“Because we need to call the feeling one has after a great loss something, we call it “grief,” but anyone who has experienced it knows that this is just a word assigned to what is, in its shifting, horrible, massive complexity, unnameable. This book is an effort to rename this feeling. It should take at least that number of words and pages to begin to do so. One could say the entire book is a new name, the name of this emotion one can feel after such a loss.”—Matthew Zapruder contributes a new Last Book of Poems I Loved: “Death Tractates” By Brenda Hillman.
I tug at the pockets sticking out of my too-short cutoffs. My band has adopted a new uniform for the summer: tight t-shirts and jeans with the legs sliced off just a few inches below the crotch. We look like assholes.
“Americanah is not the first novel to document the post-Internet age, but it is among the first books I have read to make the web such a complex character. The Internet in Americanah allows community and communication across geography and time, and yet there is an underlying anxiety that pervades the space. Documenting, deconstructing, problematizing, and reimaging our current Internet-addicted society is something that old-fashioned analog books (and criticism thereof) should do. At its best, Adichie’s book does precisely this; Ifemelu lives, loves, reckons, and writes online, in emails and status updates and blog posts and comments. This is the world we live in. We need books to help us understand it, and change it. We need books to make us want to change ourselves.”—Joseph Osmundson writes about the Internet and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah in “A Book About the Internet.”
My brother _is__ a savior who can torpedo through privilege with an artistic stun gun he’s a tempest saturating the city
He makes a scar in the earth_ draws out an admixture of folklore and animus_ plus a pinch of_ worry from our adolescent miseries so he can build_ endless self-perpetuation_ literally with big red bricks
This he does with our so-called inheritance
We once walked on our father’s periphery looking in like_ the matchstick children
We walked the edge of our houses to find ___a warm window Was it there It wasn’t
the self-preservation__ that hunger and fear __made of me a bewitching hybrid of broken coat trees and orbital chair and door_ king_ choir maybe _____that _elemental cultivation of fading into____ the wallpaper We’re still looking plush with hunger
My brother speaks the cloud’s patois a clatter ___calm ___medium loosens a grip wears on the surface____ of his planet I said anything I walked far away I left my brother behind
More tenderness might have made us_____ better failure without the sting
we might have found magic and known its transport
the instability was the brutal ______grief of one tornado
“I like visual imagery in my head. And I like a narrative, even if it’s fractured, or kind of psychedelic. But my favorite thing is if I hear words and I close my eyes and the connotations or the image I get in my head, combine with the sound of them—sometimes phonetics. I’m just stringing those together.”—The Rumpus Interview With Stephen Malkmus
“Kevin Brockmeier’s novels and stories are powered by brilliant, magical ideas. Some of them read as emotional allegories––preserving the memory of a lost loved one is a lot like keeping her spirit alive on an ethereal plane, and a sky that is literally falling is a pretty direct metaphor for a failing marriage’s claustrophobic despair. Others are more mysterious. In the title story in Things That Fall From the Sky, a slightly out-of-touch librarian returns the friendly gestures of a stranger who tells her wild, impossible stories. Blood, live frogs, and fish raining from the sky. “Real wrath of God type stuff,” as Ray Stantz says in Ghostbusters.”—Sean Carman reviews A Few Seconds Of Radiant Filmstrip by Kevin Brockmeier.
NATIONAL POETRY MONTH DAY 21: “WAR WITH COMPUTERS”
“We don’t make war with computers.” —Captain Kirk in Star Trek, “A Taste of Armageddon,” 1966
Now we hover at 5000 feet. It’s not a fair fight, but IEDs aren’t fair, either. We watch day and night. We don’t make war with computers, though; we’re not there
yet, are we? When did we sign up for this? Where? We sing God Bless America, thru the night with a light from above, hover at 5000 feet. It hardly seems fair
to the operators, the pilots: twelve hours in the chair, home for breakfast, bed, then they watch someone else’s sunrise. We don’t make war with computers. We’re not there
to see the strikes wipe humans out: sudden glare on the screen, infrared blooming white and wide. We hover at 5000 feet. It may not be fair,
but it’s hard to resist: Bin Laden, Bin Laden’s lair, got made by our unmanned planes, in the mini fun-size. It’s blood-cheap, war with computers: we’re not there.
Not really here, either, though. All of us are always everywhere: work, home, faces lit by our phones. Killer apps fill the time. We hover at 5000 feet. Apparently all’s fair in our wars, say our computers. New Rule: we do what we want over there.
