Thursday, December 22, 2011


[N.B. You can scroll down on blog or click on highlighted names or titles to go directly to the referenced article.]

Eileen Tabios

Nicholas Manning Reviews IRRESPONSIBILITY by Chris Vitiello

Patrick James Dunagan Reviews HOW PHENOMENA APPEAR TO UNFOLD by Leslie Scalapino

Allen Bramhall Reviews AT THAT by Skip Fox

T.C. Marshall Reviews ETHICS OF SLEEP by Bernadette Mayer

Fiona Sze-Lorrain Reviews SELF-PORTRAIT WITH CRAYON by Allison Benis White

Laura Trantham Smith Reviews UTOPIA MINUS by Susan Briante

Moira Richards Reviews IN PARAN by Larissa Shmailo

Philip Troy Reviews THE FEELING IS ACTUAL by Paolo Javier


Logan Fry Reviews IN THE COMMON DREAM OF GEORGE OPPEN by Joseph Bradshaw

Eileen Tabios Engages TO BE HUMAN IS TO BE A CONVERSATION by Andrea Rexilius

Thomas Fink Reviews PARTS AND OTHER PIECES by Tom Beckett

T.C. Marshall Reviews TO LIGHT OUT by Karen Weiser and DUTIES OF AN ENGLISH FOREIGN SECRETARY by MacGregor Card

Allen Bramhall Reviews CITIZEN CAIN by Ben Friedlander

William Allegrezza Reviews FORTY-NINE GUARANTEED WAYS TO ESCAPE DEATH by Sandy McIntosh

Fiona Sze-Lorrain Reviews THERE’S THE HAND AND THERE’S THE ARID CHAIR by Tomaz Salamun

Eileen Tabios Engages MY LIFE AS A DOLL by Elizabeth Kirschner

Gabriel Lovatt Reviews THE USE OF SPEECH by Nathalie Sarraute, translated from the French by Barbara Wright

Logan Fry Reviews PORTRAIT OF COLON DASH PARENTHESIS by Jeffrey Jullich

Eileen Tabios Engages STILL: OF THE EARTH AS THE ARK WHICH DOES NOT MOVE by Matthew Cooperman


Kristin Berkey-Abbot Reviews FAULKNER’S ROSARY by Sarah Vap

Micah Cavaleri Reviews KYOTOLOGIC by Anne Gorrick


j/j hastain Reviews A GOOD CUNTBOY IS HARD TO FIND by Doug Rice

Eileen Tabios Engages 60 TEXTOS by Sarah Riggs

Bill Scalia Reviews BEAT THING by David Meltzer

Logan Fry Reviews HANK by Abraham Smith


Eileen Tabios Engages TEENY TINY #13, Edited by Amanda Laughtland


Gabriel Lovatt Reviews VACANT LOT by Oliver Rohe, translated from the French by Laird Hunt

Eric Wayne Dickey Reviews PUNISH HONEY by Karen Leona Anderson

Eileen Tabios Engages INSIDE THE MONEY MACHINE by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Pam Brown Reviews SLY MONGOOSE by Ken Bolton

T.C. Marshall Reviews HOW LONG by Ron Padgett

Neil Leadbeater Reviews A HERON IN BUENOS AIRES by Luis Benítez


Eileen Tabios Engages WAIFS AND STRAYS by Micah Ballard

T.C. Marshall Reviews THE NEW TOURISM by Harry Mathews

Guillermo Parra Reviews HOW’S THE COWS by Jess Mynes

T.C. Marshall Reviews THE WIDE ROAD by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian

John Bloomberg-Rissman Reviews THE COMMONS by Sean Bonney

Pam Brown Reviews PERRIER FEVER by Pete Spence

Jim McCrary Engages MARROWING and THE NAME OF THIS INTERSECTION IS FROST, both by Maryrose Larkin

Tom Beckett Reviews THE NAME OF THIS INTERSECTION IS FROST by Maryrose Larkin

Patrick James Dunagan Reviews “NEITHER WIT NOR GOLD” by Ammiel Alcalay and STREET METE: VERTICAL ELEGIES 6 by Sam Truitt

Eileen Tabios Engages RADIATOR by NF Huth

Genevieve Kaplan Reviews SPEAKING OFF CENTRE by James Cummins, CORPORATE GEES (VOLUME V) by Christopher William Purdom, KITCHEN TIDBITS by Amanda Laughtland, FROM HERE by Zoë Skoulding with images by Simonetta Moro, and TWO HATS APPEAR WHEN APPLAUDED: AN IMPROVISATION by Raymond Farr

