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The poems in Cartographies travel new territory, exploring the heart’s changeable geography and the soul’s uneven terrain. They map the familiar, sometimes astonishing, and always complex world of the poet’s native San Gabriel Mountains, as well as nearby Los Angeles, with its cultural richness and social/political tensions. Divided into four sections—The Soul, The Self, Mountains, The City—Cartographies investigates and fathoms our most profound relationships with time, nature, love, and death. In poem after poem, Simon finds meaning in unexpected locales, from a hospital AIDS ward to the “Rorschach” on a butterfly’s wings to a barrio bakery, and in the briefest of moments, evoked by the plaintive voice of a spider, or provoked by a breathless escape from an avalanche. With clarity and eloquence, these poems dramatize the persistent paradoxes present in our daily lives, those interstices of yearning and mourning, fear and celebration, or anguish and amazement that reveal the deep wells and turbulence of human consciousness. With consummate craftsmanship and inner grace, Simon apprehends the elegiac within the purest moments of joy, and intimates catharsis within despair. She opens the mind’s windows to myriad small miracles provoked by the barest glimmers of wonder and hope.
A Collection of Collage Poems
As Gertrude Stein might have put it, a cento is a collage is a mix tape is a video montage. This hypothetical description is fitting in a number of ways. Although the cento form is ancient—in existence since at least the days of Virgil and Homer—it was also used to striking effect in the Modern era: consider, for example, T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land and Ezra Pound's Cantos. More recent centos include John Ashbery's "The Dong with the Luminous Nose," Peter Gizzi's "Ode: Salute to The New York School 1950-1970" (a libretto), Connie Hershey's "Ecstatic Permutations," and the "Split This Rock Poetry Festival - Cento, March 23, 2008" (a collaborative protest poem delivered in front of the White House). The Cento: A Collection of Collage Poems, edited by Theresa Malphrus Welford and with an introduction by David Lehman, features an extensive sampling of centos, collage poems, and patchwork poems written by Nicole Andonov, Lorna Blake, Alex Cigale, Allan Douglass Coleman, Philip Dacey, Sharon Dolin, Annie Finch, Jack Foley, Kate Gale, Dana Gioia, Sam Gwynn, H. L. Hix, David Lehman, Eric Nelson, Catherine Tufariello, and many others.
A Long Playing Poem
In the tradition of the Langston Hughes’ classic Montage of a Dream Deferred, Mitchell L. H. Douglas uses persona poetry to explore the personal and professional struggles of soul legend Donny Hathaway in his debut collection Cooling Board: a Long-Playing Poem. Douglas presents a narrative in two sides: side one focusing on Hathaway’s development as a young musician and subsequent rise to fame and side two bearing witness to the adversity that plagued his later years. Readers see Hathaway as true to his family and faith, and uncompromising in his quest for musical innovation. In a nod to Hathaway’s legacy as a musical trailblazer, Douglas implements a significant poetic innovation through the book’s format. By including alternate versions or “takes” of poems readers receive new information and interpretations of the poems. It can be likened to an album with previously unreleased versions of popular songs. Along the way, poems resembling liner notes and pop charts enhance the experience, reminding readers that the music is the heart of this ride. Above all, Douglas’ depiction of Hathaway reveals the human side of a man who has remained a mystery in the time since his death. Not only does the poet speak in the voices of Hathaway and his long-time collaborator Roberta Flack, the reader also hears the voices of those closest to Hathaway whom we are less familiar with: his mother, Drusella Huntley, his grandmother, Martha Crumwell—Hathaway’s earliest music teacher—and his wife, Eulaulah. With Douglas as a guide versed in the power of possessing many tongues, Cooling Board captures its reader like the best Hathaway song: passionately, honestly, and with an undeniable sense of purpose.
covet (kúh-vit)v. tr.: to desire, esp. to desire eagerly, to wish for, long for. As in to covet another’s belongings, the ghosts of households and fixtures, their voices or warnings. Ex: she coveted the fine table, the rich furnishings of her neighbor’s home. As in to covet the past, a lost year, a lost life or one not lived. Ex: turning the photograph of her parents over in her hand, she imagined their happiness and coveted what might have been. As in to eagerly wish for the health, well-being of one for whom responsibility is given, or a child. Ex: she coveted, above all, happiness for her sons. Or, to want that (i.e. person) which one may not have, desire to possess another. Ex: thou shalt not covet.
Kirkwood's slender, desolate-feeling first novel, set between the California desert and L.A., hinges on an intricate emotional triangle revolving around a teenage runaway. Alexandra, a middle-aged transvestite living a celibate life on the Salton Sea, befriends the runaway, Olivia, at the girl's desert campsite before Olivia disappears. Eleanor, an L.A. plastic surgeon and a lonely lesbian, saw Olivia once in her office and later unknowingly gives a consult to Olivia's unstable mother, Asa, who has for several years cleaned Eleanor's office at night and begins to track the surgeon's whereabouts once she discovers the doctor's connection to Olivia. Meanwhile, Alexandra, enjoying a flirtation with the surgeon that begins after a body that might be Olivia's is found, stays at Eleanor's canyon home for a month, visited occasionally by Asa, disguised as a door-to-door cosmetics saleswoman. Once Kirkwood maps out the particulars, every maneuver on the part of these characters is fraught with tension. Kirkwood's exploration of personal and spiritual metamorphosis is all the more powerful for its surprising subtleties.
A Book of Distinctions
Jack Foley’s The Dancer and the Dance: A Book of Distinctions deliberately challenges many conventional ways of thinking about poetry. Though extremely scholarly and aware of the “tradition,” Foley offers readings rooted in a consciousness which is simultaneously non academic and open to the new. “The self of this book,” he writes, “is not a unity but a multiplicity. Many people would agree with this idea of selfhood—the self as a ‘multiplicity of voices’—but clarification is still required as to how the concept of the self as multiplicity affects literary criticism, how it affects our actual reading of poems. It may be that the self we postulate as we read a poem contradicts the self we experience in the world; it is also possible that familiar poems may be experienced anew by being read in the light of multiplicity.” Foley’s explorations lead him into radically new readings of “canonic” work by poets such as Keats, Yeats and Mallarmé, into the world of opera, free jazz, New Formalism, and the writing of song lyrics, into “ethnic” literature, theater, and finally into problems of “spoken word” and “slam poetry.” Throughout, his point of view, initially controversial, becomes finally compelling. “It is possible,” he says quietly about the whole of Western culture, “that Plato was wrong, and that we must make an effort to think in a different way if we are to encounter reality at all.”
For thirty years, Margo Klass has created hand-crafted book forms. In the last decade she's turned her skills to making elegant and profound sculptures. She constructs box forms, icons, and altarpieces, and covers them in cloth or fine paper. Some have windows or skylights so shadow and light can collaborate. Then she gleans from the wide world found objects that she places in gorgeous juxtaposition. From this process come altarpieces and icons, tiny rooms and vast expanses that draw us into their worlds. Frank Soos spends time in each of these created spaces, and responds in miniature essays, pieces of brief prose no longer than a paragraph. The interplay between words and objects is startling, playful, thought-provoking, and emotionally complex. Reflection and refraction—we take in both words and images, and then our imaginations continue the transformations.
A collection of essays and occasional pieces on gambling, teaching, snakes, dogs, cars, hitchhiking, marriage and sophistication, memory and work, and a dozen other subjects. One essay announces that the two dollar bill can buy happiness and reports some resistance to this discovery. Another studies the art of life as ne'er-do-well, a sort of prequel to the "slacker" phenomenon, written and published in Austin, Texas. In yet another essay, everyone's first name is Philip, (except the comet). Certain liberties are taken with the form. Pieces originally appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Oxford American, the Texas Observer, Connecticut Review, Apalachee Quarterly, and other newspapers, magazines, and anthologies.
The first novel in John Domini's Naples trilogy, Earthquake I.D. appeared in spring '07. Set in a famously troubled and romantic Southern Italian seaport, following the next earthquake, the story combines family and social crises with an element of fantasy and pervasive humor. The novel won wide critical praise and was nominated for a Pulitzer and other prizes. Richard Ford, an earlier Pulitzer winner, called it "a wonderful novel of an old-fashioned sort...a rich feast." Steve Erickson, author of Zeroville, called Domini "a writer of the world, with a deft talent for negotiating the currents of our age."In April 2009, an Italian translation appeared, under the title Terremoto Napoletano. Again reviews have been strong.
When disgraced evolutionary biologist Dr. Claire Matthews is asked to accompany a group of leading scientists on a fact-finding expedition to Antarctica to investigate a tragic accident, she is naturally suspicious. Her checkered past and ongoing professional exile are more than enough to convince her that any offer made by the charismatic and scheming Dr. Ethan Hatcher merits serious skepticism. Despite her doubts, Claire cannot turn her back on close friend and colleague, Alan Whitehurst. Killed under mysterious circumstances weeks earlier with the members of the first expedition, Alan deserves better than an anonymous death in Earth's harshest and most unforgiving environment. While the expedition promises Claire an unwelcome reunion with an array of personal demons, it also presents her with a golden opportunity to resurrect a once-promising career. Proving the existence of S. iroquoisii, an ancient microscopic organism critical in the evolution of primitive man, would mean the culmination of her life's work, and a triumphant return for one of the scientific community's brightest prodigies. To earn her keep, Claire must determine the role S. iroquoisii played in the catastrophic accident that decimated the previous expedition, before her crew falls prey to a similar fate. Employing the latest in forensic investigation, Claire and a joint team of military and civilian personnel undertake the gruesome task of piecing together the events that led to the massive explosion that destroyed the previous research station. As a nightmare of unimaginable proportions begins to coalesce, Claire is drawn ever deeper into a maze of deception and savage violence. Pitted against a primordial foe they can scarcely fathom, Claire and her colleagues must battle the cold, each other, and the growing madness within themselves to survive the infinite polar night.