BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
If you hadn't guessed by now, you probably guessed I like to read a lot. Since I take the subway wherever I go, it actually frees up a lot of time for me to read, which I'm grateful for. Over the past few months, I've gone to a lot of readings--including AWP--where I was able to get a lot of new books.
Below is a round up of my favorites books I've gotten at various events, and I've thoroughly enjoyed each:
1. “I’m Not Supposed to Be Here And Neither Are You,” by Len Kuntz (Unknown Press, 2016)
“Lately is cheap, lately is not worth it.
She decides that she loathes the word lately, yet the truth is she gives it away on discount now. She’s willing to bargain and barter, consider whatever’s offered. She remembers a bible verse, a proverb. “Pride cometh before the fall.” She’s no longer a working girl but more a donor, not desperate just derelict.
She thinks she will sell everything and start anew. Yes.
This decision makes her feel triumphant in a muted, minimal way. Lately her losing streak has had razor teeth and brass knuckles and loud repeating voices. This is not a world a country a sin city for losers. It’s humiliating to read the happy people ads beckoning more and more winners its way.
She packages her life. She stuffs it into a viral suitcase—every single thing including her dog, hamster, bank account, mortgage, bikes, blender, black book and relatives.
The subject line says, YOU CAN HAVE MY LIFE."
2. “Rift,” by Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015)
From "A Room with Many Small Beds":
It is the year I learn to float. My father’s girlfriend, Pearl, tells me to stay in the car. I lean out the window, watch her climb steps and pound on someone’s front door. A man comes out and stands with his arms crossed. She rifles through her purse, pulls out a dollar and holds it in front of his face. Flicking her lighter, she sets it on fire. All three of us watch it burn.
Bobby Kennedy has been shot. It’s two o’clock in the afternoon and we have not eaten. Pearl sits cross-legged in front of the television with her cigarettes and her nail file. Her hair is set in empty frozen orange juice cans. She looks like a space alien or a sea creature. The neighbor kid is standing on our front lawn. I ask him what he wants. Get the lady, he says. Pearl goes to the screen door. Has the new baby been born, she asks. The kid hops from foot to foot like he has to go to the bathroom. I tug on Pearl’s shirt. His mother’s dead, I whisper.”
3. “Ha Ha Ha Thump,” by Amorak Huey (Sundress Publications, 2015)
our evacuation inevitable. We have always been outnumbered & every system is remote
from somewhere. Our future pendulums away from us, our small stars extinguish each other
in the heart’s dark sky. You are not afraid. An empire grows in my chest. Pistol me open,
let my rebellious ribs steam into the frost, feed on the warmth of me. We cannot destroy
all that threatens us & ice will not slake your salted tongue. Given flame, we choose to burn.”
4. “Theater of Parts,” by M. Mack (Sundress Publications, 2016)
from “Black Stage Dialogue”
“The Actor: So, they’ll say, this is how you got to be this way.
The Poet: And I’ll say, it doesn’t matter how I got to be this way.
The Poet: I’ll say, engage with me, this way.”
5. “Blood Song,” by Michael Schmeltzer (Two Sylvias Press, 2016)
"Listen: In the beginning
was the mother, and the mother
covered her child.
In the end was the child who covered his mother.
In all the stories I hold sacred
there is this blanket the color of foam.”
6. “Wild Materials,” by Isobel O’Hare (Zoo Cake Press, 2015)
"the child curled in the green grass is on fire
these two little girls are hand in hand on a beach while their father snaps photos of them and they are on fire
she wakes up from another nightmare about him and she is on fire
lovers who stay in bed until the late morning are on fire
she wants to forget and she is on fire
she is carrying a baby to the sidewalk and everyone watches while she sets it on fire
she is now on fire
she sometimes forgets she is on fire”
7. "The Voyager Record,” by Anthony Michael Morena (Rose Metal Press, 2016)
An excerpt from "Queen Mob's Teahouse"
"I don’t know when it was that people stopped liking the mixtapes I was making.”
8. “Doll Palace,” by Sara Lippmann (Dock Street Press, 2014)
From "The Second Act":
"Tommy and I broke up because I messed around with his brother. Isn’t that how it goes? Someone is always cheating. Joe was home from Lehigh and a bunch of us were playing quarters in the attic when Tommy came back from the store with a bag of sour cream and onion to me slutting it up on the sofa. I don’t remember if it was a dare or what, I was eager to please and Tommy knew it, so he threw a sloppy punch Joe’s way, missing completely, his plaid boxer shorts kind of bloused above his jeans. Joe then beat the crap out of him while I sat and watched until Tommy got pickled and weepy, and Joe lost interest. Chill, bro, she’s yours. Only I wasn’t. After that, Tommy and I still hung out and made bootlegs and scored the other rides, we had a pact to do senior week together if neither of us had a better option but that never panned out. He graduated, I went to college while he stayed home and got a girl pregnant and sold dime bags on high school grounds. We lost touch. I’d heard he became a parole officer briefly although that seemed far-fetched. It’s not like you can change people, but just because people do what they are going to do doesn’t lessen the blow of it any."
9. “Scanning for Tigers,” by Margot Farrington (Tree Scholar Press, 2013)
were meant for wildness. Print, in its ant parade,
tyrannizes. You can never look at a book
the way you look at a woman. The woman
and the tiger share a sinuous flow that lets
the eyes slip by, even as they behold.
No grasping, ever, with the woman or
the tiger, though each may imprint upon the
retina a memory that devours.”
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.