“I was determined to make my Easter amazing. I pulled out my favorite book (The Diary of Anne Frank), made my favorite meal (quail), and sat on my porch to watch the day fade away. Unfortunately I faded away too, and when I woke up there was a trail of ants running up my leg to the quail I’d spilled on my lap.”—Ted Wilson Reviews The World #230. Easter 2014 gets 2 out of 5 stars.
“I consider the way I occasionally break down—not from this, not from her, but before, always, from work or a lack of sleep or from, usually, something far less specific. Once in a while, in the middle of a weekday afternoon, while walking or using the bathroom, I might become fixated on a conversation from the day or the month before, and decide I was wronged. Or I snap at my mother. Or I feel an anger I cannot quite articulate, something missing, something sad. This is a loss of reality, too, and I can imagine, as I lift myself out of it, or wake the next morning recovered, that maybe hers is a similar kind of struggle, only it lasts for months, for years. Or perhaps it doesn’t.”—What The Websites Tell Me To Do by Jessica McCaughey
NATIONAL POETRY MONTH DAY 22: “THE GREAT LOVES OF OUR LIVES”
Begin with the body desire manifests itself in the body: the flutter of the heart the nervous shake of a hand the dilation of the pupils hardening of nipples thickening of mucus within the vaginal walls.
New lovers celebrate the body reveling in hungry explorations of the vast expanse of skin, each fold, each gentle pocket of flesh.
The thick soup of fluids that lubricate lovemaking— spit and cum— everything is sensuous the body, a palace of pleasure for eager explorations.
I cannot imagine any of this for my parents, but this is how it began with my wife. I still remember those days of desire, the musky scent wafting from every inch of our skin.
If greedy, hungry bodily lovers are lucky, they will spend some inestimable number of years together, then, again it will be all about the body. The body and its breakdown.
This is where the bodies of my parents enter: the proximity of fluids not the sweet, sticky kinds, the ones that excrete a leaky bladder a lax sphincter.
The day my mother comes home from the hospital, after the surgeon amputated all her left toes, she cannot bear any weight on her foot; her bladder leaks. Together, mother and father learn to test her blood sugar four times a day and inject two types of insulin.
The body breaks down. Love does not always remain, but bodies bind us their desire their fallibility their messy connections to all that is human.
“Poetry ceremonializes the shared primitive impulses of human experience by ritualizing the purposes of living, existing as a metaphor for crossing the threshold from lived agency to inventive agency, by identifying and altering the patterns of your inner life, by permitting the figurative passages of living to be revealed to yourself and to others, and by initiating both the poet and a reader into clarities of heart and mind.”—David Biespiel’s Poetry Wire: The Poet’s Journey Chapter 2
“One eye squeezed like a bag phone between shoulder & ear.
Another eye stuck in a paper towel tube like it’s a telescope
& the whole country sky is as recyclable & sparse as the goatee
I couldn’t grow when I wanted one most. In other words, I’m
back in Indiana & things are looking up.”—From “Astronomy of Fishes and Emily Dickinson (1986)” by Adrian Matejka. National Poetry Month Day 19!
“Where will I buy a plane ticket for just me? Who will carry my small army of suitcases? I don’t know who to call my husband anymore, or what to call myself.”—From Vow by Kristina Marie Darling, reviewed by Lisa Cheby
Every book I love has a moment when the author earns my trust. It could be a line or a passage or a plot twist. It could be early in the book or later in the book. My trust in a book is a formal benefit of doubt, an assumption that whatever I read is intentional and sophisticated material for meaning. Crumley earned my trust with one of the most preposterous seduction scenes I have ever read.
“The Peace Corps was the most democratic experience I have had of my country and the people who inhabit it. We crossed economic class, education level, age; we were an intensive kind of motley crew. We all had that feeling of, What are we doing here? I tried to have thoughtful conversations, tried to be a good guest and do what I was supposed to do as a presence. For me it was liberating to not be so aggressively climbing. I learned how to be alone. But it is true: the people who went with the best of intentions about helping the world were the ones who quit in the first six months. They didn’t make it because there was nothing to sustain that.
