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. (



Utopia Minus by Susan Briante
(Ahsahta Press, Boise, ID, 2011)

Susan Briante’s second full-length collection, Utopia Minus, resists its own intense lyricism, augmenting its images at every turn with their social context, the conditions of their production, the conditions that produced those conditions. As the layers accrete, the collection becomes a study in overlay, a meditative archeology, not only of landscapes, impersonal and intimate, but of bodies themselves. In the layers, Briante sifts trafficopters and magnolias, boxwood and chemicals, old airport, new airport, a marriage gone to seed, a new one forming.

Here, the landscape, the signage, the body (his and hers), and the forms of industrial decay come together: “a pilot light at the back of my throat” (3). This is nearly cyborg, but without the triumphalism, without the progress narrative, the ambition. This is the mixed matter body of postindustrial participation—sacked, generative—the suburban landscape of “ruins in reverse” where, as the epigraph culled from Robert Smithson attests, “the buildings don’t fall into ruin after they are built but rather rise into ruin before they are built.”

In this condition of ruin, Briante reveals a thoroughly comingled landscape of human/natural/built. It is the “season/ of circulars” (71) and there is “a cell phone tower built to look like a pine tree” (67). Indeed, the land and machines are stamped with the human: we move through “small gasps of prairie” (4) and “the lawn mower bares its teeth” (45).

The mingling of private and public here is also insistent. In a recurrent series titled “Memoranda” that punctuates the collection, Briante addresses poems to public officials. In a poem titled “Dear Mr. Chairman of Ethics, Leadership and Personnel Policy in the U.S. Army’s Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel” Briante explains, “Yes, that was me kneeling down to take a birth control pill by baggage claim area three” (29), illustrating how our intimacies are themselves intimate with the not-so-external structures in which they occur—airports, shopping malls, highways—rendering the body itself a “quarry or construction site” (29), like emptying our pockets at the security gate. The “Sir” to whom these poems is addressed is informed of conditions on the ground: weather, in-process construction, desire: “Today, Sir, we have sun” (55).

Over everything hangs the specter of disaster, which is both intimate and administrative—an insurance policy, the “fragile braid of a spinal cord” (47). Disaster falls into stacks like paper, like sediment. Destruction here is daily, like rust or love or paperwork, but this doesn’t make it less urgent.

This is perhaps the striking thing about this collection. In the face of decay, we do not find cynicism or cleverness or the shrug of inevitability. Instead, we find urgency: “How does a tree move when it is angry? I want to be angry like that.” (18).

Something central about Briante’s intellectual, emotional, and poetic practice comes through in the poem “Nail Guns in the Morning.” She writes,
Storms this afternoon in Dallas
In the parking lot of the Target/Best Buy/Payless Shopping Center,
Big chalices of rain, contusioned sky over the east, big yellow bus moving north
Toward the dark end of—what?—

This weather, this fiscal year, the end of empire during which I am reading
The circulars stuck in my screen door, ice waiting
In the highest breath of atmosphere.
It will get to us.

Last night over dirty dishes, I told Farid
I would never write a poem that just said: Stop the War.

In this particular lyric landscape, where strip-mall stores in their indistinguishable/shared bodies (“Target/Best Buy/Payless”) sit under the bruised sky, Briante tracks the history of the emotions she documents, delivering us to this spot via earlier items from the archives of technological disturbance. A few lines earlier: “the study of trauma comes shortly after the steam engine, an affliction known as ‘railway spine,’ characterized by headaches, fatigue” (4). Together, these references form a search into the affect archives, into the emotions that attend trains, that attend shopping centers and empire, their etymologies, their ancestors and relations.

Briante’s refusal in the final line above (“I would never write a poem that just said: Stop the War.”) is in contrast to the poem’s ending, which arrestingly reads, “Stop the war, stop the war, stop the war, stop the war, stop the war” (15). But the difference here is clear. This is the difference between billboard and meditation, between lyric-as-univocal moment-monument and this interrupted, sutured, multivocal, diachronic documentary lyric.

Ultimately, it’s this rigorous sense of connection that drives the collection as it documents a multitudinous body of limbs (his and hers), desires, wet towels, rooftop air conditioning units, Texas roadside flowers, and the histories of roads and roadside flowers. She asks, “Laura Bush, what will you plant for us?” (75), insisting on the intimacy of infrastructure.

There’s something highly formal and very queer in Briante’s questions about bodies, their boundaries, histories, and connections. She writes, “When I write about my lover, I am writing about myself, the other/ part with hard cock” (45). At the same time, she asks, “We love each other/ and yet and yet and yet /Why should we want to confine ourselves in two’s or five’s or cities? (40). These are questions about the forms of bodies, of the self, of families, of connection, which become tied to the collection’s pervasive questions about the forms of landscape and memory and contemporary lyric. This is perhaps what Utopia Minus most documents: a sense not of abstract connection or continuity, exactly, but of everything actually touching everything else, a concerted contiguity: “every day/ another source of heat expires, bones from another/ century” (81).


Laura Trantham Smith is a poet and teacher whose work has been produced by the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the Painted Bride Art Center, and the Adrienne Theater in Philadelphia. She studied poetry at Naropa University and completed her Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin. She has served as a Poet in the Schools in Philadelphia, PA and Austin, TX and has led gender and sexuality writing workshops at the International Drag King Extravaganza, the Queer Texas Conference, and OutYouth. Recent articles have appeared in Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S. and Reflections: Writing, Service-Learning, and Community Literacy. She teaches poetry, African American literature, and creative writing at Stevenson University in Maryland.



In Paran by Larissa Shmailo
(BlazeVOX [books], Kenmore, NY, 2009)

                                                … The poppies pour

their juice in the red rain which will crack, in time, all o-
ther things. She drinks him with her hands. He follows
with her breast. She sees him with his chest, in this bo-

dy not her own, but which, in the night, is hers. Like the
heat that swells all things, she sings the night with him.
He follows her with his voice; she sees him with her skin

            --“He follows her”

I marvel at the palpability of the passion on the first pages of In Paran; I turn to the back cover, discover that Larissa Shmailo has won awards for her spoken-word work, I remember the aside on the book’s copyright page – BlazeVOX, publisher of weird little books. Nothing weird, nothing little, in this larger-than-life poetry. I wonder what YouTube might yield, and bingo!

On the poet’s website I find OVERTURE For An EXORCiSM; A spoken word poetry with music trailer for Larissa Shmailo's latest CD "Exorcism", a 3-minute performance which includes snippets from some of these jazz-bluesy songs of heady all-consuming love.

And, as even the strongest love can be lost, so the love here is lost and the poetry becomes wanderer in the desert wilderness, Paran; the bereaved narrator desperate in the wasteland of having to continue living life as a human. But the poems display still, vitality, exuberance – these are poems that live up to the insouciance promised by titles such as:

How to Meet and Dance with Your Death (Como encuentrar y bailar con su muerte): A Cure for Suicide – part of this hypnotic, injunction-laden, prose poem appears in the Exorcism trailer I referenced above.

Such too, as: Sea Sic (Readers: please read the stanzas in any order you like).

And there’s the prose poem comprised solely of couple of hundred words, a List of Words Never To Be Used in Poems every one of which proves it sooo must have its place in the poem.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This second section of Shmailo’s collection (entitled, rather intriguingly, Lit Crit) begins with the poem, In Paran, in which the narrator imagines escape from that desert into a land of milk and honey. Following this, two poems that hint at the darker matter of section three, yet to come. Here, a bit from New Life 2…
Imagine that the epoch ends in an idyl. The words that came
In monologues are rain dialogues now. And the flame,
That consumed others better than you, greedily, like logs;
In you it saw little use or warmth, and, like the dogs,
That’s why you were spared, why shrapnel gave you only fear.

The clouds soon disappear, though, with poetry like the marvelously wacky three-page Bloom that riffs on tongue-twistering lines such as these:
All ways a feather: bed your bugs as they bud
Welling roses these sweltering days
Rose roaches blooming by books, near pillows
Blooming by Bloomsday, busting out by June
Busting on Broadway, busting the busts…

which seques later into
(Forests of feathers: naked birds shrieking
Bony birds swooping
Burning birds screaming
Descending like hell)

and finally, after heady verbal ride, to a tart riposte:
But I’m Molly Bloom, I’m a mammal,
I have mammaries, see: This is a bust!
I don’t touch dead birds.

The third and final section of this book bears title, In the World, and as hinted earlier, stares bleakly at the underbelly of what humankind wreaks on humankind. The poetry is commentary on the ways in which people become unhuman, see others as not human, render themselves able to commit unspeakable acts. The two long ballad-like poems that close the collection really enthralled me, had me reading them over and over:

Exorcism (Found Poem), a three-page piece, mourns, with chant-like refrain and repeats, the US massacre at My Lai in 1968:
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
The troops of C Company killed five to six hundred
The troops of C Company killed five to six hundred
The troops of C Company killed five to six hundred
Civilians on that day

The killings took a long time
The killings took a long time
The killings took a long time
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground
I stand on holy ground.

Immediately after that, How my Family survived the camps, builds its affect with question-filled refrains inserted between the longer narrative stanzas:
How did my family survive the camps?
Were they smarter, stronger than the rest?
Were they lucky?
Did luck exist in Dora-Nordhausen,
Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen?
How did my family survive?
They offered no resistance
Did they collaborate?
Is complicity possible without choice?
How did my family survive?
Survive is not the right word.
I’m alive, my father would say, alive
Alive because I did not die; others died.

Keep breathing, he encouraged me in difficult times,
Keep breathing.

Indeed. Keep breathing. This collection can, in places, take your breath away.


Moira Richards lives in South Africa and hangs out online here and here.



The Feeling is Actual by Paolo Javier
(Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2011)

3D Glasses and Collage Tropes in Paolo Javier's The Feeling Is Actual

On a first look into the Filipino American poet Paolo Javier's The Feeling is Actual, the reader may be struck first by its ambiguous title, or by the title page's double-image logo. Farther along, the reader is threatened with a bit of sensory overload, as what had been supposed to be a simple book of poems veers off in ever-shifting voices and points of view, wordplay simultaneously playful and thought-provoking, and, perhaps, a sense that a poem just might not be a proper poem without its accompanying illustrations, slide projections, stage directions and/or video. While some may even be tempted to wonder if this can truly be called poetry, poets since (and probably before) Homer have had multimedia associated with their work. Although there are non-textual aspects to Javier's work, the text is still the spine and the muscle of these pieces. Zhou Xiaojing, comparing several Filipino American poets, concludes that they share a tendency to undermine English as “the institutionalized instrument of colonization and as the model of official language of the dominant culture to which Filipinos and Filipino Americans must conform in their process of assimilation” (157).

The Feeling is Actual begins with a bit of seemingly childish naughtiness, written in the voice of someone who may not have been speaking and writing in English since birth, but who has acquired fluency without taking for granted, or losing respect for, the power of the language of ad-copy, playfully combining the sexually suggestive with the commercial come-on:
This Pepperoni

is a one-

you'd love it too
if you
it's got big, big, flavor! (8)

Those born under colonial rule, or those with such a heritage, are surely familiar with having the imperial culture's language and commercial practices, including advertising, imposed upon their own culture, often to be completely and irrevocably assimilated. It is entirely natural to expect to see changes in how language is used when the colonial dynamic changes: statements that once might not have been safe to make are now possible, and situations that had been ironic might only now be seen as funny.

Text is essentially a linear form of communication. Letters or words in the wrong order may lose their intended sense, and some early writing appeared on papyrus strips before anyone thought to attach those strips together to form a truly two-dimensional, easily portable writing surface. Later, telegrams would echo this practice. Text is a vector aimed, by the writer, in a given direction at an often fairly specific intended reader, and proceeds to move and have an impact upon the recipient. Multiple messages from different directions or in different dimensions can impact upon the reader in unexpected ways, and the ability of a poet to use text coming from different directions to manipulate the thoughts or mood of the reader in new ways is a tool Javier fully exploits. One technique he employs involves hybrid, clichéd phrases that call to mind some familiar stock message, such as “the feeling is mutual” —often expressed in our society without much feeling at all—and introducing, either by changing a word or two, or by attaching an entirely different stock phrase, a different, often somewhat jarrring, concept. These colliding ideas can produce several results, including calling attention to themselves in a new voice (as when cinematographers directly acknowledge or address the viewer, also known as “breaking the fourth wall”), and taking the reader off in a third direction of thought without losing any sense of the new phrase's original component parts. Thus, “the feeling is actual” carries not one, but a minimum of three, possible associations, and perhaps more: the common, if somewhat half-heartedly formal, response to some statement such as, “I love you,” “the feeling is mutual,” is changed by one deceptively similar-sounding word to become, “the feeling is actual.” “Really?” one might ask. “Why?” It's an odd use of the word, certainly, and the reader can't help but notice. A simple response phrase moves in one direction, only to be halted by a word that reverses the dynamic logic of the phrase, effectively turning it into a question that the reader may feel challenged to consider. The word “trope” derives from a Greek term meaning “turn”, and that these are, quite literally, turns of phrase requiring our attention on at least two levels even before we invest a third line of thought reacting to them, effectively adding a third level, like a game of 3D chess. Marjorie Perloff writes on collage in the work of Ezra Pound: “In omitting the context, Pound both arouses the reader's curiosity and heightens the [ . . . ] contrast. Then, too—and this is how collage works—juxtaposition replaces exposition [ . . . ]” (7). Although this technique is not new, it does seem particularly appropriate as poets increasingly experiment with multimedia pieces, challenging the ability of the reading audience to interpret on multiple levels simultaneously.

