Reviews of the Ephemeral

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

End of Year Round-Up: Rebekah Matthews

In Seasonal/End of year on December 29, 2010 at 1:05 pm

This penultimate entry for the End of Year Series is being scheduled for publication from beyond the land-of-no-internet in which I am until the beginning of January. Browse the archives or click on the category tag to see other writers’ answers to those three questions. Sabotage will be back in the new year with more reviews of the ephemeral. In the meantime: Happy New Year!

Rebekah Matthews is a short-story writer. Her writing was nominated for Dzanc’s Best of the Web and a Pushcart Prize in 2010. She is currently working on a collection of short stories called Hero Worship about lesbian relationships. She blogs here.

Has 2010 brought to your attention any outstanding literary magazines (be they online or in print), if so, which?

As a contributor, I’ve been the most pleased with my experience with The Battered Suitcase. They were responsive and kind, and also did a thoughtful interview on their blog with their contributors which was so nice and made me feel really appreciated!

As a reader, I’m glad I became aware of Fringe Magazine in 2010. It’s such a beautiful and simple layout, and I love their concept of publishing “outsider” voices.

What event sticks out in your mind as the literary event of 2010 (it can be a personal accomplishment)?

I know it’s predictable, totally not edgy, and barely literary, but when the film Eat, Pray, Love came out, I thought it inspired some really interesting discussions (in both the positive and the negative reactions) about literature, pop culture, class, and women.  And also, one evening, while my book club met, after a few glasses of wine I started to complain loudly about the concept behind the book and the film; I went on for a few minutes, until one of the women in my book club said, “Elizabeth Gilbert is actually my aunt…” Oops. So that was kind of an “event.”

What was your favourite literary discovery of the year (it can be a single poem, a novel, a pamphlet, a press, …)?

Night at Suck Mansion by Joe Gallagher, a collection of stories told in verse and published by Big Rodent. It’s self-deprecating, mean, and sweet, and sometimes even happy.

End of Year Round-Up: Jane Holland

In Seasonal/End of year on December 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Jane Holland is an award-winning poet and novelist. She is also the Executive Editor of Embrace Books, an imprint of Salt Publishing. Her latest poetry collection is Camper Van Blues (Salt Publishing). Her next novel is due out from Transworld in 2012. She blogs here.

Has 2010 brought to your attention any outstanding literary magazines (be they online or in print), if so, which?

I think Ink, Sweat and Tears is a good new online magazine.

What event sticks out in your mind as the literary event of 2010 (it can be a personal accomplishment)?

My lit event of 2010 has to be my massive sale to Transworld – a three novel deal for a six figure sum.

What was your favourite literary discovery of the year (it can be a single poem, a novel, a pamphlet, a press, …)?

I have particularly enjoyed reading Anthony Thwaite’s pamphlet this year, Late Poems, which I think is from Enitharmon but you may need to check. [ed: it is!] An excellent pamphlet!

End of Year Round-Up: Helen Kitson

In Seasonal/End of year on December 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

A continuation of the End of Year Series, where we prod writers to name their favourites. You can read Luke Kennard and Jon Stone’s answers here and here, and what our reviewers have to say here.

Helen Kitson is an award-winning poet and short story writer. Her poetry pamphlet Seeing’s Believing was published by Scratch and was short-listed for the Forward Best First Collection Prize in 1992. This was followed by a full collection, Love Among the Guilty, published by Bloodaxe in 1995. A further collection, Tesserae, was published by Oversteps in 2003. Her latest collection,The Family Romance, is available at Indigo Dreams Bookshop. Her poem ‘Day of the Dead’, from The Family Romance, was Sabotage’s Halloween Special choice.


Has 2010 brought to your attention any outstanding literary magazines (be they online or in print), if so, which?

I’m embarrassed to admit that I can’t think of any magazine I’ve discovered this year. I’m heartened to see that some magazines are keeping afloat by switching to online publication, but I must admit I’m old-fashioned enough to like an actual paper magazine to hold.

What event sticks out in your mind as the literary event of 2010 (it can be a personal accomplishment)?

