amongst books

amongst books

Friday, February 21, 2020

a few notes on some recent chapbooks


Prathna Lor - 7, 2 (Knife Fork Books, What Queer Reading, 2019)

the sound and rhythm were what first captured my attention about this work but I was also captivated by the force and strength of the lines: “Words like good China/once wasted away turns something like ire/into something like sadness.” The work engages with race and queerness, the ache and burn of love. There’s humour too: “Had a tantrum/then a sandwich” This is a feral and tender work.

design-wise I loved the pink and white of the cover and the pink end papers, the fonts and the layout, the scent of incense that seems to always accompany a KFB chapbook, which is lovely. I loved the drawing of the author created by Lena Suksi. I didn’t love how tiny the font was, but that’s a minor complaint. I can’t wait to read more of Lor’s writing and I’m in love with the WQR imprint of KFB. I’ve enjoyed several chapbooks from the imprint so far, thanks to Kirby.

gustave morin - mice t.v. (unarmed, spring 2019)

I am a collector of sorts of morin’s work. these are stunning black and white visuals perfectly laid out on the page by editor of the press, michael mann. the illustrations remind me of chalk drawings on school blackboards. there are elephants balancing on balls, rabbit heads guarding boards of tiny coded language, tracks, spirals, patterns, ghosts, bats, things a mouse might see on t.v.

Marilyn Irwin – the day the moon went away (above/ground press, August, 2019)

I am a fan and a dear friend of Marilyn’s so it comes as no surprise that I enjoyed this chapbook, from the snail on the cover to its reappearance in a poem, to the poems on not having a baby. there’s a sweet sadness to the work, mixed with a practicality about life and a concern for the environment. there’s concern. I have several favourites in the collection, but I’m particularly fond of “hum,” which begins “the first definition/of suicide/begins/with monks/robes/indistinguishable/from/skin cinder”—an unusual and memorable image. I want a book by Marilyn soon please, publishers. and so should you.

Grimoire (Coven Editions, October 2019)

a beautifully designed collection of poems, spells, witchery, the oversize cover in black with a patterned gold title, “Grimoire” and each person’s contribution beginning with a bio and following with the poem, which is unusual, and I like it. I find having to flip to the back of a book for a bio to be a tad tiresome. I almost always read the biographies first. I see this as a philosophical principle too – to put the writers front and center.

I enjoyed the entire collection and while I am familiar and fond of the writing of several friends in the issue, I admit to being astonished by their work and others in the chapbook. Of particular note for me was Helen Robertson’s “Mallum Mallum” with its unusual vocabulary and fierceness. I want to see a chapbook from Helen soon, and a book. Their work is exceptional. Manahil Bandukwala’s vivid imagery in her poem “Dragon As A Purple Aether” was a joy to read, and the minimalism of the poem seemed to be a departure from her other poetry, for me at least. All of the work in the collection has a fire to it that I enjoyed. I hope there’s a Grimoire 2.

N.W. Lea - Five Mothers (above/ground press, October 2019)

I am a big fan of Lea’s writing. It’s contemplative, unusual and minimal. There is humour, playfulness, unique and powerful imagery and a consistency of tone throughout the chapbook.

Mary Kasimor - disrobing (above/ground press, November 2019)

I began reading these poems and then got so excited by the incantatory and exquisite imagery and sound play that I had to read them aloud. the poem “dropped stiches” stayed with me long after I read it the first time. This is a symphony of melancholy and grief, rebellion. I loved them.

psw, Brandings and Specials

this is a celebration of dry transfer letterings, which has been printed on a mimeograph machine. a memory of the sheets as they exist themselves, when you purchase them in art stores. I love the texture of the cover pages and the variety of the text provided. There are even strange little illustrations from fairy tales, and some of the letters have degraded, as happens with dry transfer, especially when the sheets have been stored and are older. this is part of the charm for those who work with them for visual poetry. I think putting these into a chapbook for a celebration of their variety was a wonderful idea.

Amanda Hurtado - S ACE P , First Chapter (Plaugolt SatzWechsler and Timglaset Editions, January 2020)

The first of the Typewritten artists’ books series imprint, a collaboration between the two publishers, which I look forward to seeing more of, this chapbook is handbound, and printed by psw on an old mimeograph Gestetner 360. In S ACE P, Amanda has retyped the first chapter of Clark Coolidge’s 1970 book SPACE by separating each word into its left or right placement on the typewriter. It’s a fascinating idea and I found myself trying to reassemble the text, which is fun!  The book is well conceived and well-made. it inspires me to think of other playful adventures with text and the typewriter.

Eric Baus – Euphorbia (above/ground press, January 2020)

i enjoyed these microscopic observations and musings of/on nature. These are powerful prose poems that delighted and fascinated me. The only thing I didn’t like was the font , which could have been Futura or Arial, I’m guessing but probably wrong, and what appears to be boldface for the entire collection. It is the opposite of the work for me. It is shouty and brash. That’s not what I’m reading. I’m reading softer, more subtle and delicate observations and musings.

Here are two of the poems that resonated greatly with me:

Pattern Anguish

Hawks glide above other hawks to kill escaping sky, a faraway star burning their faces.
Hum, Hurts

So the rosin, as the rain was, flowered its watts, precipitates a leaf, has been one, exhausts the teeth of animal speech, a siren under wool, hums, hurts.

Lessa Dean – the Desert of Itabira (above/ground press, January 2020)

This is an excerpt from a novella in verse entitled Manuelzimbo; a found poetry project based on the work of Elizabeth Bishop. I can’t wait to read the entire novella. The excerpt is mesmerizing. It evokes the desert paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe for me, extremely visual and startling: “We are taken to a red temple/a woman in a cloak of bones/greets us in a language/none of us know”.

I am in love with the dark imagery of this work: “The dynasty of violence threads our sleep/leaves bruises each night we shower ourselves/in superstitious rituals drink snake blood/   leave on the drowned green light”

This work also evokes the haunting imagery of the poetry of Sandra Ridley. I envisage a collaboration between Dean and Ridley. I think it would be wing-swept and haunting.