Just as cinematic language can bypass rational intellect and converse directly with memory, intuition and dream, Stephanie Gray’s poems casually subvert normative forms of communication and activate a kind of collective vernacular consciousness. “All the back roads changed…I had a job connecting dreams,” she writes, while her language does the mysterious work of linking philosophical rigor with delicious humor and deep investigations into the sonic. Hers is a poetry of vernaculars: of aphorisms, truisms and idiomatics, of the exhaustive pleasure to be found in lists, chants, catchphrases and “variations on a theme.” After reading Gray’s poems, it is impossible to hear cultural commonplaces in quite the same way—like Gray, you will want to make them your own. If Gertrude Stein appeared as a wisecracking secretary in a 1940s gangster flick, she might have Gray’s knack for thoughtful, disjunctive wit: “the secretary has seen it all.”
Poet-filmmaker Stephanie Gray is the author of two poetry collections, Shorthand and Electric Language Stars (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2015),Heart Stoner Bingo (Straw Gate Books, 2007), and a chapbook I Thought You Said It Was Sound/How Does That Sound? (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2012). Her poetry has been published in journals such as Aufgabe, Sentence, EOAGH, Esque, Boog City, 2nd Avenue Poetry, VLAK, Brooklyn Rail. She has received funding for her films from the New York Foundation for the Arts and New York State Council on the Arts. She has read her work often live with her films at venues including the Poetry Project Friday series, Segue series (with Tina Darragh), Triptych series (with Jonas Mekas) and others such as community garden Le Petit Versailles and Angel Orensanz Foundation. Her films have screened at fests such as Oberhausen, Viennale, Ann Arbor, Chicago Underground, and NYC venues such as Microscope Gallery, Millennium Film Workshop, and Mono No Aware. She had a retrospective of her films at Anthology Film Archives in Spring 2015.
Posted by Elizabeth Clark Wessel, June 17th, 2015.
Turn It Over is a work of excavation; these poems seek to uncover where the self is located within the territories of memory, grief, family, secrets, and most especially the body. Shearn Coan writes, “How I formed a true question and am asking it still. What is more present than the body?” In precise and gorgeous language, he traces his own borders and maps his loves, while staying grounded in our material experiences. This is a work awake to the nuances of the body in embodiment, and it provokes this awareness in the reader as well.
Jaime Shearn Coan lives in Brooklyn, New York. His writing has appeared in publications including Drunken Boat, The Kenyon Review,Revista la Tempestad, and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry. He is a regular contributor to the dance section of The Brooklyn Rail. Jaime has received fellowships from Poets House, VCCA, and the Saltonstall Foundation, and is the recipient of a 2014 Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant. A PhD student in English at The CUNY Graduate Center, Jaime also teaches at Hunter College and The City College of New York.
Posted by Elizabeth Clark Wessel, April 18th, 2015.
Krystal Languell’s deadpan wit in Be A Dead Girl subtly conveys the violence that happens with subjects are transformed into objects. In these poems, an “I” that is always in flux moves through a world that’s unsure where things end and people begin, and negotiates this uncertainty with quips that are seductively light on the tongue. The sly aphorisms embedded in Languell’s language are by turns visually stunning (“Beauty dissolves to make fire green”), hilarious (“Joyride to your grave”) and chillingly expressive of the perils of consumerism (“But I hemorrhage money privately”). There are refrains reminiscent of Pop songs, and a sensual phraseology that Emily Dickinson might use if she were tasked with writing advertisements for war machines. These poems invite the reader, at her own risk, to create continuity from a chaos that is all the more terrifying for its elusiveness: “If you came here for a story/put this in your mouth.”
Krystal Languell was born in South Bend, Indiana. She is the author of the books Call the Catastrophists (BlazeVox, 2011) and Gray Market (Coconut, 2015) and the chapbooks Last Song (dancing girl press, 2014), and Be a Dead Girl (Argos Books, 2014). In early 2014, Fashion Blast Quarter was published as a poetry pamphlet by Flying Object. A core member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, she also edits the journal Bone Bouquet. She is a 2014-2015 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council workspace resident.
Amber Atiya’s poems in the fierce bums of doo-wop arouse and terrify in equal measure. She has a rare ability to manage several complex valences at once— eros, comedy, and atrocity among them—skillfully braiding them into a whole, mysteriously synthetic body of work. Pleasurable and risky as “the urge// to fry bacon/ in my vegan/ lover’s favorite pan,” Atiya’s poems answer the urgent call of our times for language that is accurate yet imaginative, slick yet embarrassing, ethically gorgeous and hot as hell.
Amber Atiya is a queer poet and native Brooklynite. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlas Review, Boston Review, Apogee Journal, Anti-, Muzzle Magazine, and elsewhere. She received a 2013 Pushcart Prize nomination, a fellowship from Poets House, and is a proud member of a women’s writing group celebrating 12 years and counting.
… the city I’ve chosen not
to go on loving forever
to which one returns
reminding me she believes the earth is a warm place
and getting warmer, there is no leaving,
there is one place and one life
and so I go to see the dancer who unempties
the air to the shape of his gesture.
The lush, ragged texture of Caitie Moore’s lyric responds precisely to the textures of our shared anthropocene: contingent yet committed, harmonious yet disastrous. With a language that is as invested in beauty as it is in ethical inquiry, the poems in Wife reveal the work of a heart that thinks the whole world, and a mind that loves it fiercely.
Caitie Moore is a poet, educator and curator. Her work can be found in Strangemachine, Ink Node, Handsome, MuthaFucka, BOMBlog, and in the collection The Racial Imaginary, forthcoming from Fence Books.
