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C. Kubasta featured in a fantastic essay in Wisconsin People & Ideas!

 

To the Quarry, Together

When poets and visual artists work together, they negotiate a shared language. In collaboration, they explore how their work, well, works together: both engage with form and shape, utilize symbolic thought, and explore metaphor of various kinds. Materials change and mutate in the hands of artists, and often come to their final forms after many revisions and drafts, possible versions begun and set aside. Art exists in the friction—the frisson—between idea and making, in the often never-fully-complete translation between the inception of an idea (which is always perfect because it’s unmade) and the fruition of that idea. It’s a never-ending, self-perpetuating cycle that calls us back to the blinking screen, the empty table, the blank wall.

Because of this shared language and love of frisson, poets and visual artists can learn a lot from each other. I became more aware of this during work on my collection of poems, All Beautiful & Useless, published in 2015. I had begun many of the poems years earlier, and obsessively worked and reworked them. But I felt there was something missing from this collection, yet couldn’t put my finger on what that was.

Some of the poems center around a story I’d heard growing up in my hometown of Wautoma that sounded too awful to be true. The crimes of Edward Gein, a murderer and grave robber who made home furnishings from human body parts, haunted me as a girl. And the fact that his crimes had happened here (or near here, one town over in Plainfield), made it that much worse. In my poem “Squirrel Memory,” I lay out the facts of Gein’s crimes, and I call them “simple.” But his crimes, like my memory of learning about them, were anything but simple. In the poem, I recall how a third-grade classmate showed me Judge Robert H. Gollmar’s gruesome book about Ed Gein with its photo-filled “center section, glossy, split open and edible.”

My memory of this event forms the title of the poem, and comes from a later line as well: “I want to have a squirrel memory, find that year later, / like a dollar bill in a jacket pocket.” I remembered and forgot what I saw on the playground that day of third grade for years and years. As that image of the “squirrel memory” suggests, it is only in in re-finding that memory years later (like a buried acorn) that I could make sense of it. My experience, as a child, of those images, and the story they told, couldn’t be understood. This suggests one way that art can allow us to understand experience: it can allow us the necessary distance to revisit something terrifying and confusing. Once we’ve fashioned something into language and metaphor, it becomes less able to traumatize. The work of constructing the poem gave me power over that moment.

Yet, even as strong as “Squirrel Memory” and these poems other were on their own, the sense that they were somehow a collection eluded me. They seemed like fragments, memories that were somehow incomplete. That is, until I met someone who would help me think differently about my work.

• • • • •

I was introduced to an artist named Mollie Oblinger at an art gallery opening of a mutual friend in Green Lake, Wisconsin. I got to talking with this woman wearing fabulous vintage cat-eye glasses, and learned that Mollie taught art and sculpture at nearby Ripon College. As this was a Friday in Wisconsin, a small group of us adjourned to a nearby tavern for fish fry. We sat at picnic tables alongside the Fox River near a place where sturgeon are known to spawn every spring. Over napkins weighted down with rocks and tartar sauce squeeze bottles, we talked about poetry, art, and small-town stories. Mollie and I were the only non-couple there, so when the waitress was sorting out receipts, she asked if we were together. “Not yet,” Mollie replied with a smile, “but it’s going well." 

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Wave Particle Duality by Dana Curtis Now Available!

Intellectually astute, emotionally complex, imagistically provocative, Dana Curtis’s poetry, here assembled in this richly compelling new volume, plies the profound paradoxes and strange riddles of being human. The breadth of the poet’s regard is wide: she proffers a brilliant parade of poems containing meditations, laments, lyric complaints, love letters, and philosophical conundrums. She also explores physicist Erwin Schrödinger’s quantum theories (including his famed boxed cat experiment), concurring tacitly with him that “reality” may collapse onto one possibility or into another (opposite) one. 

These are poems that stretch the limits of consciousness, perception, and awareness, and that challenge our default notions of meaning and purpose. Curtis’s lush and powerful language rushes us into unknown territories of the psyche like a locomotive without brakes.
Under her tutelage, we may learn to “worship the mathematics of light,” and “explain the necessity of metaphor,” knowing “that beauty is as much a lie as anything else.” Savor these gorgeous poems seared by molten fire and calmed by insight: they’re voiced by a true American original.

