Leah Umansky Recommends...
“Read the news. There are some strange things happening in the world. The New York Times is a huge part of my writing process. I rip out articles; I circle phrases from the science section, the business section, and sometimes (dare I say) the book review. I recently wrote a poem that came from an article Teddy Wayne wrote about Justin Bieber.
Kristina Marie Darling
In Carlo Matos's stunning third book of poetry,Big Bad Asterisk, readers will find "science projects," Jeopardy matches, and "the blood of princes." It is Matos's ability to seamlessly weave together vastly different points of view that makes his work so compelling. Presented as an ongoing series of annotated prose pieces, much of the work in this formally inventive collection reads as a conversation between different characters, as well as a dialogue between different facets of consciousness. For Matos, all writing, thinking, and living is a collaborative act, an idea that is gracefully enacted in the form of the poems themselves.
With that in mind, Matos's use of formal citations is especially noteworthy. Frequently using annotations to problematize the main text, rather than to explain or clarify its meaning, he presents an innovative text that privileges process over product. Matos envisions writing as a practice in which hypotheses are tested, observations about the world are called into question, and eventually refined, perfected. It is through the presentation of multiple points of view, both in the world and within the self, that we come closer to the truth. Consider this passage:
They needed someone who punished without judgment, who served the moment, and staked the next round.*
*A recent study concluded that although there had been a drastic increase in references to copulation with farm animals in popular media, actual incidence of the fact had been in steep decline since the late 1800s.
Here Matos juxtaposes everyday speech with the rhetoric of science and weighs the two perspectives against one another. His work is at its best when disparate voices, points of view, and epistemologies are presented as coeval, and the reader is allowed to glean insights from all, while committing to none. It is through this presentation of myriad perspectives without strict adherence to a single worldview that Matos suggests we gain the greatest insight. The dialogic form of the work enacts this very idea, as the reader is asked to sort through science, myth, and popular culture, taking with her the most valuable for her purposes.Read more »
Petrarchan by Kristina Marie Darling
there was more of a “thesis” than with my previous projects. I love Petrarch’s work, but it’s so problematic for me as a female reader. His writing, perhaps more than any other one person’s work, has been associated with the male gaze, the silenced beloved, and various master narratives about what love should or ought to be.
At the beginning of the book, we find ourselves in familiar Darling territory—a nineteenth-century woman roaming around a house that is alternately described as a maze, an island, or like a mahogany armoire: “Within every box . . . only compartment after compartment.” For example, the phrase “house by the sea” is repeated five times throughout the manuscript and is referenced obliquely several more times. With each repetition, what might traditionally be considered a bucolic image, of course, only becomes increasingly oppressive—the prison with lace curtains. However, what makes Petrarchan unique in Darling’s oeuvre is that the ensnared heroine—ensnared by love, by convention, by an overmastering heap of love tokens—does not allow the situation to be the whole story. In her previous collection, Melancholia, for instance, the heroine could be described as a collector—a hoarder—slowly being buried in her home by all the mementos of the missing lover—the literal and figurative presence-in-absence of the beloved smothering her life. However, the heroine of Petrarchan is also using the enforced isolation to experiment in alchemy: