A Little Excitement by Nancy Scott
Erotic by Alexis Rhone Fancher
Danish Northwest/Hygge Poems from the Outskirts by Peter Graarup Westergaard
Red Rover Red Rover by Bob Hicok
The Murderous Sky: Poems of Madness and Mercy by Rosemary Daniell
American Quasar with poems by David Campos and art by Maceo Montoya + A Camera Obscura by Carl Marcum
Bright Star, Green Light by Jonathan Bate
The Likely World by Melanie Conroy-Goldman
Razor Wire Wilderness by Stephanie Dickinson
Adjusting to the Lights- Poems by Tom C. Hunley
The Philosopher Savant Crosses The River by Rustin Larson
Come-Hither Honeycomb by Erin Belieu
And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey by Amy Beeder
Poisons & Antidotes by Andrea L. Fry
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
By Thaddeus Rutkowski
In this fast-paced novel of tangled family relationships set just before the start of the US war against Iraq, Patricia Dunn tells the story of Angela Campanosi, a twenty-nine-year-old antiwar activist who returns to the Bronx after several years in Los Angeles. Angela has received an invitation to her brother’s wedding, but she doesn’t know why the invitation was so late in coming or why her brother is marrying this particular woman: a nurse who is about to be sent to Iraq. Further complicating matters is the fact that the groom is MIA when Angela arrives—and no one will tell her where he is.
Angela’s thoughts turn inward as she remembers sins she believes she has committed—deeds that caused her to flee the Bronx and lose touch with her family. “I needed to get away, far away,” she tells the reader. “Distance didn’t make the guilt vanish, but it had made life bearable enough for me to take action, make changes, and be a better person.” For a long while, we don’t know exactly what happened, but Angela blames herself for the accidental fall that put her brother in a wheelchair. She doesn’t know if he still holds that incident against her, because she can’t find him to ask. She receives no help from her stubborn mother, her unrecovered alcoholic father, her foodie uncle, and a onetime friend/boyfriend who has (almost) become a member of her family.
Things get wild when Angela receives a request to be her brother’s best man, makes a trip into Manhattan and gets caught in an antiwar demonstration, and visits an art opening where all of the works (by the friend/boyfriend) represent members of her family—all before she reunites with her brother. A subplot involves a large amount of money owed by the brother to some gangster wannabes. For much of the story, Angela is on the outside of her family, looking in. “All the years I’d been away,” she tells us, “I could only see [my brother] Jimmy from ten years ago, sad and hopeless. He’d moved on. He was able to express joy. He, my whole . . . family, was happy. Happy without me.”
The novel, by the author of Rebels by Accident, is published by Bordighera Press, a nonprofit dedicated to Italian and Italian American literature. As the story unfolds, you’ll meet characters living more or less as they did in the old country—but in the northern Bronx, at the last stop of the Number 6 subway train. In addition to Angela’s family, you’ll find various local personalities, including the Beach Chair Ladies, whose role is to keep the gossip going. Anyone, Italian or not, who has had an immigrant experience will appreciate the push and pull that exists between an original culture and a new society. “At the end of the day,” says one of the local characters (who turns out to be a building contractor, not a gangster), “there’s love.”
You can find the book here: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781599541730/last-stop-on-the-6.aspx
Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of seven books, most recently Tricks of Light, a poetry collection. He teaches at Medgar Evers College and received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
By Greg Bem
confession is built mouth
to open mouth until water
(from “honeyhive,” page 3)
In the deering hour, there is buried between an awesome and ecstatic lyric poetry is a timely poetics of isolation and survival capable of carrying a pandemic readership toward honest, patient movement. the deering hour is a book that feels as crafted by quarantine and introspective society as it feels a conduit for the ever-expansive world just beyond our walls. Throughout, Karen Elizabeth Bishop follows many veins, many threads, and finds her own natural space for foraging the wispy peripheries of a breathing world.
The book is divided into two sections. The first, of which the book’s title comes, is “the deering hour.” This sequence is a welcome beacon and blueprint in this cagey global moment, filled with discoveries and dances, flirtations and flashes that are utterly American in their experimentation, but also feel spread across space and time and culture.
as she falls we all fall hers is the history of
flight the future of lyric the winter of our ash
(from “the history of flight,” page 34)
Collective and personal, the general appeal of “the deering hour” as a section and as a book is the feeling of roots, of being bound as reader (through writer) to the primal or ancient. Ecologically, the verse often flutters through natural imagery and a spirited presence takes shape by way of the world’s many forms and their relationships. Even when poems concern movement, either forward or backward, inward or outward, there is a slow and mature consideration within the poem’s subtext; a peaceful tone of ritual, of intention lingers.
[. . .] here the surface
does not hold. where the final
hanging on comes to a close,
wea are sound receding in
waves, four hearts quiet
ascending, the light at the
border dark increasing [. . .]
(from “the deering hour,” page 13)
Poems vary in size and shape, but there is a propulsion to most of them. This rush within Bishop’s work can be thanked to the poems’ elemental foundations. Water upon stone, for example, is one of the most prevalent carriers of energy and ideas within the deering hour, and its emblematic presence demonstrates the timeliness of water’s power. It is also, in Bishop’s writing, reflective of a more sacred, finite resource. Ecology and the flight of the world that surrounds us may feel overwhelming in reality, but in the book we see transformation as humbling. This is a tempered and tempering volume that keeps reality in a perspective somewhere between balancing and revealing.
