amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Natalie Zina Walschots: Doom, Love Songs for Supervillains

Gosh, I love feisty poetry, don’t you? I’m not a particular aficionado of supervillains in popular culture but that didn’t stop me from enjoying "Doom, Love Songs for Supervillains"(Insomniac Press, 2012). But if you do love DC & Marvel Comics, you'll probably go ape-shit over this book.

First of all, I enjoyed the honed down poppety pop sound play. You can read these babies aloud to your pals & they will laugh. I have to admit that it’s refreshing to read poems that aren’t autobiographical. it’s not that I’m against autobiography. I write a fair number of them myself, but sometimes you just want well-written poems that have fun & icksnay on the woe is me-isms, if you get my drift. I’m writing like this under the influence of NZW’s poetry.

These poems are smart too: they use some highfallutin’ scientific lingo.  

I read a heck of a lot of unrequited love poems & hear the same at open mics. They all have the same references to the moon, the wistful tone…Doom, Love Songs for Supervillains is parody of such without being cruel. It has off-the-wall similes & metaphors: "envious as a viaduct" (Dr. Octopus), "voicebox a soup can" (Joker); the opposite of praise: "face only a geneticist could love" (Doombot)...

How many of you have read “Thumbscrews,” (Snare Books, 2007) NZW’s first book, winner of the 2007 Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry? It explores the concept of constraint in terms of poetic form and BDSM. It’s a helluva kinky little read. This follow-up collection has its share of kink too; nothing like a little degradation & humiliation & brattiness to spice up a read:

General Zod

kneel before
                obeisance buys lives
                so I knowtow
                press my forehead to your boot tip
                slobber and grovel –

or do you prefer me unbroken?
                I’ll grudgingly genuflect
                sweetly sneer
                as you wrench back my hair
                twist me to bruised knees


The whole idea of constraint from the last book is applicable here too, in my opinion. There’s a discipline to these poems in their minimalism, choice of diction & form. These poems do not wander; they get straight to the point.

They are smart too. Take a look at this one from the first section “Rogues Gallery: Domination”:

Jekyll and Hyde

you speak in third person
and enraptured by your dichotomy
I crave triad

all grey area
the swooping arch
of the coin caught

the in-betweenity
before chance

I long to be
your indeterminate

let me be the pause

the second part of this collection, "Strong Hold," which describes various fictional settings from the Marvel/DC Comics universe, seems to pour on the Gothic: hell never lets in a draft/never lets a hearth grow cold/never quails before collapsing towers” (Latveria).

I haven’t read a lot of comic books, but I’ve seen a few of the Marvel Comics films. One of the things that I noticed about these poems is that they seem to be an alternative rendering or viewpoint of what happens to the female characters, such as

Danger Room

and it is because she
her body an abattoir
smeared with rank slaughter

and data became senses
as flamethrowers shrieked
and radiation splattered

and her spine was destruction
each rib a welded hell
heartbeat a hologram

and with each invasion and tamper
each rape of her circuits
the heroes befouled her

and their filth swelled into form
the shape of metallic consciousness
her processor’s core gone synaptic and cold

a bullwhip breaking the sound barrier
a live wire touching your tongue
and she said: “Shall we begin?”

“Rogues Gallery: Girl Fight” features supervillainesses, such as Catwoman, Poison Ivy & Lady Deathstrike. I have to say that these poems are poems I wish I’d written. I wish I could write like this: powerful, brooking no argument, insightful, playful, argumentative with the status quo.

The next section, "Bondage," is about the prisons where these villains are housed. There’s a short section of two poems called “Bang” and a final section, “Rogues Gallery 3-Destruction.”

I’m impressed with the power of these poems & the creativity, playfulness & intelligence that went into them. I should also mention the superb illustrations by the very talented Evan Munday.

