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This Visit by Susan Lewis reviewed in Poet's Quarterly


Review: The Visit by Susan Lewis

Mary Kasimor
This Visit
Susan Lewis
Paperback, 104 pages

In Susan Lewis’ latest collection of poetry, This Visit, she informs the reader of the paradox of being alive in the poem, “Severence:” “the world too beautiful/despite these flaked years.” She repeats this throughout the book, reiterating her passion for existence through metaphors and sleight-of-hand magical language. Lewis creates a landscape of language that shifts meaning and then doubles back to remind the reader of what her main intent is in this collection. I believe that a poet writes from a sense of urgency; that is, a poet looks for the source of life and the meaning of life by writing poetry, and Lewis is accomplishing that in this book. She writes these poems as means to explain and explore the complexities and the fragility of human existence. She explains the inevitable in the poem, “My Life in Microbes:”

But (you say)
      some of my best friends are—

to which I nod:

It is a simple response to read and enjoy This Visit as a book that is filled with word play, puns, and intellectual maneuvers. However, there is much more to this collection of poetry than one finds in the first reading. Lewis gives the reader a sense of urgency in her poems, even as they come across as being delightfully clever. There is a seriousness written between the lines of these poems, and Lewis is very serious in her intentions in This Visit.

Lewis’ title, This Visit, suggests that someone is going to or has gone “to see” another place on this earth or in someone’s psyche. It can be agreed that we are merely “visiting” the earth and that our visits are temporary and may be occasional. As humans, we try to hang onto life as we know it and as we see and experience it with as much surety as possible. But regardless of our urge and desire to stay, it is only temporary. We try to convince ourselves that we will continue to live forever, and we posture and present ourselves in that way. Lewis tells us this in the poem, “My Life in Sheets:” “strapped & / balanced/ in their come-hither / wrappers, misconstrued & /moribund, mould’ring in / chat chat chat…” As humans, we are firmly entrenched in the idea of always being here, on this earth, but as humans, we also have memory, and we realize that is not how existence continues. It discontinues and is tenuous and fleeting, and it is not at all secure and eternal.

Read the whole review here 

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Scorched Altar: Selected Poems & Stories 2007-2014 by Kristina Marie Darling Now Available!

It is in the very restlessness of her metaphors that Kristina Darling documents a tangible faith. Such restlessness is trustworthy and always, throughout Scorched Altar, both vital and in plain view. Here are truthful experiments. Here is a new tradition, alive in bright air.

—Donald Revell

Kristina Marie Darling's hypnotic poems and stories resurrect the often forgotten parts of books. Under her direction, footnotes, indexes, and glossaries become jewels, 'iridescent, when held to the light.' This is haunting and beautifully crafted work.

—Chloe Honum

Kristina Darling ransacks the apparatus of the Romantic imaginary and repurposes its vestigial and spectral forms. In these stories and poems, features from the textual margins—footnote, glossary, subplot, index—eclipse the center, signaling blindspots in accounts of possession and desire. Scorched Altar isolates and revolves the tropes of melancholic femininity—moon, bird, star, stillness—reconfiguring an interiority of semiotic swoon. The word “luminous” recurs, becoming an antique mirror too tarnished to reflect, a surface that reveals only enigma and miniature: “Thus his presentation of the earring, with its tiny pewter bird, reminded her of the ocean—its pristine shores and frigid tides, but also the potential for vertigo.” Darling’s procedures expose the gothic psyche still haunting the lyric mode, and the dissonance it bequeaths: "I had wanted to discover the cold metal gears winding beneath the firmament. Now the most fearful disruption of a delicate machine."

