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Jansport Backpack I swap out key fobs like lovers I haven’t had— blue broken heart, glitter skull, sassy attitude jokes. Three boys vie for my number, but they don’t speak English, and their calls come in like water hallucinations in a desert. In Spanish class I learn dialogue I never mastered in English— small talk, city planning, how I feel morning, noon, and night. Walking the halls, you tap my ass when I lengthen your shoulder straps that sing anthems in white bubble letters— Peace Sign, WTVR, You Laugh Because I’m Different, I Laugh Because You’re All The Same. I buy so much white-out they must think I have problems of a different kind, unrelated to the test of matchmaking by expression. Why I feed a hairbrush to your front [...]

Solmaz Sharif – Look Graywolf Press 2016 Page Length: 93 Retail: $16     The winner writes history; the loser writes poetry. Not that Solmaz Sharif’s debut from Graywolf Press, Look (2016) is anything short of extraordinary. It’s just that the cliché about the “winner” is too true for Sharif to resist subverting in her urgent, prophetic, and virtuosic invective against the Nation State in general, and the contemporary American Nation State in particular.   It is hardly new for poets to use poetry as a means of political resistance, but rarely have we seen the politics of language play such a prominent role in the resistance. Sharif uses a variety of avant-garde forms to put enormous pressure on language itself so as to exploit its materiality, and therefore its [...]

During 2016, we will shine the spotlight of our public esteem & rapt attention on two poets per month. This month’s second poet is Samantha Duncan.   Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world—what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Samantha Duncan: I’m still very new to being a poet and the po-biz world. The majority of my creative work and education was in fiction, until about four years ago when I more or less switched over to poetry, so I’m still learning a lot through my experiences being a poet and press and journal editor. There are specific [...]

Stay with Me Awhile By Loren Kleinman ISNB: 978-1941058350 April 2016 Winter Goose Publishing Reviewed by Brian Fanelli Loren Kleinman’s last collection of poems, Breakable Things, had a lot of references to Charles Bukowski, even in terms of subject matter, specifically the poet’s willingness to not shy away from raw subject matter, such as drinking or sex. There are still some echoes of Bukowski in Stay with Me AWhile, but Kleinman’s new book draws more resemblance to Anne Sexton for the way that it addresses matters of the body and notions of beauty. The book is also more expansive in form, containing a number of prose poems and work that is more surreal than it is narrative. At the heart of the collection, however, is a theme that has been [...]

The Sinister Barista Meets the Loch Ness Professor “Let us prepare for a life of rational happiness.” —Emily Dickinson’s father in a courtship letter to her mother The summer everyone I knew was going to Italy. The June everyone got engaged. So much getting down on one knee, so many surprises (but not really) in gondolas. I’m not ready for these kinds of summers. I’m not ready to get engaged, I’m not even ready to open a lemonade stand. Which is not to say I am not in love or not committed or don’t know how to make lemonade. I am, I am, & I do. I do but let’s hold off on saying “I do” with the rings & relatives, cummerbunds & giant cake. Except let’s not hold off [...]

During 2016, we will shine the spotlight of our public esteem & rapt attention on two poets per month. This month’s first poet is Chen Chen.  Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world – what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Chen Chen: Thank you for these questions—big and kind of impossible, but I’m glad to be living with them. Why poems? I actually started out as a fiction writer; I tried writing novels. These were imitations of whatever I happened to like, from Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass to Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. In college, I [...]

  Bear the Grief : Get Up and Try Again   In All Day, Talking (Dancing Girl Press, 2014), Sarah Chavez’s narrator unlocks missives to a dead beloved, named Carole. These poems are so full in rich detail and experience, it can sometimes be difficult to remember, as a reader, that they should not be read as non-fiction.   In an interview with Les Femmes Folles, Chavez has acknowledged some biographical overlaps between her own lived experience and that of her narrator in this collection. At another point, Chavez noted, “There really was a Carole, she really died, and I do mourn her. I also grew up in Fresno in a working class environment. [However,] these poems, are more concerned with expressing an emotional truth and the details that best [...]

Marcus Elliot is a jazz musician from Detroit who has been playing professionally since the age of 15, and continues to garner increasing recognition for his imaginative improvising and fervently thoughtful voice on the saxophone. Elliot has led the Marcus Elliot Quartet for the past eight years; they perform weekly in the Detroit area. He has performed internationally, including in Cuba, Barbados, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Egypt, Jordan, and Indonesia. He has two self-released albums, Looking Forward (2010) and When the City Meets the Sky (2015), and has shared the stage, as a sideman, with a long list of exciting performers, including Talib Kewli, Bob Hurst, Karriem Riggins, James Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Bobby Broom, Marcus Belgrave, Johnny O'Neal, Jimmy Heath, Sean Dobbins, Kris Johnson, Thaddeus Dixon, Ettiene Charles, Mulgrew Miller, [...]