L.S. Bassen Reviews IT MIGHT TURN OUT WE ARE REAL by Susan Scarlata

rob mclennan Reviews THREE NOVELS by Elizabeth Robinson

Patrick James Dunagan & Ava Koohbor Review THE TELLER OF TALES: STORIES FROM FERODWSI’S SHAHNAHMEN, Translated by Richard Jeffrey Newman

Tom Hibbard Reviews SELECTED POEMS by Nick Demske, A MYSTICAL THEOLOGY OF THE LIMBIC FISSURE by Peter O’Leary, HOSTILE WITNESS by Garin Cycholl, UNABLE TO FULLY CALIFORNIA by Larry Sawyer, AIN’T GOT ALL NIGHT by Buck Downs, and ANSWER by Mark DuCharme

Jeff Harrison Engages THE DANGEROUS ISLANDS (A NOVEL) by Séamas Cain

Eileen Tabios Engages ALIENS: AN ISLAND by Uljana Wolf, Trans. from the German by Monika Zobel


G. Justin Hulog Reviews ARCHIPELAGO DUST by Karen Llagas

Allen Bramhall Reviews FRAGILE REPLACEMENTS by William Allegrezza

Eileen Tabios Engages RED WALLS by James Tolan

Juliet Cook Reviews COMPENDIUM by Kristina Marie Darling

Bill Scalia Reviews WHAT THE RAVEN SAID by Robert Alexander

Fiona Sze-Lorrain Reviews SEE HOW WE ALMOST FLY by Alison Luterman

Sunnylynn Thibodeaux Reviews THE INCOMPOSSIBLE by Carrie Hunter

John Bloomberg-Rissman Reviews 908-1078 and THE PERSIANS BY AESCHYLUS, both by Brandon Brown

Benjamin Winkler Reviews WE IN MY TRANS by j/j hastain

Mary Kasimor Reviews T&U&/LASH YOUR NIPPLES TO A POST/HISTORY IS GORGEOUS by Jared Schickling

Jeff Harrison Engages T&U& LASH YOUR NIPPLES TO A POST HISTORY IS GORGEOUS by Jared Schickling

rob mclennan Reviews APOLLINAIRE’S SPEECH TO THE WAR MEDIC by Jake Kennedy

Megan Burns Reviews LUCKY by Mairéad Byrne and A REDUCTION by Jimmy Lo

Paul Lai Engages KĒROTAKIS : by Janice Lee

Patrick James Dunagan Reviews CLEARVIEW by Ted Greenwald and THE PUBLIC GARDENS: POEMS AND HISTORY by Linda Norton

John Bloomberg-Rissman Reviews KAZOO DREAMBOATS OR, ON WHAT THERE IS by J.H. Prynne

Gregory W. Randall Reviews THE HOMELESSNESS OF SELF by Susan Terris

Jim McCrary Reviews MY COMMON HEART by Anne Boyer and ISSUE 8, Newsletter from James Yeary

Megan Burns Reviews A TOAST IN THE HOUSE OF FRIENDS by Akilah Oliver

Eileen Tabios Engages INFO RATION by Stan Apps

Bill Scalia Reviews THE MORNING NEWS IS EXCITING by Don Mee Choi

Micah Cavaleri Reviews ACOUSTIC EXPERIENCE by Noah Eli Gordon

Jim McCrary Reviews COLLECTION by Megan Kaminski, MANTIC SEMANTIC by A.L. Nielsen, LVNGinTONGUES by G. E. Schwartz, and PO DOOM by jim mccrary

Eileen Tabios Engages BLUE COLLAR POET by G. Emil Reutter

Fiona Sze-Lorrain Reviews IF NOT METAMORPHIC by Brenda Iljima


Tom Beckett Interviews NF Huth

“Make a Wish…and Blow out the Candles: An Explication of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie by Nicholas T. Spatafora

Sunnylyn Thibodeaux

Paul Lai Reviews AUTOMATON BIOGRAPHIES by Larissa Lai

Poets on the Great Recession: Poets reflect on the Great Recession, and its impact on their Poetry. Because
"To bring the poem into the world / is to bring the world into the poem."

Poets On Adoption:
Poetry: it inevitably relates to -- among others -- identity, history, culture, class, race, community, economics, politics, power, loss, health, desire, regret, language, form and genre disruption, love ... as well as the absences thereofs. The same may be said about Adoption."

A Thousand Words Plus...!


Wow. 108 new poetry reviews!