I would have to say the publication of my own book, The Family Romance, because it took many years for me finally to see it in print, and whilst I was working on the book my father died, so it became even more important to me that I find a publisher for what is ultimately a very personal collection.

What was your favourite literary discovery of the year (it can be a single poem, a novel, a pamphlet, a press, …)?

I’m going to choose Jenny Hope’s debut collection, Petrolhead for the sensuous, distilled quality of her poems, which I find quiet but haunting.

 

Christmas Special – Charles Causley

In Seasonal/End of year on December 25, 2010 at 4:57 pm

In the midst of End of Year Round-up posts, here is a special Christmas poem I was introduced to by Katy Evans-Bush and that I mentioned here. It has been haunting me for weeks now and every time I dip into it, something new emerges, so it’s too good not to share. Merry Christmas!

Convoy.
Draw the blanket of ocean
Over the frozen face.
He lies, his eyes quarried by glittering fish,
Staring through the green freezing sea-glass
At the Northern Lights.

He is now a child in the land of Christmas:
Watching, amazed, the white tumbling bears
And the diving seal.
The iron wind clangs round the ice-caps,
The five-pointed Dog-star
Burns over the silent sea,

And the three ships
Come sailing in.

Charles Causley

Causley passed away on 4 November 2003 and a lovely eulogy on him, including a mention of this poem, can be found here.

End of Year Round-Up: Jon Stone

In Seasonal/End of year on December 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

A continuation of the End of Year Series, you can read Luke Kennard’s answers here and what our reviewers have to say here.

Jon Stone is the production editor and designer of hand-crafted art and literature magazine Fuselit and its press imprint Sidekick Books.  His poem ‘Jack Root’ was highly commended at the 2009 National Poetry Competition. His debut poetry pamphlet Scarecrows was published by Happenstance press in 2010.

Has 2010 brought to your attention any outstanding literary magazines (be they online or in print), if so, which?

It’s hard to pick an ‘outstanding’ one out of a raft of enjoyable discoveries and newcomers, including Nutshell, Polarity, Silkworms, Sabotage itself. I also discovered for the first time that Poetry London is actually rather good.

What event sticks out in your mind as the literary event of 2010 (it can be a personal accomplishment)?

Obviously not being very objective here but the Fuselit 5th birthday party was a roaring success. Sarah Hesketh compared the line-up and audience to the cast of Gosford Park, ie. if a meteor struck the room, it would wipe out an entire generation of talent in one fell swoop. Plus we had cake and prizes. I don’t think I went to any really ‘big’ literary events (I much prefer the more intimate ones), so my selection may look ludicrous in the light of these!

What was your favourite literary discovery of the year (it can be a single poem, a novel, a pamphlet, a press, …)?

Again, very, very hard to choose. I might go for Matthew Caley, probably my favourite of the poets that Roddy Lumsden’s Identity Parade has introduced me to.

End of Year Round-Up: Luke Kennard

In Seasonal/End of year on December 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

Like a drip-feed, I will be releasing the answers of authors to my three questions over the coming days. First up: Luke Kennard!

Luke Kennard is an award-winning British poet, playwright and academic. He is the author of three poetry collections The Solex Brothers, The Harbour Beyond the Movie (nominated for the Forward prize in 2007) and The Migraine Hotel, all published by Salt Publications. You can stalk him on twitter here.

Has 2010 brought to your attention any outstanding literary magazines (be they online or in print), if so, which?

This year has passed ludicrously quickly. I’m still catching up with records and books from 2009. I wrote something for the 2nd issue of a lovely art and lit. journal called How to Disappear which I think is out soon. Uni of Lancaster’s Cake poetry magazine is ace (but I think that was 2009. Seriously, I don’t know where this year’s gone). If you haven’t checked out (Liverpool-based design, art and literary agency) Mercy’s 12 Angry E-Zines project, you definitely should, their podcasts, too.

What event sticks out in your mind as the literary event of 2010 (it can be a personal accomplishment)?

Um… The first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography being published, maybe. I was writing an article on it for The National, so I stayed up every night for a week reading it with a candle. In personal terms, co-judging the Foyle Young Poets prize with Jane Draycott was a real high-point – there are 15 incredibly good poems in this year’s anthology and I feel proud to have been involved. I also finally finished The Brothers Karamazov.

