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Review of Eileen R. Tabios’ Footnotes to Algebra: Uncollected Poems 1995-2009 By Thomas Fink

Review of Eileen R. Tabios’ Footnotes to Algebra: Uncollected Poems 1995-2009

By Thomas Fink

Footnotes to Algebra by Eileen R. Tabios
Every poem and every collection of an author can be seen as a Footnote to Algebra, gesturing toward the elusive algebraic equation that could somehow represent the totality of a poet’s oeuvre. However, Eileen R. Tabios has a more intricate explanation in her blog, The Blind Chatelaine’s Keys, on Aug. 14, 2009 as she discusses Footnotes to Algebra: Uncollected Poems 1995-2009 (Kenmore, NY: BlazeVOX Books, 2009):

To collect a bunch of uncollected poems is, in a manner of speaking, another test of whether a poet has, as a saying might say, done it right. Does a collection hold together under the random manner in which it was formed? I always suspected that if Poetry is inherently a matter of interconnections (what we Pinoys also call pakikiramdam and what I lately have been calling algebraic as a result of three months of tutoring a 13-year-old boy in four years worth of math), such a book can hold together—also recall Gertrude Stein’s observation (I paraphrase) about how a word arbitrarily placed next to another word will rub together for some unexpected frisson if not generate some meaning. Many poets have written under such an inspiration—it’s not that ambitious, I thought, to create a book on that basis, too.

What the poet does not tell us is that there are section-headings, and these signposts not only echo concerns in Tabios’ earlier work but create—as Charles Bernstein characterized his 2001 book, With Strings—a “modular structure,” in which “a string of interchanging parts” inform “the book as a whole”: “Political, social, ethical, and textual investigations intermingle, presenting a linguistic echo chamber in which themes, moods, and perceptions are permuted, modulated, reverberated, and further extended” (131). While the first section, “New Poems,” which I take to mean poems that have not appeared in magazines, is an arbitrary ordering device, the next two sections, “Triptych for Philip” [Lamantia] and “Chant for Kari” [Edwards], are elegies for poet-friends, and other parts involve postcolonial (or in Tabios’ formulation, transcolonial) thinking (“A Filipino Accent”), poetry involving wine (“Wine Country Honeymoon”), poetry taking its beginning intention from visual art (“Ekphrasis”), and a lyrical series inspired by the work of Jose Garcia Villa (“Girl, Singing”). Yes, “poetry” may be “inherently a matter of interconnections,” but the principle of “a word arbitrarily place next to another” is not going to guarantee the collection of generative interconnections; the poet needs to have written the poems carefully and then to have thought vigorously enough to establish effective groupings. And she did.

Read the whole review here 

Check out Footnotes to Algebra Here 

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Evening Train by Tom Clark Reviewed in Elliptical Movements by Billy Mills


Evening Train by Tom Clark: A Review

Evening Train, by Tom Clark, BlazeVOX Books, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-60964-187-0, $16.00

The first thing to say about Tom Clark is that he is an American poet; this may seem too obvious to need stating, but it is fundamental to his art. The language, social norms and history of the United States are woven into the very fabric of his verse. This is made explicit in the first poem in Evening Train, ‘Moving House’, where the process of house removal is folded into the myth of Manifest Destiny, a people

…always moving out

ahead of the next wave yet not

riding the last wave to the crest

Clark writes poems that encompass memory (a central preoccupation), the natural world and our role in it, ageing and death, the interface between technology and social control: but all these matters are examined in a landscape that is specifically American and generally urban. Many of the poems set in the now reflect the geography of the city of Berkeley, where Clark has lived for many years. For instance, the almost surreal, apocalyptic poem ‘skyfalling’ is firmly anchored to a specific street junction in a precise social milieu:

Ninth and Bancroft, West Berkeley

insecure householder half dressed

emerges from behind barred gate

looks up into dark sky

one arm bent overhead as if to shield, crouching –

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Here is a poem By Emily Anderson in Harpers!



READINGS — From the January 2015 issue

How I Ate My Mother

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By Emily Anderson, from “Three Little Novels,” published in Conjunctions: 63. Anderson erased portions of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books to “create an alternative series.” Anderson’s first book, Little: Novels, is forthcoming from BlazeVOX

Check out the full poem here:

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Kristina Marie Darling interviewed at Heavy Feather Review


The Tension between Order and Chaos: An Interview with Kristina Marie Darling


Kristina Marie Darling is the author of twenty books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and Scorched Altar: Selected Poems and Stories 2007-2014 (BlazeVOX Books, 2014). Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, 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 was recently selected as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome. Her most recent book, The Sun & the Moon, was just released by BlazeVOX Books.

I’m curious about the formal constraints that organize this book. Reading the linked prose poetry sections which are filled with recurring imagery and language, I was reminded of the musicality and looping patterns of sestinas. Can you please talk about your use of form in this book?

