Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Jason B. Crawford's "Twerkable Moments"

 


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Twerkable Moments is a summertime Michigan house party in the early 2000’s, and a Springtime cookout from just last week. Jason asks “Who among us is not built of a party” while moving from a sweaty dancefloor near the bar to a backyard, reclaiming space and self along the way. Who among us hasn’t tried to learn a dance from someone older and failed? Who among us hasn’t done the dance with all the confidence we could muster, anyway? These poems are a teaching, an invitation to remember and to learn. A celebratory invocation of joy in spite of, joy that survives and traverses, and joy that for damn sho’ twerks.

- Darius Simpson

Twerkable Moments pulsates with rich sounds and searing imagery, transforming the page into a three-dimensional universe that takes all of our senses to navigate. I am enamored with the magic Crawford has woven in these poems, where dancing is not merely dancing, but world building. In these stanzas exist a mythic space without limitations, where dancing boys could be wolves or “glitter could cast a spell and bring all my dead/ loves back to life”. Twerkable Moments does not turn its gaze away from the omnipresent dangers that lurk just beyond the page, “The hunters/ or their arrows/ or bullets”. Rather, it celebrates the body’s survival despite. At the center of these poems lies the question: “What joy have you brought for us to/ feed on?”. I leave this collection well fed and breathless.

- Jihyun Yun, author of Some Are Always Hungry

In their collection Twerkable Moments, Jason B. Crawford populates these pages with beats and bodies, music lyrics that take over us before we realize we’re even singing along. To read these poems is to wade through a night club where the music works like a hex, where in the midst of the dancing crowd our speaker gropes for love and acceptance. And the dancefloor serves as a perfect metaphor for the Black and queer body trying to survive in these poems; surrounded by chaos, violence, and cultural appropriation, the speaker of this collection gives in to the corporeal joy of dance. But dance is not only about joy or survival, it’s also about reclamation. Crawford writes, “This is mine / and I will take it back / one        ass     cheek / at a time,” fashioning the Black, queer, and dancing body into a weapon. And whatever is slain in their wake, Crawford reminds us to always look back at it.

-Taylor Byas, author of Blood Warm 

 

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Friday, March 19, 2021

Juliana Chang's "Inheritance"

 

 
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Juliana Chang’s Inheritance tells a deeply moving tale of immigration, love, and family, in poems taut with a longing that spans oceans, and decades, and generations. “Dear god,” Chang’s speaker pleads at one point, “give us a new story,” and in these poems, lucky for us, she has written exactly that. This is a soulful, serious debut.

           —Patrick Phillips, author of Elegy for a Broken Machine


This admirable debut volume of poems speaks to the many complex legacies of the immigrant psyche: those of language, of longing, of unspoken traumas and unlikely joys. These vivid tableaus, ranging from girlhood to womanhood, reveal a young writer of great empathy and discernment, and invite us to join in the redemptive act of wonderment. 

 Chang-raeLee, author of Native Speaker

 

 

Monday, December 7, 2020

Sonya Vatomsky's "And The Whale"

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“A lyrical, haunted shipwreck of a book you won’t soon forget.”

amanda lovelace, bestselling author of the princess saves herself in this one


 “Vatomsky is a poet with history, which is to say a poet with a Russian soul that never rests. Here, the soul is haunted and haunting, is pouring tea into your cup until the whole thing spills over and burns. The soul in these poems isn’t interested in pain but the shadow of pain, the mark of it; the edges of a burn and the dregs of tea leaves, what each one confirms about time. If it’s true that what’s hysterical is historical, then what Vatomsky offers us is a universe where madness is fleshed out and relieved of flesh. Here, the body is a palimpsest and gender is a veil, the kind you wear in mourning, the kind that hangs between this life and everything else.”

Gala Mukomolova, author of Without Protection





Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Announcing Amanda Hope's "The Museum of Resentments"

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“I am good at affliction,” writes Amanda Hope, “and sky.” This is true. The poems in The Museum of Resentments offer lament and potent imagery in surprising and insightful pairings. Hope’s portraits of domestic disintegration and its aftermath are sometimes confrontational, sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes tender, sometimes stark, and always stylish and compelling. 
Natalie Shapero

 

Amanda Hope writes, “Listen: I am going to hide myself in this poem/ in the heart of it, and maybe someone (you) / will find me” which best describes her notable debut collection. Hope is a master of metaphor and simile which she employs to create a meta-experience for the reader and meanwhile she’s “ignoring for the sake of metaphor...”. Yes, she is hiding behind her own truth-spinning which is nothing short of human. I encourage you to find her! 
Kevin McLellan

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Chase Burke's "Lecture"



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“The characters in Chase Burke’s Lecture are aspirants and schemers, searching our omnipresent corporations and pop culture for whatever cracks might appear, anywhere one might escape into something more successful, heartfelt, or ultimately authentic. What a lucky journey to join in on, carried along in Burke’s smart and witty prose.”
Matt Bell, author of Scrapper

“Burke’s Lecture expects us to pay attention—whether in museums and libraries or in our own homes and workplaces—and to be receptive to the gift of human connection however it may appear. Novel pages turned into airplanes for passersby to find and feel ‘affected in some way,’ a letter written on a submarine ‘to a good friend,’ a shared cigarette with a co-worker after a serious disaster, a person waiting for their ‘brother to come home.’ So read these stories, this Lecture, and take notes: otherwise, like one tourist pleading desperately with our president, we are doomed to exist here having ‘never felt so lonely.’”
Molly Gaudry, author of We Take Me Apart and Desire: A Haunting

“The irrepressible Chase Burke has delivered this irresistible book, Lecture, a baker’s dozen of nattily disheveled short short fictions. I think of them as lithesome literary GIFs, frenetic yet graceful, starring a bevy of Buster Keatonion characters, dolled up in stoic animated deadpan as whole cabinets of sentient cookware and cutlery as well as showrooms of kitchen sinks swirl around Escheresque tableaus of pensive rumination—emphatic, empathetic, bemused, curious circumventions, undeniably understated. Chase chases heroically the chaotic chaos just under the placid surface of exact and exacting attention. Each and every static kinetic piece is another delicate pas de deux with locomotive, ready, set, stop and going all the way, while you, dear reader, are all the time hanging on, effortlessly and eagerly, to your slightly too small pork pie hat.”
Michael Martone, author of The Moon Over Wapakoneta and Brooding


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Conor McNamara's "When I Think of the Randolph Mountains"



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Conor McNamara has written a powerful portrait of West Virginia, mountain roads, pipeline work, cold nights, loss and enduring hope. Beautiful and understated, When I Think of the Randolph Mountains is a masterful collection of stories that stay with you long into the night.
 —Vincent Chu, author of Like a Champion

In aching bursts of spare, understated prose, Conor McNamara captures the loneliness of working as a pipeliner in wintry West Virginia. When I Think of the Randolph Mountains is at once a moving portrait of a young man—heartsick, far from home, deep in debt—and a searing look at the brutal emotional and physical toll that simply staying out of poverty takes on American workers. Though rooted in the particulars of small towns like Burnsville and Buckhannon, the story taps powerfully into the anxiety of placelessness, its narrator in every sense disoriented, always at risk of losing traction. Yet he never misses an opportunity to name the people he meets as he follows the pipeline—Ms. Amanda, the Exxon station clerk; Yogi, owner of the Motel 79; Mike Workman, a land inspector from the gas company—and we sense that no matter where the work takes him next, his alertness to human connection will come with him.
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Madeleine is Sleeping
and Ms. Hempel Chronicles

Conor McNamara is out there at work. He’s Studs Terkel and he’s the guy Studs Terkel is asking what the job is really like. He’s a poet and this is his American dream with a bloody nose. Come in close. He wants to tell you how to pass your drug test, how to swing a machete, how to be in love with the dirt and the grime and the rain and the unexpected sunshine bursting out from behind the dark clouds hanging over the piece of shit roadside motel that is tonight’s temporary home sweet home.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Maya Salameh's "rooh"




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"Maya Salameh’s rooh deftly works the familiar into the defamiliarized, in poems crackling with exuberant fluency. I read these poems and language feels boundless, looking feels boundless, form feels boundless. I read these poems and feel the possibilities of poetry stretching, evolving, breaking open to make room for the true refreshment that is Maya Salameh’s voice—its mischief, its enormous eyes.”