29 September 2016

Trey Moody Reads Poems

This article originally appeared as a post titled "Best Thing I’ve Heard This Week: Trey Moody" at Vouched Books on 17 June 2013.

Last week, I visited Lincoln, NE for a few days. During my stay, I spent some time with the poet Trey Moody. Trey's first book, Thought That Nature, was selected by Cole Swenson as the winner of the 2011 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry. Sarabande Books will release the collection in January of next year; below are a couple video clips of Trey reading poems that will appear in it.

"Praise":


"So Warm":


Hill, Belflower, Olszewska, and Covey Read Poems

This article originally appeared as a post titled "Best Thing I've Heard This Week: The Big Big Mess (06/08/13)" at Vouched Books on 14 June 2013.

Last Saturday, The Big Big Mess celebrated its two-year anniversary. Over the course of the past couple of years, this Akron, OH readings series has hosted local, regional, and national writers, such as Mary Biddinger, Matt Hart, Nate Pritts, Cathy Wagner, Adam Clay, Zachary Schomburg, and Heather Christle.

At their most recent event, out-of-town poets from Albany, Atlanta, Chicago, and Louisville converged on Northeast Ohio for a terrific reading. Check out the videos below for highlights.

Sean Patrick Hill reads his poem "1972":


James Belflower performs an excerpt from his book The Posture of Contour:


Daniela Olszewska reads her poem "Frontier with Fancy Spurs":


Bruce Covey reads his poem "Foreign Objects":


The Big Big Mess' next reading will be on 05 July. They will host The Line Assembly Tour, featuring S.E. Smith and others.

Introducing Dikembe Press

This article originally appeared as a post titled "Best Thing I’ve Read Today: Dikembe Press" at Vouched Books on 12 June 2013.

DP 001I first became aware of Dikembe Mutombo during the late-1980s when, under the tutelage of the great John Thompson, he and Alonzo Mourning formed one of the most intimidating frontcourts in the history of college basketball at Georgetown University. He then went on to have an illustrious career in The Association, popularizing his now famous finger wag.

Wasn't it a joy, then, when I discovered the inaugural titles from the newly formed Dikembe Press, a chapbook publisher based out of Portland, OR and Lincoln, NE.

Dikembe Press’ first two titles are Matthew Rohrer’s A Ship Loaded With Sequins Has Gone Down and Emily Pettit’s Because You Can Have This Idea About Being Afraid Of Something. The second set of chapbooks, arriving sometime this summer, are already slated: as-of-yet titled manuscripts by Christian Hawkey and Christine Hume.

Rohrer’s collection begins and ends with longer, narrative poems. In between these bookend pieces are a series of four re-combinatory sonnets, each one comprised of three different variations. Take, for instance, the first iteration of the second “Sonnet” as a sample of what you can find within:
He wrote amazing poems because he
was fucking a wizard. This perspective
mutilated all his expectations
and he was naked. The wizard threw him
a small thin towel to cover himself with.
I’m sitting in a small bar in Brooklyn
discussing his next move: surely his wife
will climb the pyramid and leap off it
because she is a butterfly. He is
everywhere down there, in the air. Inside
a tiny black bean. It’s not necessary
to live like this, we decide. We crumble
into our highballs, the city outside
consumes things like an enormous creature. (17)
Emily Pettit’s collection contains thirteen poems and ten illustrations by Bianca Stone. The poems, which shift and bend through oftentimes absurdist logic, are most successful when articulating some sense of doubt, misunderstanding, or fear. For example, in the poem “You Keep Asking What I Want And I Don’t Know What I Want,” the speaker says:
                                                           We breathe air.
We keep the same body temperature all day.
We are holding onto things. An unspecified
racket. A small wagon. The biggest warehouse.
It’s ambitious and complicated. It’s a result
that is still unclear and can go either way.
I do not know what I have to make. I make
mistakes and many of them. I’m afraid I make
many mistakes. This has something to do
with the desperation and something to do
with other things too. A web of smoke holding
onto a dark night. Refusing to reflect any light. (17)
To purchase these titles and discover more information about Dikembe Press and their forthcoming releases, please visit their website.

Matt Hart's Debacle Debacle

This article originally appeared as a post titled "Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: Debacle Debacle" at Vouched Books on 10 June 2013.

In February of this year, H_NGM_N Books released Matt Hart’s Debacle Debacle. In some sense, the book can be read as the experience of working through contradictory thoughts and feelings.