The title of Javier's poem, “Wolfgang Amadeus Bigfoot,” for example, sounds vaguely plausible to the semi-attentive. It scans well, rolling off the tongue. It also evokes an image of mathematically-controlled passion—Mozart, tempered by his somewhat bestial-sounding given name, along with the “beloved of God” middle name—and all the images we might associate with Bigfoot, both in American folklore and popular media frenzy. The resulting combined image of Age-of-Enlightenment men in powdered wigs, velvet pantaloons and stockings rubbing elbows in a country bar with plaid-capped, conspiracy-theorist Bigfoot hunters in camouflage dress compels us to take an ironic look at our own culture—are we rational or redneck? —and it is hard to rule out the possibility that all of these references are entirely intentional. At a recent reading, Mr. Javier explained that he was not so much “into Bigfoot” —at least no more so than most people—as he is fascinated by people who are. Elsewhere in his collection (“Pinoy Signs,” part of the section entitled “FYEO”) Javier speaks of a great love of the Filipino people—presumably remembering their colonial past—for twisting common American-English phrases in unexpected ways, using the example, “Doris Day and Night,” the name of a 24-hour restaurant. Throughout his collection, Javier uses these mini-collage tropes as metonymy. In “LMFAO,” his speaker states:
It was a no-win-win situation
It was as brand as new
It was as clean as daylight
           for me

“Hi, I'm Paolo,” I said, “What's yours?”

I couldn't help myself to it
you reap what you saw
the sky's the langit, &
I am only human nature (68)

Most of those references which will be fairly obvious to English-speakers—win-win versus no-win situations, etc. —langit, a Tagalog term translating as “Heaven” or “sky” is more obscure, but inserting a word that a conscientious reader might have to look up in a dictionary only emphasizes that the focus of the reference has been shifted. The effect is similar to that of James Joyce's twisted clichés in Finnegan's Wake, such as “Hearasay in paradox lust,” or “The flushpots of Euston and the hanging garments of Marylebone.” The framework of an expected phrase, carrying its own meaning, is combined with a word, words or phrase carrying their own implications which don't simply change the meaning of the phrase, but rather preserve the original reference while adding a new, different direction of reference and the question inherent in the distance between the two concepts, all while calling attention to the fact that this is being done. The reader can decide whether self-consciousness is an asset or a flaw, but it is amusing to think of a poet announcing his trickery, like a narrator in a 1950s B movie advising the audience, “Put on... your 3D glasses... now.”

“Wolfgang Amadeus Bigfoot,” using several characters to explore themes which include, among others, juxtaposed rationality and barbarism, machismo and sexual ambiguity, and mainstream American culture versus various manifestations of the alien Other, is also apparently intended to be staged as a play, with an introduction stating that performers may wish to choose images to project at key moments in the piece identified by capitalized text. Cynthia Wagner points out that this type of multimedia use in poetry is becoming more commonplace:
Experimentation is not new to poets. Even the constraints of the printed page permitted visual enhancements through the arrangement of words on a page and the additions of illustrations; adding music to words creates songs. The multimedia age permits and encourages new ways of approaching poetic communication, such as three-dimensional installations in virtual reality, which invite direct participation of the reader (16).

