Poetry by Lou Gallo, Henry Stanton, Jean LeBlanc and Stephen Page
Poetry by Lou Gallo, Henry Stanton, Jean LeBlanc and Stephen Page
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By Kristina Gibbs
If you want to be transported back into a land of Once Upon a Times where the magical and the mysterious collide, then delving into Sally Rosen Kindred’s work is for you. Only expect a few darker twists.
In Says the Forest to the Girl, Kindred modernizes popular tales—inserting Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and others—while also restoring them back to their original eerie glory. The results are spellbinding.
The chapbook itself is seamless. When the poems transition, each theme bleeds over onto the next page; the poems are distinct in voice and syntax, but they all carry ominous scenes and darker elements of nature. There is intent behind every minute detail from the symbols of black birds to the reintroduction of characters throughout the cohesive work.
Kristina Gibbs is an emerging writer from the hills of Tennessee currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English and minor in Linguistics. She has previously published an interview in an online publication, Speaking of Marvels. When she is not reading or writing, you may find her clambering over both hiking trails and paint brushes.
By Charles Rammelkamp
The fifteen stories that make up Iris N. Schwartz’s new collection of stories have a sort of New York Jewish sensibility and magic that make one think of Bernard Malamud. The characters are Malamudian – lonely, neurotic, vaguely troubled, slightly clueless. Take Joseph Fein, a character in the title story. Joseph is 38 and for some reason is in Hudson View Rehabilitation, wearing diapers. It’s apparently a temporary condition. He hopes to return to full continence soon. In the meantime, he needs assistance changing his diapers, and the story goes into great detail as the nurse, a woman named Giselle, maneuvers him around his bed, protecting his modesty as best she can while doing her job, wiping him up, securing him in the diaper. Joseph is plainly mortified and doesn’t get the woman’s name – she’s just a function. But if Joseph is the one who is ashamed in his isolation, we get the sense that Giselle is also alienated. She’s rescued at the end by a cup of coffee.
In some stories dreams and waking consciousness are confused together with an effect like some of Malamud’s stories in The Magic Barrel. Belle, in “At Liberty,” dreams of her wedding gown, which she has discarded along with the man she married. She’d married Benjy impulsively, almost out of desperation, but it soon became all too clear how limited he was. Not only was he a boring lover, but Belle “often imagined casting a fishing rod into Benjy’s throat to find and reel in synonyms superior to the words he chose.” Especially the word “nice.” Benjy drives Belle nuts calling everything “nice”: clothing, movies, food, everything.
Belle’s dreams are full of guilt for the wedding dress, which she has tossed into a garbage can in the basement of her apartment building. She dreams she sees the wedding dress soiled in a nearby vacant lot. She dreams an older woman commands her to rescue and bury the dress. Yet when she wakes up and goes for a walk, she discovers “between every shrub and flowerbed, were sleeves, hems, bodices,” and she is happy, no longer feeling guilt. “Her gown had found a home — ‘a very nice’ home.” Try not to laugh reading that line!
Similarly, in “Fur,” a woman named Dahlia is starved for the affection of a cat; she feels “feline deprived.” She falls asleep and is awakened by the doorbell. When she opens the door, she is greeted by a Maine Coon standing erect on two feet, wearing a blue suit. He asks her if she is ready to go shopping for cats. “Dahlia smiled. ‘Give me ten minutes, please. I’ll need to get dressed and get my coat.’” Which is the dream, which reality?
“Safety First” is another story in which dreams and guilt mix potently. Narrated in the first person by a divorced woman, we learn that the protagonist dreams of her ex-husband trying to kill himself. “He was gasping, red-faced, kicking his legs over a knocked-over chair.” Again, she dreams of him, picking at a nail on his big toe, blood bubbling from his foot. “By the second dream, I knew I couldn’t save him.”
All of these characters are seemingly stuck in their sense of remorse, their shame. This is true not just of Joseph and Giselle, Dahlia, Belle and the unnamed narrator of “Safety First,” but of the anal hygiene-freak protagonist of “Franklin Is In” and Paula Baumgarten in “Ever After,” the longest story in the collection, which also involves a failed marriage and the sense of regret that inevitably follows.
Two stories, “Nickled-and-Dimed” and “Dime-Store Bandits,” involve a pair of sisters, Imogene and Lenore, girls who have not quite reached puberty yet. In the first, Lenore, the younger sister, swallows a buffalo head nickel and Imogene calls 911. The upshot is that they have to alert their parents, who are out on a date together for the first time in years. In “Dime-Store Bandits,” Imogene watches, fascinated, as her younger sister pilfers candy from a Luncheonette, “nabbing Chunkys and Bazookas by the handful and shoving them into a back pocket.” Imogene, who like all older siblings is something of a cop, reporting bad behavior to their parents, is nevertheless “impressed” by her younger sister’s boldness and decides not to rat Lenore out. “After all, Mother didn’t need to know everything, did she?” Inspired, she goes to Woolworths and shoplifts herself! Childhood is full of stories of guilt and transgression.
