[REVIEW] Dowry Meat, by Heather Knox

dowry
Words Dance Publishing
$15, 81 pages

Review by Corey Pentoney

What, exactly, makes a poem? A hotly debated topic, surely, but one that always deserves a little attention. Can a poem be a single line? Absolutely. Alberto Rio published a great piece about that on Poets.org. A poem that takes up an entire book is often called epic, and usually contains men in armor slaying each other with blood-ripping swords. After my third reading of Heather Knox’s first book, Dowry Meat, I’m starting to think that it is an epic in a sense, and I will say that it is best enjoyed in its entirety. That is, perhaps one of the most interesting things about this book—besides the poems themselves, or itself—is that it feels like one whole, living, breathing beast. And what a beast it is. Continue reading

I Call, You Respond

 

A Guest Series Curated by Nicole Rollender. Intro to project here.

 

Call and Response: “The Days”

The late, great Jon Anderson used poetry as a vehicle for stark (and possibly uncomfortable) self-reckoning: “My prime motive for writing is self-confrontation, and I find poems the best way to employ language to do this. My poetry isn’t for everyone. It’s for people like myself who want to contend with themselves. I think of my poems as intimate conversations with close friends, to whom I’m not afraid to reveal my vulnerabilities and loneliness.” The poem, “The Days” comes from In Sepia, which was Anderson’s third book of poems. His poetry is spare and controlled – but movingly precise in emotion and observation.

 

The Days

All day I bear myself to such reward:
I close my eyes, I can’t sleep,
The trees are whispering flat as water. Continue reading

Beautiful Ashes: Shelley Puhak

 

Presented by Jen Michalski, for PANK. For a description of this guest series, click here

 

 

Arthur, on the History of Anxiety


which starts with the river and you who were lured
and we who languished, who took no
chances, said I’m not going to try

to float across on that and so survived.
Where the Patapsco is bridged with steel,
you launch that raft and someone else

paddles back through storm’s
pooled light. One who wades
through daylight, reciting:

Hard rock of the piedmont begat tidewater
plains, widgeon grass and wild rice. Begat
mill and merchant prince, sailing vessel and

steamer, begat things like sock garters and
high silk hats. Begat what runs alongside:

the snort of the steel horse and the huff
of the mother, ever-steeled, who begat
galloping heart and EKG machine.

 

O, the authority of rivers and
the awful wall of us—mast and sail,

mortar and rust—pushing back.
And who is left to clean it all up? we

who took no chances, and so survived
to pick through your slough —cast-iron

skillet, rocking horse head, ’67 Thunderbird
manifold, blue-glass chaff, electric typewriter

keys, garnet rosary beads, and the mill
workers’ stone homes, brick by tumbled brick. Continue reading

Beautiful Ashes: Liz Hazen

 

Presented by Jen Michalski, for PANK. For a description of this guest series, click here.
 
Four Poems
~by Liz Hazen

Chaos Theory

You’d think disorder, anarchy, but chaotic
systems twist into something like control:
patterns algorithmic, self-replicating,

infinite. All it takes for things to turn
is a blip, a shift minute as the flutter of wings,
the opening of a door, a telephone

unanswered, the clap of voices shouting Wait!
My rage comes out of nowhere— the glass explodes
when it hits the wall, as physics says it must,

but who knew I was capable of this?
I wake each day to an alarm. Each night
I watch the neon time tick by. A person

can disappear from this equation, swift
as the click of a pawnshop trigger. The effect
is vast as tectonic shifts, mountains spewing

ash clouds, a newborn’s blue-faced breath, but how
can we isolate the cause of his departure?
Chaos gives us endless bifurcations,

the path of time from next to next, no chance
of turning back. Instabilities overwhelm
the earth: addiction, population growth,

disease, storms, earthquakes, infidelities,
and a simple pendulum with its routine
tick-tock, tick-tock. Even this sorry heart,

aperiodic after all, pounds wildly
at entrances, exits, the memory of his touch,
try as it will to keep a steady beat. Continue reading

[REVIEW] X Marks the Dress: A Registry, by Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess

XMarkstheDressCover
Goldwake Press
102 pages/ $15.95

Review by Carlo Matos

X Marks the Dress, a wonderful and entertaining collaboration between Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess, takes the shape of a registry: the marriage, so to speak, of ritual and consumerism; that is, the economic reinforcement of the hetero-normative traditions and social conventions that govern and limit marriage practices. A registry is, of course, first and foremost a collection of things. In previous books, Kristina Marie Darling has explored how the things that remain from failed relationships can bury, bind or enslave the beloved and how those individual items are culturally situated along the lines of gender and power. Darling says in an interview at heavy feather review that she wanted to “defamiliarize many of the objects, rituals and conventions associated with weddings,” and I think Darling and Guess have succeeded in accomplishing that goal without getting too bogged down in polemic.

