Sunday, June 23, 2019

Book Review of Volodymyr Bilyk's "ROADrage"

LEGAL DISCLOSURE: I was given an ebook review copy from which to write this review. I was not paid.

Volodymyr Bilyk, ROADrage (zimZalla, 2019) 110 pages, poetry, $6.07 USD.

Available at zimZalla. Except for the opening quote, italics denote a quote from the book itself.

"Do the work." - Anna Strong Stafford

Bilyk urges us to quench the nullity. What nullity? The nullity of language itself in the 21st century. The avant-garde and experimental today seek to expand poetry's relevance in this century by finding new approaches to language, even as the way language is used continues to shift in society. By stating quench the nullity, Bilyk declares against the modern tendency to emasculate language as a semantic tool. To accomplish this, he gathers every technique of the 20th-century poetic canon (Eliot, Pound, Stein, Joyce, etc.), pours them all into one mixing bowl, stirs vigourously, and pours out the batter into a poetics that is uniquely Bilyk. In the book's introduction, he evokes the Mobius Strip as an illustration of what he is attempting to accomplish here. The end result could aptly be described as M.C. Escher in the medium of words.

As suggested by the title, this is a collection of dystopian rage - as in this line: (veer ---/ "seethe"/ there-there// merely.) - and much of it reads like a fistfight on some congested street in garish daylight. There is a theatrical aspect to it - the book ends with CURTAINS. - there is a deliberate winking toward sophisticated campiness here. I say sophisticated because Bilyk has "done the work" as a poet and requires his readers to likewise "do the work". This is a case of the void, flourished.

The separate poems, if indeed they are separate, read as largely one unit due to being untitled. There is a refreshing flow to this collection. This oneness allows the reader greater interpretive freedom: the reader can decide for him/herself where one poem ends and another begins. 

This fluidity of interpretation continues into the entertaining use of punctuation. At times this is reminiscent of computer programming code, old fashioned text emojis, and/or morse code. Since punctuation in writing represents where and how one breathes when reading, one is forced to rethink how one breathes as a form of expression all its own, to rejoice the odd breath. "ROADrage" can be said to be written in Confounded beat,/ Clarion whish - tongue winding:

Bilyk's greatest strength is alliteration, as in ... thunder thwacks,/ ./ rolls wry rebellow:/ speeded up/ to rash; . The book screams to be read aloud. There are some poems where semantics are discarded for acronyms and nonwords, experiments with pure sound as if the poems were WWII era intel code-speak. 

This is one of the most exciting collections I've come across in a decade, guaranteed to shift your perspective on language in the 21st century - both as an art form and its everyday use. This book is the very definition of a literary mind trip with purpose.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Is(sue) 7 of AvantAppal(achia) is live!

Dear Kinfolk,

First and foremost, thank you all for being as patient as Job while we tackled those annoying technical difficulties that delayed this is(sue). Y’all are fantastic!

I’m sure you’ll find the wait to be worth it! Is(sue) 7 features work from 7 different countries – Greece, Spain, India, Ireland, Norway, Luxembourg, the United States – and 7 different states – Minnesota, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey. It also contains 3 languages. Yeah, we’re pretty proud of it – and you! – for accomplishing that!

You will notice two things different about this is(sue). One, the Appal(Trad) section is empty. That is because we are getting high-quality experimental work (just what we want!) and we felt none of the submissions reflected the Traditional Appalachian Poetry genre, which is a really nice problem to have as far as we are concerned. Second, this is the debut of the Avant(Serial) section! Just how the serial section works is explained both in this is(sue) and in the updated guidelines. Yes, you read that correctly. The guidelines have been tweaked, so be sure to check those out.

A reminder: the site was recently redesigned to ensure it was readable across all devices (and little tweaks will continue). For now, that mostly means that to see bylines for the Avant(Art) section you must click on the individual images.

Another reminder: the editorial team at AvantAppal(achia) are volunteers, but there are still expenses to keep the whole wonderfully weird show running, so please go to Donat(ions) and choose between the options of $1, $5, and $10 via the Paypal link. Thank every one of you for keeping the ezine online! This is your creative space, as ed(itors) we merely polish it. It is our privilege to share your work with the world!

Don’t forget to check the Arch(ive) to see which pieces were chosen to represent Is(sue) 6. Also, the submission period for Is(sue) 8 is now officially open and the deadline is November 30, 2019. We can’t wait to see you then! But of course, we will be touching base occasionally in the meantime.


Sabne Raznik

Poetry/Art Ed(itor)

Monday, June 3, 2019

Review of Jimmy Olsen's "Scuba"

Legal Disclosure: I was given a free copy in order to write this review. I was not paid.

Jimmy Olsen, Scuba (Hoffman House Press, 2017) 387 pages, fiction, $24.95 USD.

"Scuba": the title and the cover suggest this book is an epic ride. The truth is, it's a bit phrenetic.

This book reads like an action movie. Events move quickly and the characters are not particularly likable (women, in particular, are not treated well).  This book is a wheel that spins faster and faster until it comes off the axel. Its plot is not entirely believable; it feels exaggerated. It is interesting but overstuffed. There are shipwreck discoveries, political riots, unresolved relationships, and the specter of childhood trauma. Anyone one of those would have made a fascinating read if fully developed, but this book has them all - and the climax is over the top. All of these faults are actually positives in the medium of film. However, books are usually expected to be more meditative, descriptive, and delving.

That being said, Olsen excels when his characters are underwater. Everything slows down and the descriptions become sharp, clear, sublime, and inviting. The reader can feel him/herself rocked in the power of underwater surges, see the otherworldly beauty of coral, and interact with various sea creatures. This is where the book achieves that magic of language one expects to find and when one feels anchored to poetic reality.

If you're looking for a leisurely read for a day at the beach or a cross-country flight, this is your book. It is light, easy to read, and a page-turner with plenty of action. While it is not deep, it is entertaining.