Zoom Blog


Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed at Lithub


Failure Lyric

What Certainty In Reaping


In the throes of my divorce a couple years ago, I heard Elizabeth Bishop in an old radio interview pointing out that we humans get divorced all the time. She was answering a question about the damage divorce might inflict on children. My son was 5 at the time and I pulled my car over, trembling, to more safely hear Bishop forecast his fate from her grave. She went on to explain that we are divorced from things constantly—we are divorced from loved ones who die, we are divorced from places we lived, we are divorced from stuffed animals. I thought of the time my son lost his favorite blankey by the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Bishop was saying we are fooling ourselves if we think the dynamics of divorce are somehow discreet from so many other aspects of life that children and the rest of us all have to get used to. Loss is a constant. I extrapolated: what distinguishes divorce may well be all the good that came before it, and the sheer possibility that goodness could go on forever. As opposed to the life cycle that will inevitably cease, love—placed under glass by the act of marriage—might just never end.

Until it does.

Kristina Marie Darling’s Failure Lyric is a certain post-mortem in that regard. A stirring meditation on her own divorce, Darling’s work turns a wintered eye to that dimension of the good that came before. If it’s possible for poetics to be clinical, Darling has done it. And that’s only part of what makes this work remarkable. Far from sentimental, Failure Lyric is artful in its meticulously limited scope. This work does not chart a rise and fall; it doesn’t depict the good times. It does not rage or blame. The only nod to “the way we were” centralizes around conspicuous disaccumulations (remembered references to “his last wife,” her ex’s inattention at ripe moments).

Instead, Darling populates a menagerie of haunting creatures and notions around her varied tracings of the past. A common theme is loss of voice, stopped-up throats. Both bride and groom stutter, cough, clear their throats; “when I saw you again, the trees swallowed their tongues,” “I tried to eat but the (wedding) cake lodged in the hollow space of my throat,” “I tried to kiss you but my mouth was frozen shut.”

Through this image-rich, serial misrecollection, Darling’s work affixes a death mask onto her marriage. Her text offers over and over—with more fervor as we approach the conclusion—“let me tell you a story about marriage.” And indeed she does. By remembering and re-remembering her dress, the cake, waiting at the altar—as a macabre parade towards disaster—these items (broken glass, fire and ice, dead birds that “said nothing“) come together to retrospectively call for the union’s severance, precisely at the site of its high ritual.


Read more »

Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani Reviewed in Entropy!


Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani


Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani
BlazeVOX, 2015
126 pages – BlazeVOX / Amazon


The challenge in writing about Anis Shivani’s work is that there is so much one could write about and there are so many portals through which one can enter and access Shivani’s labyrinthian intellectual and emotional corridors.  If you are a vocal passenger traveling through Shivani’s tightly knitted, poetic, and semiotic avalanche of quirky images, what is Shivani asking you to say, to speak? Will Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish speak back to us, as if to engage in a one-sided conversation with us? Or will the speaker resort to silence, which is the mother of the Hashish experience, which is the text Shivani has birthed for us? Not from the mouth of nihilism, or Nietzsche, or the Enlightenment. Will you resort to “germinal silence”?  Is this prolific critic, poet, and novelist asking us to be “brave assassins stabbing in the dark,” or is he asking us to be a noun, a psychoactive resin? The hashish of the hashish. Is the assassin the narcotic or is it us, the readers, wanting the second person singular “you” to bend backward into time where we can stuff the stuffs of good and evil together in the sack of words which comprise this collection?