There were moments, yes, that were rude awakenings to what being American is. However liberal our sensibilities to our politics we seem maybe not to learn. I think maybe when you are Peace Corps or a teacher or writer, you continue to see yourself as an exception, and suddenly you realize others aren’t seeing that exception.”—The Rumpus Interview With John W. Evans
“After the first page, though, it becomes clear that the numbers are part of a motif of counting down, addiction, a journey, and ultimately death. Crystal Eaters is full of the expectation of death. The book’s primary setting is a village where the residents believe that everyone is born with one hundred crystals inside of them. With each broken bone or illness, they lose some of those crystals, and when the crystals run out, they die. Remy, one of the main characters, is searching for a way to reverse the process, to add crystals to her mother’s life, while others are seeking a way to live forever.”—Graham Oliver reviews Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones
“Belly: There was extra room there for a while, in case he wanted to come back, I suppose. Now there’s just a subtle roundness, like the ghost of a pregnancy haunting my old dresses and t-shirts. Now, the belly is for laughing. The belly button, an unblinking eye. He puts his hand there as if to say, mine. I put my finger on his own. I gave him this scar, a present to take with him into the world, to remind him of a time when he needed me long after he doesn’t anymore.”—The Post-Pregnancy Body by Aubrey Hirsch
“We see how personal histories, destinations of the past, echo in the destinations of now, how journeying is aimless and intentional. We learn how we might nomad forward, understanding our own histories, personal and collective. We trek from Dickinson, ND, to the Bahamas, to London and Cairo, through Albuquerque, Bemidji, MN, Canada, Liberia, Milledgeville, GA, and Houston, TX. We trace the travels we may not know to find out what those travels do to us.
Distance is not simply the measurement from one point to another, it suggests what happens on the way from one point to the other. In the reversed villanelle, “Distance Between Desires,” Hill reminds us that we’re full of desire, we brim with it, proposing, “As one desire leaves another / hums the distance between desires.” We’re shown how the openness of a horizon, if foreign, can mess with what we know, can alter what we’re comfortable knowing”—Wesley Rothman reviews Dangerous Goods by Sean Hill
“I think that I’m drawn often to shorter works, works that feel focused, and earnest in trying to communicate something. I feel pretty content where others might not, simply glimpsing just a fragment of somebody’s life. I feel okay not knowing the character’s whole story. Instead, I like the intimacy of peeking in on a particular moment when someone is standing at a window, or walking along water, or trying to puzzle out some piece of their past that maybe doesn’t make sense. I feel excited myself by reading work that does that, even if there’s a kind of challenge in that. And writing these pieces, sometimes it felt pretty personal. So as a writer, there’s motivation there. Trying to capture a person, or even the idea of a person, in an important or strange or charged moment of their thinking—or just being—was enough for me.”—The Rumpus Interview with Ashley Farmer
Swing your arms, stretch a little. Keep walking and untie the sweater. Think about how much you hate it, how the shade makes you look like you are recovering from flu. Green was never your color. It amazes you all over again that he did not know that. What a moron. Think about how you wish you’d never met him. Think about how good a bagel and bacon sandwich would be. Regulate your breathing and pick up the pace. Throw that motherfucker of a sweater to the side of the path.
“We are all drawn to stories of tragedy and trauma, almost always for a sense of comfort—to know that someone else has gone through what we have gone through and survived. Or to know that someone else has gone through something far worse so that we can feel better relatively. Or to experience the pleasures of sadness and pain from a distance. We look for this pleasure in our novels, our movies, our television shows, and even in our comedy. But when we read about a tragedy like Deraniyagala’s, it rewires the way we look at the world. She herself asks, “How is this me? I was safe always. Now I don’t have them, I only have terror, I am alone.” It is far from comforting. It makes us scared.”—Diksha Basu reviews Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
National Poetry Month Day 15: "Exercises in Breathing" by Kimberly Southwick
knowing the rules is not enough. when it snows, it doesn’t always mean it. when it snows, sometimes it snows for the museums and sometimes it snows for the papers and sometimes it snows for only her majesty, the sea.
following the rules is not enough. when he breathes— remember this one please—when he breathes he breathes for himself. when he breathes he doesn’t breathe for her or for you or for his son or for his future sons, when he breathes, he breathes for how it feels to be standing in the public gardens knee-deep in snow, smoking a cigarette and watching the statues still and cold and unbreathing and having it mean something.
breaking the rules is not enough. the sea is his mother. the sea gives back in fish. the sea tells you: this is what your voice sounds like. the sea reminds you to breathe. the sea, the sea. she knows the rules are never enough.