Wagner is referring to adding dimension to text by using visual aids and other outside sensory input, and Javier does sometimes do this, but it only seems to echo and reinforce his use of collage within the text itself to produce a similar effect of audience involvement, and Wagner's claim can be said to apply to it equally as well.

Multiple levels of collage, on both large and small scale, are used extensively in “Heart As Arena.” The title itself comes from a painting by 80s graffiti-themed artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (who also employed collage techniques), and parts of the poem appear to be spoken in the voice of a fictional Basquiat-as-character, while others seem to refer to him as a third party. The poem is filled with references to Basquiat's work, and the extent to which we are getting some sense of Basquiat's point of view, Javier's point of view in his disguise as Basquiat, Javier himself in his own voice, all or none of the above, is never entirely clear, but Javier does occasionally offer clues in what may emerge as something of a trademark form:
oy            Jean-Michel
           tangina, pre

who's laughing now
all the way to the
                       corner bodega

           in the clouds where
former champs gather

oy bodega (108)

Again, apart from Filipino terms such as tangina and (arguably) bodega (a term common in many Latino cultures for a small market, but also a place name in the Philippines), we see the cutting and pasting of various clichés to refer to concepts different from their probable original target: who's laughing now? / laughing all the way to the bank / raging all the way to the corner bodega / oy vey / oy bodega are all concepts which we must take in, individually and in sequence, before fully grasping what is not just a simple play on a couple of words. It seems quite possible what is being referred to in the above (and much of the rest of the poem) is the shifting dominance of multiple ethnic groups in a given area over time; certainly the combination of the phrases evokes images firmly rooted in mainstream American culture, but subtly introducing elements from Latino, Yiddish, and Tagalog tradition. Before Javier launches into a section on Basquiat's “Santo Versus Second Avenue,” he uses more of this type of deceptively transitional wordplay:
but I awoke groggy this morning
one of six philistines missing

I'd love to break the jawbones
           of an ass
& serve it to him on a plate
stupid dumb dog motherfucker
- -----
            (blank black) (109)

The “six philistines missing” could refer to any number of things, from the actual Philistines of the Biblical Book of Judges, Samson and his jawbone, etc., to punnish, sound-alike references to Palestinians, or to Filipinos; it may well just be some variation on something Javier read in the newspaper or heard on the radio on the day he wrote it, or perhaps it is one of the enigmatic text lines appearing in a Basquiat painting. We may never know, but it is still important that anyone attempting a serious critique at least acknowledge the question. The painting could be seen as a response to perceived assaults on the local supremacy of whichever ethnic group may have been, or may now be, dominating the Lower East Side of Manhattan, specifically the area around the Second Avenue IND Line subway station at Second Avenue and Houston Street—a neighborhood that had been a refuge for both Basquiat and Javier, but now considered part of New York City's Chinatown. Images within the frame include a combatively-posed, somewhat skeletal, figure—among other possible interpretations, Santo is the name of a long-popular Mexican masked wrestler who appeared in many films with titles like Santo Vs. The Vampire Women, before finally unmasking and retiring in 1982 (a date mentioned in the poem) —a group of vaguely Hasidic-seeming figures with what may be traditional headgear and a horse and wagon, a painted facsimile of part of a Chinese takeout menu, and at least one figure in a pointed hat which could be anything from a dunce cap to a bishop's mitre to the sunshade hat found all over southern Asia. All these motifs are separated by frames or portions of frames emphasizing differing points of view, and at strategic locations various angry or monstrous faces are placed on the periphery, reacting to it all. Javier ends his address of that painting and launches into another section on Basquiat's “Irony Of The Negro Policeman” with the simple words, “black tar and feathers” (112).

Javier pressures the reader into asking some very serious questions about what Western civilization has done, and continues to do, to many cultures deemed foreign to it. Zhou Xiaojing writes, of the Filipino American poet Catalina Cariaga,
Rather than retreat into what might seem to be a self-indulgent language game, Cariaga's poetry is resolutely situated in the social, historical, and political. Her interrogation of language and form shares with many Filipino American poets an investigation of colonized subjectivity in relation to cultural imperialism, particularly the imposition of Spanish and English on the Filipinos. Part of this investigation entails the poets' exploration of the possibilities of using the colonizers' language to tell “another tale” (Abad 3) (157).

