If someone were to ask me what contemporary poet is really changing the art form, who is really redefining our conception of poetry as it is today, I...moreIf someone were to ask me what contemporary poet is really changing the art form, who is really redefining our conception of poetry as it is today, I would hand that person this book. As a consistent follower of Billy Bob Beamer's POMES published at Peter Ganick's literary blog experiential-experimental-literature, I was excited to find that a portion of them had been collected in print, and this publication did not disappoint. Beamer's work is as semantic as it is semiotic, chaotic as it is concentrated, enigmatic as it is enthralling. The form and content of these POMES are in perfect experimental balance--every notion from title to symbol becomes Beamer's plaything in the most meticulous and provocative of ways, with equally impressive results.(less)
In August, Steve Roggenbuck and Poncho Peligroso were kind enough to invite me as a featured reader to the final stop of their IRL Poetry Tour in Pitt...moreIn August, Steve Roggenbuck and Poncho Peligroso were kind enough to invite me as a featured reader to the final stop of their IRL Poetry Tour in Pittsburgh. I had a wonderful time there and made sure to snag my own copy of 'the romantic' before heading back to Ohio. The next day, I read the book in one sitting because it was just that good. Poncho's poetry simply captivated me by my every emotion and refused to let go until the dead of night. Then I went to bed and thought continuously about how 'the romantic' is a sort of brand-new tome, a necessary work of poetry. October is coming soon, and I am still thinking about it from time to time.(less)
There is a lot to be said about these twelve stories, but in short, Look! Look! Feathers is an impressive first collection and Mike Young is a gifted...moreThere is a lot to be said about these twelve stories, but in short, Look! Look! Feathers is an impressive first collection and Mike Young is a gifted new storyteller. Young's narrative voice is like that of an entire community of unique personalities, each presenting its own history with a special hospitality and confidence that draws you in instantaneously and stays with you long after the tale has been told. Some stories are more interesting and vivacious than others, but they all possess an essence of great character that gives them their strength. Favorites of mine included "Burk's Nub," "Susan White and the Summer of the Game Show," "What The Fuck Is An Electrolyte?", and "Restart? Restore?"(less)
Thanks to the helpful maps and knowledgeable staff at the Marriott-Wardman Park Hotel in D.C., my first AWP experience ended up consisting of signific...moreThanks to the helpful maps and knowledgeable staff at the Marriott-Wardman Park Hotel in D.C., my first AWP experience ended up consisting of significantly fewer panels than I'd intended, but that's perfectly okay considering how many other wonderful things happened over the course of those three days in February. One panel that I did manage to make it to was the one on this nifty little anthology, "Hint Fiction: An anthology of stories in 25 words or fewer." It featured editor Robert Swartwood and contributors Michael Martone, Daniel A. Olivas, Randall Brown, and Roxane Gay, all of whom are geniuses and all of whom provided great insight on the topics of brevity, story, constriction, space--the list could go on for a while. During the Q&A session, I managed to articulate myself for once and ask the panelists something decent. You can read about it in Gay's review of Davis Schneiderman's "Blank: A Novel" on HTMLGIANT.
