Having returned this to the library, I realize that I need to buy a copy for myself (to respectfully dog-ear and underline all to hell). It is an intrHaving returned this to the library, I realize that I need to buy a copy for myself (to respectfully dog-ear and underline all to hell). It is an intricate and exciting book chock full of interesting historical anecdotes and good humor. I especially like that Mark Twain is referenced so freely....more
It's always interesting to see what Snyder is doing, and so I picked this collection up at the library. None of his classics are compiled here, and yeIt's always interesting to see what Snyder is doing, and so I picked this collection up at the library. None of his classics are compiled here, and yet, I found it to be a fairly enjoyable read. These poems are sometimes difficult to decipher but are intoned honestly enough, and reflect the shortcomings (and long-goings) of the whole beatnik countercultural scene. Thankfully, Snyder was on the frayed edges of that scene, and, as a result, can often rise above the ridiculously antiquated 50's colloquialisms that other authors of his era brandish so brazenly.
There is however a good bit of unreadable poetry, too. It is playful and even the bad poems display exceptional use of enjambment, but I am (understandably?) skeptical as to the value of lines such as: "Two women masturbate a corpse" or "The Fox-girls switch from/ human to fox-form/ right during the party!/ one man/ who was doing cunnilingus on his friend,/ now finds a mouth/ of fur" ("Fear Not," 142). I think this sometimes-shittiness is most prominent in the longer poems—especially "Vulture Peak," which is strange and probably was written while stoned. Or it seems that way due to its 'zany' scatter-brained jabbering, i.e. "A badger gave me visions/ A whale made me pure." What? On a surface level, its inconsistent use of punctuation makes it look sloppy, and its grammatical errors make it sound sloppy. Ultimately though, this poem reads like an excerpt of Kerouac's Some of the Dharma: a slipshod, slapdash, frenzied plenty of nonsense!
What I'm trying to say, I suppose, is that these poems are not awful; they are travel poems and experimentals, mood poems and pseudo-haikus. They span such a long stretch of time that they lack a real consistency with each other, and while it's true, they are set to a backdrop of Eastern thought, they often are caught in the lonely ruggedness of the Western United States. I would consider reading this again a year from now.
Recommended: "Numerous Broken Eggs" (36), "Geological Meditation" (43), "For Alan Watts" (123), "For Berkeley" (158), "The Forest Fire at Ananda" (165)...more
Although I didn't particularly enjoy this collection, it's not because Wendy Martin has cherrypicked stories that are too culturally varied for me toAlthough I didn't particularly enjoy this collection, it's not because Wendy Martin has cherrypicked stories that are too culturally varied for me to be able to relate to on some deeper level. In fact, that is the best thing going for this book. It really takes a gander at writing from a wide range of mitigated groups of women. Interesting.
It is unfortunate that the stories that move Martin are not ones that move me. I don't know why. I generally found them boring and somewhat flimsy. I can think of a number of stories (by many of the same authors) that would be better suited to being anthologized. Perhaps there were copyright issues.
Regardless, my favorites are Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson" and Sandra Cisneros' "Never Marry a Mexican." The former explores economic inequality and the early 70's burgeoning culture of windowshoppers through the lens of a child, and the latter portrays the life of an adulterer on an edge between cultures....more
This collection is poorly written in a number of important ways. First, Your Native Land, Your Life refuses to follow any patterns on the page. ThereThis collection is poorly written in a number of important ways. First, Your Native Land, Your Life refuses to follow any patterns on the page. There is no logic to the enjambment, the spacing and punctuation is inconsistent (even within the same poem), and Rich's use of italics lacks purpose or subtlety.
As far as music, it comes and goes. I only give this collection two stars because of a few brief moments where Rich temporarily goes outside of her boring, unpoetic, and vaguely political filibusters. Naturally, there is some spill over of subject matter in a work with two longer "poems" (each of which have over 20 numbered sections—in both Roman numerals and standard European digits), and this gives these pieces a bit of aural repetition. Unfortunately, the words and phrases that are repeated are not interesting or particularly pleasing to hear. How many times can you say diaspora in one book?!