What was your favourite literary discovery of the year (it can be a single poem, a novel, a pamphlet, a press, …)?

Penned In The Margins have started producing these beautiful limited edition things, halfway between a pamphlet and a collection – signed, numbered, bespoke bonus content. It’s the kind of wonderful presentation that really suits poetry; print-on-demand aesthetics always depress the hell out of me. Particularly when it’s my own book. Also the work is excellent. Simon Barraclough’s Bonjour Tetris and Ross Sutherland’s Twelve Nudes are both stunning.


Terrain.org – Fall/Winter 2010

In online magazine on December 23, 2010 at 10:10 am

-Reviewed by Juliet Wilson

Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments is a twice yearly online journal interested in finding the soul of place. It encompasses human culture, ecology, natural landscapes and artificial ones and explores the symbiosis between the built and natural environments. It is full of fascinating, well written, thought provoking articles, poetry, stories and other pieces of writing, often with photos too. There’s a huge amount to explore on the website and this review can only begin to scratch the surface.

Terrain.org contains two main types of work:

  • Technical and journalistic works in the ArticlesUnSprawl (case studies of reducing urban sprawl), ReviewsInterview, and Columns sections are aimed at professionals and other interested individuals and groups. These contributions can help communities develop and redevelop in a more sustainable manner.
  • Literary and artistic works in the PoetryEssaysFiction, and ARTerrain ( a focus article on an artist working in an area such as ecology or urban environments)  sections are to be enjoyed for what they are.

Here are some of the highlights of the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of Terrain.

Signal: Notes on the Desert ~ A Photo Essay’ written by Gregory McNamee and containing photography by Stephen Strom – is a wonderful meditation on deserts and an attempt to define what exactly makes a desert. The question remains unanswered but the journey is more than worth the while.

Notable for the way it ranges over several topics bringing them beautifully together is ‘The Bards Bird, or the The Slings and Arrows of Avicultural Hegemony: A TragiComedy in Five Acts’ by Charles Mitchell. This fascinating article starts out by tracing the changing public attitudes to Shakespeare in the USA then moves on to look at the introduction of the European starling to New York as part of the 19th Century project to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare into the USA. Mitchell then outlines the issues around starlings in the USA, their nuisance value, the damage they cause to agriculture and aviation but ends with a plea to accept them and to appreciate their beauty. Along the way he draws parallels with our attitudes to invasive species and to human immigration. I found it a particularly interesting article, given that in the UK we are concerned about the declines in starling populations across the country.

Also notable for bringing together diverse themes is ‘Goya’s Dog’ by Laura-Gray Street, a wonderful 15 part poem, alternating stanzas of poetry and prose poetry which ranges over a variety of topics including visual art, dogs, nuclear power, family relationships, cancer and the colour yellow. This issue contains a lot of other poems; many of them are very impressive.

Right of Way’ by Andrew Wingfield is an engrossing story about a loner teenager and missing cats. Set in a new community built near an area of wilderness, it is an insightful story about friendship, family, community and not judging teenagers just because they don’t fit in. And just what is happening to the cats? You’ll need to read the story to find out!

Add to this articles that range over issues including permaculture, walkable neighbourhoods and forest fires; a case study of the Metro Green Greenway system in Kansas City and a focus article on Andrea Polli, a digital media artist who uses sound technology to understand storm and climate and you have a rich diversity of content. This is one of the things I like best about Terrain, the fact that it has so much to offer readers whatever their particular interests in terms of both topic and format, but also that it approaches the issues around ecology, urban design and environment from so many different angles, which gives it a real three dimensional feel. It’s also a very good read!

 


‘Escaping the Cage’ by Kate Scott

In Pamphlets on December 20, 2010 at 6:22 pm

-Reviewed by Alex Campbell-

You have to wonder what cage Kate Scott is escaping from with her new collection of poems from HappenStance, since what the poetry seems to demonstrate most of all is a kind of lyrical freedom that banishes all sense of contrivance or pretension.

Escaping a teeny tiny Cage

The poem which bears the collection’s title, ‘Escaping the Cage’, would suggest that the cage is one of convention and propriety – one which the poem bursts out of delightfully. The image of swearwords, held in the mouth like “some hard-boiled sweet” before being spat out into polite company where no-one really knows how to react, is one guaranteed to make you smile. But it is alone in construing the cage thus.

A more likely cage to bind together the collection is, perhaps, family. Not so far away from ‘convention’ as all that, since in most cases we are talking about the traditional nuclear family; something that fewer of us are growing up in now, but which is still prevalent enough that it will never be a stretch to empathise with Scott’s poems. This is not a question of alienating, or presenting the familiar in an unfamiliar light. The poems of Escaping the Cage feel much more like articulations of something that was on the tip of the tongue – the familiar presented in such a way as to be instantly recognisable, provoking a gut-feeling of instinctive identification.

So many of the situations strike a chord – whether as parent or child: who hasn’t been in that car, driving home late after a family visit with the kids “singing buggerbugger in the back”? (‘Relief’) or been on that family picnic, where the kids are just too old for it, but the parents “don’t know enough / to stop trying.” (‘Outing’), and all too many of us are likely to be familiar with the scenario of ‘Sometimes’; and the mental weight of the knowledge  of “cancerous cells / doing addition in the blood, / in the veins of someone you love.”

In fact, the thread that seems to run through the pamphlet is one of inescapability. The poem ‘Some Afternoons’ is reminiscent of Tony Hoagland’s ‘Perpetual Motion’, in its sense of not-quite-wanderlust, but Scott’s version, though capturing just as much of the romance of travelling as Hoagland’s, manages also to portray the realist’s eye view; “the weight of a life” that holds you back, and all the reasons why you can’t give in to the pull of wanting to be anywhere but here. Perhaps the ties that bind hold more strongly for a woman, but the emotional content of ‘Some Afternoons’ is pitched more vividly than ‘Perpetual Motion’, leaving more of a sense of frustration and longing than merely dissatisfaction.

Some of the poems seem to be about not wanting to escape; of being content to  live with your decisions. Similar to Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’, Scott’s ‘All the men I’ve never slept with’, does not linger on the expected regret. The choice made seems to be enough to scatter the other possibilities “to the walls, rattled like dry rice”, and that the “brand” of that choice is described as “warmth” suggests comfort and security, rather than emptiness or disappointment. Going one further is ‘Blind’. The poems have a similar structure – one stanza of regrets; or rather the things now given up; described in tantalising detail, “their apple tight buttocks, their courgette thighs” “the language of wide eyes and teasing fingers”, followed by a stanza of what has replaced them, “you lay your hand upon my head”, “seeing you folded next to my heart / I am blind, blind, blind.”. Neither of the second stanzas seem less inviting: though something has been given up, what it has been exchanged for seems both smaller and yet more substantial than any of the imagined possibilities. It’s not a question of size, but of weight.  It is that substance, that sense of reality and permanence, that seems to be the key.

‘Relief’, possibly my favourite poem of the collection, conjures such a sense of comfort distilled from the everyday annoyances of life, simply because of the people surrounding you. It’s not a cage if they’re in there with you. Or perhaps they are the cage, but when “he begins to whistle a tune she loves” you realise you don’t want to leave. Scott encapsulates it neatly; ‘Barometer’, on the facing page ends with: “when his granddaughter asks him/ What makes the silver rise? And he answers Pressure, / he means love.” That phrase could possibly sum up the mood of the whole collection.

The poems are deceptive in their simplicity of language. Scott has a real facility for conveying meaning, depth and emotion, without waffle or indulging in sentimentality. Families are portrayed honestly, but sympathetically – a balance that is often difficult to strike. Whatever cage Scott feels she has escaped, this collection is definitely flying free.

End of Year Round-Up: The Reviewers

In Seasonal/End of year on December 18, 2010 at 11:45 am

2010 was the year Sabotage went from being just a thought to a fully-fledged website. To celebrate not just the wonderful reviewers who are the backbone of this site, but also the literature that has made our year what it is, I have asked several reviewers to answer these three short questions:

-Has 2010 brought to your attention any outstanding literary magazines (be they online or in print), if so, which?

