The Galaxy Is a Dance Floor
By Bianca Lynne Spriggs
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In these poems Bianca Spriggs becomes the heart’s astronaut, exploring, imagining, bringing the distant closer, giving substance to the invisible. In poem after poem she bears witness that the universe is a vast metaphor in which the outer world corresponds with the inner. The strongest of these poems chronicle this quest, illuminating, enlarging our supposed individual smallness. Her fresh language and originality make The Galaxy Is a Dance Floor well worth the journey.
Affrilachian Poet and Cave Canem Fellow, Bianca Lynne Spriggs, is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Lexington, Kentucky. Spriggs is the recipient of a 2013 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship in Poetry, multiple Artist Enrichment and Arts Meets Activism grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and a Pushcart Prize Nominee. She is the author of Kaffir Lily (Wind Publications, 2010), How Swallowtails Become Dragons (Accents Publishing, 2011), and Call Her By Her Name (Northwestern University Press, 2016), as well as the co-editor for Circe’s Lament: An Anthology of Wild Women(Accents Publishing, 2016) and Undead: Ghouls, Ghosts, and More (Apex Publications, 2017).
A Poem for Record Keepers
By Ali Power
Ali Power’s A Poem For Record Keepers is a long poem made of short poems that comes on like a deadpan phalanx system unlearning itself while crashing resignation into the boards and pulling the rug out from under certainty line by line. But certainty is not simply replaced by uncertainty; an angular, witty openness accumulates across Power’s poem, making it excellent company. That openness also lends itself to the poem’s capacity to build the kind of necessarily enigmatic space love requires to fend off the grinding mob-vacuum that is contemporary American life these days.
You could compare the way A Poem for Record Keepers works to the ways other things work—locked-groove records, Lorine Niedecker’s calendar poems, waves—but never for too long. As much as Ali Power’s poetry delights in forward motion and real speaking, it also teaches you how to remain still and listen. This is an ingenious, biting, elegant book. To enter it is to feel squeezed by time and even (if you want to, as I did) by hope: “Everything is just beginning.” It is, and it does. Then everything begins again, right here.
The poet as one who maintains a history of one’s activities. The poem as record, as in ledger, one entry per every other line, record as something we replay when it’s a favorite. These lines now live in my head. They are strange enough to keep me on my toes, familiar enough to seem like they are talking about me and everyone I know. In fact, I do want to “hang out” with this new book and its author.
– Stacy Szymaszek
Ali Power is the author of the book-length poem A Poem for Record Keepers (Argos Books, 2016) and the co-editor of the volume New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight (Rizzoli, 2014). Power’s poems have appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, LIT, No, Dear,The Pen Poetry Series, and elsewhere. From 2008 to 2015, she was an editor at Rizzoli Publications in New York. Currently, she is pursuing her master’s degree in social work at New York University and co-curates the KGB Monday Night Poetry Reading Series. For more info: ali-e-power.com
Author photo by Hillery Stone.
BY khadijah queen
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The haunting, haunted world revealed in Khadijah Queen’s Fearful Beloved stays with the reader in an uncomfortably pleasurable way, and heightens awareness of our own world’s deep horrors and ordinary brilliance. Anyone who has been unable to shake the erotic brutality of, say, Sylvia Plath’s Ariel will savor the “bruisable monuments” that Queen offers. Here Queen crafts a language that unfolds along multiple axes (spatial, temporal, emotional, spiritual) and is experimental with form while remaining seamless, precise, and vivid as “The song she sang as a little girl feeding ants.” Addressing Fear head-on—“your spectrality exists,” she insists—Queen’s Fearful Beloved evidences the fierce intelligence of “a body in its own time, possessed of itself.”
Praise for Fearful Beloved
Khadijah Queen’s Fearful Beloved is an audacious gaze at the public and private spaces where we often fear, in our words and acts, to address the body of fear itself. Queen gives her fear inestimable flesh and her poetry insists, as readers and bodies, that we must not look away from our own spines and mirrors. She writes, “if you listen – not you, fear,/but us, as you – deciding how to exist”. Her vision of bodies, intricately complex as her astonishing syntax, gleams with the tension of power, desire, mortality, and violence. Burning, and nuanced, Queen dares us to name our deepest bones, “O/let godliness and beastliness crash/together until compliance/O/love them all/O say every one of their names.” Here you will discover a language of marrow, brilliant and potent as bloodroot. Here, in Fearful Beloved, you will witness the velocity of Queen’s distinct voice, intense and profound in its survival. —Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Khadijah Queen’s Fearful Beloved is a bold mosaic of forms, and each poem is a shade of aching. Together, they shape fiercely potent letters to fear; feminine and power and despair; the demolition of the contemplative house. —Lily Hoang
Fear, like any organism, rushes to reproduce, but more than survival it values reach. In the grout, on the nerves, across oceans, at the root. Foolhardy, slamming every door, heightening each wave. Until Khadijah Queen speaks fear’s name with intention, shows us how to apply the bloodroot. Barehanded. Bare leaden voice, spine of steel that somehow bends. Cross, uncross your arms, your saltwater heart. Let her in, beloved. —Danielle Pafunda
Queen’s Fearful Beloved is a beautiful book, haunting and haunted. The architecture of the house entangles with the architecture of the body to produce a language at once beguiling and strange, yet fused with the fiercest love. —Kate Durbin
Fear can make us its dwelling place; it can have us haunting our own house. Khadijah Queen writes us through the rooms of the forest, the limits of shelter, from what we needed once to what we might be free to become without it. Fearful Beloved speaks directly along the lines of rootedness and growth, the blasting or freeing power of something seemingly small, the way a person shaped by fear “strikes at movements invisible to those accustomed to the light.” When you can see yourself to save yourself, that is when you can begin. —Kate Schapira
by Athena Farrokhzad
translated by Jennifer Hayashida
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This vital book exposes the dense tectonics churning beneath migrant dreams. Accusatory, loving, full of grief and sage truths, Athena Farrokhzad’s White Blight speaks eloquently to the troubled inheritance of diasporic survival. Through a litany of terse voices, Jennifer Hayashida’s sensitive translation describes the nexus of filial obligations and projections under which the narrator sinks from view. The intense beauty of devastation and the poignancy of betrayal emerge with startling frankness: “Your family will never be resurrected like roses after a fire.” “I have spent a fortune for your piano lessons / But at my funeral you will refuse to play.” These white lines make me ask, what has been bleached out in all of our stories? I read this book, and I remembered my humanity.
— Sueyeun Juliette Lee
It is hard to explain not just the resonance of Athena Farrokhzad’s work but of Farrokhzad herself. She is a major figure in Sweden, an outspoken feminist and leftist. She is also a stunning writer. On its surface White Blight is a story of migration, how it shapes and misshapes the familiar. Everyone in this poem has something to say about immigration’s trauma, on the impact globalization has on all sorts of intimacy, even as they are so rarely talking to each other. It is also a poem that moves through many registers. At moments it is mannered and metaphoric. At other moments frank and colloquial, intimate too. And Jennifer Hayashida has skillfully translated this complicated work into an ease of English.
— Juliana Spahr
In White Blight, Athena Farrokhzad evokes a language of feeling that is vivid and deeply familiar. The poem performs as intimately as memory, but with the direct language of confession or accusation. In this world, the family unit nurtures by prolonging disquietude, as there is no forgetting the ruptures of exile and immigration. Still these voices yearn to be proven wrong in a future they cannot predict. The pith and force of the language shines through in Jennifer Hayashida’s careful translation, both polished and knife-sharp.
— Wendy S. Walters
by montana ray
full-Length / $15
Combine Apollinaire with Pam Grier and you might come close to Montana Ray’s ferocious debut, (guns & butter). Each concrete poem is shaped like a gun and its poetic interiors are bracingly brutal and gorgeous. Capsuled in parentheticals, each magnetic phrase is locked and loaded as Ray burns holes into subjects ranging from interracial love, single motherhood, to America’s unrelenting addiction to gun violence.
Her voice is mesmerizing, tender, vicious, chimeric, as she veers between role-playing a warrior glock-wielding Annie Oakley to “warm, new mother.” I love (guns & butter) and cannot sing it enough praises. It’s the kind of rare first collection that is startling, necessary, and is truly like no other book.
–Cathy Park Hong
A Sky That Is Never the Same
by S.C. Hahn
Perfect-bound book/ $15
This limited edition poetry collection, S.C. Hahn’s first, was designed and hand stamped by the Swedish designers BankerWessel and published by Stray Dog Press in Stockholm, Sweden.
S. C. Hahn is a native of Nebraska, but has lived in Sweden since 2000. He has been writing since the early 80s, and his poems have appeared in over a hundred journals, and many collections including The House of Your Dream: An International Collection of Prose Poetry and The Best of the Prose Poem.
A Sky that is Never the Same is his first full-length collection. In it he investigates global, personal, and imagined history, expatriation, and the shades of difference between loneliness and being alone. The work is at times playful, lyric, surreal, and always eccentric. A Sky That Is Never the Same is an autodidact’s guide to the world, a book in praise of what is forgotten and what has gone unsung.
You can read one of the gorgeous poems from this book at Dossier Journal’s blog.