I also consider Poetry to be a creature. And I tease xir -- and vice versa -- many times. Earlier this year, I did an "angelic poker" bet: that for Galatea Resurrects' 17th issue I'd receive a hundred new reviews. At the time I placed that bet, I thought it'd be nearly impossible. That's why I made the bet. I do that with Poetry all the time. And as is ever the case, Poetry does not disappoint ... though it costs me in this instance a bottle of wine.

Entonces: Thanks as ever to GR's numerous, generous volunteer staff of reviewers. In addition to some wonderful feature articles, we have, not a hundred but, 108 NEW POETRY REVIEWS this issue! (By "new poetry review," I mean a new review of a publication, so if a publication is reviewed twice, that's 2 new reviews. Books reviewed are mostly poetry books but can be other genre if authored by poets.) Poetry has enhanced my love of lists so here are GR's latest poetry-lovin' stats!

Issue 1: 27 new reviews
Issue 2: 39 new reviews (one project was reviewed twice by different reviewers)
Issue 3: 49 new reviews (two projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 4: 61 new reviews (one project was reviewed thrice, and three projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 5: 56 new reviews (four projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 6: 56 new reviews (one project was reviewed twice)
Issue 7: 51 new reviews
Issue 8: 64 new reviews (3 projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 9: 65 new reviews
Issue 10: 68 new reviews (1 project was reviewed thrice and 1 project was reviewed twice)
Issue 11: 72 new reviews (1 project was reviewed thrice)
Issue 12: 87 new reviews (1 project was reviewed twice)
Issue 13: 55 new reviews (1 project was reviewed twice)
Issue 14: 64 new reviews (3 projects were reviewed twice)
Issue 15: 72 new reviews (1 project was reviewed thrice and 4 projects were reviewed twice)
Issue 16: 73 new reviews (2 projects were reviewed twice)
Issue 17: 108 new reviews (3 projects were reviewed twice)

Of reviewed publications, the following were generated from review copies sent to GR:

Issue 1: 9 out of 27 new reviews
Issue 2: 25 out of 39 new reviews
Issue 3: 27 out of 49 new reviews
Issue 4: 41 out of 61 new reviews
Issue 5: 34 out of 56 new reviews
Issue 6: 35 out of 56 new reviews
Issue 7: 41 out of 51 new reviews
Issue 8: 35 out of 64 new reviews
Issue 9: 42 out of 65 new reviews
Issue 10: 46 out of 68 new reviews
Issue 11: 46 out of 72 new reviews
Issue 12: 35 out of 87 new reviews
Issue 13: 38 out of 55 new reviews
Issue 14: 40 out of 64 new reviews
Issue 15: 43 out of 72 new reviews
Issue 16: 49 out of 73 new reviews
Issue 17: 73 out of 108 new reviews

I continue to encourage authors/publishers to send in your projects for potential review. Obviously, people are following up with your submissions! Information for submissions and available review copies HERE. Future reviewers also should note that the next review submission deadline is April 15, 2012.

As of Issue No. 17, we are pleased to report that GR has provided 1,029 publications with new reviews (covering 412 publishers in 17 countries so far) and 70 reprinted reviews (to bring online reviews previously available only viz print or first published in now-defunct online sites). With this issue, we increased our coverage of poetry publishers by 26 to 412 publishers. This is important as I feel that much of the ground-breaking poetry work is being published by independent and/or relatively small presses who (by the nature of their work) are not always as well-known as they deserve to be.


Such excitement around here! It's no wonder that we and Galatea Resurrects also has now come to be the subject of a ... college student's paper! Please go HERE to see excerpts from University of Colorado college student Drew Butler's paper on us!


As I've said before, your Editor is blind, so if there are typos/errors in the issue, just email Moi or put in the comments sections and I will swiftly correct said mistakes (since such is allowed by Blogger).


From our family to you: Happy Holidays!

With much love, poetry, vino and fur,

Eileen Tabios
St. Helena, CA
December 22, 2011



Irresponsibility by Chris Vitiello
(Ahsahta, Boise, ID, 2008)

{I realised today that this review was written precisely one year ago, on a rainy evening in east London. Before the riots… Before the strikes… Sometimes we let things lie wet for a while. Then we come across them, and hang them out, and the colours seem brighter. NM, Paris, 1st of December 2011}

One evening this week I returned from work exhausted. The weather hung low over London, I was distracted and generally disheartened by professional uncertainties. I looked around my still relatively new apartment. Still no internet. Never a TV. Only books.

