5 Points: “Strange Tarot” by Jamalieh Haley
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.”
3) The voice of these poems is high-strung, edgy, often cruel and sadistic, but READ MORE >
August 19th, 2014 / 10:00 am
5 Points: The Narrow Circle (by Nathan Hoks)
Nathan Hoks is one of my favorite writers. And this is a 5 point review of “The Narrow Circle,” a National Poetry Series winner selected by Dean Young (Penguin Books, 2013).
1) At times the careful and elegant lines and images of The Narrow Circle, a book moving and blurring between “Interior” and “Exterior,” feel like the work of a classic Surrealist. A Magritte, let’s say. And, here I’ll quote a poem in its entirety:
A lily is sprouting from my head.
First I love it, then I want it dead.
And now I’ll quote the beginning of the poem that follows LILY OF THE INTERIOR because it spiked in me the Primitive and Eden-Like scenes work of Henri Rousseau, who came to mind, also, from time to time, as I read through this collection:
The invisible bird is still hissing near
2) Inside and out through much of these poems there is a thriller-horror movie feel. The feel of something morphing. Of an evil or strangeness (an alien sort of thing) building. Impending. Within and out.
Of soluble phosphates will fill with
Algal blooms and kill the fish and plants
The same green spot is growing inside me.”
“…my wife and I stand in the middle and call it
The inside. A leaf is growing out of our face.”
3) Quentin Tarantino’s movie-making came to mind, also, as I read through The Narrow Circle. I mean careful and exact tension building (think of the farmhouse scene in Inglourious Basterds, the terrified family hidden beneath the floorboards) and culminating from time to time, in waves, like a lily, exploding, facially:
Nathan Hoks is a 50/50 blend
Gunpowder and guts. Film comes
Whirring out of his mouth.
Rusted screws hold his fingers to hands.
Flies hang around his buttocks.
Shoots and pods are sprouting from his intestines.
Nathan Hoks is a fork in the egg yolk.
Nathan Hoks is a penitentiary.
Nathan Hoks lives inside himself
Where he is choking on the curtains, READ MORE >
February 19th, 2014 / 4:00 pm
5 Points: Whittling a New Face in the Dark (by DJ Dolack)
1) As you can see the cover of DJ Dolack’s just-released, debut collection of poetry, Whittling a New Face in the Dark (Black Ocean), has no text on the front cover (or the back, for that matter) and this is something DJ fought hard for. And that’s one of the great things about publishing a book through Black Ocean: the back and forth between publisher and author involves friendly fighting.
Yes, I speak from experience when I say that Black Ocean dialogues with authors on things both big and small. And this leads to much improved books.
2) DJ’s wonderful book comes at you, easily, like a parade (or procession) of Edward Hopper paintings rusting in strange twilight. Or the scenes from a moody Western, a northern, winter Western, dark-pale trees, bleak ice—hard-bitten characters staring out from and through the insistent and persistent landscapes.
3) this is page 19
Grandfather is alone in the yellow house
with the flea market pistol. READ MORE >
October 25th, 2013 / 10:33 pm
5 Points: POOR ME I HATE ME PUNISH ME COME TO MY FUNERAL—- (by Grant Maierhofer and Kil)
“He saw her standing near the creek, near the road, near the stoplight. A stoplight looks bright red when your eyes haven’t seen sun for months. A stoplight looks like your best friend when the wind hovers low and the night springs up like some old widow slashing wounds throughout your flesh. You wait for some quickness, some instance of recognition, and nothing comes. Nothing.”
1) POOR ME I HATE ME PUNISH ME COME TO MY FUNERAL (PMIHMPMCTMF) is a collaboration of poems and images brilliantly paired by Grant Maierhofer and the artist Kil. Hard copies are available through EDEN CHAPBOOKS. Or you can check it all out on-line here.
2) These poems were (and are) a revelation for me. The only comparison that comes to mind is that I experienced something similar when, many years ago, I first encountered the prose poems of Max Jacob and Jean Follain in a 3-poet book titled “Dreaming The Miracle.” Maierhofer’s poems here in PMIHMPMCTMF glow wisely in the way Follian’s do. They also have, like Follain’s best efforts, a kind of sacred Sepia feel. They are, in short, quite wonderful.
3)) I’m all for religious bashing and I’m often guilty of being crude (badly crude) about it. Maierhofer though is extremely effective, wise, restrained and kind of off-handed about it. But, it’s sledgehammer wise and sledgehammer off-handed: “A perfect world if not for churches. If not for those hulking black tombs READ MORE >
October 21st, 2013 / 6:11 pm