And lastly, I have to call into question the actual quality of ideas in this book. It's almost as if we're getting a sort of Adrienne-Rich-by-numbers here. Sure she talks about being Jewish. Being a woman. Being a lesbian. Being afraid of the government. She'll use epigraphs (sometimes two) and throw around notions of slavery, the Holocaust, America, rape . . . But the only place where she really shines is in the last section of the book—and only sometimes. At least there, Rich relates a personal experience and not just denatured political detritus; she talks about her arthritis, about aging.
I'm not happy that I didn't enjoy this collection. I am a fan of hers, and I know there is a gifted mind at work, but I'd rather stand by the things that are important in poetry to me. Without any sense of playfulness or inventiveness in the language, why am I reading? Without proposing any innovative ideas or making anything beautiful with meaning, how is this poetry? It's not....more
I really enjoyed this collection of poetry. Kay Ryan is wonderfully inventive with language and is at least as interested in the sound of things, whicI really enjoyed this collection of poetry. Kay Ryan is wonderfully inventive with language and is at least as interested in the sound of things, which I find refreshing. While a lesser poet would jam-pack their work full of intriguing noise—albeit noise bereft of all meaning—Ryan's poems do not suffer from this kind of playfulness-run-rampant. Instead, she casts and recasts her words carefully (like all good poets), crafting pieces that are bountiful in ideas and alive with the music that frames them. Even if some of Ryan's subjects are not pleasant (sickness, death, and impermanence to name a few), she writes with considerable intelligence and good humor, trying resolutely to turn poetry from a solemn and somber practice to something worth reciting. If this sentiment was more popular, perhaps we'd hear poetry some place other than in a darkened room in the bowels of academia or at a funeral....more
There are a couple poems which really seem to work—especially through Alexander's ability to set a fully-realized scene with a tiny palmful of words.There are a couple poems which really seem to work—especially through Alexander's ability to set a fully-realized scene with a tiny palmful of words. Unfortunately, this brevity isn't always such a blessing; sometimes it makes the poems feel like they're rough drafts, full of initial bursts of inspiration but also full of perplexing movements and endings. Her poems use words sparingly though they hardly feel like they've been shorn down by multiple revisions. And then there are Alexander's constant references to pop-culture icons . . . For what purpose, I can only guess.
In all, I feel it's too dreamy, too meandering. This is the kind of flapdoodle hodgepodge that people always rave about being "pure music in the key of motherhood" or "jazz-induced meditations on the politics of the body," etc. etc. But it's just not as ground-breaking or radical as people would have you believe. Not as aurally playful either.
For instance, here's an entire goddamn poem:
Make soup from this:
Shrimp shells for stock, yams, mushrooms (portobello), cilantro to taste....more
Originally, I read one of Lucia Perillo's short stories, "Bad Boy Number Seventeen," and was amazed by how she could turn a joke beyond just being funOriginally, I read one of Lucia Perillo's short stories, "Bad Boy Number Seventeen," and was amazed by how she could turn a joke beyond just being funny. Without diminishing the honesty of the joke, she found a way to frame her humor within the context of a larger sense of tragedy—ultimately, entrenching us in a character's pain while simultaneously showing us how they cope with that pain. In Luck Is Luck, Perillo continues exploring this territory, bringing a sort of double-edged hilarity into musings and reflections on anything from daily happenstance to religion to the death of her father. These are by no means little pfffts (like the farting of aphids). They're really quite moving.
Furthermore, these poems are refreshing, and that's important. Above all of the technical aspects—her superb use of semicolons, parenthesis, italics, line breaks, etc.—Perillo's poetry is honest and direct. She never reaches for a banal image; each one is a paragon of clarity (a peach!) and this helps lock the reader into her history, her environment, her thinking. And with a conversational diction, she still somehow manages to discuss complicated matters! She isn't afraid to examine issues of gender, humanity's role in the beautiful but brutal natural world, or our need to "risk delight" (as Jack Gilbert would say). Simply amazing work. I could go on.
