Category Archives: Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: “RADIANT ACTION” – Matt Hart (H_NGM_N Books)

Radiant Action
Matt Hart
H_NGM_N Books, 2016
[purchase]

review by William James

By page 34 of Matt Hart’s latest book-length single poem Radiant Action, we’ve already been steeped in the idea of noise. It’s a frantic, crashing cacophony of “hardcore vocalists, birds with jet engines, sandbag pilgrims,” a favorite punk rock band playing loud in the basement, the author “wak[ing] up screaming [his] whole throat to red.” Noise is a common thread in this poem, so when we get to the line “Poetry is language made noisy with god” it’s a moment like standing in a field under a storm-dark sky, seeing the clouds break open, and feeling the sudden brightness of the sun piercing the gray.
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REVIEW: Meghan Privitello – A New Language for Falling Out of Love

attachmentRaw and focused disillusionment. A longing for a definable existence within the mundane. Heartaches tacked with pushpins. From all of this, with unexpected play with syntax, a defiance towards traditional form, and tactile and terse imagery, Meghan Privitello creates a playing field where she volleys ideas of love, loss, relationships, and the self. Within the boxed-in boundaries of fixed margins, the poet’s search for a new language is a way to re/define her heart and explore her own humanity.

In poems such as “Active Drowning,” “Manifest,” “Interpretation,” and “Too Late,” she exposes blind spots within herself and has a distinct way of illustrating what has left the room. There is a humility of the self in her poems which creates a vacancy that she is longing to fill, trying to fill with a new language if nothing more. Often, she lets in a crack of light to reveal what is behind the empty room, if only to reveal more darkness and despair. Even though at times Privitello exposes, at best, a fraudulent landscape of the disparity of the self, it is within these emotional juxtapositions that her personal perspective of her own humanity is put forth:

Gill-less and guileless, how long could we live
together in the sea, never knowing when we’ve
gone too deep?

Sometimes I am so small my obituary starts
and ends with she. Continue reading


BOOK REVIEW: “Mouthy” – Emily Rose Kahn-Sheahan (Thoughtcrime Press)

Oral History: A review of Mouthy by Emily Rose Kahn-Sheahan
Thoughtcrime Press, 2016
[purchase]

reviewed by Donna Vorreyer

 

+++++++++++++++++++++

Emily Rose Kahn-Sheahan is a force onstage and her second book Mouthy (from Thoughtcrime Press) gives the reader both that performance fire, the poems sizzling with crackling imagery and voice, and the quietly woven spell of careful craft.

 

In the opening title poem, the speaker asserts:

“(you) want the pretty to lay quiet, stop
causing all this fuss , but I got
firecracker teeth popping.
They get me into the good
trouble worth all this voice.”

And a section called The Trouble is what we are led to. The book is organized in sections, and The Trouble is full of the body’s salt and sweat. This is a body that is in control of its desire even when it abandons itself to pleasure, and it does. This is a body that knows how to love itself, even though sometimes it forgets, as in “The Trouble With Resisting Temptation is It May Never Come Again: Fortune Cookie”

How dare I be this body
and forget how beautiful it ripples,
the art in bountiful meat, milk skin.
Curve drunk on my own hips,
I let him deserve me.

And what a treat to read poems about sex that aren’t apologetic or shaming or romanticized – these poems are carnal and funny and poignant and real. The repeated diction of words like hum and shiver buzzes through the book like a current, a live wire that, if touched, will both thrill and hurt us.
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REVIEW – Rebel Hearts & Restless Ghosts – William James

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“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


REVIEW: Learn to Swim by Joseph Edwin Haeger

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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.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: “wreck/age” – Bill Moran & Simon Kindt (Alien Mouth Books)

wreck/age: an odd little book
Bill Moran
Simon Kindt
Alien Mouth Books, 2015
[purchase]

reviewed by Donna Vorreyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not odd at all, this gem of a book gives us a narrator whose “holy mess” of a life is a love affair with the sea, a sailor who is one of the “strongarms and loudmouths” drawn by salt and waves at the expense of all other desires. Divided into three sections, the book follows the narrator’s life from his earliest days to goodbye. In “Slack Water,” we get an origin story of sorts:

“at age 2, your father says he will teach you to swim.
teaching you to swim is tying you into a sack,
weighting the sack with stones,
dropping you in.

the water hits like a delivery room slap
of cold white roar and WAKE UP BOY
THIS WORLD IS NOT IN LOVE WITH THE IDEA OF YOU
THIS WORLD IS NOT GENTLE OCEAN AND WARM BELLY
THIS WORLD IS BIRTH AND BLOOD AND MURDERED LOVE”

The suicide of the narrator’s father and mother are co-mingled with the butchering of a whale, the “holy mess” of the whale’s guts also referring to the father’s bloody death, the “red ribbons” of the whale’s intestines the same as the mother’s self-inflicted stab wound.
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Artist Review: Lauren Pascarella – Purpose After Function

RS+CH Home (Personal Objects Studies), 2014, Pigment Print

As an undisputed novice in the realm of visual arts, my tendency has always been to gravitate towards artwork—paintings and photographs usually—that immediately reward the viewer with a beautiful array of colors; a scenic, purposeful image; or just some explosion of excitement that makes one think, “That would look great in my living room hanging behind the television set. Yeah, it’d really brighten up the drab in that old rumpus room, it would.”

When I first became aware of Bushwick artist Lauren Pascarella’s body of work, I noticed that while compelling, it possessed few of the aforementioned qualities. With some notable exceptions, Pascarella’s art consists largely of stacks of common items, calmly disassembled human beings, and structures featuring faintly warped angles and distorted shapes. Continue reading


REVIEW: 24 HOURS – MATTHEW DICKMAN (ONE STAR PRESS / POOR CLAUDIA)

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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


REVIEW: I Want Love So Great It Makes Nicholas Sparks Cream In His Pants – Calvero (University of Hell Press)

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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

some more

and I got a boner

and I felt a little embarrassed

because I felt like my boner  Continue reading


REVIEW: When the Gardener Has Left – Kieran Collier

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“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.
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