To this extent, poems near the beginning of book guide the reader by setting the conceptual and poetic framework for the rest of the collection. In “Upon Seeing Again The Thriving,” the speaker informs the audience that “Life is so messy,” and:
                                                     yes, I do feel

terrible at times, like a fuck-up descending a staircase,
woozy with nectar and too much trouble. Frustration

I get, and discouraged I get. (20)
Likewise, in the title poem, the speaker reiterates similar claims when he states: “Positivity these days // is difficult to come by” (14). But in the face of frustration and discouragement, when filtering the world through a positive lens can oftentimes be difficult, Hart’s poems seek to do just that.

Of course, the poems of Debacle Debacle don’t do this by embracing affirmation uncritically. Instead, they do so by meditating on complex emotional circumstances of our daily lives; or, as Hart writes at the conclusion of the title poem:
                                                                          Life happens;
it’s my job to say so. It’s our job to express it, expand it
to the edges. Essential it is to struggle, but struggle’s

merely tension, and tension can be a thing of balance
or irritation, confusion or song. I’m singing in tension
with the not singing. I’m living in tension with the forces

out to kill me. We’re living in tension because we’re
different human beings, and living in excitement
that we’re so much the same. (15)
Debacle Debacle, then, harnesses this tension between the joy and struggle to both sing and not-sing as an expression of a life lived poetically.

Hart’s poems succeed the most when they yoke these tensions of life so as to produce “an ambiguous noise” (30) wherein one cannot necessarily tell which feeling the poem expresses, or, to this extent, whether it’s song or not-song. The poem “Fang Face” echoes these sentiments in its closing lines:
                                I hate the way stories
seem to love a conclusion. I love
the bird’s singing just before it gets eaten. (25)
The excerpt contains both “love” and “hate,” the song of a bird and its grizzly death, and a reproach of conclusions in its conclusion. By oscillating between these binary poles, Hart doesn’t offer didactic verse, but rather “expressive works… // …about the way the artist feels and thinks” (73). And this artist, it seems, thrives in the possibilities and tensions that a poem with open emotional and sonic registers offers us.

The Poems of B.J. Love

This article originally appeared as a posted titled "Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: B.J. Love" at Vouched Books on 06 June 2013.

6_Quick B.J. Love is a poet who authored the chapbook Michigander, the editor of the online audio journal Pretty LIT, co-host of the Seersucker reading series (with Erika Jo Brown), and teaches at Savannah State University. Additionally, he used to run Further Adventures Press, which released a number of terrific, handmade chapbooks between 2008 and 2011. Yes, Love is a bit of Renaissance Man when it comes to poetry.

Earlier this week, I read a pamphlet of collaborative poems he wrote with Friedrich Kerksieck (the brains behind Small Fires Press) titled Six Quick Sand Pits. The colophon for the collection reads:
These quicksand pits were written collaboratively by BJ Love & Friedrich Kerksieck. This booklet was printed for Parenthesis 23 in the blazing Memphis summer of 2012. It was printed with a Vandercook No. 4 on Somerset Book paper. Type is Gill Sans.
If the specifications don’t mean much to you, know this: just like everything Kerksieck prints and produces, it looks gorgeous. And the six sand pits within? They are wonderfully odd prose poems. Take, for instance, the opening pit:
Sand and Water wanted a baby. What beautiful coastline we could make, they’d say to each other just before having sex in the usual positions. When quick sand bubbled up nine months later, Sand and Water sank the disappointment deep below the Earth’s crust. I don’t want to say this is why we now have volcanoes, but I can’t say it’s not.
The other five pits read in a similar tone and style. I’m not sure exactly how one would get their hands on this short collection (in fact, I’m not entirely sure how I got my hands on this collection), but you can read more of Love and Kerksieck’s collaborative poems in their chapbook Fossil, which they released via the Dusie Kollektiv a couple years ago.

Last week, I received the new issue of Cant in the mail, which contains eight poems by Love. To this extent, they act as the centerpiece for the issue. Here is one of those poems, “Grammatical Benjamin,” in its entirety:
I feel like I should be making more
telephone calls. That I could be better
at talking if I committed to a more rigid
practice schedule and insisted on using
the English to Feelings dictionary we
bought that night we couldn’t think of
the word that meant half-priced sushi.

When I put my hand in your hand, this
it tells us, is what we mean: Something
really necessary appears to be happening. (17)
The rest of the poems follow a likeminded trajectory: texts composed in a conversational idiom that, thematically, read as somewhat oblique love poems. To read more poems by B.J. Love (as well as work Aaron Belz, Matt Hart, and a terrific interview with Laura Solomon) order a copy of Cant.