Favorites: "The Floating Rib" (18), "Nathan's" (24), "White Bird/Black Drop" (29), "Urban Legend" (65), "Eulogy from the Boardwalk Behind the KFC" (89), and "Chum" (97)....more
This collection of poems is densely packed with wonderful images but somehow I feel that the music is gone. Another disturbing thing I find is that thThis collection of poems is densely packed with wonderful images but somehow I feel that the music is gone. Another disturbing thing I find is that these poems actually NEED the notes at the end of the book. How else are we supposed to understand any meaning in ambiguous references like: "October '17/ May '68/ September '73." So of course, I find it troubling that the best lines in this book are surrounded by an almost purposeful ciphering. Why?
Still, when Rich is overcome by the insanity of inspiration, her poems take a turn upward, though unfortunately not enough for any ONE poem to be that much better or worse than another....more
This book is not pretty. Very little pattern to the page, though what really gets my goat is the clumsiness of her line stops. I think this is the sinThis book is not pretty. Very little pattern to the page, though what really gets my goat is the clumsiness of her line stops. I think this is the single biggest problem with youngish poets who never concern themselves with the technical side of composition and write purely from the heart; they don't revise anything that is "truly felt." Still, she's got potential. So long as the critics don't murder her with a big pillow-case of acclaim....more
As Pushcarts go, this year had some outstanding pieces. Ones presented here are mostly essays, though there were a few good poems and a number of wondAs Pushcarts go, this year had some outstanding pieces. Ones presented here are mostly essays, though there were a few good poems and a number of wonderful short stories. I found many of these stories were set up as vignettes of people looking back on a bygone era—from Joyce Carol Oates' Gothic portrayal of a family farm in the 1920s to Lucia Perillo's tragicomic overview of dating in the 1980s. Of course, there were some forgettable stories (some with cyberpunk/sci-fi esthetics, some too light-hearted to age well) and a good deal of complicated atonal poetry I couldn't wrap my head around. Potent notables include:
"As Kingfishers Catch Fire" by Colum McCann, "A Hemingway Story" by Andre Dubus, "The Turkey Stories" by Julie Showalter, "The Book of the Dead Man #87" by Marvin Bell, "There Goes the Nobel Prize . . ." by Carol Muske, "Abundance" by Carl Phillips, "Timeshare" by Jeffrey Eugenides, "Invisible Dreams" by Toi Derricotte, "Junk" by Gordon Cavenaile, "Zealous" by Joshua Clover, "The Most Responsible Girl" by Emily Fox Gordon, "Tea at the House" by Meg Wolitzer, "Once a Shoot of Heaven" by Beckian Fritz Goldberg, "Valor" by Richard Bausch, "Bad Boy Number Seventeen" by Lucia Perillo, "Faithless" by Joyce Carol Oates, "The Order of Things" by Nancy Richard, "Meditation on an Aphorism by Wallace Stevens" by Jeffrey Harrison, "Flower Children" by Maxine Swann, and "Ernie's Ark" by Monica Wood.
There is a story in here by the late Julie Showalter, which I believe you can hear her read on the December 1, 1995 program of This American Life (Your Radio Playhouse). It also can be found (in its manuscript form) at:
Some interesting notions. A little repetitive. Not necessarily transcendent, but a good idea for a book nonetheless.
The last short is a meditatiSome interesting notions. A little repetitive. Not necessarily transcendent, but a good idea for a book nonetheless.
The last short is a meditation on if you died and then had to live your entire life backwards, finally arriving at: pre-birth. It reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut's description of bombs floating backwards into airplanes (in Slaughterhouse Five). Or, you know what, George Carlin also wrote a hilarious paragraph or two in one of his joke books on this topic; it was quite poignant, i.e. "ending life as an orgasm."...more