This argument could surely be applied to Javier: the language of the conqueror being used to comment on and expose the injustices inherent in imperialism and colonialism, and the ironies and inconsistencies of post-colonial life is a tool probably as old as, if not older than, the Magna Carta. Still, while asking some seriously provocative questions, the author of “This Pepperoni” just might not be above multitasking with the odd self-indulgent language game.

Works Cited:
Javier, Paolo. The Feeling Is Actual. East Rockaway, NY: Marsh Hawk Press, 2011. Print.
Perloff, Marjorie. "Collage and Poetry." Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. Ed. Michael Kelly. Vol. 1. New York: Oxford U P, 1998. 384-87. Web. Accessed 12/03/2011 Wagner, Cynthia G. "Poetry In The Digital Age." Futurist 42.1 (2008): 16. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
Zhou, Xiaojing. "Language And A Poetics Of Collage: Catalina Cariaga's Cultural Evidence." Melus 29.1 (n.d.): 157. Gale: Literature Resource Center. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.


Phil Troy is a former chef who studied creative writing as a teenager with the late Frank McCourt at New York City's Stuyvesant High School. He is currently compiling three cookbooks, including one on Lunar New Year foodways, and authoring a semi-fictional history of his family told as a series of holiday dinner-table anecdotes and tall tales narrated by an assortment of relatives.



There Are People Who Think That Painters Shouldn't Talk: A GUSTONBOOK by Patrick James Dunagan
(The Post-Apollo Press, Sausalito, CA, 2011)

Yes, I've met plenty of those people who think that painters shouldn't talk. Usually quite irritating to Moi as it's as if a painting appears out of nowhere, or without at all reflecting the artist's concerns.

One can understand this attitude, I suppose, if a particular painter is tedious, boring, etc. in conversation. But that's something one can’t say about the brilliant artist Philip Guston. As Bill Berkson, notes on his blurb for Patrick James Dunagan's There Are People Who Think That Painters Shouldn't Talk: A GUSTON BOOK:
Aside from his prodigious genius as a painter, Philip Guston was an adept reader of modern poetry and prose, philosophy and art history; an ardent conversationalist and a sharp writer on his own and others' works. His multifarious Romance of Doubt was an ongoing and fructifying virtuoso performance of irony and dialectic conscience and devilish enjoyment, sublimity and near-sublime despair.

Thus, did Guston inspire Dunagan to create this (from the publisher's press release) "GUSTONBOOK...[,] a workman's notebook of sorts sketched out in response to years spent contemplating the work and life of painter Philip Guston in relation to the ongoing world, i.e. exhibitions, books on/about Guston, other books/art works amid daily walks, drinks, and talks. More explorations than explanations, the entries contained situate the eye of memory as witness to the immediate surrounds of now: day to day, hour by hour..."

I've always found Guston's writings worth reading. But what I relish about Dunagan's collection is how its poems transcend ekphrasis to become, if you will, Dunagan's voice. Sure, with the book's title, one can't help but think of Guston when one reads
A hand moves
eye starts the
words go

--and, by the way, the line-breaks are brilliant here in the 2nd and third lines to facilitate the push of energy (it would have been slacker had the lines broken as "eye starts / the words go").

But there also are lines like







whose sensuous ending locate the poem into direct engagement with the world/reader through the often-reliable means of eros. From "Alphabets" to "Thighs", this poem goes quite a distance for merely seven words.

Such engagement with environment—or this attention to one’s Now—also offers an appealing scaffolding to the poet's words:
Fact is you don't choose
between the door
and that first step out
into the street
there's harmony
welcoming every day
just like yesterday

The poet's personality—the author's existence—is not evaded, e.g. the poet's love for books:
Opening to a page
is like fucking

And it's all good—
Out of nothing
always something
rises along
paths nobody walks

'you get there
thinking it's
somewhere else'

utter bullshit
you are somewhere
to get there
is something else

Contemplation, contemplation, contemplation. With Guston. Through Guston. Beyond Guston. How commendable that it never rests inward—contemplation continues forward to what is outside of the poet:
Solitude in busy night
glancing lights a look
hands over thigh his
her rubs itself
driving around in search
of the next perhaps
occasion of knowing others

The book is deftly designed—kudos to designer Simone Fattal—with the words placed on pages surrounded by generous white spaces. Those spaces fit the poet's clear desire for engaged readings. It's a desired engagement based on the readers' openness to a multiplicity of possible evocations. This, too, means that this gift of a book will reward repeated readings of its poems: if one is open, one's reward can be infinite.


