Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sound Over Sense Isn't New

John Ashbury judged the 2013 Walt Whitman Award and it shows. If you like John Ashbury or most post modern poetry you will like Chris Hosea's Put Your Hands In. If you are looking for a fresh approach to poetry, however, this is not your book.

Put Your Hands In is clever and fun. But original it is not. This is a collection where meaning can be found if searched for, but meaning is less important than sound. These poems are meant to be read aloud and in one sitting, which puts it in a tradition stretching back to Gertrude Stein. Some poems are collage poems in that they borrow phrases from elsewhere - newspaper clippings, other poetry, random conversations - and then mix them up pell mell to come up with something other. Some are composed entirely of half-finished sentences, an approach that is fun for the writer and interesting for the reader. The prose poems are effective, yet the most clever and thought-provoking piece, for me, is "Black Steel" which harkens to concrete or visual poetry.

Hosea here presents to us a crash course in 20th century poetics. Perhaps in an effort to convince himself or the reader that these approaches are still relevant in America today, he has heavily laced them with 21st century references to the digital. The result seems forced - not quite pretentious, but at least a little desperate.

Still, it is a delight of sound. Rhythm and alliteration ask you to consider the sound of everyday, even sometimes vulgar, language over the sense. Revel in cacophony and noise. Just don't expect to hear anything new.

Buy Get Your Hands In at Amazon.

Legal Disclosure: I did not receive anything in exchange for this review nor have any affiliation with those involved in the book's making.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Goodbye With A Fist

The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise has quite the list of accolades, including the 2013 Isabella Gardner Poetry Award and the 2013 James Laughlin Award. And it bites. Yes, you read that right: it bites.

Weise writes angry, brash, and sometimes brutally. This is a book with several chips on its shoulders. Very punk rock, very get off, very Bukowski. There is nothing pretty here. You have to bring the pretty with you as a reader and press insert. This book is like a wounded dog backed into a corner with the fur on its neck standing up. It's not growling, it's not barking; it is snorting and snotting in rage and almost malice.

But despite this don't-get-too-close stance: it is also intimate. Bitterly intimate, but still intimate. For instance, in "The Ugly Law":

... The maimed shall not

therein or thereon expose himself or herself
to public view under penalty of staring,

pointing, whispers, aphorisms such as "We are all disabled"
or "What a pretty face you have" or "God gives

And this, from "Poem for his Ex":

Does it make you feel better
to know he cheated with a handicapped
girl? I wonder if you have

any handicapped friends.
I don't know why I'm using that word.
It demoralizes me. Or if you don't.

This intimacy (which doubles as bitter advocacy, the way many African American poets write about slavery) serves to soften the hardness of this collection. So does the fact that it is arranged like a theatrical play. The table of contents is sectioned off into One, Intermission, Two, and Curtain Call.

For me, the most captivating things in this collection happen when Weise steps away from the confessional flavor of sex and amputeeism and assumes characters to reveal the deeper workings of her mind. The intermission section reads like a lonely but insightful meditation on modern human relationships. The Book of Goodbyes shows us what Bukowski would have written if he were female.

Get The Book of Goodbyes at Amazon.

Legal Disclosure: I have no affiliation with this author and did not receive anything for this review.

Monday, February 2, 2015

"Linger To Look" is Coming at Last!

Coming in March: "Linger To Look" is a semi-avant garde work which experiments with form and content, and plays with the idea that a poetry collection can loosely follow a narrative. It is a full color paperback, approximately 115 pages, and will be retailing on for $15 USD, £9.94, €13.29. Reserve your copy now by contacting me. Reserved copies will be mailed as soon as possible after release.
Edit: Release date is March 2, 2015!!