BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
1. Between Life and Death - Yoram Kaniuk (Restless Books, 2007/2016)
Excerpt from Lit Hub:
"Near the house, right across from the calm hidden beauty where I searched for a gutter to play me the lullabies of my childhood, a little bit of sea is still open. Moshe my father would swim in it every day at exactly five in the afternoon, after most of the swimmers had already gone home, because he loved having the sea all to himself. In the spring and fall, the sea was sparkling and smooth and soft, and sometimes in the morning, on the way to school, we’d walk barefoot in the sand along the shore, and under the hewn-limestone wall, we’d take off our shoes, hang them by the laces on our shoulder, put our schoolbags on our heads like the Arab women who carry ewers of water and bundles of wood to the ovens, and we’d walk in the shallows lined with seashells, some were broken and cut our little feet, until we came to the sand dune across from the Model School."
2. The Missing Museum - Amy King (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2016)
From TS' site:
"AND THEN WE SAW THE DAUGHTER OF THE MINOTAUR
Poet, comma. It is thus the delay,
which is also a beginning. That we can link eyes
across her time-space continuum is another hyena.
The female elongates, bares fangs, and a trash
compactor recycles. Hyena gives
in the recycling fashion. Phoenix, no more false
flight from holes; now balloons eating decay.
Hunger denuded us, too. But will you give
up your death for me? With surgery, I outright hollow
the monster to breathe across windows. I don her hollow
whole. She writes back in the pauses of haze.
Her and her tragic magic. We are all cross-dressing
in tiny wings with the machines of bones to go on."
3. A Child of Storm - Michael J. Wilson (Stalking Horse Press, 2016)
Sensitive Skin Magazine published four poems from the collection:
"Edwin Davis & The Electric Chair
Brown came with a crate.
The kind milk bottles condense in.
He sat it down. In the center of the room.
I had spent the day clearing cobwebs, a rug.
I used parts of the crate to make the chair.
Stringing the wires, using the Edison diagram
The Brown instructions.
I shot 1000 volts through Kemmler
then again until he burst to flame.
The skin around the metal became leather.
They would have done better using an axe.
I shot volts into a woman. Into the man who shot McKinley.
I got to meet J.P. Morgan. Twice.
Every time –
The smell –"
4. Reconnaisance - Carl Phillips (FSG, 2015)
ead an interview with Phillips at NPR:
"I have, from the start, been writing about the body and power. And maybe more specifically, the gay male body, and power in intimate relationships, but I feel as if there's a lot of overlap with society's views of how different bodies are treated. So to that extent, I think there's always a kind of political resonance to the personal, and then vice versa."
5. Shadowbahn - Steve Erickson (Blue Rider Press/Penguin, 2017)
It's exactly what we need right now - a book set in a tragic political landscape along to a playlist to give song to the time we live in now - one of strange turmoil and uncertainty. All of the characters are on a journey of self-discovery, and the reimagined Twin Towers represent this. It's definitely a book to pick up once it's released this February.
6. The King of Good Intentions II - John Andrew Fredrick (Rare Bird Books, 2015)
Read an interview with Fredrick at LARB:
"I think the books are failures too. Brilliant failures, of course. And again I don’t mean brilliant in the look-at-me sort of way, but brilliant in the sense that parts of them (and I hope the preponderance of them) truly shine. As comedy. And very very human and humanist. Isn’t that enough? Yes, I revised the first King five times. The hardest work I have ever done. Much harder than writing a dissertation on Ford Madox Ford and Virginia Woolf. I just got sick of looking at The King II, I revised it so much. I’m a Jamesian and a Joycean. I could revise all day — trying to lift the prose into poetry, trying to make the jokes zanier and tighter. There’s nothing wrong with failing. Failing is an energy. And in a way, paradoxically, the books are not failures and I am being very disingenuous about the records. You shouldn’t trust me; I’m an unreliable narrator in real life, too."
7. Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity - Edited by Fox Frazier Foley & Erin Elizabeth Smith (Sundress Publications, 2016)
Read an interview with both editors over at VIDA about how the anthology came to be. Foley stated:
"My feeling about this are complicated, and kind of conflicted. I think of poetry in the same way that I think of prayer. I’m a religious person, so to me, prayers are actually a significant factor in seeking any type of progress, including political or social progress. Prayer and poetry, to me, are both ways of centering your consciousness, and raising both your focus and your energy. They are both, on some level, ways of howling down the parts of the Universe that we don’t entirely understand (I mean, we might name them, or tell stories about them—but I think all religious apparatus is really just a way of making somewhat intelligible to us the forces that are beyond our rational comprehension) to please come to our aid in helping us fix this situation. Prayer and poetry both bring people together, too—one person’s words can forge connections among many people, so that ultimately both a poem and a prayer can result in focusing the energy and consciousness of larger groups, in a way that creates a feeling of solidarity. To me, all of that is integral to political and social progress. I understand that not everyone sees it that way, but speaking for myself and my own lived experiences, that’s how I understand it."
CA Conrad's poem in the collection is amazing; excerpt from “act like a polka dot on minnie mouse’s skirt:”
"i am not a
faggot i tell
about their tedious future careers
all the taxes bankrolling a
racist tyrannical military."
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (forthcoming 2016, ELJ Publications) & Xenos (forthcoming 2017, Agape Editions). She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of her writing has appeared in Prelude, The Atlas Review, The Huffington Post, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. She has lead workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente