A random, though not so odd, assortment of books I have been reading the past week. Many of these books approach the frailty that is a constant throughout our lives, trapped in ourselves, trapped in imaginary worlds, trapped physically, these books relate this in a way that communicate perseverance and communication, continually pushing past that, maybe to find strength, maybe to find community, but always to continue on. These books detail the parts of life that we generally do not share with others, and by reading we can only become more empathetic for the hidden world around us, that exists in each and every one.
What Antoine Volodine does in his stories and within his stories stories, is creating one of my favorite literary creation, in fact a movement. In Volodine's Post Exotic world, the reality is that all we have left before the end is stories told to us by those forgotten, those abused and those that voices are being cut short. The premise of his project is not necessarily what is original, writing a series of multiple authored works, coming from a future of natural disasters and an outbreak of fear, it is how Volodine perfects this, he uses his poetic instinct to drive a narrative, and he blends cultures so that we are reading not about one specific "enemy," though as you read his works, you can see what he sees in an enemy.
I highly recommend checking out the whole world of Antoine Volodine, Lutz Bassman and Manuela Draeger, and if you read in French then even luckier for you as you get more authors and more titles. Volodine is writing in an approach both exciting and fairly innovative in today's landscape of writers. His books are interconnected and all work to further his vision. While Draeger might be telling young adult's tales, it is only fitting for a young adult stories to be part of the Post-Exotic landscape and for us to know what they read like.
In the Time of the Blue Ball is librarian Manuela Draeger's time to shine. An imaginary author, in the Post Exotic world, Draeger is creating stories to tell the children in the apocalyptic camps, therefore one knows that these are not usual young adult's stories. Draeger is perfect when casting the imaginary as the real, something that is a quality that all of the Post-Exotic authors have. Draeger though is here writing stories that are made up, yet full of wonder, adventure and potential morals held within. Written with urgency and a sense of necessity, Potemkin moves on Each story could be a cautionary tale, a tale of adventure and of a search for freedom, yet all held within a sorrowful lens. We find fly orchestras, dogs and crabs that walk and talk and have punctuation marks in their fur, tigers that eat anything that looks or acts like a wharf rat as we wean in and out of adventures with Bobby Potemkin.
All in all, what seems like a short collection of stories, actually are poignant in the world of Manuela Draeger/Antoine Volodine. Short and fast moving, these stories may not provide enough meaning to elicit an epiphany or solution to the theory of life, but what Volodine does is exhibit one author at the core of the Post-Exotic canon is an array of many writers, stylistically playing against the world as they are held in camps, almost in extinction. These stories are but a whimsical look at the death and destruction that surround this world, and yet provide us with children's stories for adults, or teens or children. One can only hope to see more of the Draeger stories published in English, as Volodine and his other alter-authors are being translated as well. Though by this time, Dorothy has published more, this is a wonderful place to start in their back catalog and hopefully 2016 will bring more.
I had no expectations for Tender Points, no starting point, an author I did not know on a small indie press, yet with blurbs by some well known authors and critics, Amy Berkowitz seems to be well known in another scene.
With that said, wow, through a series of short essays, thoughts, meditations, shouting, conversations, Berkowitz puts through meaning in the form of emotion, and in so doing perfects the art of the essay, clearing the way for a discussion on personal topics.
Tender Points is able to relate experience in a way that explains and helps in creating an empathetic positioning, and yet also makes a personal plea with the honesty that Berkowitz shows. That honesty is what creates a text that has such emotion, though no entry is longer than a page or two. It is books like this, which make you wanting to keep reading, so that you can find more, books this honest that even at an older age, you are brought back to the books you read as a younger child and remember how you marveled at how much they transformed you.
This text, shows how the fragility of human existence carries on in an effort to process, to share and to carry on. Even through the Tender Points shared, Berkowitz continues on, seeking out an explanation and a way to let others know the hidden pain that faces herself, and, in reality, the pain that faces many people, many times under the surface of an existence that tries to keep going on. This is what makes the book so important, it focuses on conversations that are all too hidden, or conversations that people refuse to take part in.
I have been recommending this book to everyone I know, and that will not stop. It is an important read in this day and age that seems to all but forget that emotions exist and need to be shared, heard and have a potential to be reconciled.
Ghost Box by Emerson Whitney
Ghost Box read as the title suggests, an invisible and fleeing story that is being told by a journalist who gets caught up in the situation. We have the focus on a character who may or may not exist, and physical characters who may or may not be reliable, as is always the case. In doing so, Whitney creates an image of the wrath of capitalism, to not only destroy nature, but to also try to control its own ruins.
Ghost Box is short, and if you breeze through it you may find yourself lacking a connection to this story. A story that is at once, a mystery, but also a reality, the law breakers are those that are trying to do acts of benevolence, and those in charge refuse to help in having a discussion about the future of our ecosystems and existence. We are charged with trying to help, while a myriad of opportunities pass by abandoned in the name of ownership and property sold to those that can afford. In the same way, this is why many living spaces remain uninhabited, while people are out in the streets. This book is an elegy for those that resist that and in some way try to create change.
"Sometimes I want to get a stack of money from somebody and put my feet up somewhere."