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects as she's its editor, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to reviews of her books. Her newest book SILK EGG: Collected Novels is reviewed by Zvi A. Sesling in Boston Area Poetry Scene; by Michael Leong in Big Other; by Alan Baker in Litter; and by rob mclennan. Stephen Hong Sohn also reviews SILK EGG along with two other books, NOTA BENE EISWEIN and FOOTNOTES TO ALGEBRA: Uncollected Poems 1995-2009 at Asian American Lit Fans.



In the Common Dream of George Oppen by Joseph Bradshaw
(Shearsman Books, Exeter, U.K., 2011)

The line between truth and fiction is deliberately blurred in Joseph Bradshaw’s In the Common Dream of George Oppen, resulting in a collection that finds its outlet as much in lyric essays and scholarly errata as it does in poetry to construct a hybrid monument to its subject. The entry point of examination is George Oppen’s politically-motivated 25 year hiatus from poetry, a period that, for Bradshaw if not for Oppen, is rife with poetic material.

It is within this imaginative space flanked by known facts of Oppen’s life that less prominent, altered, and wholly imagined events in the Objectivist poet’s life sprout like fungi and become the objects of examination. An interview with Oppen conducted by Joseph Merrick (the Elephant Man) and interrupted by the disembodied voice of Jack Spicer sprouts in one corner. In a deeper nook is found Bradshaw’s homage to Coleridge’s phony background to the writing of “Kubla Kahn,” with Oppen composing his (nonexistent) poem “Idaho” “literally scrawled over his copy of Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Kahn’” when a strange visitor appears at the door and “thrusts…a worn, familiar looking notebook” into Oppen’s hands. The multi-layered confusion of the previous sentence is intentional and the only way to accurately represent the many strata of varying authenticity that Bradshaw adds with each new section of the book.

This tendency to resist resolution of fact and fiction is at times maddening, given the degree to which Bradshaw employs the technique; however, through the near-constant dislocation that the reader feels from the truth—at times fully aware of the fabrications at play, at times suspicious of by-all-accounts factual information because of the pervasive blurring of “the facts”—one of the strengths of the book emerges. When Bradshaw himself enters into the book in the section “The Impossible Poem,” the trembling torque of the uncertain half-truths finds release in the appearance of a voice coming in from outside of the labyrinth to speak directly the reader caught up in and perhaps frustrated by its continual turns and dead ends. “The Impossible Poem” begins with the following paragraph, which, as early as its first three words, is clearly designed to burst and relieve tension, to soothe:
This is true: the work before you is still the work ahead of me. It is not George Oppen (does it even need to be said) but something other than what that figure stands for. It is an alchemy of memory, both actual and “false.” (I say “false” because it is not false—I have felt a stranger breathing down my neck, in a wind, a we, descending, as our gifts remain above us, ungrasped.)

Perhaps a better survival tactic is to distrust anyone who tells you “This is true” (especially following the speaker’s repeated manipulation of that same truth), but the need to latch oneself to an absolute at this point in the book is so strong that Bradshaw’s first-person voice comes in with the authority of an adult to a child. The gentle adult voice comes in to assure the reader that the authority is more complicated and less authoritative than he would like to let on. But is this another, still deeper strategy or manipulation, or is this the facade lifting for a moment to reveal its messy framework? It is more satisfying to assume the latter—that Bradshaw is being honest about his inability to control the project, which does not excuse the irreconcilability of certain choices in the text as much as it validates them. The alternative, which is that Bradshaw has inserted this straight-talk address as yet another layered maneuver, would paradoxically reveal that, on the whole, Bradshaw had less control over his project than in the “messy” explanation.

Following this concept of the controlled chaos, some of the best writing in the book comes in the form of a timeline in “A Chronology,” the book’s final section. Composed of certain odd facts and images that had glanced up through the body of the collection, the timeline compiles these fragmented ideas into a cohesive and propulsive countdown into the genesis of Bradshaw’s project. It begins:
circa 41,000 BCE—A woman holds a mollusk’s shell up to her ear, marking the beginning of the ocean. Rikle reconfigures this moment in the opening of Sonnets to Orpheus: “O hoher Baum im Ohr!” [A tree arises in the ear].