Malachi Black – Storm Toward Morning Copper Canyon 2014 Page Length: 75 Retail: $15   Like the greatest formal poets, Malachi Black writes in shapes. Received forms sculpt the shape of a poem by the measure of their recursiveness: the manner in which the poem moves forward and back simultaneously. In a traditional sonnet, for example, as the speaker develops an idea, a scene, or a narrative (an argument), she also, at the end of each line, creates sonic consonance with that which precedes and/or follows. The result is the sensation of forward movement through recurring patterns and the modulation of poetic effects (in this example the effect in question is end-rhyme, though the same argument can be made for poetic features like anaphora, syntactic parallelism, and other features that [...]

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“Dissolving the inarticulate” has never been more urgent.

  Every few weeks she met Saint Jim in the park. She just wanted to get on Saint Jim’s bed and float away; the bed which happened to be on the same street as her beloved Mark. But, Saint Jim was difficult and recalcitrant as is often the case with saints. So, for now she had to be happy with their short walks and discussions of New York, October light, tiny animals, and politics. Saint Jim told her don’t you dare put me in a poem as he tried to feed a squirrel an acorn. If I cut my body in half, vertically, words would come pouring out. If I cut my body in half, I would have to cut vertically, I would need really big scissors to do this [...]

During 2016, we will shine the spotlight of our public esteem & rapt attention on two poets per month. This month’s first poet is Jennifer Bartlett.   Fox Frazier-Foley: Talk to me about the core of your creative drive and the expression it finds through poetry. There are lots of ways to be creative in this world – what motivates you to write poems, specifically? Additionally, what motivates you to navigate the poebiz landscape? Jennifer Bartlett: I have always been attracted to words and reading. I love visual art too, but using words and connecting with the world through language feels natural. In terms of “why poetry” I believe it’s random. I know people who are musicians and visual artists and each kind of art, including nonfiction and fiction, has its [...]

Beauty Broken and Decamped The women in Ivy Alvarez’s chapbook Hollywood Starlet (Dancing Girl Press, 2015) have all lost something. Whether it’s their minds, a man, anonymity, peace, or a sense of self or place, it’s not coming back. We feel for their losses, but like any disaster hungry mob, we cannot look away. All of the titles have a name of a “starlet” followed by a word depicting an action of loss. Here are some of the titles: “What Vivien Leigh Dropped,”  “What Greta Garbo Offered,” “What Betty Grable Gave.” These women are missing pieces; like the artist Lana del Rey, they embody that idea of “beautiful sadness.” Alvarez captures this theme to a tee in this collection. In “What Katherine Hepburn Lost,” we are transported into her inner [...]

All publishing poets know what chapbooks are. So, I’m not going to provide a history of the chapbook. The internet is full of good essays documenting that history. In fact, one brief essay can be found here on TheThe Poetry Blog by Sam Riedel. Here’s another link to one by the British historian, Ruth Richardson.  What I want to draw attention to is the importance of the poetry chapbook and the folly of considering it as less significant than a full-length collection. A chapbook, which is basically any book with a page count under 48, will not be considered for any major prize. No matter how good, it cannot win a Pulitzer or National Book Award or National Book Critics Circle Award. In fact, there is, to my knowledge, only one national prize [...]

The speakers in these poems have come to tell us what we must learn by heart – that transgressions, violence, rage, and caustic elements and ideas will “crawl out” of the shadow to struggle “with this blow of light.”

Blueberry Elizabeth Morningsnow – Whale in the Woods Rescue Press 2012 Page Length: 73 Retail: $14   Blueberry Elizabeth’s Morningsnow’s debut collection, Whale in the Woods, is mythic and mammoth. Winner of the 2011 Black Box Poetry Prize from Rescue Press, Morningsnow gives us a vision that is obsessive, oddly spiritual, and urgently beautiful. The result is one of the freshest, most original spiritual voices in Contemporary American Poetry.   At the core of Morningsnow’s poetics is the fusion of the elemental and the spiritual. Many of these poems center on large, recurrent, elemental themes and symbols: the weather, the moon, stars, fields, bodies (human, aquatic, celestial), dust, mountains, and copious amounts of light. Atop these Morningsnow layers a spiritual valence that ambiguously and provocatively begs the question of how [...]