-What event sticks out in your mind as the literary event of 2010 (it can be a personal accomplishment)?

-What was your favourite literary discovery of the year (it can be a single poem, a novel, a pamphlet, a press, …)?

Below you will find the answers of several of this year’s reviewers, and in a few days I will publish the answers of several authors, both of poetry and fiction, who were kind enough to take part.

To make things fair, here are my brief answers, then I’ll hand it over to the reviewers:

-Obviously the creation of Sabotage has brought my attention to several excellent magazines. My favourite discovery is probably Diagram. I reviewed its Summer 2010 issue for The Review Review. It was a bit of a surprise favourite as I tend to prefer poetry to short stories. This is what I said about it in the review: ‘The fiction featured displays an obsessive relationship to dissection and decorticates genres, voices, people. Sometimes this mad-scientist effervescence overwhelms the content to the point of un-readability, but more often than not, it elates. Diagram is a welcome shock-therapy to more traditional online journals – a breath of unruly air displacing paperwork.’

-There are several events that I could cite, 2010 brought the death of two personal heavyweight: Edwin Morgan and J.D. Salinger. Though with the latter, I could not help but feel a certain morbid curiosity for the work he kept hidden, as if he were the guardian of a treasure and finally defeated by a cocky young hero who knew the answers to the riddle. On a personal level, it was getting two poems accepted by Poetry Salzburg Review, a magazine I have long admired for the consistent quality of its output, and its vibrantly multi-cultural authors.

-Now that’s definitely a tough one. I discovered James Merrill’s ‘Charles on Fire’ and Charles Causley’s ‘Convoy’ thanks to Katy Evans-Bush’s workshop Making Poetry at the Poetry School, both have stuck with me for days beyond reading. Amongst pamphlets, my favourites were Mark Halliday’s No panic here, Jon Stone’s Scarecrows and Joe Dunthorne’s Faber New Poets pamphlet. As far as collections go two stand out: Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard and Karen Annesen’s How to Fall.

The Reviewers (in no particular order):

Richard T. Watson is a writer and director who has reviewed several works for Sabotage, most recently two of Sidekick Books’ publications, Pocket Spellbook and Coin Opera. You can find his review here, and his blog here.

-Its focal hero might make it seem a tad outdated, but I’ve enjoyed the Ben Jonson Journal (which I discovered in 2010, but has been running for much longer). It’s one of the many things I came across as a student that I wanted to get into in more depth, but never had time because of the looming deadline thing. But what I did read of the BJJ helped with my Dissertation, and all of it was fascinating.

-It’s not that long since National Poetry Week, which included a BBC adaptation of Chris Reid’s poem The Song of Lunch on BBC Two – which I think is probably my literary event of the year (and not just for the connection to my own University). The poem was translated more or less directly to the screen without addition or abridgement, a rare case of bringing poetry to mainstream popular culture. Having Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson involved helps as well.

My favourite literary discovery of 2010 is Julia Bird’s poem ‘For my Brother, Relentlessly’, which is published in Coin Opera, a micro-anthology from Sidekick Books. It’s a poem in nostalgic praise of  arcade game classic Space Invaders, laid out like the screen of a Space Invaders game. The text itself is simply the repeated question ‘Can I have a go on the Space Invaders now?’ – but what I especially like is the way that the title’s comma conjures an image of a small girl asking this of her brother without pausing for breath for several minutes. Then, when she does finally take a breath, she says ‘please’.

Juliet Wilson is a poet who has written a series of reviews on environmental literary magazines for Sabotage, her most recent review can be found here whilst her website is here.

-2010 was the year I really became aware of Anon Poetry magazine. I knew it existed and had read an old copy but this year they accepted two of my poems and I found myself at the wonderful launch party at the Scottish Poetry Library and bought more back copies. The current editor Colin Fraser really knows how to choose good poetry (not just because he chooses mine!) and there are also a selection of intelligent and thought provoking articles about poetry in the magazine. Add to this that its a lovely neat format and fits quite easily into a handbag or pocket for reading on the bus, definitely a great read. The anon website is here and they’re on Twitter too:

-The event that for me was the literary event of 2010 was (sorry to blow my own trumpet!) the launch of my poetry chapbook Unthinkable Skies by Calder Wood Press.