—B. K. Fischer

“I keep trying to warm the / endless rooms” Kristina Marie Darling writes in “YOUR ONLY WIFE,” and that’s a good place to from which to enter these poems and stories. In its precision of language and deeply human, personal engagement, Darling’s work reaches directly and profitably to the contextual questions of intention and meaning. Each prismatic moment is heightened by the new organization that Scorched Altar: Selected Poems & Stories 2007-2014 affords, revealing, in their juxtaposition, her development from book to book, obsessively devoted to the possibilities of language and tone. The clarity of what happened is what continues to happen in this necessary and wonderful overview of Darling’s career so far, the gift of which reminds us that we live in the uncanny valley, but, even newly arriving to where we’ve always been, there are many things still to discover.

—John Gallaher

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of seventeen books, which include VOW, PETRARCHAN, and a hybrid genre collection called FORTRESS.

Within the past few years, her writing has been honored with fellowships from Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Ragdale Foundation. Kristina is the recipient of international literary arts fellowships from the Hawthornden Castle Retreat for Writers (Scotland), the B.A.U. Institute (Italy), and Le Moulin à Nef (France), as well as artist grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She was recently selected as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome. Her work has also been recognized with the Dan Liberthson Prize from the Academy of American Poets and nominations for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award, the Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award, and the San Francisco State University Poetry Center Book Award.

Kristina is active as a literary critic, with reviews and essays appearing in such magazines as The Gettysburg Review, The Boston Review, The Colorado Review, Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing, and New Letters. Her critical projects have been supported by grants from the University of Missouri and the University at Buffalo, as well as a Riverrun Foundation Research Fellowship to complete archival work at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Kristina holds degrees in English Literature and American Culture Studies from Washington University, as well as an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri. She is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Poetics at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo, where she was awarded a Presidential Fellowship.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 178 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-192-4



Scorched Altar- Selected Poems & Stories 2007-2014 by Kristina Marie Darling Book Preview

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The Arctic Circle by Kristina Marie Darling Now Available!

Startling and luminous, the poems of The Arctic Circle comprise a kind of haunted allegory about marriage and disappearance. Crystalline vignettes accumulate like snow flakes; a white dress comes to feel like winter; language that’s precise and mysterious and spare becomes more and more spare, until language itself seems to disintegrate, leaving only fragments, and then only the silence of the blank page. But still there’s a ghost-shimmer, an after-chill; something strange and beautiful and terrifying has happened here.

—Cecilia Woloch

The Arctic Circle defines the latitude above which, for one day each year, the sun never rises (and on another day, never sets). But because of the changing tilt of the Earth's axis, its location is not fixed. Kristina Marie Darling's collection, The Arctic Circle, describes a world that is both utter in its dark outcome and variable in its bright details. Using a collage of perspectives, erasures, and illustrations, Darling explores the loss of identity through marriage. And when the ghost arrives--"She carried no purse, and no luggage, as though everything she needed was already here"--these poems begin to question the very accuracy and power of desire.

—Sandra Beasley

Two brides crystalize into one entity then split, climatic conditions echo and advance deeply lodged psycho-somatic realities—The Arctic Circle is a cautionary tale about flawed repetition and imprisoned categories of sex. Operating simultaneously as interior and exterior drama, these icy prose poems move as if from the caged, claustrophobic bedroom presented in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper to an outer ecology that moves from house (the body) to an exorbitant surrounding environment (the social). The symmetrical aspects of this narrative make for a pristine evocation of crisis and overcoming. Kristina Darling’s fable resists disintegration, challenging instead a forceful awareness. The dynamics here do not permit abjection to pulverize presence.

—Brenda Iijima

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of fifteen previous books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and a forthcoming hybrid genre collection called Fortress (Sundress Publications, 2014). Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Poetics at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 68 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-195-5



The ARCTIC CIRCLE by Kristina Marie Darling Book Preview

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Showgirls: The Movie in Sestinas by Jeffery Conway Now Available!

“How can we know the dancer from the dance?” W. B. Yeats famously asks in “Among School Children.” Jeffery Conway’s cornucopia of poetic DVD commentary encircles that unanswerable question. Calling to the stage the gold-glittered divas of Showgirls, Conway uses the sestina’s circular dance to celebrate each frame of cinema’s campiest of stripper films.

