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Doug Holder Interviews Poet Alexis Ivy author of Romance with Small Time Crooks

Alexis Ivy is a poet and worker in a homeless shelter in Cambridge, Mass. She recently completed her B.A. in English from Harvard University. Her most recent poems have appeared in Main Street Rag, Off The Coast, Spare Change News, Tar River Poetry, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Eclipse, Yellow Medicine Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, J Journal and upcoming in The Worcester Review. Her first poetry collection, Romance with Small-Time Crooks was published in 2013 by BlazeVOX [books]. She is finding a home for her next collection, Taking the Homeless Census which has been a runner-up for University of Wisconsin's Brittingham & Felix Pollack Prize. Holder interviewed her on his award-winning Somerville Community Access TV show Poet to Poet Writer to Writer.

 

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Nine by Anne Tardos Reviewed in Jacket2

 

Stu Watson: A Review of NINE by Anne Tardos

· Paperback: 148 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-226-6

 

Anne Tardos’s Nine is a sequence of nine-word lines grouped in nine-line stanzas. This metric which involves the counting of words rather than accents or syllables has a radically leveling quality. Suddenly “temporomandibular” and “I” are of the same metrical value, based on their simple, monadic quality as “words.” As employed through Tardos’s artistry, this form, sometimes referred to as “counted verse,” feels appropriate to our historical moment. It is as though these nine-by-nine grids are architectural blocks, constituent elements in a particular kind of linguistic structure. In its porous inflexibility the form mirrors the empirical reality of infrastructure, of the walls that separate our homes and the streets and subway tunnels that convey us through the world—the commonplace yet all-but-invisible concrete around which our lives are constructed. But it also parallels our desire for ratiocination and “numbers”—“more data”—on which to base our political or personal decisions. The meaning of these poems is often generated by the resistance, dissonance, and lateral freedom they demonstrate within such bounds.

This dissonance leads the poems to express a curious kind of self-referentiality aimed at their form. And so we see concluding lines that offer statements like: “The ninth line is often problematic, as we see.” “The ninth often gets to deliver a punchline.” “The ninth usually knows the way out of here.” Each line of each poem is end-stopped, which further delimits the language, yet Tardos at times follows up a line in such a way so as to hint at enjambment, as in “It’s So Quiet Somehow”:

 

It’s so quiet today—don’t know what to say.

The uncertainty of the uncertainty and then the uncertainty.

Is the road we take imagined or already given?

Are we inventing our lives as we live them?

Why do we ask questions no one can answer?

Have we finally found a groove, you and I?

A modus vivendi that’s livable for both of us?

Don’t you hate a poem that’s full of questions?

Shouldn’t I try to answer some of them somehow?

 

The way the second and third lines abut suggests a continuity, as though “uncertainty…Is the road we take…” but the poem resists this interpretation in its syntax, as the third line instead “resolves” into a question. The final seven interrogatory lines modulate between concrete images and abstract musings before concluding by turning on their own need for questioning—and raising the specter of an “answer” that, by virtue of its appearance in the terminal ninth line, cannot be offered. Just as an individual, when faced with some bureaucratic encumbrance will sometimes comply but do so unhappily, so these poems always reach their appointed end, but are not always “happy” in doing so, and they let us know this.

Read the whole review here

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My Secret Wars of 1984 by Dennis Etzel, Jr reviewed in the Volta Blog

 

Review: My Secret Wars of 1984 by Dennis Etzel, Jr.

etzel-cov-lg

by Laura Madeline Wiseman

“You put your thumb on a button and somebody blows up 20 minutes later, says Ronald Regan,” writes Dennis Etzel, Jr. in the closing poem of My Secret Wars of 1984, a book that examines the words written and spoken by cultural figures like Ronald Regan during the culturally significant literary year of 1984. For Etzel, 1984 was the year he entered high school from middle school, the year his mother came out, and the year he played Dungeons and Dragons, while also reading books that appeared that year such as Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars. Etzel’s secret war reads like a chorus, for the voices here with quotes arranged alphabetically in 366 sentences for the leap year of 1985 include bell hooks, Lyn Hejinian, George Orwell, popular culture writers and editors, and the national weather service, for this storm of language also alludes to an ice storm in Topeka, Kansas, one that sheathed the city in cold, left over 80% of the population without power, and destroyed hundreds of trees trying to bare the weight of two inches of ice. Arranged as blocks of text, the poems offer voices that echo and complicate, layering meaning as they seem to reflect and trouble who spoke that year and why. Etzel writes,

An unspent lunch money becomes a sustenance of comic books. And a number of pages were excised by that agency head there, the man in charge, and he sent it on up here to CIA, where more pages were excised before it was printed, says Ronald Reagan. And as soon as we have an investigation and find out where any blame lies for the few that did not get excised or changed, we certainly are going to do something about that, says Ronald Reagan. And as the heroes watch, they are watched in turn. And each evening the pace back home matches the sun’s setting. And I start high school at my lowest. And now we are putting up a defense of our own, says Ronald Reagan. (23)