On a personal note, I remember when Natalie came to town to read, along with Ryan Fitzpatrick & William Neil Scott at the A B Series on November 1, 2007. It was the inaugural event of the darling A B Series. I wrote about it here.  afterward we chatted & drank at that back of the Mayflower pub that no longer exists. Dear friend Warren Dean Fulton was there too. It was a heck of a good time. I dearly wish Natalie, Neil & Ryan would return. We'll have to find a new pub though. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

hunting for the dark: above/ground press...2014 so far...

on an unseasonably rainy & cold night in mid-August I had an appetite for the above. I wanted to look in less obvious places. I have a stack of above/ground press chapbooks published in 2014, since i am a subscriber…i was curious to see if any of the authors had a penchant for the Gothic, etc. what i found primarily was an overriding tone of anxiety concerning the monotony of 21st century existence. seems scary enough to me...

Sarah Rosenthal’s "Estelle Meaning Star" fits the bill nicely with descriptions of women carrying “dying dead things” “emaciated/mangled/animals” I love her turns of phrase & odd juxtapositions, a sense of the macabre amongst business like celebration: “hard core birds in the / ballroom throw themselves/at convention windows/clatter to the table      their/colours running out.” she paints a vivid picture. Estelle wears mary janes.

Hugh Thomas gives us absurd portraits of anxious composers pursued by fierce demons in "Albanian Suite."“When I was with you, the ravens/and milktrucks made such music.” a fun use of black & white. in “Epithalamion” there are bite-marked necks, the monotony of waiting. “It misunderstands today’s poetry/overgrown with wildflowers to forget these sojourners.”  “Poetry is a pagoda, built of friendly embracings, like a square dance complicating society” … a ticket to days of radishes/and saliva” not to discount the beauty in these poems. it’s there between ice-cold moments: “Time, you murderous sun fills my lungs with honey,” there’s something sweetly chilling about that image. & another from “Selfportrait Unwilling to Sit”: “a tramcar apocalypse/on the move/dragging behind dissonance, divine regret.” there’s something Gothic about that image. & in “Metropolitan”: “The two sicknesses frequent in this epoch are heat and isolation.” Thomas’ poems alternate between the tiniest, spot on observations to elaborate, absurd images. I have to say, this is one of my favourite chapbooks this year so far. some of the poems are translations.

In "Present!" N.W. Lea opens with a gangster with rubber extendable arms holding someone up like a baby. an absurd image & not without its horrifying effect…followed later in the next poem in the sequence by “the swans of hurt/burn circles in the snow” there’s lots here about the terror of mundanity, of the burbs…even a littered cough candy is menacing: “a pale pink/half-sucked lozenge/on the pavement/glinting//plus us//have to contend with the teeth of the neighbourhood” you are “snug in your death-sweater.” there are “great swarms/of dusk-bats” "Present!" is a sequence of estrangement.

there are some menacing animals & a kind of helplessness, a monotony in Camille Martin’s "Sugar Beach:" “A leap of leopards under a crescent moon/happens without us, but we’re there/just the same.” “Newfangleness” Sharpshooters are juxtaposed with picnics in “Blind Engine.” In “No Such Identical Horses,” Martin writes, “I was counting on my favourite superstition/to endow the mirage with authority.” There are rotted leaves, wormy fruit, a beast stampeding down a trail, “the chitinous exoskeleton of a locust” & in the title poem a feeling of wasted extravagance in an image of a rusty tanker scooping “mounds of raw sugar.”  “Machine in the Ghost” evokes a cemetery scene. The poems in this chapbook are sound & image collages.

Eric Baus gives us fanciful nightmares of octopi with burned tentacles, ghosts, insects in “The Rain of Ice.” I loved how imaginative & unusual these prose poems were.

In “Many forms in water,” Rachel Moritz gives us white coffins, bitter flowers, gathering storms, “the ribbon of heat rising past digits black in air.” In “The finished forms in the sand record movement that has ceased,” this is a particularly grotesque image: “I carried her through the woods, slept in waterlogged leaves with her body on my chest.” This poem & the others manage to create a tone of melancholy, grief, poignant emotions. I’m quite enamoured of these poems, especially imagery like “How we carried the bell down irrevocable stairs, passed our sentence of doubt and kept moving.” in “Flowing water encounters a widely submerged outside.”