These moments can be revelatory. What do you feel like reading during these instants? I scanned across my bookshelves, volumes like so many jars of vaguely nauseating candy, reiterating an internal monologue: “too dreary”, “too pretentious”, “too confessional”, “too old”, etc. I then remembered Irresponsibility had recently arrived.

I wanted to read it. To reread it.

But why… This is never so easy to say. I wanted to read Irresponsibility because I had felt, on first reading, that these poems had come out of a time of crisis, had been made in the midst of a certain erosion and decay of belief. Of a world and a worldview. Of the beach and of knowledge, sanded episteme and unclear epistemologies.

A coming-to-terms.

I was not in crisis, but I wanted to feel the edges of my disheartened self. I remembered what I took to be the book’s concern with questions of knowledge: of what we know, and how, and what good it does us.

I felt it did not shy away from this possibility: it does us no good.
Closing your eyes is
lying to yourself about fooling yourself

I liked this. I wanted this. I remembered too Irresponsibility’s resolutely intellectual analyses. I wanted this too. I want poems to be smart, dense forms of an interlocking logos, to scream into our faces: THINK. Or to persuade us, cajole us, but with an end to knowledge. “And reference—we’ve all got that going on” (27). Indeed. As:
If the idea is optimally down
Or moved along and the sentences are dull
Or all the same length or awkward I’m
Not going to do anything about them

I want my poetry, sometimes, not to give a damn. Cadiot and Hocquard are here: the French literalist vantage points. But I wasn’t overly interested in this. But visible at least, in this: “self-reflexivity”. I like self-reflexivity mainly because it shows the term itself to be a pleonasm. Only reflexivity is possible. Self-reflexivity is just the doubling of an inevitable circle, a fairground mirror reflecting into infinite space.

Writing is reflexive if flexible. Irresponsibility makes no apologies. I love it for that. I like books to tell me why they are they (not them), and why they are there, instead of just pretending that everyone finds their ontology obvious. No ontology is obvious. The existence of a book is never clear. It is usually, or used to be, seen as miraculous. In this way, Irresponsibility is like a charming drunk who never stops introducing and reintroducing himself, only in ever more engaging ways.

Introduction and reproduction. “To see the wind I look at the trees”. I forget which page this is from: imperfection. Mistakes being important. Perception and the limits of knowledge.

This week, I had been reading Robinson Crusoe and marveling again at Robinson’s desire for finite order. For measured understanding, precision and exact charting, which then gives way to absolute obliquity and obtuseness in such lines as : “Today I shot something that resembled a cat”.

This is of course a paraphrase, but I want to introduce error into criticism as Vitiello does to poetry. As has been rarely done this well before. “Making a mistake is an argument” (82). This is of course dangerous. “Exploitation instructs” (82).

I remembered defending Vitiello against a friend who stumbled across Irresponsibility’s several pages of listed prime numbers. I presented this as perhaps the problem of ways of knowing, of the quest for certainties, of the comfort and rocky grappling point such numbers may give us faced with the sea, wind and sand, which imagologically dominate the book, setting up permanency and transigency as two primary rhetorical devices. When my friend said this was a vain “idea-gesture” like so much conceptual art (valuable for what it stands for, not what it is), I replied that Vitiello’s list of prime numbers moved me.

I was being honest. I felt how small and absurd we are in our naming and recording. Robinson putting his foot on Friday’s head and presuming “Master”.
To be is the verb behind all verbs
except to be

There is only cause and contingency all the way back, in language as in metaphysics, and we do not know the maker. So, “stop reading here and do something else for 45 minutes” (67). I didn’t obey, but I am thankful for the order.

It is important, I think, that the listed time is “45 minutes” and not “1 hour”.

Think about this.

My friend asked why Vitiello punctuated his “great lines” (“Everything points to not writing things down” [36]) with other “less interesting random stuff”.

I said this was an apt summary of my life.

“Writing this erases what it actually is” (20). One would have thought erasure had been exhausted by Mallarmé. But our own erasure is more than a trope.

Often, I get tired of saying that books are “extroardinary” or “adjective”.

I wanted to read Irresponsibility when I didn’t want to read anything else.

There is nothing to add after this.


Nicholas Manning's new collection Homo Sentimentalis: A Guide In Verse To Modern Emotional Intimacy - which Kent Johnson has called "probably the greatest single-poet book of love poems in the field of avant American poetry since For Love by Robert Creeley" - is forthcoming in early 2012 from Otoliths Books. His study of sincerity in 20th century poetics is forthcoming from Éditions Honoré Champion. He teaches comparative literature in France, where he is the founding editor of the The Continental Review and maintains the weblog The Newer Metaphysicals.