From then on, whatever pulls itself out of the linguistic sack of good and evil becomes Shivani’s poems. Or does he wish us to immorally vacillate and lubricate between sex and intellect as seen in his poem with the heavily alliterated “W” title, “Without Which He Would Not Have Written His Greatest Poems.” Which part of our intellectual and emotional or psychedelic impulses does he wish to engage? Or not at all – since Originality is dead or potentially dead. When creativity is dead, let nothing produce more of nothing. Or, in reading Shivani’s hashishlike language, am I  “the glamorous wom[a]n of Alexandria” who has founded “the best reference library” in Shivani’s second collection of conversationally enhanced poems. So when we read Shivani’s poems, we are asking ourselves if we are capable of being the Library of Congress. We face an enormous task. We can’t bundle Shivani’s words together like sticks and branches. There are over 100 pages of these steam engines of words. We can’t begin to pin down his sonnets. Perhaps, according to Shivani, the best poet removes himself entirely from the page and allows Hashish and the reader to coexist, to co-mingle, to get high on a voice together.

My mother said that if you get someone drunk, you can pull the truth out of them. Has Shivani, in writing this collection, pulled the truth from the mouth of the cosmos? Or the silence between two juxtaposed words? In Shivani’s poetic world, a world antipode to his decade-in-the making My Tranquil War, he is asking us to put down this war and to embrace another. The logic of not thinking. To embrace the emotional and intellectual content of our existence and to let the content of civilization and historic time, philosophical time, linguistic time, and manic time wash through us. Shivani has also invented an entire literary civilization using the imaginary autobiographical portraits of luminary figures, some dead and some alive. When Shivani writes this collection, he is adding another layer, a thick layer, of the collective consciousness on our already overabundant collective consciousness, monitored by Apple and Google and Pharmacology, as if the brain of existence needs to wear a Shivani-woven hat on its head – because the Winter of this lonely world is cold, so cold; a Shivani’s hat, a collective consciousness will keep us warm, not only in the Spring, but in the Summer too where the breeze can be a small knife that pierces the soft flesh of our gullet and cut the wind out of us and abandon us to the willow trees where we won’t be able to worship found poetry or loneliness. Here, google sculpted, Shivani writes, “Only boxers understand the loneliness/ of tennis players, maybe we were meant to be/ lonely, maybe we were meant to be on our own.”


Read more »

Tim J. Myers talks with Rachelle Escamilla on SoundCloud

Listen to TIm's talk with Rachelle Escamilla on Sound Cloud here: 


Tim J. Myers is a writer, songwriter, storyteller, and senior lecturer at Santa Clara University. His children’s books have won recognition from the New York Times, NPR, and the Smithsonian. He’s published over 130 poems, won a first prize in a poetry contest judged by John Updike, has three books of adult poetry out and a nonfiction book on fatherhood, and won a major prize in science fiction. He won the West Coast Songwriters Saratoga Chapter Song of the Year and the 2012 SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for Fiction. Find him at www.TimMyersStorySong.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TimJMyers1.

Read more »

All Beautiful And Useless by C. Kubasta Reviewed at Pith


A review of All Beautiful & Useless by C. Kubasta
by Stacy Cartledge













C. Kubasta, All Beautiful & Useless. New York: BlazeVox, 2015. 104 pp.


It’s not until the penultimate poem of C. Kubasta’s first full-length collection that we
learn the book’s title, All Beautiful & Useless, comes from a description of “a roadkill
doe” and her “twin fawns.” While the image may echo Stafford’s “Traveling through
the Dark,” Kubasta engages in a different comparison—but more on that later.
Kubasta’s nascent deer wind up bottled in formaldehyde for high school science
students to study. In taking this particular description for the collection’s title, she
indicates that her poems are like these fawns: beautiful & horrifying, fascinating &
fragmented, compelling yet malleable objects d’étude.

She’s not wrong.

