The Size of the Universe by Joseph Cardinale [FC2] This is one of the most spiritual books I’ve read in a while, reconceiving memory and mourning and expectation and instance and the animal under god all in six semantically locked stories of beautifully rendered post-Beckettian sentencery: really really refreshing and powerful in a really moving way. Having read certain of these works in past issues of New York Tyrant, I had high expectations already for Cardinale’s full throttle, and even more so the work as a whole functions as a bigger unit, each portrait of ruptured emotion-memory and space fractal mapping kind of splintering and biting into the others, a shell of shells. Logic, faith, lost revelation, searching, repetition, lurching to change the body, histories: “She said as they grow older one eye moves to the other side and the skull twists after it.” A son and mother wait for the reappearance of a water-walking figure they can only assume is god coming across the face of a drowned city; a man enrolls in astronomy classes after the death of his wife in search of sense from math and madness; a child hides in a tree from his sister and stumbles and disrupts space-time. In Cardinale’s pacing, soothe-speak voice portraits of what could seem mass-histrionic, terrifying are somehow dream-made and real once, touching a space that touches back. “And yet if we all joined together to make a living animal out of nothing we would eventually give up.”
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A Little Middle of the Night by Molly Brodak [University of Iowa] The image on the front of this book resembles two things, at least: first, perhaps, a ridiculously fat white gravelly tree rising from a mottled puddle up to a eggy mountain fog that caps the sky; and or second, perhaps, a mushroom cloud explosion placed casually among a landscape of bottlebrush trees, the destruction contained to something like a summit where the apex of the hurt casually, menacingly gathers. I don’t know where the image came from, or how intently it was aimed at the book, but the description of it in my head is more the poems than the image really; the images here, the ideas in them, contain at once a calm air of remove and something of great lurking, a color underneath a ledge. “Once I / woke up laughing. / Saw the limbs of the pine / row and paw. / I heard bells, split geologic. / Did anyone take a photo of me / while I was in the coma? / Why no.” There seems a brain wanting damage and not getting it fully, or not the right way, here in the midst, something joking with its sores, not impressed by lighthouses but still inside them. Ideas snatches from out of old books and placed in between what happens on a paper table or “where my power creeps out.” It’s creeping out all over the place. It’s a milk bath.
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Nick Demske by Nick Demske [Fence Books] I got excited about the results of 2010’s Fence Modern Poets Series contest immediately when I knew that Joyelle McSweeney was the deciding judge; that meant the book was going to bat its face at some shit, make new words, be wild in the eyes and knees and chestmeat, give me something to laugh at in the black parts, go whoa a lot, read while standing up, get slurred the fuck up. Indeed, Nick Demske’s Nick Demske is a mashup city of where am I’s, and who is tickling my other body? “I reinvent the solar / Powered flash light every night. I malfunct / Ion like an elapsed R&B singer’s wardrobe.” Demske freaks words apart, gets nasty a lot, says things you might imagine muttered on gas or syrup. You just want to quote and quote it. “I’m going to buttfuck / you in the mouth. I know where you live.” or “God is a virgin, / Which explains a lot. God is a Christian, / Initiating full-blown AIDS like foreplay.” I mean I’d take this thing to the White House and sneak in the back with some candy and a big torch if being rad wasn’t illegal. Just as fast, too, the getting fucked gets fucked and goes back to real hell logic, real you-can’t-do-this-in-comedyland: “I like banjos. I like / It’ll grow back. You are the first black / Person I have ever met in real life. This / Alcove a strobe so ablaze with resplendence / The sun itself cast doth a shadow! O my nasty God. / Votive pyromania. You people.” Yeah, buy this motherfucker and get busy eating a big one.