—Maurya Simon, author of The Wilderness: New & Selected Poems, 2018

In Wave Particle Duality, Dana Curtis takes us into her nocturnal sphere, the film noir where fission splits the soul, and dark energy is all we have to go on. These are poems full of twisted desire and visionary clarity, pure need and thin hope. Throughout her language is as sharp as a pinprick. She cites Hogarth, which is apt, because Dana Curtis is a moralist, with gallows humor and a sense of the perverse. "Will you be my infidel," she asks? Oh, yes, we think. Just keep on talking.

—David Lazar

Dana Curtis has published two previous full-length collections of poetry, Camera Stellata and The Body's Response to Famine which one the Pavement Press Transcontinental Poetry Award. Her work has been published extensively in literary magazines, and she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize on multiple occasions. She has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the McKnight Foundation. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Elixir Press and lives in Denver Colorado.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 102 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-282-2


$16

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wave Particle Duality by Dana Curtis Book Preview

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Through a Certain Forest by Laura Madeline Wiseman Now Available!

Through a Certain Forest draws us irrevocably into the faerie- and ghost-inhabited wilderness where we’ve all been lost in dreams. Evocative as hell, it draws on the accumulated weight of human folktales; even the title evokes the language of French fairy-tales: Il y avait jadis une certaine forêt … and, yes, I was enchanted. Trees as exploited women and as the inheritors of the earth, trolls as men and as the kitschy detritus of our society, share, at times, with humans a landscape cratered by unexplained bombings, and somehow, survivors of one sort or another pull through. These poems are filled with entities familiar to us who in turn gaze into the abyssal mirror of what does my life mean? A wonder-filled collection.

—F.J. Bergmann, author of A Catalog of the Further Sun


We are given a field guide to trees in Laura Madeline Wiseman’s latest book of poetry Through a Certain Forest, realizing as we step in that we are deep in the mythos of ourselves. Each poem is a persona, each tree species recounting its survival from humans. Us homo sapiens are the trolls lurking through the middle of the collection. In the midst of bombings and ecological disasters caused by us is the private life of the speaker, too, living with her own personal troll. Things are bleak, like the first half of a fairy tale. In a car on the freeway, the speaker thinks, “I want to ask how we’ll pay all the tolls still left before us.” We know there is always a cost. Yet the trees each have a voice of resistance as even laurels share, “Now we are the welcome—survivors, winners, and crowned.” We should be listening.

—Dennis Etzel, Jr., author of My Secret Wars of 1984


Laura Madeline Wiseman’s Through a Certain Forest is a quest, searing and searching, through a dystopian landscape that is partly natural, partly ruined by human choice. The collection's controlling symbols—trees, trolls, fairy rings, thunder, and bombs—are multivalent, linking primal ancient beauties and blasted modern realities. The saintly, forgiving trees are exploited and despoiled—sharing psychic space with a female speaker who suffers irruptions of domestic violence and sexual violation. This collection presents an audacious new myth—and it is shattering. The book also offers resolution and hope in a language of intense lyricism and music.

—Clif Mason, author of From the Dead Before


Laura Madeline Wiseman mixes the modern with the mythic so seamlessly I often emerge from her poems having forgotten which world I am in. Her apocalyptic visions in Through a Certain Forest are no exception; a true master of metaphor, she weaves tales of the takeover of trolls—those predatory people your mother warned you about—and the healing power of nature even at the end of the world. This collection confirms Wiseman as one of my favorite modern poets.

—Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, author of Strange Monsters


Via Laura Madeline Wiseman’s precise and nuanced language, Through a Certain Forest calls forth myth and folklore to illuminate the lives of women in a chaotic world. These evocative poems meld imagery of botany, trolls, factories, and apocalyptic disaster to reveal a narrative that is both beautiful and unsettling. Some poems give voice to plant life, each species forming a kind of collective consciousness, female voices sounding out against witnessed violence and destruction. In other poems, a woman shapes her life in the aftermath—joggers wear headbands, neon haired troll dolls remain hidden in old boxes, trolls hunker down under bridges. The world presented is much like our present world and vastly different from it. In the end, the poems reveal, “permanent scars” may remain, but life continues on.

—Andrea Blythe, author of Pantheon


Laura Madeline Wiseman teaches writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is the author of 25 books and chapbooks and the editor of two anthologies, Bared and Women Write Resistance, selected for the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial Book List. She is the recipient of 2015 Honor Book Nebraska Book Award, Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship, and an Academy of American Poets Award. Her work has appeared in Feminist Studies, Mid-American Review, Arts & Letters, Calyx, and The Iowa Review. Her book Drink won the 2016 Independent Publisher Bronze Book Award for poetry. Her latest book is Velocipede (Stephen F. Austin State University Press).