In Appendix A, there is a footnote that references an “autobiographical novel [that] depicts a heroine’s pursuit of an alternative to marriage, particularly the social conventions governing the ceremony itself.” The authors very plainly play with the notion that marriage means man-and-wife. I have to admit to my great consternation that it was far too easy for me to simply assume that the marriage was between a woman and a man. In fact, it seems to me that the book is calculated to lure the reader into this too-easy assumption in order to, like Ibsen loved to do to his audiences in the nineteenth-century, jar us into recognition. The duo is actually a trio: “I’m tired of threeways where no one gets fucked” (“[Wedding Favor: Coin Purse]”). The male figure is transgender: “I can’t keep my two lives together much longer. Once the M on my license goes missing, our marriage dissolves: two women mean nothing” (“Pearl-handled Letter Opener”). The female character had a secret second wedding: “Darling, you know how my mother and father rejected me? . . . Well, I told my parents I was marrying a man. I hired an actor to play my husband” (“Pizza”). Continue reading

[REVIEW] Riceland by CL Bledsoe

riceland

Unbound Content

125 pp/ $16

Review by Brian Fanelli

Since the financial crash of 2008 and the recession that followed, much attention has been given to industrial cities like Scranton and Youngstown, places whose economic problems are exacerbated in hard times. In CL Bledsoe’s latest collection of poems, Riceland, the author draws attention to another part of America that extends beyond the rust belt—the American farmland, in particular the Arkansas farm where the poet was raised. Bledsoe’s latest effort is an odyssey through childhood and adolescence, and it is a fine study of working-class themes, family dynamics, and the loss of small, family-run farms.

We are introduced to the father of the family in the opening poem “Roaches,” when the speaker confesses that Dad “worked long hours/and stayed drunk,” while the son too knew the pains of farm labor because he “came in from the rice fields/too sweaty to sleep but too tired not to.” Among the conflicts in the house, including the father’s bouts with alcoholism and the mother’s disease, the son tries to find beauty, and in the case of the opening poem, he listens to nature, more specifically to roaches singing. The poem ends with the image of him crawling into bed, pressing his face against the wall, listening for the roach songs. This desire for beauty, for an escape from daily struggles, is a theme throughout much of the book, and Bledsoe lays it out well, as early as the opening pages. Continue reading

[REVIEW] The Disinformation Phase, by Chris Toll

disinformation

Publishing Genius Press
68 pp/$12.00

Review by Kate Schapira

The first time Emily Dickinson appears in Chris Toll’s collection of poems, she’s writing an angry letter to Arthur Rimbaud about the FitzGerald translation of the Rubaiyat. The second time, she pays a fangirl visit to Edgar Allan Poe, hitches a ride to 2002 in his time machine, and leaves a poem in a Baltimore bookstore. Its first stanza reads

I’ve lost Everything – I’ve lost Everything Twice.
I bought a Sniper Rifle from a man named Don.
I’ve got a Holy Bible gnawed by mice –
I want to dance like they did in Babylon –

I was just talking with someone about how dashes aren’t what makes an Emily Dickinson poem; they dress a poem up as an Emily Dickinson poem. That made me wonder what I’d put on a poem to make it look like it came from Disinformation Phase. Continue reading

Marvelous Medicine: Books for Precocious Kids and Kid-Hearted Grownups

~by Dan Pinkerton

of lamb

Of Lamb, by Matthea Harvey, paintings by Amy Jean Porter
McSweeney’s Books

Many of the classics have an air of weirdness about them, novelty coupled with discomfiture. The art startles, making you more alert, opening you to a new kind of beauty. Think Dalí or Buñuel, Wallace Stevens or William Faulkner, Bladerunner or Charlie Kaufman. Of course there’s bad weird, weirdness for its own sake, genuine insanity. Such weirdness quickly fades. But there’s also good weird, the weird that endures. Of Lamb, a book of poems by Matthea Harvey with paintings by Amy Jean Porter, is assuredly good weird.

The weirdness is there in neon from the start. Porter’s paintings are a hodgepodge of color and line, stencil-style patterns, leaves and limbs and vines spiraling across the page. We get glimpses of everything from Manny Ramirez to Seventies-era split-levels to Washington crossing the Delaware. In one illustration, the book’s protagonist, Lamb, stands on a table gnawing at his back leg, surrounded by cacti, while a large wasp settles on his haunch. In another, Lamb is tightrope walking above an old cabinet-style TV set on which an image of Peter Jennings plays. Continue reading

The Lightning Room With Tanya Olson

Welcome to the Lightning Room, where DeWitt Brinson & Simon Jacobs take turns asking PANK authors extremely difficult questions about their work.

December interviews come courtesy of the mind of DeWitt Brinson.

***

Tanya Olson’s Ain’t I Pretty Fought to get into our March Issue. Now read as Tanya beats the shit out of anyone who’d try to put Ali in a Greek box, people who can’t not buy tigers, and those who choose not to see. All this before being eaten alive by a snake-shark.

1. Your bio says you have a book coming out, but that was months ago and YesYes Books’ website says Boyishly is out. Wanna plug it?

Heck yeah! Boyishly is beautiful to look at, unsettling to read. It is an American book that asks why we see what we see, as well as what is the cost of not seeing, not being seen. I also like that it is a book that is stern but forgiving to its readers.

2. Muhammad Ali is like Plato in that he’s known as a philosopher, writer, and fighter. Do you think he should be studied in school the same way the dialogues are?

It would seem a shame to lock Ali up in academia, behind school walls. Ali needs to be free to move between worlds- schools are not good about granting the folks they focus on other understandings, so poor Ali would end up like Plato, a one trick pony (Greek, philosopher, allegory of the cave guy) instead of the beautiful complex dude he is. We need to keep the loud Ali who talked and talked alive beside the liquid Ali who hit and danced beside the Ali who is locked inside his own body, who serves as some sort of cultural touchstone. I love that all those Alis live simultaneously in the poem. Once Ali dies, I’m afraid he’ll become only the guy who used to lip with Cosell or some other similar reduction. Continue reading