How Phenomena Appear to Unfold by Leslie Scalapino
(Litmus press, Brooklyn, 2011)

Although I’ve never much cared for Leslie Scalapino’s poems and often found her public appearances extremely trying How Phenomena Appear to Unfold encompasses substantially significant work. Scalapino’s passionate dedication to poetry: articulate, troublesome (as well as usefully troubled) is daring and lives comfortably within itself. Alive in rich exchange of ideas and feelings together, Scalapino crucially thinks with her body in writing. She delves into crossways where otherwise divergent paths of mind, soul, spirit, and heart are to be witnessed brought together. It’s a precision tinged challenging of historical orders of thought, particularly those of Occidental origin. It is poet’s work: a life work. Brilliant and energy giving: generously demanding. You should read her. As she says, commenting upon Beckett, the consideration she offers of work by others demonstrates, “the way we ‘as reading’ are inside Beckett’s seeing.” Scalapino enacts a de-mummification of active thinking in writing. Such “seeing” from out her perception of sight should not be missed.

This is both an expansion and a re-working of the previous 1989 edition of a collection by the same title. As Scalapino writes in her Preface, the writing “is conceived as an ongoing, flexible structure that incorporates demonstrations of its gestures, such as poem-plays and poem-sequences alongside essays” and she has enlarged this new edition “omitting some pieces and adding by interweaving twenty-one new essays (only three of which had been published in previous books) and seven additional poetic works.” It is her stated intent that “the unfolding structure of the book mime and demonstrate—be (and be seeing) the process and the instant of—the inside and the outside simultaneously creating each other.” The conversation is internally resonant with itself. Reading this book is an experience of deep immersion into Scalapino’s critically creative gears and shafts. And she provides the necessary tools to get dirty with her.

Philip Whalen is a central re-occurring poet whose work Scalapino turns to as mirror to her own. While her take on Whalen may often be arguably self-serving, it is not the “nonsense” I am previously guilty of having been in agreement with a fellow poet of finding it to be. Her extrapolation of “Whalen’s view that the poem precedes thinking” is quite of use in digging beneath Whalen’s somewhat commoner appearing surfaces, too often his own humbleness allowing for his work to evade such deep penetration of its brilliance. Scalapino locates our awareness to instances where Whalen clearly demonstrates that “the poem thinks itself, being ahead of the person” as she strives towards articulating her own practice of the poem as entity in the process of its creation. Like Whalen, she would relinquish her control over writing in order that the writing acts on its own; that, no matter whatever else, it finds its own way. As she writes of her own work, “it is phenomena as being one’s mind. ‘Seeing’ is not separate from being action and these are only the process of the text/one’s mind phenomena. Writing is therefore an experiment of reality.” And commenting on Whalen’s work, again: “The poem is one’s always leaping out of one’s mind, not being in the same moment of one’s mind there.”

Scalapino’s writing has ambitious agendas. In her essay/talk “Disbelief” an enlarged version of what was originally presented on a panel discussion concerned with the body and Language Poetry, she interweaves comments made by poet Suzanne Stein on an early draft of the writing she shared with her. Discussing her poem series “that they were at the beach—aeolotropic series,” Scalapino writes “The effort again is also to thereby actually change the fabric that is the past, literally.” And Stein responds “to change the body’s past/ or the single body’s past is one thing, to change the historical past [which doesn’t exist anyway] is an undertaking with terrible implications. I don’t disagree with you, I’m just frightened by it.” This triggers Scalapino to in turn respond that yes there is “a terrible implication which I don’t intend, but which is occurring in some of the writing as also events, similar to tactics of some political regimes, is the rewriting of history supplanting what did occur with what did not occur” yet she admits “the implications of changing one’s own actual historical events are also terrifying whether or not introducing simply rewriting: voiding events would be to have no history and therefore no bounds or ‘life.’” She does not back away from declaring this impulse behind her writing, “This was in fact my purpose.” As Scalapino elsewhere remarks on Alice Notley’s poem “White Phosphorus,” with her use of quotation marks to cluster words and phrases, “The ‘form’ has become an apparatus, a device for transforming actual life and death.”