In the hundred//years I was nine I solved ten thousand math problems/ but no one asked me what I loved, so I just//unbuckled my shoes each night, alone with it.
Karin Gottshall’s Swan finds extraordinarily vivid patterns of emotion evident in the materials of the “everyday.” In the tradition of great American female life-lyricists—Lyn Henjian, Elizabeth Bishop, Barbara Guest—Gottshall generously allows readers not only to think about childhood, the passage of time, and the vulnerability of objects, but to feel those phenomena. Her deft handling of the lines between interior and exterior—and between “then” and “now”—merits reading and re-reading. The transformative nature of these poems invites the reader to study Gottshall’s language closely, and to study the emotional syntax of her own life in turn.
Karin Gottshall is a poet, fiction writer, and creative writing instructor. Her most recent book, The River Won’t Hold You, won the 2014 Ohio State University Press/The Journal Wheeler Prize, and will be published in late 2014. Her first book, Crocus, was published by Fordham University Press in 2007. She is also the author of the poetry chapbooks: Flood Letters (Argos Books, 2011) and Almanac for the Sleepless (Dancing Girl Press, 2012). She teaches poetry writing at Middlebury College, and has also taught at Interlochen Arts Academy and the New England Young Writers’ Conference. Karin live in Middlebury, Vermont.
Posted by Elizabeth Clark Wessel, February 27th, 2014.
In this beautiful and hallucinatory long poem, Andrew Durbin wanders and wonders through life, love, sex and war, through the bucolic and the urban, startling us at each turn.
Andrew Durbin co-edits Wonder, a publisher of art books, pamphlets, ephemera, and glossies. His writings have appeared or are forthcoming in the Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions, Fence, and elsewhere. He is an associate editor ofConjunctions, curates the Queer Division reading series at the Bureau of Goods & Services–Queer Division on the Lower East Side, and lives in New York.
Posted by Elizabeth Clark Wessel, March 3rd, 2013.
In this crown of ten sonnets, based on the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, Malachi Black peels back each layer of his being and investigates what we are: “This tremolo of hands, / this fever, this flat-footed dance /of tendons and the drapery / of skin along a skeleton.” The tension and circularity inherent in Black’s form invokes the kinetic properties of the energy that surrounds and exists within us, and ultimately Black’s astute consideration of our condition leaves us hopeful and wanting.
Malachi Black is the author of Storm Toward Morning (forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press), and two limited-edition chapbooks, including Echolocation (Float Press, 2010). A recipient of a 2009 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, Black has also received recent fellowships and awards from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the MacDowell Colony, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the University of Texas at Austin’s Michener Center for Writers, and the University of Utah. He was the subject of an Emerging Poet profile by Mark Jarman in the Fall 2011 issue of the Academy of American Poets’ American Poet magazine.
The air was like a bullet made out of silk… so begins Bianca Stone’s I Saw the Devil with His Needlework. In the three long poems that make up this chapbook, Stone explores the double nature of love in ways that seem simultaneously timeless and new.
Bianca Stone is the author of several chapbooks, includingSomeone Else’s Wedding Vows (Argos Books), and the poetry-comic I Want To Open The Mouth God Gave You Beautiful Mutant(Factory Hollow Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2011, Conduit, and Tin House. Bianca Stone is also a visual artist and her collaboration with Anne Carson, Antigonick, a new kind of comic book and translation, was published in spring of 2012 by New Directions. She lives in Brooklyn with the poet, Ben Pease.
Posted by Elizabeth Clark Wessel, June 26th, 2012.
In Legs Tipped with Small Claws, Joan Larkin’s first collection since My Body: New and Selected Poems, poems rich in the strangeness and struggle of the natural world have a way reordering the reader’s attention. From the eye of the plankton to the shell of the Red-Eared Slider, creatures – both human and animal – glow with the radiance of hard-won attention. The twenty poems that make up this small collection are meant to be savored and lived with for a very long time.
Sinclair’s is an arresting new voice that makes us sit up and re-think. Her mythopoeic imagination thrives on startling metaphors and combinations of images. Eschewing the naturalistic and consolatory, the poetry is alive in disturbing implosions of consciousness, drawn to cataclysm and apocalypse, whether in personal or communal histories. —Eddie Baugh
“With lush, vivid descriptions and a narrative haunted by figments of the seen and unseen, Safiya Sinclair’s remarkable collection, Catacombs gives shape and voice to a part of the Caribbean that has never before been rendered into verse.” —Mark Wunderlich
Safiya Sinclair has published poems in the Caribbean publications The Jamaica Observer Literary Arts Magazine, Bearing Witness 2003: A Collection of the Year’s Best Fiction and Poetry and the international anthology Kunapipi: A Journal of Post-Colonial Literature. Sinclair, a graduate of Bennington College, was the former Editor-in-chief of the College’s online anthology, plain china: Best Undergraduate Writing. She currently lives in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Posted by Elizabeth Clark Wessel, September 8th, 2011.
Guy Jean is a member of the first generation of French-Canadian poets to re-discover the cultural heritage of Acadia, which Jean describes as, “a folklore truculent with daily life, local lore linked to universal legends and songs handed down from generation to generation rich in 17th century tavern songs and music going back to the troubadours.” This culture was devastated by the violent British takeover of the region. In Jean’s work the influence of this culture and history combined with the more familiar French poetics of Rimbaud and Michaux results in a work of haunting lyricism. The poems are both playful and mythic, while still seriously engaging in questions of inherited violence.
In If I were born in Prague Jean’s work is beautifully re-imagined in versions by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky allowing English readers an entry point into the vital work being done by one of our neighbors.