Thursday, January 28, 2016

Blog Shout Out: Recently Banned Literature

I don't do this nearly enough on this blog, but there are great poetry/literature blogs that I read and I need to highlight them. 

Back when I was working on my Masters in Creative Writing I blogged through the whole process and William Michaelian's blog was a huge inspiration to me.

Michaelian posts short, powerful poems and artwork. His posts are frequent and don't take more than 5 minutes to read, but usually longer to understand and appreciate. Re-reading of his poems is a must. I don't pretend to understand his art (as I'm not so well trained in the interpretation of art), but often his poetry has touched me deeply.

I hope to direct more of my readers over to his blog. Go check him out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Mythical Realism of Touch, by Alexi Zentner

I recently have been reading Touch, by Alexi Zentner. It is a marvelous novel. Zentner's prose is crisp and evocative. He is the master of images. He says just enough so you can imagine the scene, but then he still leaves things up to the reader's imagination. It is the perfect mix.

Touch was originally a short story that I marveled at when I read it as an assignment in the fiction class I took for my Masters. That short story became the first chapter of the novel, with some revisions.

The most notable revision, at least for me, is how Touch has become a novel of magical realism. Initially I thought that this addition was an interesting choice, but now it totally makes sense to me. I say magical realism because that is what I would have called it, until I read some reviews of Zenter's work. In the National Post, in 2011, they interviewed Zenter and he called his work a piece of "mythical" realism. He said, "When does a belief become a myth? When does something you believe in become just a story?" And while I am not terribly far in the novel, I believe that it does a good job of exploring this idea.

Touch is set in the wintery, Canadian, logging village of Sawmaget. And that cold, harsh environment lends itself so well to the mythical realism that Zentner has infused into it. As stated in the Washington Post, again in 2011, "Spectral beings haunt the pages of Alexi Zentner's eerie, beautifully written first novel, Touch, set in the remote woods of Canada. There's the shapeshifting ijirait; the adlet, which feeds on human blood; the mahaha and wehtiko and qallupilluit, corpselike demons rumored to pursue men who have eaten human flesh. Yet an even more powerful and terrifying force in this story is the northern winter, which over 60 or so years, spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries, consumes not just individuals but much of the gold rush town of Sawgament." This ultra realistic setting is such a perfect backdrop for all of the mythical realism because the wintery setting is so real that it gets to the point where you could believe that these being actually exist. Why wouldn't monsters and spirits haunt these woods. It takes you back to an ancient time, when forests where sacred and frightening.

At any rate, I will continue reading and tracking these ideas. Really, it is just a joy to read such fresh prose. And I really wish I had the cover pictured above rather than the blue cover that I have.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Description for Police, by Sam Sax

I don't want to do a long analysis of the following poem, but it is a good one. Enjoy.


Description for Police

what did the suspect look like?
the sound a shadow makes breathing tallow & spume back
into its heaving barnacled body, deranged gospel of milk-teeth,
a votive candle extinguished in a flat glass of cola.
what was the suspect’s gender?
something like a brick buried in the walls of a library.
or maybe just the word – brick – buried in books: demolished
tower scattered amidst babel, a building hidden in a building.
what was the suspect’s race?
a beam of light
throws up its hands
& is skinned alive.
did the suspect have a weapon?
thank god we no longer carve the shape of our dead
general’s faces into mountains. thank god we’ve bred
wolves into dogs into dolls
thank god we’ve deformed wheat germ & corn
into new edible organism. don’t forget all the good
that can be done with a scythe.
what was the suspect wearing?
cotton, trapped in a bottle of rubbing alcohol, or caught on a length of chain fence,
or woven into the fabric of a bulk-pack of white t’s from the grocery. gets dirty
easy but for that one night, you’ve never seen anything cleaner in your life
what did the suspect say?
if you look at any animate object
under a microscope, you’ll see
it’s made of smaller screaming parts.
if you smash the microscope, take the blood
it makes of your hands & bathe your eyes. tell me
what you see, how simple & red the light.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Self-Portrait in Needmore, Indiana, by Rochelle Hurt consistently puts out wonderful poetry and they have done it once again. Check out the latest poem by Rochelle Hurt.


Self-Portrait in Needmore, Indiana

As expected, after the wedding, the house
became a cough we lived in, trembling
in the throat of that asthmatic spring.
The streets stacked and curved like fingers
on a grease-knuckled hand gripping
the waist of our Midwestern dream.
We went sun-blind inside just looking
at each other.
Death is not working—
but wanting—too hard. My father’s body
was little more than a paper bag by the day
he died and tumbled into a graveyard.
I could have died etching my name
into the glass eye of my cage—a bay
window painted with lace. The skyline
in its expanse was a farce played out each night.
Sometimes my reflection was the star
of the show. Sometimes, it was the child
clapping from her seat, so looking out
and looking in became the same thing.
Sometimes, it just rained for weeks.
Let's talk about metaphors and similes in this poem.

  • "As expected, after the wedding, the house / became a cough we lived in," Comparing the house to a cough and then Hurt goes into more detail helping us visualize this cough. "trembling / in the throat of that asthmatic spring." This is a bad situation. They got married and things just aren't going as expected. A lot of people call that period right after marriage the honeymoon period, and it is supposed to be magical and romantic. But I can identify with the experience here, learning to live with a person you have never lived with before is difficult and takes a long time to get right. Their living together is irritating. They scratch at each other; it is painful.
  • "The streets stacked and curved like fingers / on a grease-knuckled hand gripping /  the waist of our Midwestern dream." As if their dream--getting married, settling down, working, having kids--is a girl that is being held by the streets. The "fingers / on a grease-knuckled hand gripping / the waist."
  • "My father's body / was little more than a paper bag"
  • "I could have died etching my name / into the glass eye of my cage." Ahhh, what an image! Now the speaker feels trapped by the whole situation, this whole marriage. And what is her "cage?" "a bay / window painted with lace." The speaker is trapped by the domesticity of it all. Her situation is a "farce played out each night."
  • "Sometimes my reflection was the star / of the show. Sometimes, it was the child / clapping from her seat," Then sometimes she would look out of her situation and sometimes she would look inward--into herself. In both instances this speaker sees the same thing. And sometimes it just rains.

And don't we all stop at times in our lives and look at ourselves? Sometimes we look and see ourselves as the star on the stage, the lights in our ryes. But sometimes we see ourselves up there, up on the stage and we cannot stop ourselves from clapping. Life is a struggle, it is not easy and no one said it was going to be. But we do need to realize that we can do it. We can be successful when life is tough and "it rains for weeks."

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Beautiful Description in The Crossing

Just a quick post to share this beaut of a sentence that I found in The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy.
"In that wild high country he'd lie in the cold and the dark and listen to the wind and watch the last few embers of his fire at their dying and the red crazings in the woodcoals where they broke along their unguessed gridlines. As if in the trying of the wood were elicited hidden geometries and their orders which could only stand fully revealed, such is the way of the world, in darkness and ashes. He heard no wolves. Ragged and half starving and his horse dismayed he rode a week later in the mining town of El Tigre."
Wow! I mean, just wow!