“Some would say our bodies shook on the day we met the flames.”
William James has been a writer whose work I have admired for years. He has been on a National Poetry Slam team that I coached, featured in venues where I have been on the organizing team, been in slams that I have bout managed at IWPS, and been an important part of the North(b)east Slam scene since he moved there. I am very proud of him, as a peer and friend, for writing this book, rebel hearts and restless ghosts. This work is at home in the dirtiest street ‘Zine as in the New Yorker or Paris Review. As a poet, I’m a little bit jealous of his range.
“On the very best of nights, there’s blood; on the very best of mornings it pools beneath the surface of our skin.”
This is an impressive collection in every way. From artistic design, to content, to originality and accessibility, William James and Timber Mouse have done something very special here. You won’t find an alpha male in this book. You won’t find anything other than love for the sake of love and caring for the sake of caring.
“I held death’s wrists with my hands, peeled
its clawed fingers away from my throat, and lived”
From tales of his poor upbringing, to punk show horrors and salvations, to some of the most beautiful, brutal poems about suicidal thoughts and depression, William James has something you should hear. Continue reading
Learn to Swim by Joseph Edwin Haeger is a poetic story so full of jaw clenching moments, smiles and tears (“teers”), and heart tears (“tares”) that has been hard to review. The complexity and originality here is on full display from the beginning. Told in snippets from Year One onward, you are dropped into a story you have to tell for yourself at first. The author gives you the character outlines, and if your direction does not match up with who you are eventually introduced to fully, it does not matter- the story is yours to develop.
I met him in fifth grade. He had moved from Seattle. We were in
the same class. We were on the same soccer team. And we went
to the same church.
I walked up to him and asked how he liked playing soccer.
He stared up at me from his desk.
“I don’t play soccer,” he told me.
I saw him that night at practice.
This is not a poetry book, it is a poetic book. I wish there were ways for me to relate the full experience in a condensed form, but it would be impossible. This is a prose poem novel, the long version of the short story you love already, the poem you did not want to end.
Six on seven of eight
(for Nick Fox)
i. She said The only way out is south and
I tried to pretend it was a metaphor not a
factual statement. I am uncomfortable with
these kinds of factual statements that work
as well or better when used as metaphors.
ii. Poets are lazy novelists who cut
themselves short and make the reader
tell the story on their own. Novelists
are lazy poets who over explain the
story and say and, so, but, and because
too much. I could have just said poets
are lazy novelists and novelists are poets,
but I am a lazy poet who says and, so,
but, and because too much.
iii. I am told that short story writers
are patient people. That seems like
a contradiction, although, I am not
a good short story writer or a good
patient people, so maybe I just do
not have accurate information
This is not a panic attack, but it kinda is
February is cold
no matter where you are.
March is an open wound.
Say that your blood’s path is set like veins,
pretend it is not free form.
By April, the wind pushes back all your happiness,
leaves it months ahead, waiting for you.
May is all band-aids and broken teeth,
just like last year.
There are no new thoughts.
Every writer writes this poem,
the poem you are writing has been written.
Someone else wrote this.
Your throat bleeds a cliche
that tells you to walk away from all of it again.
This happens every few years.
No sleep, no rest,
no change to the pattern.
Close your eyes.
See the colors in the darkness.
the phone bill
the no job
the free will
the gray hair
the “why am I having seizures?”
the waking up piss covered in the warm of the sun shining through an open window Continue reading
24 Hours by Matthew Dickman
I went to my mother and asked her to stop talking.
I went to my mother and asked if she would hold me.
I went into a city I didn’t know and I was ok with it.
I went into a city I didn’t know and something like an accident killed me.
Matthew Dickman is a fun, unapologetic writer. He has proven this time and again in previous poems, and this chapbook is no different. A repetitious, full throttle adventure inside of a Picasso splatter, this is what poetry is for. Continue reading
Nothing To Do With Me by Sarah Xerta
“Poets are some of the emptiest people I know
is a thought that just hit me from somewhere in the back
of my brain, those shithead elves throwing snowballs at me.”
Those are the first lines of this book. From that exact moment, I was in. I love The Big Lebowski. It is my favorite movie of all time, despite, or because of, the many levels of what at first seems like weirdness in it. Every time I watch it I find something in the background, or a line I misunderstood at first, or a facial expression from a character I had never seen. This book is like that to me already. Not that it is funny, although at times it is, this is an emotional experience I didn’t want to end. I have not stopped reading and re-reading and reading out loud all of these poems.
“Today you are a universe
I’m not sure exists, and for a while I thought
the mystery was nice, all the
swirls of cosmic dust
always moving through you,” Continue reading
If you are looking for soft, pillow talk love poetry, this is not the collection for you. If you are looking for honest, real, hilarious, disgusting, uncomfortable,and fun truths, look no further. The titles alone were a laugh out loud experience unto itself. “Get ready baby, ’cause I’m about to go balls deep into your heart” and “passion is like hopping on a bicycle with the seat missing” are just two of the best, and the poems don’t let up.
From the weird and funny,
“Then we kissed
and I got a boner
and I felt a little embarrassed
because I felt like my boner Continue reading
“She told me that she bought the ring
in San Francisco at an outdoor market.
I like to imagine she was watching
the Pacific hold the coast the same way
she would hold my father later that night.
My father is a shore, my mother is an ocean;
when they are together you cannot tell
where one ends and the other begins.”
I am firm believer in all poems having love in them. No matter what the subject, someone had to love the idea to give it time to be a full thought, and that takes love or at the very least, care.
Kieran Collier has written an entire book of poems that pulse with love. Whether talking about his parents, and the love they obviously shared, to talking about the disease his mother had using Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech as the catalyst, to whale ghosts (…trust me), this is a heartening collection that leaves you hopeful despite a sadness that haunts the back of your mind.
“The Bones of Us” is part poetry collection, part graphic novel, and all well done.
J Bradley and Adam Scott Mazer have given us something we can appreciate from a few different angles. The poetry is moving and relatable…
“We will kiss like passengers
without floatation devices,
Hang on to the side of the bed
like a loose plank.”
…even if it is a bit muddled at times by the bombardment of images not brought forth by the words, but instead laid out for you in an interesting comic style (that adds to the depth of the words more often than hides them). The art is at once disturbing and revealing in a way that helps us see into the mind of the narrator without giving away the fun of reading poetry, while still being powerful and poetic images all on their own. The look of the book is dark, which suits the poems as well as the suit fits the skeleton on the front cover. Continue reading
When I passed the river 3 weeks ago
it was 3 feet frozen despite
the raging current below the
clear but blue tinted ice.
The warm love of the sun
melted all but the ridged rocks
and jagged white curves of the few ice sheets left.
The dark side of the valleys are
gray with a snow dusting that
hasn’t seen the sun since it fell.