A Mere Rica, by Linh Dinh
Poetry/Literature, including an interview with Linh Dinh. ISBN 9781946104045. 234 pages.
Getting back to the theme of writing from the outside, I published this in the American Poetry Review in 2004, “I’ve come to realize that I much prefer to live on the periphery of the English language, so that I can steer clear of the tyranny of its suffocating center. In this sense, I am a quintessential American. A Unapoet, I like to homestead just beyond the long reach of Washington […] Hearing the rapid syllables of a foreign language, a bigot is infuriated because he’s reduced to the status of an infant. Poets, on the other hand, should welcome all opportunities to become disoriented. To not know what’s happening forces one to become more attentive and to fill in the blanks. Hence, poetry.” (Linh Dinh, from the Interview with Tahseen Alkhateeb)
Linh Dinh is the author of five previous books of poems, plus two collections of short stories, a novel and a non-fiction account of the economic, social an political unraveling of the USA, Postcards from the End of America (Seven Stories Press 2017). His political essays are regularly published at Unz Review and other webzines.
any would be if, by Norman Fischer
Poetry. ISBN 978-1-946104-05-2. 146 pages. $17 US.
A graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, Norman Fischer is a poet and essayist. He has been practicing as a Zen Buddhist priest for thirty five years, and is one of the senior Zen teachers in America. The latest of his more than twenty-five poetry and prose titles are Experience: Thinking, Writing, Language and Religion (prose, Poetics Series, University of Alabama Press), Conflict (poetry, Chax Press), The Strugglers (poetry, Singing Horse Press), and Magnolias All At Once (poetry, Singing Horse). In 2000 he retired as co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, one of the largest Buddhist organizations in the West, and founded The Everyday Zen Foundation (www.everydayzen.org), an international network of Buddhist groups and social projects.His latest Buddhist title is Training in Compassion (Shambhala). Norman Fischer lives on a cliff near Muir Beach California with his wife Kathie, also a Zen priest. Their two sons live in Brooklyn.
“without love no quirks,” writes Norman Fischer in the midst of any would be if. One might add: without quirks, no life, as in this book Fischer proceeds “by ellipsis,” and suggests that living, noticing, even drinking tea, manifests in similar fashion. Indeed, “the teacup told us how to hold it,” provides one of many delightful and slightly puzzling, or perhaps uncanny, moments in a book full of moments. Moments of thought, moments of action, moments of light, moments of language, moments through which “we pull ourselves into now.” If one wants a book to show the world, not in its grandeur (or, maybe that, too) but in its process, in the betweenness we all inhabit, then this is the book one wants. I know I am glad to have it, and to return to it, often, “to be.”
Artifice in the Calm Damages by Andrew Levy
Chapbook / Letterpress Covers with original cover painting by Cynthia Miller
Poetry / ISBN 9781946104076 / 32 pages / $20
Andrew Levy remains convinced that poets have to think dangerously and let themselves be kidnapped by contemporary hyper-complexities: they must embrace and forsake our present humanist and nationalist world for a wider horizon at once ecological, local, and global. Levy’s philosophical style strikes a balance between the innovative academicism of a scholarly poet and a certain sense of anti-academicism (witness his ongoing interest in the ideas of Bill Reading and George Lewis). Disturbing, musical, poetic, anarchic, and punctuated by improvisational bursts of syncopated incompleteness, Artifice in the Calm Damages is tempered by a Bohmian aesthetic powerfully evocative of the lost and desperate side streets and tweets of American life. Imagine Dorn’s Slinger, dead and missing, walking the highways and low-ways in search of Mar-a-Lago only to find no one on the premises but Ramon Hernandez. The humor is dry, dark, and, landing on the wrong note, conveys a heartfelt rage. Levy’s book is a remarkable study in verse and prose of the depravity and diseased charisma infecting “America First.” It’s a keeper.
Artifice in the Calm Damages has been produced as a hybrid book arts edition. The text of the book is printed via digital technology, while the cover, on yellow Samuel French paper with French flaps extending the width of the book, has been printed letterpress on a Vandercook 215T Press and hand painted by the visual artist Cynthia Miller, so that each copy of the book is a unique copy.
At Night on the Sun, by Will Alexander
Drama/Literature. ISBN 9781946104090.
As the curtain rises on Will Alexander’s adroit pan-African pageant, courtiers puzzle, stew and snipe over the central mystery of their existence—the absence of King Asoka. Where is he? Can mere ministers of war decide, or do the eerie signals demand the counsel of the Magicians? What is he doing, what does he intend? Is intention still on the table? So the old ways play themselves out, but on Asoka’s return a table of glittering galaxies play themselves out like cards from the future. Like
Lorraine Hansberry’s Black Arts Movement era masterpiece Les Blancs, Alexander’s At Night on the Sun presents a planet’s struggle for self-determination as an occasion for both joy and fear. It is a work of art for our age and for ages yet to come.