-My favourite literary discovery was Lorsque j’etais un oeuvre d’art by Eric Emanuel Schmitt, an amazing, weird and wonderful novel about a man who is saved from committing suicide by an art entrepreneur who offers him the chance to become a living piece of art. A thought provoking exploration of what it means to be human written with the narrative drive of a thriller. I don’t know whether it’s been translated into English. I always find that reading an exceptionally good book in a foreign language intensifies the experience for me, as I meed to concentrate more and there’s a real sense of achievement in the reading!

Ian Chung is a poet who blogs here and tweets here. His most recent review for Sabotage is of the arts-collective website Lazy Gramophone.

-Polarity Magazine comes to mind. I came to it quite by chance, as the chief editor happens to teach on my university course as well and there was a launch event held at the university. It’s a print magazine, very professionally done, with each issue being ‘organised around two falsely polarised concepts’. The magazine’s website has some excerpts from the first issue.
-I’m going to go with a personal accomplishment here, and that was getting a couple of my poems accepted by The Cadaverine. It was my third time submitting, so I guess it’s true, third time’s the charm! Seriously though, it was an honour for my work to be chosen, and I’m looking forward to seeing it appear on the newly revamped website.

-I’m going to say it was Tom McCarthy’s Remainder. In a seminar last year, I’d read the Zadie Smith essay, ‘Two Paths for the Novel’, in which she reviews Remainder and Joseph O’Neill’sNetherland, and was intrigued by how she saw them as representing opposing futures for the Anglophone novel. I’d meant to read Remainder since then, but only got around to doing so over the summer holidays. It’s definitely an interesting read, in the way that its protagonist escalates the cycles of repetition that are the only means by which his life can anchor itself meaningfully. Smith notes at the start of her essay that Remainder took seven years to find a publisher, which isn’t surprising, given how its structure deliberately defies the sort of marketable narrative that would sit nicely in a chain bookstore’s window display.

Caroline Crew is a poet and a prolific blogger of all things poetic here.  She reviewed Blue-eyed boy bait for Sabotage here.

-For me the publications that have really sung that this year have all had a really strong sense of identity and of purpose. Literary magazines and projects that eshcew the normal manifestos on the submissions page. The ones that have really struck me this year have been Fuselit– a gorgeous magazine that runs of a spur word. Popshot, the illustrated poetry magazine that brings together the visual and the verbal to stunning effect, and my current favourite, > kill author, an online magazine that helped me rid myself of the silly preconception that print is inherently better.

-Sadly, for me that would have to be the passing of Edwin Morgan, at the grand age of 90. He was the first Scots Makar, and when it comes down to it, just a absolutely stellar poet. The death of such an imagination leaves an abyss.
-Well, moving across the Atlantic has been strange for me in many ways, but the epic differences in the poetry being written was definitely the most astounding. My favourite discovery so far would have to be Ada Limon. I saw her read recently and bought her excellent collection, sharks in the rivers, and cannot let it be out of my reach.

Jared Randall is a poet who blogs here, his first book of poetry, Aprocryphal Road Code, is now available from Salt Publishing. He reviewed >kill author for Sabotage here.

The Offending Adam is probably the most intriguing online lit mag to catch my eye this year. TOA has taken the online lit mag format and run with it. Editors Andrew Wessels and Co. present weekly features that you can read in a relatively few spare moments because they focus on (usually) a single poet’s work. This focused brevity includes a brief statement from the author or a third party about what they think of the work and how it has come into existence. What is more, TOA takes care to ensure this glimpse behind the scenes/recommendation lends a sense of literary justification and thoughtfulness without descending into either facile interpretism or the chance to merely sound off on one’s poetic opinions.