That’s a great question, and I love the comparison you draw between the prose poems and sestinas. I value the sense of unity that these inherited forms provide, especially within a book-length manuscript. Within my own practice, though, I often have a difficult time rendering my ideas, imagery, and language compatible with forms like the sonnet, the villanelle, and the sestina. I enjoy inventing my own formal constraints, since this seems to give me the best of both worlds: the unity and sense of order associated with writing in form, and the freedom to discover the poem or sequence as I write it. To make impulsive and intuitive choices, rather than striving for loyalty to the formal constraint.

When writing The Sun & the Moon, I was unsure at first what form the book would take, since the sequence began in fragments. I was drawn to the little prose boxes you see in the book because they worked in tension with the chaos and violence in the content of the manuscript. As I drafted the book, I wanted to see how long I could sustain the tension between order and chaos, between the uniform appearance of the poems and the way that the images and motifs slowly changed shape. I hope that the relationship between form and content will spark the reader’s curiosity, and add to the possibilities for interpretation.

The sections that I felt most drawn to were Appendix B and C—though they were made more meaningful by the first section. Appendix B seemed to act as a kind of document, as if a diary destroyed in a fire by soot, water damage, erasures. Appendix C functioned for me as if some kind of relationship field notes—can you again, please speak of how these structures and forms operate in your larger project? How did you arrive at using these forms and structures?

I appreciate your careful reading of the book’s Appendix B and C. Appendix B actually consists of erasures of the earlier section, but I love your comparison to a diary that has been destroyed by soot or fire damage. I arrived at these fragmented literary forms after seeing just how visually uniform the first section appeared. So in this respect, your comparison between the invented constraints of the prose poems and a sestina sequence is especially perceptive.

Read the Whole Interview Here 

Her most recent book, The Sun & the Moon, was just released by BlazeVOX Books.

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Going with the Flow by Peter Siedlecki Now Available!

 Dying is an art Peter Siedlecki doesn’t want to master, yet such an exhilarating set of dialogues should be embraced, again and again. Going with the Flow is a book addressed to anyone who has concern over his own “going.” A poet-philosopher studying aging from the inside-out, Siedlecki explores the concept of old age in a vein similar to Plato’s dialectical method. “Swallow your made meanings,” the poet insists. There are moments of great humor, along with expressions of frustration and resignation. The realm of the earthly body is ever in flux, and treated with care in every situation and scenario.

—Jennifer Campbell

Crystalline would describe the language of Peter Siedlecki's Going with the Flow, an outstanding set of poetic essays chockfull of surprises.

—Jorge Guitart

With wry honesty and impressive skill, Peter Siedlecki contemplates aging and what will follow it. Yet the inevitably dark end of the life flow is punctuated here by the light of stars and beautiful women, jazz greats and baseball virtuosi, and the many vivid musings that make this book a celebration of life.

—Joan Murray

In memory, there was someone who asked me: do you know Peter Siedlecki, he has a big beard, and I heard he was one of the Road Vultures, and he is from the east side? I said, no, I didn’t know him, and the friend of mine who did said, you should. Fair enough. A head’s up. Then in the classroom where we both were poets in training, I had my ears peeled. In memory, I remember a line of one of Peter’s poems or it was a poem’s title, either or: the need to name things. Over these decades this line rings as clear as any poetry I have heard since. Need and naming are the poetics of Peter Siedlecki. I like that and Peter’s poems are brim full of poetry serving the need of living using understandable forms, i.e., words. “The thing is here,” he writes in Thing. It sure is! So, as the poet said, go, go with the flow.

— Michael Basinski

In these love poems to life, Peter Siedlecki does not merely go with the flow; he becomes the flow. Hearing the voices from the sea, he does not, like Prufrock, drown; rather, the voices cause him to love the beauties of his late years, “as only an old man could/when confronted by sea mist.” He learns: “Despite my despising,/I learn in the accumulation of/passing moments/to accept the thing,/to acclimate/to adapt.” Adapt, yes—but there is no compromise. He challenges life, and with rich humor. As he contemplates the end of magic in the death of a white pelican from the oil spill of human greed, he nevertheless also contemplates and meditates upon “once more/appearance and reality” and invites us into this process. Denise Levertov said that “contemplate” and “meditate” “connote a state in which the heat of feeling warms the intellect. We leave the volume thus warmed, readier to confront our own passing years—as he writes at the end of the book, “what each of us needs/to make the darkness pass.”

—David Landrey

Peter Siedlecki is Professor Emeritus and also currently holds the title of Poet in Residence at Daemen College in Amherst, NY. He is director of the Readings at the RIC poetry series and director of the Catherine Parker Artists’ Salon. He has been a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in both Poland and the former German Democratic Republic. His previous collection of poems is titled Voyeur.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 112 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-190-0



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