DIESEL HAND by Nico Vassilakis
Leaves of Class, by Kit Robinson
Poems by Kit Robinson
The title of Kit Robinson’s latest is a nod to the Great Includer, and its pages share something of that earlier writer’s peripatetic energy, his constant welcoming. Think also of Monk’s sidewinding testaments, Saul Leiter’s carefully sudden Manhattan kodachromes, Top 40 radio when it (sometimes) used to be challenging. But the call of thought is the tone most often heard—the summons to consider, to praise, to inveigh. Time now to roll up those “vernacular shirt sleeves” and get down to “tuning the work of days.” These are irresistible poems.
— George Albon
Like Whitman, Kit Robinson celebrates himself, the world, and the amplitude of time. In Leaves of Class, we are treated to poetic clarity and a sense of rectitude. Whimsical forays into the boundaries of meaning and language, “You could say poetry publicity puberty probity,” he characterizes planetary currents, of which he knows he is an intrinsic part, as “vertiginous, lofty, cerebral, lazy, and light.” In this collection, Robinson leaves the ecology of self to discover new wilderness. Powerful stuff.
— Anne Tardos
Salamander: A Bestiary
Poems by Leonard Schwartz / Images by Simon Carr
64 pages; 24 poems with 24 images plus title/cover image
What do you get when you put ten frogs in a coffee pot? Answer: Salamander, the latest in a long, imaginative line of animal inventories that began in classical Greece, if not on Noah’s Ark, became popular during the medieval period, and includes such modern innovators as Leonardo da Vinci and Lewis Carroll, Jorge Luis Borges and J.K. Rowling. A collaboration among a father, his daughter, and a woodcutter, this poetic menagerie celebrates the intelligence and ingenuity of two dozen creatures, from elk to eel, orca to owl. A labor of filial laughter, this carved, quirky rolodex is also a mirror in which we see ourselves, as “Wildness withheld,” for the endangered species we are.
— Andrew Zawacki
Woodcuts — are they black on white or white on black?—cut through the woods of words. The wood shows what the words mean. And the other way round. You can’t be sure with animals.
Animals are there just enough for us to glimpse (a woodcut is more shadow than flesh) and have some working poet explain them to themselves.
This book is all explanation. Read “Blonde Raven” to learn what it means to live in a visible world
The poems are sparse — light shows through them — and tell us things about animals, and tell animals about themselves — so much so that I’m not sure, after reading through the 24 panels, whether I’m being explained or being enlightened. That’s a perplexity that comes when reading Rilke and Dickinson too, poets who can’t always tell themselves from what they see.
— Robert Kelly
photo by Carlos David
The Letters of Carla, by Benjamin Hollander
The Letters of Carla, the letter b. A Mystery in Poetry
with a Foreword by The Future Guardian of the Letters
and an Afterword by Benjamin Hollander
Literary Nonfiction / Literary Criticism / Essay. ISBN 9781946104014. $19
A polemic, a dispute, an essai, a history of real persons in poetry, of agon and salient entanglement. An investigation, an epistle. A romp a ride, but open as conclusion. Across boundaries of time and place these ideas sing and let us serve an elusive poetic dream — Clara Bow perhaps. Like a Le Carre spymaster, this Carla, the letter b., is one of the ghosts whose imaginative skillful (means & motives one cannot grasp, and yet she leads us on.” Wallace Stevens and Charles Olson would be delighted. Kudos to the “forsworn author.” — Anne Waldman
Benjamin Hollander (1952-2016) lived for the past three decades in San Francisco, after moving there with his wife, Rosemary Manzo, in 1978. He taught English, Writing, and Critical Thinking, primarily at Chabot College, in Haward. He passed away on November 21, 2016. His many books include The Book of Who Are Was (Sun and Moon), Levinas and the Police Part 1 (Chax), Vigilance (Beyond Baroque), Rituals of Truce and the Other Israeli (Parrhesia), and In the House Un-American (Clockroot).
Visible Instruments, by Michael Kelleher
Poetry/Literature. ISBN 9781946104069. 74 pages.
What is the meaning of light? Can humans even comprehend such a thing? In Visible Instruments, Michael Kelleher invites the reader
to be mindful of these questions, and to ask what she can know, what he can do, how they might live in the present, the future. Everything “is visible” in these meditations, “like an x-ray,” though that might only begin to help us understand what it all means, what we mean.
Michael Kelleher is the director of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes at Yale University. He formerly served as Artistic and Associate Director of Just Buffalo Literary Center in Buffalo, New York, where he founded Babel, an international lecture series in which he interviewed authors such as V. S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith.
His published collections of poetry include Museum Hours (BlazeVOX, 2016), Human Scale (BlazeVOX, 2007), and To Be Sung (BlazeVOX, 2004). His poems and essays have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Colorado Review, The Poetry Foundation Website, Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics, ecopoetics, The Poetry Project Newsletter, EOAGH, and others.
From 2008-13 he produced a blog project entitled “Aimless Reading,” in which he documented the more than 1,200 books in his personal library.