—Daniel Nester

It has been far too long since a collection of poems summoned us to a world of performers and voyeurs, catfights and choreography, lip gloss and lap dances. In fact, this has never been done before, and Jeffery Conway’s Showgirls: The Movie in Sestinas digs deeper than any collection in recent memory. Conway proves that the sestina form is more than a card trick, but rather a mechanism for uncovering hidden commentaries on the human condition, its soundtrack unfurling layers of film direction, cultural criticism, and pure emotion. Drop your inhibitions at the doorway of this book, and let it rock you.

—Mary Biddinger


Jeffery Conway’s books include The Album That Changed My Life (Cold Calm Press, 2006), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Poetry, and two collaborations with Lynn Crosbie and David Trinidad, Chain Chain Chain (Ignition Press, 2000) and Phoebe 2002: An Essay in Verse (Turtle Point Press, 2003). His work appears in a variety of magazines and journals, including The World, The Portable Lower East Side, B City, Brooklyn Review, McSweeney’s, and Court Green. His poems can also be found in many anthologies, such as The Incredible Sestina Anthology and Rabbit Ears: The First Anthology of Poetry About TV.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 74 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-168-9



Showgirls- The Movie in Sestinas by Jeffery Conway Book Preview

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Michael Ruby interviewed in The Conversant

 SEPTEMBER 12, 2014


Photo of Michael Ruby 3In American Songbook (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013), Michael Ruby’s fifth full-length collection, Ruby responds to recordings of 75 American vocalists, each an homage of sorts. Many musical traditions inform the poems, including blues, jazz, gospel, country, folk, bluegrass, electric blues, R&B, rock, disco and hip hop. This interview took place both in person and by email.

Marietta Brill: What inspired you to write American Songbook?

Michael Ruby: I’ve always been unhappy with the political direction of this country, ever since the assassinations and Vietnam War of my childhood.  Carter and the slide to Reagan were very hard to bear.  In the late ‘90s, I could feel it again, the slide to George W. Bush and everything that came with it. I felt so unhappy about America that it somehow triggered an opposite reaction in me, a desire to find something beautiful about America. What’s more beautiful about America than American singers and songs? Isn’t that our most influential art form worldwide?

While my initial gesture might have been celebratory, I don’t believe the poems themselves turned out that way. My unconscious, apparently, isn’t a patriot. My unconscious probably went too far in some poems. It blasphemed. It was perverse. It was criminal. Language contains infinite blasphemy, perversity, criminality, when words are truly free to combine with other words. Language might contain far more monsters than it contains real beings.

MB: The songs are solely 20th century—some are very obscure. How did you select them?

MR:  It certainly isn’t the greatest hits of the 20th century. I’m sure there’s some ideal view of American songs in the 20th century that would pick out a better selection, from a position of greater knowledge of all the genres, and more singers, and obscure American singers. But I’m just a person who listens to music, listens to the radio, hears a singer they like and listens to a bunch of their songs and wants to work with one or two songs poetically.

It was the transport of listening that led to the transport of engaging artistically.

There are many singers and songs I wish I had used, and I hope to work with them poetically someday. Oddly, I didn’t use many of my favorite songs, or my obsessive favorite songs—you know, songs you play five times in a row. It wasn’t really about my favorite songs. It was about the songs I wanted to work with artistically. But I do hope to work with more of my favorite songs, too, someday.

MB: Are there through lines that connect these poems, aside from their being from the 20th century?

MR: That’s an interesting question. I have a book built on “through lines,” or “through phrases,” called The Edge of the UnderworldAmerican Songbook doesn’t have through lines as such. With one exception: “In the Good Old Summertime.” That poem, one of the last written for the book, was constructed exclusively from what I call “compulsive words” in the older poems in the book. Those are words that are repeatedly displaced from my total vocabulary during composition.  I suppose compulsive words are, overall, “through words” in the book.

Read the whole interview here

Check out Michael Ruby's BlazeVOX Books here 

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