Following “the deering hour” is “Kilpisjärvi,” a shorter sequence that takes its name from a village in Northern Finland, where Bishop recently visited and stayed as a resident at the “Biological Station.” Unfortunately we do not know too much more than that, as a fuller description of this place is missing. Still, the mysterious presence and existence of this place lends itself to the writing Bishop does include.
While at first glance this second, closing sequence feels thrown at the end of the book as an addendum or “extra,” a deeper read reveals Bishop’s cunning: the prose and verse here demonstrates an example of source material, where the work and the mindset of “the deering hour” stem. Reading it reminded me of the works of Craig Childs and Terry Tempest Williams, who have sought the truth by being embedded by place and experience, by living through relationships and convictions: “We watch from the shore of the moraine as the future recedes,” Bishop writes in part IV (page 59) and: “Under cover, we speak in surprises, measure the fell in objects and action” she writes in part IX (page 72) are examples of Bishop’s relational journaling.
Near the beginning of “Kilpisjärvi,” Bishop writes, “I don’t need to get to the end to know I’m already living my future” (page 54). This is the illumination that rounds out a poetics of the pandemic so well. It is new and yet established, emerging yet defined. But the illumination can occasionally be too bright; aside from serving us with this well-rounded close, some of the book’s moments cascade into realms of twist and obscurity:
you didn’t say if you gave over, a last present
amidst our famine, or if you sought the wild
wasting of our white nights, the pleading scar,
fingers in the welt, the searing blightburn. [. . .]
(from “inflorescence,” page 15)
There is a play with abstraction that occasionally feels maddening in its confusion and disconnection, but it is ever-so-present and just barely heavy enough to be problematic. Instead, I took the abstraction to be an element of introduction and arrival, Bishop’s writing beginning its dance across a longer form of time. Overall, Bishop’s the deering hour is an enduring book of juxtaposition the succeeds in bringing two ends of experience together at once.
You can find the book here: https://www.ornithopterpress.com/store/p15/the_deering_hour.html
Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at www.gregbem.com
By Lynette G. Esposito
Rustin Larson’s poetry volume Slap offers a wide variety of poetry lengths, forms and images. Published by Alien Buddha Press, it is ninety-two pages of insightful messages in poetic form.
By Colin Dodds
Inviting Randomness to the Party
It was about a year ago, and I had a stack of notes that wouldn’t agree to be poems or stories – oddball refractory fragments that had accumulated over the years. Or maybe it was me who was feeling oddball and refractory. Either way, it occurred to me to fashion the best of them into oddball and refractory aphorisms and collect them in a book.
As I revised, rewrote and so forth, the question of how to order the aphorisms kept bothering me. There was a temptation to structure the book into discrete groups – themes or chapters or moods or seasons or something like that. But grouping the aphorisms like that felt like an apology, an immediate watering down of the individual force of each individual aphorism. And deliberately placing similar aphorisms far from one another felt artificial.
Not long after I’d sent an early version of the collection to some friends, one of them wrote me saying that she enjoyed flipping through the collection each morning and reading the aphorism she landed on. And I thought she had exactly the right idea. At the same time, I was chatting with my friend Matt Dublin about technology-slash-art projects. Those conversations with Matt, along with her comment made the randomized-aphorism app idea click into focus.
I imagined a book, where the pages hang on a single spine, transforming to something like a dandelion in late summer, when the white floaties stick off the seed head and a strong breath blows them all away except for one, or one of those plasma balls, where the pink lightning strikes from the core to the glass surface where you press your finger.
A Short and Inadequate History of Books and Chance
The idea of random chance interacting with literature isn’t new. Bibliomancy – the practice of flipping through a book and dropping your finger down to learn the future, or the will of G-d – is as old as the codex. It was how St. Augustine decided to convert to Christianity, according to his Confessions.
In the I-Ching, the reader navigates the text by flipping coins or other random means to arrive at the correct page for them in that moment. More recently, the cut-ups of William Burroughs attempted to expose intentional language to the mysterious dynamics and agendas of so-called randomness. There’s even a Cut-Up Machine that allows you to enter text in, and receive something else out. When I was pounding away at a manifesto/marketing document for Forget This Good Thing I Just Said, I dropped that document into the machine and read back – from among the block of text, if I squinted – the spooky phrase “Like don’t messages chance to say a reader’s idea?”
As the author, I had some say in how random I wanted things to get. And the cut-up approach gave chance more license than I wanted. I liked the aphorism as the unit of meaning, because it’s just long enough to make a statement, and too short for much equivocation or obfuscation.
Why Let Random Chance Speak at All?
Bibliomancy, the I-Ching or Burroughs’ cut-ups all embody a largely unspoken faith that what you most needed to hear in a given moment is likely a bolt from the blue.
It may be mystical. But there’s a lot of common sense in mysticism. Randomness, as an idea, smells like science. But it’s an unproven assumption. It’s a placeholder for something else.
What is that something else? I’d always had an on-again-off-again fascination with Jung’s idea of Synchronicity, or serendipity, and the idea that random chance was the camouflage for some unbelievable beast you could occasionally look in the eye.
Random chance, if it’s a mystery, can also be liberating. People like to say that we can forge meaning from randomness. But what if randomness is the one thing that’s uniquely poised to deliver the meanings that can transcend our habits and our hand-to-mouth scheming?
You can check out Colin Dodds latest project concerning literature and random chance here: Forget This Good Thing I Just Said