Anyway, to keep the rest of this "review" brief, I love this anthology for a multitude of reasons--how it pushes, how it creates tension, how it pivots some conceptions about writing and gives a second wind to others. In short, it is a miniature collection that walks taller in a few thousand words total than certain novels I've read can with a downright gargantuan word count.(less)
Last week, I was fortunate enough to seize three opportunities for interaction with Heather Hartley on my college campus. First I attended a poetry re...moreLast week, I was fortunate enough to seize three opportunities for interaction with Heather Hartley on my college campus. First I attended a poetry reading, then a dinner conference, then a class discussion/reading. Each of these experiences were very insightful and I learned quite a bit from Hartley. She taught me that certain works are never entirely finished even after they have been published; that it is never too soon to start sending your stuff out there; that there are people who may never understand what you have written. She has been traveling from area to area, collecting ideas, experiences, and poems for some time now, and her work exemplifies her wisdom of the craft. "Knock Knock" is a collection of 40 poems written by Hartley over the span of about a decade--they are impressive: raw, passionate, spiritual, intricate. She definitely knows what she is doing, and I feel that this anthology is a wonderful example of how the creative struggle can pay off in the end.(less)
The title may sound a bit sentimental, but "Kissing in Iceland" is actually far from gushing. Contained within this brief book from Eliza Locke are in...moreThe title may sound a bit sentimental, but "Kissing in Iceland" is actually far from gushing. Contained within this brief book from Eliza Locke are indeed poetic tales of travel and romance; however, be the setting Charlestown or Stockholm, the travel itself is overall irrelevant and clouded in correlation to each narrative prose-poem, and the romance is oftentimes amoral and detached rather than sweet and overbearing. Much in the fashion of a collection such as Christy Leigh Stewart's "Loath Letters," "Kissing in Iceland" presents bitter honesty without pleading for understanding all the while. With every glimpse into the lives of those who live in order to remember or forget or deny or justify, there is always some sort of inspiration to be found, and Kelly Carmody's minimalistic drawings highly complement this inspiration.(less)
Just as one of Stephen King's best short story collections encourages the reader to work the "Night Shift," this riveting anthology from Jeremy Robert...moreJust as one of Stephen King's best short story collections encourages the reader to work the "Night Shift," this riveting anthology from Jeremy Robert Johnson encourages the reader to enter the "Angel Dust Apocalypse." Reading this book does indeed have the feel of entering a newfound, blissful end of the world (or, more accurately, of the world as we know it). Johnson's writing clearly pulls influence from not only great horror authors such as King but also great satire authors such as Vonnegut, literary authors such as Wallace, and even occasionally, experimental authors such as Pynchon. With these influences in mind, however, Johnson also manages to clearly present a unique style of his own. Each of these 20 or so short stories, be it classified as bizarro in the context of a man's determination to shock the most residents of an already shocking world, or as tragedy in the context of an irrational phobia gradually consuming a life, or as slice-of-life in the context of a burdening brotherhood driven by spite and circumstance rather than love, is narrated with a conversational yet captivating voice that perfectly accompanies the hilarious, heartbreaking, or horrific plot.
The only short story collection I've read that seemed absolutely flawless to me has been James Joyce's "Dubliners," and literary fanatics ought to know the obvious reasons. "Angel Dust Apocalypse" comes very close though, for these stories range from surreal to unreal to ugly to beautiful, and everywhere in between, and regardless they are always gripping and powerful. They serve as proof that Jeremy Robert Johnson possesses an unparalleled talent for storytelling and deserves to have a great writing career ahead of him.(less)
Now that that is out of the way, I must begin by stating that little else in life thrills and enthralls me in the way that an incredi...moreFirst off, I WON!
Now that that is out of the way, I must begin by stating that little else in life thrills and enthralls me in the way that an incredible book from a still new or undiscovered author does. As an aspiring writer, I tend to have those occasional moments of doubt, panic, and uncertainty that I am sure any wannabe author has. Despite what people may say about my work or what praise I may receive, I sometimes wonder whether or not I will be able to actually make anything of myself one day. After all, Creative Writing is such a competitive field. Folks such as Christy Leigh Stewart (as well as Megan Hansen) then come along at just the necessary moment, helping me to keep my chin up and reminding me that it is still possible for someone to capture the dream of reaching out to others with writing. All sentimental fluff aside (which seems so unfitting for this particular book), "Loath Letters" is thoroughly impressive, every single page of it. Stewart's short stories tell of the macabre, the absurd, the surreal, the disheartening, and the hilarious in distinctly tongue-in-cheek mannerisms, and her flash fiction packs pure adrenaline and emotion within the context of spacious, detached sentences along with a vividly depraved imagination. Think the fanzines of Harmony Korine plus the transgressive fictions of Anthony Burgess multiplied by the empty narratives of Anton Chekhov. Whether the tale is that of a woman who cannot accept the reality behind her deformity, or a teenager who has "a problem fitting in," or a father who is struggling to separate his past from his future, you will be left somehow inescapably affected by this anthology.
As a side note, it seems that people dog Christy Leigh Stewart for her sparse mistakes and typos throughout this book, but for now "Loath Letters" is self-published and we are all human beings. However, I honestly believe that if the author wills it to happen, this publication shall become an early draft of an authentically published masterwork. Until then, consider this edition the "Stephen Hero" to James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."(less)