poetry, including lots of work-in-translation, and all in editions of carefully made book objects that preserve bookmaking as an art unto itself. They’ve published great books by Eugene Ostashevsky, Tomas Salamun, and Laura Solomon. They published Dodie Bellamy’s Barf Manfesto, which is terrific, and Aram Saryon’s Complete Minimal Poems, which won the William Carlos William Award in 2008.  That’s not the controversy. Controversy after the jump!


Excerpts & Presses / 25 Comments
March 29th, 2009 / 1:17 pm