Poetry Books: September 2006

Here are some new poetry books I’ve been privileged to check out …

1. Lo Galluccio is a spoken-word poet with roots in New York City, Cambridge and Boston. Her Hot Rain presents intense images with a gothic moodiness:

We wander Cafe Sha Sha
past condoms
hanging mint-flavored
like slugs after a storm
Obregon was a revolutionary, a balloon
that deflated like these devices.
Somewhere he sags
ready for another cause
to inflate his desire.
Then he’ll float festive with a pink string attached.


men finger their saxophones
in water-swept phrases
umbrellas crumple in homage.

Galluccio’s chapbook is published by Singing Bone Press, an imprint of Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Massachusetts. I have a feeling these poems would come most alive on a stage, but they stand up well on the page as well.

2. My Journey as an Unharmonious Being is an emotional and expressionistic collection by Jessica Harman of Montreal and Brookline, Massachusetts. Her lines are powerful and physical, as in “Urban Elegy for My Crazy Co-Worker”:

Then, the umber city did not crumple under hard steel rain
Then, I hate the hope in the sky
Then your name was an absence — but still a place — on earth.
The earth and my heart were the same thing.
Then all the streets of the city were washed
by such absences and the concrete
continued forever, as far as I could see
But along the way to Park Extension,
the vermilion
Dairy Queen sign hung,
a bright mute neon tear above the avenue.

Harman is good with titles. One entry in this chapbook is called “Edwin! I Reach Out for You in this Shopping Mall Called Life, then Wait, Dejected, for the Train to Take Me Away”, and another is “The Place Where You Could Never Sink and Disappear Totally”. The attractively illustrated chapbook is produced by Flarestack, which also publishes an appealing group quarterly called Obsessed With Pipework.

3. The mysterious Hugh Knox is the kind of writer who makes this job interesting. Out of nowhere he sent me three large books including a very, very thick self-published volume called The Paving Stones of Xanadu marked with a handwritten inscription: “I am still looking for answers to the same questions I had when I was six years old: What am I? Where am I? What the fuck is going on here?” Well, join the club, Hugh, because I don’t know the answers either. This leviathan of a book is packed with rolling texts but offers no clear entry point. I can see brilliant ideas sprouting in various sections, but I have no idea how to approach this book or the other two volumes Knox sent. One is a thinner paperback called Master Dark, also published via BookSurge, and the last is a beautiful and antique-looking hardcover published by the University of Nebraska in 1978, The Queen of Snakes, packed with verses like this:

Fever queen, your green eyes
are black evenings where I sink,
dark mine shafts of sleep
descending. At bottom, let me
be torn on glowing gems.
The flashing yellow nerve-end snakes of delirium
roll me in the whirling hoops of their whims.

This is crafty stuff, and if I follow the references between the three distinct books I am convinced that Hugh Knox is on to something with this publishing regimen. If I had years of free time, maybe I could invest enough of it to figure out what exactly this something is.

4. I’m familiar with the work of Noah Cicero, author of The Human War. Noah used to run one of my favorite literary blogs, titled “Get Published or Die Tryin'”. He didn’t die trying, but he did take down his blog, so I’m glad to see him reappear with a new book of poetry.

This is a good book. I’ve said before that Cicero reminds me, at his best, of Bukowski. The Human War, published by the fine Fugue State Press of New York City, is plain speaking poetry.

The Christian way.
The Taoist way.
The Buddhist way.
I don’t believe in ways.
Humans are apes.
And apes can’t follow ways.

The book consists of the stubby, single-sentence thoughts of an Ohio slacker contemplating the world. The war in Iraq is a major theme, but most of the verses present the poet simply staring in amazement at the people around him.

I no longer want to be human.
I walk amongst them like they’re animals.
Because they are.
Complete and total mongrels.
All of them.
I will wage a personal war against all of them.
And they’ll love it.
Humans love humans who hate other humans.
Like Kurt Cobain.
He made a living off of hating people.

5. This one is a slam dunk: Thunder’s Mouth Press has re-issued the Eric Drooker/Allen Ginsberg collabo Illuminated Poems. This collection was originally published by Four Walls Eight Windows during the last years of Allen Ginsberg’s life, and the concept was to contrast the classic poems of the aged skeleton-balladeer with the youthful style of an underground comix artist. Quirky cuts like “Birdbrain” and Allen’s interpolation of “Amazing Grace” add some depth to the selection, though it’s “Howl” that brings out Drooker’s artistic best.

4 Responses

  1. poetryLevi, I don’t go out of

    Levi, I don’t go out of my way to read poetry, preferring either fiction or non-fiction prose. But I always like the poems you review and present on LitKicks. This can only mean one thing: You need to compile another anthology.

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