Rather than browsing for a mag’s hidden gems among a multitude of works that may serve as mere fodder, every entry of TOA leaves me excited for next week’s installment. TOA’s eye for quality and the breathing space they leave to really consider the work at hand fly in the face of the common “dime-a-dozen” argument against online literature journals. You can sign up for weekly updates via email or Facebook and always know that your next poetry fix is in the wings and that you won’t have to wade through scads of authors to get to something you’ll truly want to consider.

-I don’t know that I’m qualified to give a grand literary pronouncement of what event was most important on a grand scale, but I did experience a very personal circle of memorable events at the end of 2010. The circle involves the publication of my own first book of poetry (Apocryphal Road Code) but really centers on the National Book Award in fiction as won by my former Western Michigan University undergrad professor, Jaimy Gordon.

The background of this story goes back a decade. Jaimy’s was my final fiction workshop before I dropped out of school for nearly four years after ignoring her advice to stick with it (no exaggeration). Of course, she was right, and, in 2004, I went back to school, finished up my degree, and from there received my MFA at the University of Notre Dame. How ironic that, barely a week after my first book came out, I was privileged to hear Jaimy read from her award-winning Lord of Misrule at the Kalamazoo Public Library.

This event, with its local southwest-Michigan flavor, was a culmination for me. I reflected, while waiting in line to have Jaimy sign my copy of her book, on the good fortune I had to study with great writers in the Kalamazoo area while in undergrad. I realized, after Jaimy spoke on the importance for her of finding a character’s voice, how I, too, learned the importance of voice from her all those years ago. Voice is important in my recent book, and I knew in that moment that I owe Jaimy more than I had either suspected or remembered.

Though it comes from a true prodigal, I believe I can safely say that all of us who have studied with Jaimy know how good she is, how careful and precise and insightful are her critiques. I could not be happier on her behalf for the recognition she has received, and I can only hope to enjoy a touch of the same in the future. Also, if you have not picked up a copy of Lord of Misrule, do so. A great book to curl up with over the holidays!

-I did not have to think long in order to settle on Chad Sweeney’s Parable of Hide and Seek from Alice James Books. Chad is a writer who is also local to a Kalamazoo area rich in talent, and I fell in love with his new poetry during a reading he gave recently. In particular, his poems “Little Wet Monster” and “Holy Holy” struck such a personal chord with me that I had to acquire his book right away.

The first is an incantation, a welcoming, a calling forth of an unborn child: “Come antler through the gates my thingling/ Your grapes contain the houses// Unmask the stones my darkling grief/ Come whole my homeward early// You alone devour the night,” and so on. The child comes from the dark womb but brings the secret of light, a rich paradox among many in Parable. Mother and father voices merge somehow in a poem that Chad reads with a lot of courage and all the real passion of a father who appreciates the mystery and precious gift that is life. I jive with that, being a father of four with another on the way.

In “Holy Holy,” Chad also manages to get me where I feel it deep down. It begins, “For me speech is/ a way of touching,/ a rummaging under/ for what’s not meant// to be moved,” and continues, “a sentence begun// before my father was/ beaten for his stutter.” I adore the double to triple meanings of these enjambed lines as they turn on one another. The poet then asks for “courage/ to fail publicly// in ordinary tasks,/ give/ me corner beams laboring/ without grace.”

The humility and gentle sensibility of Chad Sweeney’s poems are, judging by his reading and conversation, wholly genuine. Their surreal yet familiar landscapes pull me in, and I think they will you, too. Give him a try at http://www.alicejamesbooks.org or your favorite seller. In fact, treat yourself to an entire Kalamazoo, Michigan, literary romp! There are plenty of authors to choose from, whether recently published or from years gone by.

Lazy Gramophone

In All of the Above, online magazine, Performance Poetry on December 7, 2010 at 10:40 pm

-Reviewed by Ian Chung-

Lazy Gramophone is a London-based arts collective, established in 2003. In 2006, it began hosting live events, as well as setting up an in-house press that publishes work by the collective. The first publication was Adam Green’s debut novel, Satsuma Sun-mover, which went on to be nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2008. The current, third incarnation of the Lazy Gramophone site showcases work from 48 artists, with more available in the archived copies of the site’s previous two versions. Each artist has a separate page, where content is further categorised under the following headings: Journals, Pictures, Music, Words, Links, YouTube, and Video Gallery. All this makes for a very rich and immersive navigating experience. The new site design is also clearly intended to make full use of Web 2.0, with the ability to share links to content through various social networking sites just a click away.