Dead Horse is poetry that crafts itself into the modern framework of living (and dying). Pollari writes poetry that fits itself into our daily affairs, without overdoing the burden of being "hip." She throws in enough referencing that recognizes her situating herself, but does not over do it in a way that she will be dating herself, references to pop stars, or pop bands such as in "Pictures of Me," references to the phone, and the smartphone, place the poetry in the 2010s, and yet, even within "I Love the Phone" Pollari recognizes the impending antiquity that her life will bring, "And when the archeologists find me they can see all the times/that people called or texted/And they can say to themselves/"She was very beloved"
She also has a way of making her poems a conversation, one that she can throw in subtle jokes, we aren't sure if they are a laughing joke or a hidden grin, but can also weigh in with observations, anxiety and slight hurt. In "I Owe Money" she starts "I owe money, a large amount/Tied to my name, and following me around/The hundreds of dollars I relinquish every month/I don't even miss it." relating her debt further to who she is, almost inverting the way we feel about debt, in an effort to worry less "Ownership is gathering things/And gathering things is a kind of self-definition/So just like that, I have gathered debt/And so I won money and let it define me" She seeks further into ideas of ownership, debt, money and our entanglement into society, and yet all throughout it acts cool and carefree in a way we yearn. Whether she has this attitude in real life or not, who knows, but in the way that some poets strive to write about the world and how we place ourselves within, Niina Pollari does.
From the initial quotes of William Blake and The Smiths, one can assume that Ana Bozicevic is writing poetry that is at once meaningful, yet knowing, if she takes from her predecessors it is that hyperbole works, when crafted with intent. It is therefore of no surprise that her first poem "About Nietzsche" can be a poem both involving wanderlust phrases and Nietzsche and, yet also a look at race, gender and the images we are surrounded with on a daily basis and then continue with "War on a Lunchbreak" which continues in its ability to speak towards the micro and macro, with considerations about gender, about work, a meditation on war, and our internal/external wars with the world around us and how this gets facilitated, what does it mean to be an anomaly in society? Whether that is in the form of having a personal life outside of work, of being anti-war, of not trying to follow in the footsteps of gendered poetics. It speaks towards the present, which is important in todays world of poetry, not just words thrown together, which is not a bad thing, but is a conversation piece.
Within her poetic narrative, death plays a large role, and not just death as an idea, but her body dying. Page 14, 16, 17 Page 21 "When the Dead Sing Out" is dedicated to OWS which can only be Occupy Wall Street. "And that's when/ you know. Your friends have forgotten you."
In between Bozicevic is questioning discussions in and of themselves, she questions motives and discusses dreams as reality. In a way she is our output in our heads after reading too much, she is a well of thoughts, that continues to get dissected into poetry, that for us will only lead to more quests.
Inside the reader also gets to see drawings that further her poetic narratives, sad, naked, worn and yet magical characters. Characters, like the front and back covers, that look to represent humans, but there is something that separates us from these people, almost similar to the qualities that The Little Prince took on, something that we see within, but ultimately know is not us.
She ends with the simply titled "Poem" which leaves this collection almost hurling memory and meaning in regards to her lover, and proper emotional output versus given output, "I'm asking myself/ why am I so useless? Isn't it your world I'm supposed to be changing." until the ending when she flees, leaving it up to our own digestive enzymes to piece the eventuality of her poem.
A short poetic prose piece that examines the dark side of life through reels. With instructions for each reel, it is as if you are examining an object closely rather than reading the text. Though show, Laura Ellen Joyce is powerful in word choice, and instead uses her words to conjure up a stark image. Though, sticking to the negative, and underside of everyday life.
Laura Ellen Joyce has written something worth reading and meditating upon, if not because it is beautifully written and crafted as a book, it is because hardly do we read meditative and almost prayer like that ruminate on the depth of the world that is dark. Though we cannot always internalize the sadness that comes with life and books like Luminol Reels, we certainly should not turn away from it either.
A writer from the United States, and a alumni of the final class of the Black Mountain College, with many notable alumni and a dedication to the avant-garde, John Wieners had taken part in many poetry circles across the country and landed himself in Beacon Hill, Boston from 72 and on. In his own words, a tireless worker with a very long memory who drinks like a fish (how unexpected).
He writes with an intensity of feeling, which illuminates us, his words breathe his emotions and his emotions captivate the readers' lives. "Melancholy carries/a red sky and our dreams/are blue boats/no one can bust or blow out to the sea." he writes in "A Poem for the Insane" and quickly follows in "A poem for the dead I know" "Gather the voices, forces I have forgotten/to find those graves I forget hot/to come back to" in which he goes over some of those who are past in his life and how we, in his words "We are all Lazarus/ and carry our dead friends with" We are surrounded by people we know and don't that all have death, and will one day die.
He provides references to an older time, New York, Boston, and all the way across the country to San Francisco and, in a way provides a historical gap between the time(s) he was writing and the present. He is seeking for a connection to life, in all forms, and is left with memories. As in his poem "Forthcoming" in which he tells of all the ways he died in loneliness. "I died in loneliness/without friends or money/they were taken off/long ago, a melodrama/sounded out my name"
This was the internal, truly becoming the external and that is what makes Wieners an important and appealing read. He is sometimes curt, sometimes outlandish, many times sad, but all the time he remains sounding pure, and as he says in "Music" "What is poetry? an image/ in the mirror;" A must read in my opinion.
An Ecuadorian from the early 1900s who can count, journalist, editor and ambassador among his resume, does not sound so far fetched for many South American poets, and though he is not the most secretive, or least translated of poets in English, his name is not often repeated by those who are not in the poetry scene. Yet, with Neruda, Paz, Vallejo and Borges giving him praise, it is a wonder he is not even as cult as one might expect.
For some background of Andrade, look at http://www.thedrunkenboat.com/andradefeat.htm or read the introduction, which gives a little idea of why Andrade writes. A man who has traveled all over the seas, as a tourist and an ambassador, he sought out what made the worldly universal, and focused less on the differences, instead heralding a more worldly view. It is this which composes what a microgram is, a short poem about the natural worlds' existence in the world as a whole.
Andrade focuses on the world at small, so that others may be aware of the world at large. He understands and transmits the power of the focused and intentional minimalization of the world.