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Anand Prahlad – As Good As Mango Stephen F. Austin University Press 2012 Page Length: 90 Retail: $15.95 Much of contemporary American poetry centers on expressions of “identity politics.” This mode of poetics, which has taken many diverse and brilliant forms, is most commonly articulated in assertions of identity: celebrations of self in its various guises against the dominant hegemony of the culture of the oppressor. In Anand Prahlad’s brilliant collection, As Good As Mango, we encounter a poet who, while participating in the liberation from oppressive cultural forces so central to the poetics of identity, accomplishes this individuation by subverting the common relationship between poet and text. Prahlad is a poet less interested in expressing “self” than allowing self to be expressed by the very world in which the [...]

          Cortney Lamar Charleston is a Cave Canem fellow, finalist for the 2015 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize and semi-finalist for the 2016 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Beloit Poetry Journal, Gulf Coast, Hayden's Ferry Review, The Iowa Review, The Journal, New England Review, Pleiades, River Styx, Spillway, TriQuarterly and elsewhere.

During 2016, the Spotlight Series focuses on two poets per month whose work and consciousness move us, challenge us, inspire us. This month’s first poet is Cortney Lamar Charleston.  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? Cortney Lamar Charleston: I’ve got a lot of things to say about the world. I’ve always had a lot of things to say about the world, but haven’t always been confident enough to say them, smart enough to articulate them, artful enough to make them strike the chord I wanted them to, at least before poetry. People [...]

"I know and have always known my body was mine." (from the poem "The Difference.")   Sarah Frances Moran’s Evergreen (Weasel Press, 2016) brings us a speaker whose vulnerability and strength resembles the beauty and transience of the tall Evergreen. Its branches may be chopped, its needles may burn—but the trunk, the soul, is strong. A girl can climb it, dangle her legs over the edge, and look out over the world. Appropriately, in the collection’s first few poems, the Evergreen is a jailer for everyone who has hurt the speaker. Trees are such common place objects in our lives, always watching us move through our day, this makes sense to us. Moran’s Evergreen feels personal. Whether an abusive step father or a caregiver who looked in the other direction [...]

"I am tired of people taking language from the Bible out of context and using it as a weapon against other people, so I started taking language from the Bible out of context and using it to create art. My process was to use the last chapter from one book of the Bible as a word bank for each poem. This is either the most heretical or the most reverent thing I’ve ever written."

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 [...]