Book Information:

· Paperback: 84 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-284-6

$16

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Through a Certain Forest by Laura Madeline Wiseman Book Preview

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Susan Lewis​'s Heisenberg’s Salon reviewed at The Friday Influence

 

lewis hs

review by José Angel Araguz

Drawing inspiration from German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which “states that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa,” Susan Lewis’ latest collection, Heisenberg’s Salon (BlazeVOX [books]), presents a prose poem collection that evokes the form’s surrealist traditions while expanding on its logic-making means.

One can see this idea of position and momentum reformulated in poetic terms in these lines from the title poem:

Every time she turned her back, the apartment rearranged itself. Each version created a home for another way of life.

From there, the reader follows the main character adapting to her constantly rearranging apartment, curling up and reading Victorian fiction when she “[discovers] the couch under the picture window,” and setting the next meal when “the dining table was there instead.” In a similar manner, the reader of this collection adapts to each poem’s engagement with and rearrangement of familiar linguistic territory. The aptly named “Indeterminacy” is a good example of adapting to rearrangement:

Indeterminacy

It was time for something, although she could not for the life of her imagine what. So she assumed her post on the stoop & waited for the future to declare itself. A tattered bird of dubious provenance landed on the banister & inspected her with his ancient gaze. She exhaled with emphasis, but otherwise managed to keep her preconceptions to herself. The old fellow cocked his head & screeched. Terrific, she said. How am I supposed to know if you’re the one I’m waiting for? Terrific, he squawked. How am I supposed to know if you’re the one I’m waiting for? I get it, she said, bravely extending her arm. I get it, he echoed, latching on with admirable decision. It was the last conversation they ever had.

Here, the first half of the poem positions two characters in places of waiting. There is a push and pull between interiority and meaning at work; because “she could not for the life of her imagine what” it was time for (keyword here being imagine, an act of interiority), she is forced to look outside herself. Thus positioned, the conversation that takes place in the second half of the poem works as momentum, giving the scene the urgency of question and response. The phrasing of a “tattered bird” also leaves things ambiguous; one can envision a parrot playing out the conversation that follows, merely echoing the other character. And yet, the choice to not be specific about the kind of bird it is leaves room for the fantastical. From this uncertainty, the imagining the other character was incapable of on her own becomes an outer moment of imagination via this “conversation” with the bird.

This transformation via uncertainty plays out for the reader much like the conversation plays out for the characters, strictly in the moment, in the rush as the pieces of the poem come together. There is a thrill in this kind of poetry that speaks of a sensibility awake to the materials at the core a poem, how to get the “tattered bird” of familiar language to say something new. As plot requires conflict, these poems point to lyricism as its pulse.

Read the whole review here

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The Absence Of The Loved by Wade Stevenson Reviewed in Midwest Book Review

 
Absence of the Loved
Wade Stevenson
BlazeVOX Books
9781609642747, $16.00, www.blazevox.org 

Many poems and poetry collections focus on the presence of love, but Absence of the Loved is about that aftermath where love is gone, poetically describing the void left behind, the process of passing into something else, and what happens when transformation and change confront a relationship: "This morning we were born for something else".

Winter mornings, maddened minds, the compulsive drives of love and passion, and possession all coalesce in passionate, emotional pieces that grasp the essence of not a light romantic dream, but the agony and ecstasy of bonding with another both physically and emotionally.

From the throes of breakup and pain ("When I'm not grieving I trumpet destruction") to the inevitable progress towards a turning point where grief turns to renewal, Absence of the Loved is a poetic breakup diary like no other, chronicling the intimate passage of days and pain with the deft precision of a romantic martyr as the writer considers the absence of one with a 'penchant for parting'.

Again and again the times before departure are analyzed and probed, the impetus for change considered, and the faded spark of love from which the inevitability of leaving reviewed: "One day I will go so you will at last understand/This simplest of lessons: everything flows."

How long will loss last when "what we are is made of half of each other's wholeness"? It may not be a lifetime, but these moments are perfectly captured in a poetic gathering of experiences that intricately chronicles just what the process of and pain of letting go involves.

However, "The Absence of The Loved" is not just about loss. Although it starts that way, there is a progression, and fans of poetry will appreciate the various depths and nuances of feeling. In the end the poet transfigures his loss into a vibrant, radiant presence. The young woman that he loved becomes a symbol for "the loved". In the moving final poem "You and You Again", the circle is closed, there is no more absence --- what remains is Amor.

Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Donovan's Literary Services

Read The Full Review here

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