Scalapino also acknowledges in “Disbelief” various rifts she experienced as they arose within and around the Language poets in 70s-80s San Francisco. She relates “My language, which I intended as study of individual’s thought-shape and sensations, Ron Silliman apparently saw as self-expression. Thus he criticized me in letters (“You refuse to question self.”)” And tells how she was “critiqued a number of times by poets for “originality” while being told that there is no such thing (all ideas and gesture are appropriated.)” The deep irony of such fraternity-like hazing activity is not lost on Scalapino.
In the early ‘80s in San Francisco the phrase “Language bashing” or “Language basher” arose (from Ron Silliman?) as a term for those who criticized Language poetry, appropriated from the term “gay bashing” (meaning episodes of beating or even killing people who are gay). That is, critique of Language poetry was equated with a civil rights or human rights violation. As if any criticism were inherently wrong and violent. This sequestered and sequestering tendency obviously is anti-social. Yet I think this insular gesture was related to the sense that a social communion was possible. That is, actual community ‘there’ was the ideal.

As she notes at the end of the essay, her “critique is not of the Language movement as such but of sexism and gender custom as the social construction of reality.” In a final bit of scrappiness, she adds showing a terrific bit of spunk that the essay “though an afterthought on my part, is a contribution as a part of memoir” to The Grand Piano/ An experiment in Collective Autobiography, San Francisco, 1975-80 then being published serially as authored by her Language peers.

In a good, gruff extended squabble extrapolated from out her book R-hu Scalapino takes Marjorie Perloff to the mat. At issue are negative remarks made by Perloff in an early review of Scalapino, dismissing her work as inferior to that of Silliman, along with remarks Perloff delivered both publicly and privately at the Page Mothers conference in San Diego. Perloff spoke to the effect that not only were women poets unable to reach as fine an experimental poetics as men, but also that they were unable to articulate an adequate theorizing of their own work. Perloff stated that this is her own function since she is “the critic, you are the poets.” Which Scalapino understands as “meaning, you cannot think about what you are doing.” Naturally, Scalapino knows what Perloff doesn’t get, namely that “for poets conception is the art.” Scalapino tidily sums up any and all future consideration of Perloff’s work:
Perloff has been instrumental in popularizing Language writing, yet doing so by praising works in terms of a socially and poetically/conceptually conservative interpretation. It would be good to now return to the works and reassess the range of their interpretations.

In her terseness, guided by a strict adherence to a set of principles to which she aligned herself early on in her writing, Scalapino’s criticism shines with crystalline clarity. Other extensive writings are gathered herein on Robert Creeley, Lyn Hejinian, Robert Grenier, and Michael McClure among others. Litmus press has provided a wonderful service publishing this collection. This is a fine and beautiful book produced with an eye for emphasizing the high quality of the poetics behind its shaping. It’s good, good stuff.


Patrick James Dunagan lives in San Francisco and works in Gleeson library at University of San Francisco. His most recent book is There Are People Who Think That Painters Shouldn't Talk: A GUSTONBOOK (Post Apollo, 2011), other writing of his appears in Amerarcana, Barzakh, The Critical Flame, Fulcrum, House Organ, New Pages, Poetry Project Newsletter, Rain Taxi, Sous les Paves, Switchback, and Wild Orchids.



At That by Skip Fox
(Ahadada Books, Buffalo, N.Y., 2005)

More than a decade ago, as humans count the days, I (your steamed reviewer) received a manuscript from Skip Fox. My wife Beth Garrison and I were suddenly and surprisingly in charge of Potes & Poets Press at the time. My writin’ friend Stephen Ellis encouraged Skip Fox to send us something. We published that something, What If. The present book lingers in the same delight as that one. Officially, I believe it stands as follow up to the earlier triumph.

At That cascades in a specific flow that I think embraces a very now thing. Skip Can I Call You Skip writes in a journal fashion of oddlots expressed in poetry time. My fancyspeak wants to suggest an enviable relationship to the encumbrances of words all over the place.

What I mean, and I am sure you are happy to know I mean something, is that Fox works on reception. That’s the journal thing. To receive ideas, observations, visions, and what the heck. Poets transmute, they don’t make up.

At That consists of a bookful of sections. It looks like sections may reach one page in length, most are less. Pagination stops at 186.

Fox numbers the sections, which instills the feeling that the book follows chronology. You know, like a journal. Numbers are missing, which suggests that Fox wielded a blue pencil. Good for him.

The sort of active presence that Fox presents in this jumble excites me as poetry should. He delivers his reading, his rumination, his observation, and even his poetry. Lines of definition blur. I love it.

According to my research, poems are clunky, pretentious things 97% of the time. We don’t need more scholastic aptitude traps that simply recharge emphatic old signs of culture. We just need an eye meeting phenomena and allowing words to flow around the events. Fox has a method that propounds interest, rather than rational reflection. I like it.

Fox calls a toilet a “turd hog”, among “Definitions for the New Millennium”. That is some fleck from the other side. The book is full of them.

Quoting seems almost against the grain here. I could leaf thru and note high points. Those high points would be the unresisted, currently. They would and will change.

This book wants a Reader to lift it, open it, stop at a succession of words, and then colon (:), something more… You go on from here. That seems like poetry to me.


Allen Bramhall is the author of DAYS POEM (Meritage Press), among other things...



Ethics of Sleep by Bernadette Mayer
(Trembling Pillow, New Orleans, 2011)


Stunned positively by the first few poems in this book, I avidly gobbled it up. It starts with “Max’s Dream” that reports just that in a maturing kid’s voice. It has the poetics of the dream-report that seem easier than they are until you try it. That piece sets up the next several pages that form one long piece called “The Buttered Key” (13-19). That title has to be a reference to getting a key to slip into a reluctant lock, a metaphor I guess. The poem has thirteen pieces in it, all called “A dream called …” something. These pieces are each one long “run-on” sentence long. That breathlessness gives the tumble of dream and something more to them. They have lines kind of but are more about the enjambments of dreaming rather than enjambment in poetry unless there’s no difference which maybe there isn’t; get it?

My favorite, of course, is the last, which starts:
A dream called Conversation with Ted Berrigan. That’s it for the rest of
the glow, there’s the lace and the prolific by the ocean’s
rose hip blossom pressed to recall the ignorance of homilies
there’s a whole lot more the spider who swings down and around
the green gangrene of influence like your toes might fall off
if you don’t get to holding hands very soon,

and ends:
                                                Chicken pot
pies and jazz with Ted while he’s the vice presidential
            “What side are we on?” I say
            “I don’t know, the last cut on the first side I guess,”
            he says.

What social linguists have called the “parsimony principle” sets in here and directs us to make something of what we’re given in the directest way possible; I get an accuracy of image and memory packed with feeling from the first part and an open joke from the last that also is bound to the memory of LPs dear to my heart almost as Berrigan is and must be to Bernadette.

After that comes an eight-page poem composed almost entirely of questions that asks:
Have you read the sonnets of Rototeille?
Are you reading books in the middle or in the center?
Have you found a number of genres?
Did the snow park separate at the top & slide down on bellies?
Try to describe everything.

The modern mix of the mundane and the deeper is used here, as well as the trick of curious elisions, to get a sense of mystery and meaning from these queries. The un-question there that I stopped on to me relates a set of questions all at once, like “what did it look like?” and “how did it smell?” and “what were the sounds?” etc., but a writer too has to put in or allude to “what were you thinking?”

There is a three-person conversation/interview at the back of the book that relates some thinking one might do about this work. Dave Brinks comments:
Truthfully I would discourage anyone to begin with your work who doesn’t want to feel frustrated as far as writing reviews, and not because your works are difficult, because they’re not; but simply because your works have too many delights which just aren’t easily pinned down. (89)

He says this right after commenting on an “angry review” of her Poetry State Forest that Bernadette mentions. Brinks says, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was written by someone who was just experiencing the initial struggles of finding their own way of talking and writing about poetry at the same time.” This I take to be an accurate assessment based on Bernadette’s practice and its debt to Gertrude Stein’s dictum about talking and listening at the same time being the basis for genius and how the gossip of her aunties on a Baltimore stoop gave that idea to her. The genius of Ethics of Sleep and much else in the Mayer oeuvre is based in the talking mind. She gives it both a lot of permissions and a lot of modernistic editing, but it is the voice in the head that rattles us nicely in Mayer’s works.

The cover blurbs for this book on the back are hilarious and to the point. I bet somebody made them up, but I also bet that the purported speakers wouldn’t take them back if they could.
We finally understand how the brain works!
--John Lilly, M.D.