Take, for example, Kubasta’s continuing gestures towards the epic. The book is divided
into three sections, each with its own set of poems, yet these poems collude with one
another, picking up previous motifs at unexpected moments and connecting
conversations that the reader realizes only in retrospect are still continuing. Because
she wants these poems to accomplish so much, there are some occasional slides into
indulgence, but one must admire Kubasta’s brazenness, which stops short of hubris yet
allows her to appropriate at will, to use any genre, voice, or technique towards her
purpose. I’m thinking here especially of some noteworthy structural choices made in
the last three poems of the book’s first section: a modified sonnet set (“A Consideration
of Whether Time is Tensed or Tense-less” & “To What Degree Past, Present and
Future is Equally Real”) and a genre-bending piece, “Sweetbitter,” a poem in
screenplay format in which the poem being in screenplay format is one of its topics.
This piece in particular articulates a central tension in Kubatsa’s work:

The problem is the poet is always
the subject of the poem. Always,
even when (especially then)
purportedly not.


The dilemma is a real one, and there is no doubt in the verdict Kubasta renders here. I
can’t disagree, either (though I don’t necessarily concur that the verdict should be
quite so liberating). Turning back to the rest of part one with this artistic principle in
mind, we see just how Kubasta’s voice interweaves—sometimes echoing, sometimes
juxtaposing, sometimes paralleling—that of nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris, accuser of
witches in Salem and daughter of that town’s Reverend. Kubasta also speaks to and of
her own father in this multipart poem, which considers itself an act that invites a
declaration of war (“Casus Belli”). It may seem fitting, then, that there are military-style
redactions in the section dealing with the father. One could be forgiven for assuming
them to be simple artifice, the thick black line a gimmick rather than a true redaction.
However, it should be known that this is not the case. As I am reviewing the
manuscript in its galley proof (the book was published the first week of September
2015, after I accepted the assignment), I received the manuscript in electronic form—
twice, in fact, and I think erroneously. In one draft, the redacted passages are not
blacked out. I won’t violate the poet’s wishes, but I will say I disagree with the decision
to eliminate so much material. The speaker’s assertion that there are stories that could
be told does not approach the power of the stories themselves in developing the
father’s character and the daughter’s relationship to him. When she says, “I’m afraid
he will ask me questions and I will tell the truth,” the redactions inform the reader that
it won’t be the whole truth.

This speaker who holds back is hard to reconcile with the one from the book’s second
and third sections, who unflinchingly examines the monstrosity of childhood sexual
abuse and the horrors of serial killer Ed Gein (the true-life template for Hitchcock’s
Norman Bates) with such nuance and honesty that it becomes a kind of compassion. In
allowing compelling beauty to be ascertained from horrendous acts, she elicits from
the reader time and again a response as profound and powerful as any I have ever felt
from a reading experience.

Read the whole review here

Read more »

Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed at Tweetspeak

In Failure Lyric, Kristina Marie Darling uses the prose poem form to address grief in relatively short selections. Her use of imagery is strong—how she describes various cities, sad movies as metaphors, and remembering places of meetings highlighting the relationships’ decline and end.

Here, in “Saint Wife,” she describes the moment when the second partner recognizes that the relationship is over.

Saint Wife

At first, you didn’t quite understand. How I carried all that grief from city to city, until it turned into an enormous white halo around my head.

And the stars. The way they followed my sadness, rising and falling like an ocean. Before long, even the cities where we lived began to circle around my melancholy, each one a thread spinning through the eye of a needle.

One morning, you woke and noticed that the world around you moved differently. The freeway no longer led to the subway station. And the flower stand wasn’t where you remembered it.

You cried, but neither one of us could change it back.

Failure LyricDarling has published more than 20 collections of poetry and hybrid prose, including The Sun & The Moon and The Arctic Circle. She’s been recognized with a Yaddo residency, a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, and a Visiting Artist Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, and received numerous artist-in-residence fellowships from numerous institutions. Honors include the Dan Liberthson Prize from the Academy of American Poets and nominations for several other awards. She received degrees in English Literature and American Culture Studies from Washington University, and an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri. She’s is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Poetics at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo.

One doesn’t necessarily expect the prose poem form to add beauty to the subject of grief, but that’s what Failure Lyric accomplishes.

Read the whole review here

Read more »
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... »

Extra Pages

Photos on flickr