Here, former president Reagan’s quotations work as a sort of troubling reminder of the cold war tactics that pitted capitalism against communism, of the way politicians speak in the doublespeak that Orwell described in 1984, and of the concerns of teenagers finding imaginary superheroes and imaginary powers a solace amid troubling growing years, as much as the lines remind that Reagan lost his mind as so many do due to Alzheimer’s, a disease that eats holes in the brain and excises what one thought they knew by swapping it with others. The rigorous constraints of My Secret War of 1984 make this first full-length collection an enjoyable and creative read, part of the pleasure reading for how the poet turns each sentence against the ones before and after it, how the poet moves through the alphabet as much as he moves through the spoken and written thoughts produced during that year, and how such lines move against the sweeter, more innocent lines and references such as those like “Please come to my rescue, Atreyu. Please let me find a place to hide” (61), for they remind how the social and cultural world shape us, shape our children, and shaped our younger selves. My Secret Wars of 1984 show how such youth and youthful pasts are full of thinkers, individuals who question and trouble the stories told about war, government information, and gender norms. For example, Etzel quotes hooks, “Feminism defined as a movement to end sexist oppression enables women and men, girls and boys, to participate equally in revolutionary struggle” (34), a line that suggests a powerful and necessary, if secret, war against which the protagonist of such a memoir in verse struggled, one that empowers such a revolutionary poetry of resistance. Collections like My Secret Wars of 1984 that speak resistance through poems retell and reimagine the historic moment, taking on the fragmentation of information and layering it into something whole, complicated, and smart.

BlazeVOX Books (2015): $16.00

Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of over twenty books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her most recent book is Drink (BlazeVOX Books, 2015). She teaches in Nebraska. www.lauramadelinewiseman.com

READ THE WHOLE REVIEW HERE 

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This Visit by Susan Lewis reviewed in The Daily Art Source

 
Hurray and congrats to Susan Lewis​ Her fine book was reviewed in The Daily Art Source!! Hurray!!


This Visit

When I first opened this book I saw one line, it jumped out to me. It's from the poem, This Visit, "the grenade of your despair." Later in the poem Ms Lewis writes, "Impassive as viscera exhumed." This speaks volumes to the human condition, the way in which we suffer and the way we dwell in regret and shame. But this is my opinion you must understand, not the views of Ms Lewis.

Hardly ever do you pick up a book of poetry that quickly satisfies your curiosity the way that a book by Susan Lewis will. By writing in brief poetic surges its easy to take them and let each one soak in individually. These lines are very satisfying. Take for instance the poem, "Like Leaves." You will find these two lines,

Cringing,
in a dry wind

You might hear these words in a passing conversation, a story being told. But no, these words are in a very fine poem. Any way you dissect, read or take in the work from This Visit by Susan Lewis you're going to fine something for you and to share.

Chris Mansel

Read the whole review here

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Patient Women by Larissa Shmailo Reviewed in Midwest Review

 

Patient Women
Larissa Shmailo
BlazeVOX
131 Euclid Avenue, Kenmore, NY 14217
www.blazevox.org/index.php/Shop/fiction/patient-women-by-larissa-shmailo-409
9781609642013, $18.00, 309pp, www.amazon.com

K.R. Copeland
Reviewer

Poet/novelist Larissa Shmailo's latest offering, Patient Women, is a raw, unfaltering, fictional story (heavily peppered, no doubt, with the author's own personal anecdotes) that follows the tumultuous life of one highly likeable Nora Nader - a self-deprecating heroine with an indelible edge.

Nora, the daughter of an overbearing mother and an emotionally detached father; both Nazi prison camp survivors, is determined to assert herself and make her way through the world according to her own rules and regulations. Her whirlwind journey begins in 1970's Queens, NY, where Nora, at the tender age of 12, leaves home and takes to the inhospitable streets of NYC.
While battling a plethora of personal demons, including; sex, drug, and alcohol addiction, as well as severe depression ("I'm never happy. I always feel like Auschwitz inside"), we watch in horror as our protagonist devolves from Ivy League student, to waitress, to prostitute ("The best blow job in NY").

Both physical and emotional abuse is prevalent throughout the course of Nora's life, and slowly but surely long-buried secrets are unearthed.

With unrelenting determination, and a little help from her friends (specifically, a drop dead gorgeous drag queen turned AA sponsor named Chrisis, who assures Nora, in regards to sobriety/recovery, "If I can do this, anybody can.") Nora finds herself capable of both physical and spiritual ascent.

At moments painstakingly heart-wrenching, at others, hopefully poetic, Patient Women is ultimately an in-your-face tale about the resilience of the human spirit, in the midst of familial and societal discord, and the ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

Read the whole December issue of Midwest Review here

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