 

Given the diversity of the collective’s membership, it does not come as a surprise that the quality of work varies substantially. The rhyming in poems like Sorana Santos’s ‘This Road’ and ‘Fissures’ gives them a musical lilt, but the sentiments captured by the lines remain fairly pedestrian (‘I see her face when you make love to me’). They also happen to demonstrate a problem that I feel recurs throughout the site, i.e. typographical inconsistencies. I am willing to grant that Santos’s poems at least, deliberately bury their rhymes in the shifting line lengths. However, I am less convinced when faced with say, Charlie Cottrell’s ‘The Dress’, in which a moving meditation on an old memory is marred by lines that break off mid-word and odd characters that intrude for no apparent reason.

 

It is also unclear whether pieces such as ‘The Dress’ (of which there are several from different artists) are intended to be read as poetry or prose. On the screen, they certainly look like free verse poems, since the prose pieces elsewhere on the site do make full use of the screen’s real estate for their typesetting. Yet when they are read, their rhythms and syntax sound curiously like those of prose. In short, if this is poetry, I think the lines breaks generally do not justify themselves. If it is prose, Lazy Gramophone might want to reconsider its content formatting, as the varying line lengths can be distracting and impede narrative flow.

 

Still, there is work at Lazy Gramophone that makes for rewarding, as opposed to frustrating, reading. Sam Rawling’s poem ‘Hung’, taken from his collection Circle Time, is a stellar example. There is a keen sensitivity to the relation between sound and meaning on display here. To begin with, the internal rhyming of ‘Humble’, ‘crumble’ and ‘stumble’ connects the couple in the poem to ideas of breakdown and impermanence. The subsequent alliteration of ‘stumble’ and ‘stomach’ reminds us that the locus of the poem’s (in)action is ‘this lonely table’, where the couple is caught in stasis, fit for a ‘scene / Displayed on a wall’.

 

Perhaps the clearest example of the aural intricacy of the poem occurs in the last six lines:

 

‘For the violence silent so beautiful between us,

For the slits across our wrists

Sown simply now by its title.

If only this frame wasn’t so fragile,

Then maybe one day we

Could have hung it.’

 

The echo of ‘violence silent’ is wonderfully evocative in its juxtaposition of eruption and repression. That ‘silent’ alliterates with ‘simply’, which in turn assonates with ‘slits’ and ‘wrists’ should hardly be viewed as an accident. The troubled undercurrent of the poem has been brought into the open, and everything culminates in the last three lines’ graceful understatement of regret.

 

Moving on from written to spoken word, I would highly recommend Mat Lloyd’s performance poetry. He has three audio recordings and one video up on Lazy Gramophone, all of which offer social commentary whilst being very fun to listen to/watch. ‘I Apologise’ is a consciously self-reflexive apology for poetry’s existence, while ‘Suicide Note; Bank Manager Lament’ is a hilarious diatribe, which will definitely resonate with a post-financial crisis audience. His animated poetry video ‘Blokes’ won Best Film at the ShortCuts Festival in 2009. It offers a penetrating examination of contemporary male friendships, invoking the vocabulary of laddish banter (‘Every time I bone your missus / She gives me a doughnut. Slut’, only to pull the rug out from under the viewer in its final, wrenching seconds.

 

On balance, I would say that it is definitely worth checking out the Lazy Gramophone site. Formatting issues aside, there is a good deal of solid work to be found, far more than is practicable to comment on in the space of a review. The collective also clearly contributes to the arts scene in London and the UK, and it would be interesting to see what else their press arm puts out in future. Finally, although I have not commented much on the artwork displayed on the site, I would urge visitors to take a look at Zoe Catherine Kendall’s cross-disciplinary pieces, where the artwork complements the writing, as well as the haunting pictures from Daniel Regan and Evelina Silberlaint.