F IN, by Carol Guess (A Review by j/j hastain)


Noctuary Press

70 pgs./$14.00

 I enjoy moving into the space of a book with the feeling that I can trust what the writer has told me about it. Guess indicates that F  IN “began as a ghost story.” What is the difference between what something began as and what it becomes? And how will that becoming (which involves a “((ubiquitous) dead girl” (a becoming which can’t be controlled in the same way that indicating what a project’s beginning is can)) end up altering, terrorizing (“I’m going to have to hurt you”) or enabling me?

The figure on the cover of the book reaches one way but looks another. This is how a “heroine [with] agency and appetite” would have to proceed: moving many ways at once (“if I didn’t have a twin you wouldn’t be seeing her ghost”). I find myself wondering if a blackbird or a mother or a sister will emerge (“the dead come back; it’s just a matter of naming”) and bite this figure as she tries to finger her way to the gold locket, the hope for a golden egg.

What is the most honorable way for me to approach a self-named “erasure”? Knowing “compression is vital to [Guess’] aesthetic” is it honoring to simply enter the succinct yet spacious realm of these pages (some of which only have 5 words on a page) as one would an empty, deteriorating house? Is it an inverse-violation that my desire is to grab red crayon and draw shapes of liminal organs in the agoraphobic clenches of F  IN? Does intentionally filling an erasure rape its sparse confidence? I am sorry if it seems that I am obsessing over this; this is a real ethical dilemma for me. I am just not sure: am I really to “erase place” along with how this book began? Or is there something more I can add to its haunting noir?  Continue reading

COMPOS[T]MENTIS, by Aaron Aaps (A Review by j/j hastain)

BlazeVOX [books]

$16/100 pgs

What of ourselves can we see in what we have been given? We stare into the scraps that overflow from our open palms. We stare into the puddles of seepage which are the results of our interactions with one another.

Aaps’ new book is a bawdy proposition (“on silence- fuck silence” / “where there is talking the world is like a garden to me”)–is the possibility of interacting with a thrashing, decaying host and something positive or self-affirming coming from that interaction. What if it were possible to ascend or become enlightened, by way of decay (“the bloody, peeling body archive made lucid”)? What if upwards and downwards were not at all at odds?

COMPOS[T]MENTIS is a carnal celebration, a cantata with smegma being marked into it by invested hand. Aaps’ book is an animal preoccupied with its own genitals; do you see it smile as it gingerly fingers itself (“the ape submerged the pages in hot glue made of bone”/ “it then proceeded to consume the round, extruded, phallic fruit- a sea of infected cocks. A sea of itchy clits”)

Continue reading

long past the presence of common by j/j hastain (A Review by Gina Myers)

Say it With Stones

87 pgs/$12

In long past the present of common, j/j hastain explores a liminal space without boundaries in an attempt to establish what it means to be a “cyborgian gender.” hastain, self-identified as a trans-genre writer, here brings together fragments of lyric poetry, theoretical prose, and visual art focused on the body and moving past the limitations of the common. It’s an ambitious project, but one that hastain is certainly up for.

The various pieces collected here work together as an exploration of, or investigation into, constructions of the self. The book’s goals are laid out in a prelude and through various straightforward declarations of intent throughout the collection, frequently with the refrain I am trying to, as in “I am trying to portray a similar type of startle,” “I am trying to say that my origin is not based in or appropriately gauged by physiological history or genealogy,”and:

I am trying to show
the way that these languages are inherently



yet worth lifetimes of attempt Continue reading

Level End, by Brian Oliu (A Review by j/j hastain)

Origami Zoo


Equipped with an initial warning page in regard to the dos and don’ts of Brian Oliu’s Level End, we enter this book as we would a rigorous vertigo: an exercise in sense and emotion, an interaction with twitch. Luckily, we are immediately schooled in regard to how to approach this read: “Do not see ghosts. Do not touch light”/ “Distance yourself from the narrator as far as possible.” We are being shown (before we even get there) that this image may be permanently “burned” into us. And let me tell you, after finishing this read, it is burned into me. I still see it, feel it. It is somehow steeping me like its own cacao-cinnamon tea (“something that is you but made of magic”).

As I entered Level End, I scrutinized this narrative for its base/s. In many of the pieces we are initially brought into sentences with the following line: “When I arrived the music changed.” But after that, each of the pieces seemed to diverge a bit from that initial point of entry.

We go from what feels like inhabiting the overly emotive pixels of a video game moving its figures along (“it is dark in here and you are the only thing that can see”/ “everything I am into something I am not”/ “the eyes from which we see ourselves”) to what feels to me to be surreal time travel and relations within that (“a red not found in nature”/ “all anomalies dabbed over”/ “carry me over felt lines until someone, anyone, can see where I am going”) to a sort of qualitative transdifferentiation (lineage reprogramming: “This is the room that you are locked in- deep within a house that someone else has built”/”we fight through smaller versions of you to get to you”/ “your head where your heart has been”/ “this is what you asked for, and this is what you will have: something larger than you, something rain soaked and wet like a new child, something evil, everything evil, something that can read your thoughts, something that is a thing inside a thing inside of a thing like a nesting doll”). In all of this traversing that the narrative engages us by way of, there is the creation of a sense of looseness in the body. I feel myself becoming a clay doll not yet fired in a kiln. Shapeable and so, being shaped (“to be swallowed whole like a fish is a noble way”)! Continue reading