A handful of the stories in Shame – “Gifts from God,” “Dogs,” “Yellow,” “Excuses,” “Age” – are micro-fictions that strike with the force of epiphany. Indeed, all of Schwartz’s fictions are succinct and dreamlike, hypnotic and enchanting, with the beguiling charm of Bernard Malamud stories.
You can find the book here:
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore, where he lives, and Reviews Editor for Adirondack Review. His most recent books include American Zeitgeist(Apprentice House) and a chapbook, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts ( Main Street Rag Press). Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, is forthcoming from Future Cycle Press.
Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was published by Terrapin Books. HIs other collections include The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the Jean Pedrick Award. Young also received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, The Cortland Review, The Los Angeles Review, Shrew, The Smart Set, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Young lives with his wife, children, and cats in Jersey City, New Jersey.
The Surrealism of War, Politics, Religion and Everything Else
By Larissa Shmailo
RW Spryszak;s Edju is a compelling, thought-provoking read, possibly one of the best antiwar novels since Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun. Its eponymous unreliable narrator is certainly as odd as Trumbo’s and every bit as opinionated. Edju’s point of view is skewed, we suspect, but the surreal world he encounters is undeniably more so. Populated by fantastic saints, monstrous war machines, and fatalistic animate metaphors of death, the world of Edju threatens us with the core horror of humans systematically killing one another for questionable ideas.
Reading Edju, I saw elements of the original picaresque novel in the adventures of its Quixotic, but always truthful, protagonist. But his story—a hagiography, perhaps, if Edju’s time-warping memory serves— is a continuing exercise in excess, an attempt to trump absurdist and surrealist writing of past several centuries. There are loud shout outs to Gogol’s nose and Kharm’s corpses, and more than a few scenes that are reminiscent of Kafka and even an absurdist Robinson Crusoe.
All of this is done in a slow reveal—we learn the name of the narrator, an old man mocked by children only in the eighth chapter. We assume Edju is mad, hopelessly odd, a compulsive-obsessive religious fanatic, a kook who thinks his dead lover is strangely and selectively alive in a sack. As his Nordic world unfolds in subsequent chapters, we come to believe this limited being is the only sane man on his dystopic nation.
The central conceits of the novel, Edju’s windmills, are surreal metaphors for war and competition in reduction ad absurdem: war machines fueled by human bodies, a Mountain of Flesh all are eager to climb, factions absurdly fighting over table cloths which have become their last banners, a Maze of defense. The path to war is depicted accurately, starting with pamphlets and the rise of fascism and inevitably followed by
Leftist Agrarian Front. Rightist National Unity. Holy Orders of the Fist of God. The Liberal Party. The Conservative Party. Liberal Conservatives and Conservative Liberals. The Armed Hand of the Nation. Nuns. All armed. All vying for power
Évitez les faux, they shouted. Libérez nos bébés, they called. N’accepte pas les substituts. It seemed like a full-scale rebellion was at hand. I had no idea if those phrases were in any way grammatical and correct. But in times of revolution even the commas get misplaced.
Religion fares no better than politics. In nomenclature reminiscent of David Foster Wallace’s Year of the Depends Undergarment, faith in Edju’s universe is represented by Bibliana, saint of headaches and hangovers, Our Lady That Didn’t Tumble, Saint Fomildehyde, and extremely peculiar paths to canonization.
The writing of Edju is synaesthetic and witty, replete with eyepopping detail, zinger similes, and wise one liners:
Climbing up the embankment was a struggle, but her perfume reached out like a muscular ghost that held me close to its face of vapors. As wrong as elephants.
If you are not them, you are the other. It’s in the Constitution now.
RW Spryszak’s unusual hero’s journey belongs on your reading list. Like many fine works that eptly mine and mime our culture, it is novel, in the first meaning of the word.
You can find the book here:
Larissa Shmailo is an American poet, novelist, translator, and critic. Her poetry collections are Medusa’s Country, #specialcharacters, I n Paran, the chapbook A Cure for Suicide, and the e-book Fib Sequence; her latest novel is Patient Women. Shmailo’s work has appeared in Plume, the Brooklyn Rail, Fulcrum, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, the Journal of Poetics Research, Drunken Boat, Barrow Street, and the anthologies Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters, Words for the Wedding, Contemporary Russian Poetry, Resist Much/Obey Little: Poems for the Inaugural, Verde que te quiero verde: Poems after Garcia Lorca, and many others. Shmailo is the original English-language translator of the world’s first performance piece, Victory over the Sun by Alexei Kruchenych. Shmailo also edited the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and has been a translator on the Russian Bible for the American Bible Society. Please see more about Shmailo at her website at www.larissashmailo.com and Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Larissa_Shmailo.
We recently read at The Howland Cultural Center in the town of Beacon in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York State. It was Diane’s last featured reading of the year and g read in the open. Hayden Wayne was kind enough to record the reading. We hope you have a look and enjoy. Thanks to Robert Milby for booking us. May all of you have a splendid New Year.
Diane and g