375 BCE—Startled at its own image, a centaur darts out of the cave and stumbles to its death over the cliff’s edge. The delayed thud, echoing through the canyon, is Plato’s laugther.

1170 CE—Metaphor makes its first literary appearance, through the string the two lovers tie between each other (via le rossignol), in Marie de France’s ‘Laüstic.’

The gaps in the timeline rapidly condense, moving through 1797, the 1950s, 1963, 1965, and 1984 to end with:
early 2000s—Startled, I awake: I’m in the old Weremart in Caldwell again, alone, sorting through the notebooks in the stationary aisle, when I begin to notice they’re all filled with the markings of a familiar hand.

The timeline is so effective for its energy and the way it makes use of repetition: we read the mythic factoids with a sense of the familiar made strange by the new, straightforward presentation, and this invokes a sensation like that which Bradshaw is trying to convey in his closing entry.

He borrows from the spooky campfire story cliché ending, looping the narrative around until it enact its own telling, but following all the genre-crossing experimentalism, to end with such a rigid form in order to end on a time-tested, chill-sending trope is refreshing. It harkens back to “The Impossible Poem,” the section where Bradshaw attempts to perform the ultimate illusion: to convince the audience that now, for this next trick, you have cast illusion aside. The “Weremart in Caldwell” is certainly a Wal-Mart (Google finds one in Caldwell, Idaho), commingled with another minor book trope, wolves. The brand new notebooks on the shelves “filled with the markings of a familiar hand” are more of a mystery: are the markings Oppen’s or Bradshaw’s? Whose markings, throughout the book, has the reader become accustomed to—have they been Bradshaw’s, or is it all the markings of the hand of Oppen being traced and traced until the paper shreds?

The ending timeline as a whole stretches back to the beginning of the book. Its elements are first introduced, in a somewhat altered but mostly whole form, in book’s first proper section, Incipit:
But in the beginning there was a man. He told us that, in the beginning, we have to choose the meaning of beginning—i.e., we must choose our own myths. Here are our choices:

a) In the beginning there was a child who, holding a mollusk’s shell up to her ear, first uttered the word “ocean,” which started the flood that still soaks us to this day.

e) In the beginning there was a startle. I woke in the Waremart in Caldwell, alone, finding myself sorting through the notebooks in the stationary aisle, which I began to notice were all filled with the markings of a familiar hand.

The markings of a familiar hand, indeed. Perhaps this is the way that Bradshaw puts us in George Oppen’s “common dream”: we cycle through the same motifs and images as they alter imperceptibly around us. Notice: the early “Waremart” (a mart of wares—a more straightforward pun on Wal-Mart) adjusts to “Weremart” later, shifting another notch away from its origins and into the symbol world of dreams.

It is this dream world that, paradoxically, we wake from in these scenes of Bradshaw wandering the aisles of an abandoned Supercenter. He wakes but only into another dream-state, one where Oppen becomes Coleridge and Sir Thomas Wyatt and Blake’s burning Tyger. At other points in the book, where the little groundwork there is to be found is shifting beneath the reader’s feet, such strings of references can be delightful individually, but become disorienting if one takes one’s eyes from the image at hand and trying to orient oneself in the spinning world.

It is for this reason that the anchoring finality of “A Chronology” ends the book on its highest note. In compiling in the rigid, authoritative structure of a timeline certain of the bizarre and mysteriously poignant elements that precede it, Bradshaw anchor’s the book into its reality at the most crucial point in providing the previous whirlpool with the suggestion of unruly order. Instead of preceding the text, the chronology follows because, like Oppen’s 25 year silence or his scrawling out lines that he did or did not realize would be his last, we sort events only posthumously. The chaos and confusion over veracity and actuality can only settle down conclusively in the afterword. The tidy perspective of history and the timeline is that the matter had been concluded, right or wrong. Because it fits the timeline, Oppen did sit down with the Elephant Man for that interview. Oppen did, “in those 25 blank years,…visit the green shores of Idaho.” Bradshaw did capture that long gap in the life—in a life—of George Oppen.


Logan Fry lives in Austin, Texas, where he is an MFA candidate at the University of Texas. His poetry has most recently appeared in elimae.