I’m leaving all my money to Bernadette Mayer because she’s the best writer, especially Ethics of Sleep.
--John Ashbery

I have to agree with Ashbery, even though I know if I called him he might say he has never seen this cover nor said or written those words. The poems between the covers have an ethic of their own; they sound as if taken straight from a tired brain but have much more going on. The poems are written not rattled off. There are lines or bits that re-appear here and there in different contexts in the book as if to prove this. “On Sleep” appears here in a version that is better spaced than the one that New Directions published in Scarlet Tanager in 2005. This spacing makes a difference and again shows a level of attention to how a poem reads that is consciously writerly; in Ethics of Sleep, we see a poem built of units—some are lines and some are chunks of thought or anecdotal reports of worry and insomnia—each given equal weight and having something of their own about them and about sleep. Here are a few:
You could only feel the air like cold’s envelope surrounding the body
                                                            like sleep

Sleep is the stealing of beds inside and outside
and the simple finding of them

I do not know how to write commercially though some commercial writers who are quite successful also cannot sleep I’ll bet sleep means something, look it up in Skeats Etymological Dictionary. Let me tell you what I’m worried about, my unbent block of wood under rails, my slipping sinking gliding dormant soul of myself, I am worried about these things: [and then a list]

I know how to attend to the moment of the text and all this writing about oneself, this is not the point. I worry about that. Maybe if you went to Harvard it’s o.k.. Besides not going to Harvard I worry about the other mistakes I’ve made in my life, I won’t trouble you with a list.

This is a work in progress. I invite you to contribute to it. A railroad tie is called a sleeper, that’s why we sometimes sleep like logs

This is progressive work. It builds momentum, and not just for itself but for others who might read it and weep with the sense of possibilities for their own writing.
Bernadette is a treasure.
--Johnny Depp


T.C. Marshall is busy occupying his life, seriously supporting movement actions on the Cabrillo College campus where he teaches and in the S.F. and Monterey Bay areas where he lives. He has been writing and publishing poetry since first grade, literary criticism since his college days in the U.S. and Canada, and nature writing here and there. His latest publications include online essays and reviews as well as poems online and on paper in magazines. His next project is a set of poems incorporating photos to be published on a blog, all of which were originally posted on FaceBook. They are called Post Language.



Self-Portrait with Crayon by Allison Benis White
(Cleveland State University, OH, 2009)

Beyond Grief and Melancholy

Self-Portrait with Crayon is an exquisite first collection of poetry by Allison Benis White. Comprising of thirty-five prose poems, vignettes and fragments of text, this work contains a strong, elegiac voice that speaks of memories, loss and intimacy through haunting — and sometimes, disorienting — embodiments. The body of a young ballet dancer that dominates as an image throughout the book is one of these haunting presences. An imaginary conversation with Degas and inspirations from fleeting dance scenes further evoke the mysterious drama of disappearance(s) that a young girl had lived through, as well as unresolved feelings that would subsequently define her private space.

Closely knitted with a train of consciousness that moves from poem to poem, this debut collection is in itself an intact poetry. Like a long breath that floats and lands, it shifts from a monologue to a meditative diary entry without being confined to the definition of a prose poem. Impressions are blurred, and pronouns have no names. Even the book’s title is rather revealing about the overall texture — and form — of the work. What does it mean to draw a self-portrait with a crayon? What does it render? What is inside the lines? Is the portrait the lines or the sketch? Can we also see, or even feel, the image with the gesture of the sketch?

There are many lines I greatly admire, and here is just a short list:
There is a hinge at the end of a lake boat, but I still don’t know how to draw the fear of        separation.
            — “Waiting”

And the weather in my calves and hands and neck outside the fabric of my dress. I felt safest, suddenly held as I turned to go, in the arms of a man I didn’t know.
            — “Portrait of Mlle. Helene Rouart”

It was Santa Monica and waves rushed toward a collective sigh. Twice, under my breath, I said no. A necklace unclasps here, like touch. Closer. It is only love that requires a face.
            ¬— “At the Seaside”

But what good is her voice without her ear?
            — “The Song Rehearsal”

Sometimes it helps to think of this or nothing.
            — “Melancholy”

Reading Allison Benis White’s poems remind me of the Romantics — Keats, Bryon and Shelley. The world is wounded, perhaps lost and gone. Yet something always remains, lingering in the background, to be seen obliquely, to be felt or understood differently. It may be too sweeping to simply treat these poems as writings on grief and sadness. There is also beauty and elegance, something sincere and unyielding. Other than the dead, there are survivors. The poet comes from a place where few words are crucial. And this brief review does no justice to the emotional density of these poems, quiet and sensitive, which certainly merit an attentive read in an ever noisier world.


Fiona Sze-Lorrain's book of poetry, Water the Moon (Marick, 2010) is an Honorable Mention for the 2011 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Translations of Bai Hua, Yu Xiang and Hai Zi are forthcoming from Zephyr Press and Tupelo. An editor at Cerise Press, she is also a zheng concertist. (