HUMAN-CARRYING FLIGHT TECHNOLOGY by Christopher Shipman is reviewed in the current issue of American Book Review. You can read an excerpt of the review below or follow the link here:
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I’ve always wanted someone to confirm that going to the bank is heartbreaking, that a spaghetti-splattered microwave is one of the loneliest appliances, that lawns can’t be trusted not to catch fire.Human-Carrying Flight Technology, Christopher Shipman’s first poetry collection, has my back: here, lost love runs errands; a dirty microwave leads a grand parade of unsympathetic appliances; nostalgia and grief light sparklers on a summer lawn.
In “Learning the Alphabet,” the speaker considers his own similarities to a drunk father who named and then abandoned him, saying,
I want to believe
we don’t walk over
the un-wearable wings of the dead
spread out on the streets in front of us
like squares of chalk drawn by kids
After admitting that “I want to believe it / so badly I need a stiff drink / to forget,” the narrator runs down an “alphabet of genetics” and arrives back at his own birth to chant “a sort of strange aphorism” like a panacea: “to name something / is to begin / killing it.” The lurking, nightmarish fears running beneath the surface of adulthood mixed with the primary-colored trappings of childhood is the most striking characteristic of this collection. The streets, backyards, and parks of Shipman’s poems—varied chunks of free verse whittled out of direct, modest language—are fenced-in gardens blooming with commonplace tragedies and wild miracles.
Immanuel Kant writes in Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (1798) about soldiers who returned to homes they’d pined for only to be disappointed when they discover it wasn’t a place they missed but a now inaccessible time. If Kant adds nostalgia to homecoming to come up with disillusionment, Shipman’s addends are disillusionment and nostalgia, and they usually equal the speaker being delivered home—to some sort of home, at least.
In “The Apartment Pool at Six,” the speaker describes his childhood perception of a neighborhood pool. It’s bubbling with morbid rumors of drownings; girls with tanned, peach lotion-scented skin; nightmare sharks; and the scrapes and cuts that result from the enthusiastic use of old, rusty equipment. The speaker remembers a summer that negotiates play, fear, lust, and injury in order to re-experience “peek[ing] over at girls / sunbathing in bikinis, their warm bodies close as the sun / saying something small about the dream of the world.”
Elsewhere, in “Staying Put,” a grandmother refuses to move to a new city because doing so would force her to leave “her husband’s bones [that] won’t unbury themselves / from their small plot in the backyard of her brain. / They grow new skin everyday.” These bones walk, make sandwiches, do crosswords, and “hold her hand while she cries / at his grave just across town.” Here, nostalgia and distress aren’t vehicles for homecoming; they’re the means of remaining at home in the midst of children who “can’t understand.”
Of course, sometimes home is where unspeakable things happen. “Since the Toys are Gone” creates an elegantly restrained portrait of a street littered with the debris of a party—wine bottles, bottle rockets—but what really distinguishes this street is what’s vanished: a crayon-drawn sign warning drivers of a two-year old crawling nearby, a piñata, “a mountain of candy. . .and tiny decks / of UNO.”
It bloodied all our fenders
when the parking lot finally filled with
Since the kid is gone
we don’t worry if he wanders off.
Since the toys are gone we bless the yard
until our hands are empty.
Human-Carrying Flight Technology is at its best when it uses this kind of...
"The Pictures Were Just for Reference":
Todd Mccarty on Personal Objectivity in Tony Trigilio's Historic Diary
BlazeVox [books], 2010
In Historic Diary, Tony Trigilio examines the tenuous boundaries between myth and fact and how perceptions sometimes have more to do with the formation of history than actual events themselves. In this second full collection of poems,Trigilio exploits the lines that divide the factual and the fictive when considering various people's connections to the Kennedy assassination. Taking its name from Lee Harvey Oswald's personal journal, Historic Diary paints a convoluted portrait of a conflicted individual. Oswald and other characters emerge as living beings instead of just suspects and bystanders in archival photos. Particularly relevant to contemporary readers, Historic Diary deftly addresses complicated questions, but even more so, this book urges readers to consider the ramifications of living in a culture over-saturated with data.
Trigilio draws extensively on research in bringing to life the characters in this work. Instead of a history that is stiff or bookish, Trigilio is able to craft living portraits of Lee Harvey Oswald, Marina Oswald and many others with a wide range of style and formal invention. Trigilio culls from diaries, letters, journals, and other accounts and grafts distinctive language into the poems to distinguish the characters.
In the poem, "I Locked Him in the Bathroom to Stop Him from Seeing Richard Nixon," Marina Oswald, Lee Harvey's wife, is speaking about when Lee tried to go see Richard Nixon, but Marina suspects he intends to shoot Nixon and locks him in the bathroom to prevent a disaster:
I held on hard but it's a cheap door, the knob shook
in my hand like it was stuck in butter. He could've
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Human-Carrying Flight Technology
Reviewed by: Cindy Hochman
My mother groaned, my father wept,
Into the dangerous world I leapt;
Helpless, naked, piping loud,
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.
Struggling in my father's hands,
Striving against my swaddling bands,
Bound and weary, I thought best
To sulk upon my mother's breast.
—William Blake, “Infant Sorrow”
Like that of the brooding Blakean baby, birth in Christopher Shipman’s impressive collection of poetry is not heralded with balloons and cigars; the newborn protagonist, both hunted and haunted, has already learned to embrace the dark side. The opening poem, “At birth,” foreshadows a desperate attempt to recapture whatever vestige of idyllic childhood can be found strewn amid the ashes, but these fragments of blood-tinged memory are steeped in violence as much as nostalgia. From the outset, normalcy is turned on its head as the poet tussles with a host of opposing forces: cold versus warmth, bright yellow sun versus dark black clouds; reality versus dream-state, and, ultimately, the living versus the undead.
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Mind Over Matter by Gloria Frym reviewed in the Summer 2012 online edition of Rain Taxi Review of Books.
MIND OVER MATTER
Picture a line of poetry like a knife blade, cutting through the logosphere, laying waste to drivel and mendacity. Picture a line of poetry as a feather, coyly fanning the romantic flames. Gloria Frym wields both lines in Mind Over Matter, a book that is angry, meditative and affectionate by turns. A paean to poetry in its foundational role as a vehicle of social, political, and artistic knowledge, Mind Over Matter owes a debt to Homer and to The New York Times, with a special assist from Jack Spicer and a host of tutelary spirits, from Percy Bysshe Shelly to Joanne Kyger.
In this, her twelfth collection of poetry, Frym opts for eighty centered poems of three to seventeen lines, with the sonnet a frequent form of choice. The centered poem, long in abeyance, has made a comeback in American poetry, and Frym’s use of the form here mirrors the poet’s quest for balance in a world where the poem ostensibly doesn’t “matter.” How does a poet keep writing when language has been coopted by politics, when meaning has been evacuated by theory, and when poetry is often relegated to an academic specialty vulnerable to accusations of elitism?
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Larissa Shmaillo's IN PARAN (BlazeVox)
“ you see very few men have souls and very few men have courage the few who have the courage to follow their souls are mostly all dead lost in leaves people kill them you know”
What characterizes this volume of poetry, published in 2009, for me is the astonishing variety of poetics on display. Shmailo proves herself adept at wild internal rhymes, traditional metrics, prose poems, and found poems. The book is divided into three sections: Love Poems, LitCrit, and In the World. I will discuss one poem from each.
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