Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Elliptical Poetry Part 2

41 minutes on the elliptical machine last night and two chapbooks. This time we had more of a gender balance; Kevin Finn's Exit Wounds, and Susan Slaviero's Introduction to the Archetypes.

1. Exit Wounds by Kevin Finn (Amsterdam Press, 2009) I wrote poetry on bar napkins with Kevin Finn at Gooski's in Polish Hill back in the day (5 years ago). We had great fun, and I have any number of hilarious Kevin Finn stories that have followed. He's a weird guy, and, as it turns out, is a pretty darned good poet with or without dive bar napkins involved. The poems in Exit Wounds almost universally dealt with themes of decay of one kind or another - urban decay, decay of the mind, decay of nature, and so on. There's also a certain mournfulness in the voice of these poems - a sense that he's not sure that what he is telling you is the truth, but it certainly is his truth. If you are in the Pittsburgh area and get the chance, I highly recommend seeing Kevin read - I promise he'll tell at least one story that you will be telling your friends for years to come. I can vouch for this. As can my friends.

2. An Introduction to the Archetypes by Susan Slaviero (Shadowbox Press, 2008) Another beautiful chapbook that has sold out since I purchased it (bwahahaha!), but that I, shamefully, had not read in its entirety yet. I have always loved how Susan takes archetypal/mythological/fantastical women and shows us another side to them - not one that is a stranger to or devoid of the magic we imagine that they possess, but rather one that gives them the face that we know each person in this world has - one with small things in their lives and thoughts of that which is other than what they symbolize. I loved reading each of these poems aloud (even if there was a collating error toward the middle of the book and I got a bit confused for a moment), and really wish that Chicago and Pittsburgh could migrate closer to one another for a little while so I could go see Susan read. One of the poems in this collection had been published in Weave's first issue, and it made me extra-happy to get to that poem. Next up - Susan's full-length collection which currently resides in my purse/2009 AWP bag! An Introduction to the Archetypes is another chapbook to beg from a friend, if you have giving friends who are Susan Slaviero fans. And you really should.

A few quick notes concerning elliptical poetry: 1. Elliptical poetry is not a super-close reading of any of the work in these chapbooks - it's an attempt to see what I get out of these books in an out-loud read through while exercising on my elliptical machine. Poems rarely get more than one read, and with only a one-time out-loud read through, I'm sure I'm missing a lot. Don't take any of my rambling as super-serious critique. Read the books.

2. Elliptical poetry has already hit a major snag! The elliptical machine is malfunctioning - one of the pieces falls off if I hold onto the right-hand bar (I've been "fixing" this by holding on only with my left hand and holding poetry in the right. Shhhhhh!) and as my elliptical machine, per google, stopped being manufactured in 1998, a spare part is probably not forthcoming. The husband and I are already scouring craigslist for another <$100 machine.

3. This "project" (presuming something I've done 3 times may be termed that) has already begun to have one of the desired effects! I hadn't written anything in quite some time, and had hoped that reading poetry would help. In the past 6 days I've done 5 pages of freewriting on my new typewriter, Judith. Success? Time will tell.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Elliptical Poetry

So, after months of complaining that, as an editor, I don't get to read a nearly high enough ratio of good poetry, and after months of complaining that my ass is expanding by the week, I've decided to kill two proverbial birds with one stone: I'm going to use my elliptical machine at least twice a week, and read poetry that I've been meaning to read forever while on the elliptical machine. I'll post what I've read here (hopefully), and maybe say a little bit about each book/chapbook/fistful of papers that I read.

Sunday's elliptical poetry consisted of three chapbooks. I was on the elliptical machine for about 45 minutes, and read each of the chapbooks aloud in the following order:

1. Pink Leotard & Shock Collar by Juliet Cook (Spooky Girlfriend Press, 2009 - $3) While it's awesome that this chapbook is sold out (only 25 copies were made, and I'm pretty sure that those of us who are familiar with Juliet's poetry snatched them up pretty quickly back in July), it's also sad, because this short chap (10 poems altogether) was by far my favorite of the three to read aloud. Juliet has a great ear for sound and that really comes through in the poems in this collection - "Purple Speculum" in particular was fun read-out-loud poem. She unsettled me more than a few times, and often those were the same times I found myself nodding in agreement and understanding as I read. I can't wait to meet her and to hear her read next month when she comes into Pittsburgh for TypewriterGirls Gone Furry. I would highly recommend picking this up, but as it is no longer available, I suggest borrowing it from a friend who was lucky enough to snag a copy.

2. All the Little Red Girls by Angela Veronica Wong (Flying Guillotine Press, 2009 - $8.50) This gorgeously designed chapbook was probably the most thematically strong of the three. Wong brings together, in a beautiful/disturbing/oddly loving way the themes of pregnancy/childbirth and Red Riding Hood being devoured by and then freed from the wolf. I loved, loved, loved "The Aftermath", which closes out the chapbook. Some of the poems were a little too short for my tastes - or rather, there were too many very very short poems all in a row at certain points, and this was possibly accentuated by my attempts to read the chapbook aloud, straight through. Like Cook, Wong has a wonderful grasp on sound in her poetry and I will most definitely be seeking out more of her work.

3. Fabulous Essential by Niina Pollari (Birds of Lace, 2010 - $5.00) I've been following Niina's blog and her poetry for the past two years or so, and, as I expected I would, greatly enjoyed Fabulous Essential. One thing I really appreciated about this collection was how Pollari seemingly effortlessly included within her poetry bits of modern technology/social media in such a way that was non-intrusive and that would certainly not lead me to say that she was attempting to write a pop culture poem or a poem about technology and modernity. I think sometimes poets have difficulty with things like that; mentioning the television and email without the poem becoming about those things. A fine read to finish out my elliptical time with.

On Thursday I read aloud The Mushroom Valeda and about half of The Folkways Chant from Maria Sabina: Selections (University of California Press, 2003) by Maria Sabina, which actually took longer than reading all three of the above chapbooks combined. My husband and I have a Maria Sabina project in the works and I will write more on her later.