Thursday, June 23, 2016



Engine Light by Kate Colby
(PressBoard Press, 2015)

The Under Arc by Lynne Dreyer
(Primary Writing Books, 2015)

distance decay by Cathy Eisenhower
(Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015)

Prynne Poems by Nava Fader
(PressBoardPress, 2015)

yes & what happens by Hailey Higdon
(dusie kollectiv/what to us (press), 2015)

Deep City by Megan Kaminski
(Noemi Press, 2015)

Apology of a Girl Who Is Told She Is Going to Hell by Devon Moore
(Mayapple Press, 2015)

Servant Drone by bruno neiva and Paul Hawkins
(Knives Forks And Spoons, 2016)

Hélène by Deborah Poe
(Furniture Press Books, 2012)

Commentary (A Tale) by Marcelle Sauvageot, trans. Christine Schwartz Hartley & Anna Moschovakis
(Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013)

Prima Vera by Jill Tomasetti
(Drop Leaf Press, 2015)

A Liquid Bird Inside The Night by Alexandra van de Kamp
(Red Glass Books, 2015)

i know that this ritual by Brad Vogler
(Stockport Flats, 2015)

[Previously published in Yellow Field #11, April 2016, curated by Edric Mesmer]

Engine Light
Kate Colby

This small book achieves big things, as the large contracts to the little, what is here suggests what is elsewhere, near can seem to be far, and a “cross-hatched penumbra” becomes a “stripe of light.” “Everything is one of a pair / except collectively” one poem proposes, and the book becomes a careful, detailed and sustained inspection of distinctions and opposites which at times blur or join, and which depend on one another for their own definition and identity. The poems inhabit a distance between a branch and its shadow, between a mouth and an eye, between the perception of a thing and the saying of a thing, examining with great precision a dialectical relation, an interstice, a knowledge aware of its limits, a certainty which can very quickly pass into uncertainty, and these sudden shifts of attention are managed with a great economy of means.

“The only light is / all around.” The enjambment here leads the reader into expecting “the only light” to be something small or fitful, a candle, a flashlight, but then, like a miracle, the line turns and the light is “all around” and the sense of size and dimension has altered, from the hint of tiny to the promise of everywhere. The light has gone from a flicker to a brightness in the air. It is a subtle poetry which can enact such changes in spatial focus with an absence of fuss and a simple language: similarly, it is a discriminating poetry which is able to suggest fractures in time and self just with the breaking of a line—“I’m not all / there yet,” for example, brilliantly contends that while some of her may be “there” some of her remains elusive and elsewhere.

“A wracked strand / of egg-sac entrails // cochlear shells / I hold to my ear.” Colby’s delicate intricacies of repeated sounds, and the flexibility of her syntax, are able to provide an abiding sense of a poem locating its meaning and its structure, simultaneously, as it comes into being, and that becoming is often the subject of the poem; “so to speak / to what I don’t know.” The poem is a finding out, a “falling on thresholds,” a discovery of “light / at the fringes of vision,” and a discovery also of “what / the heart holds / out.”

The beauty of these poems, and the care taken in their making, have found their equal in the care taken, once again, by PressBoardPress, who are to be congratulated on another elegant chapbook.

Marten Clibbens

The Under Arc
Lynne Dreyer
Primary Writing Books

“How do you get your words?” Lynne Dreyer asks us at the beginning of her new book, The Under Arc. The “story arc”—so much a part of our culture—dictates what is possible, our “…verbs chained with a past, mangled into an artificial heart.” Dreyer sees the “power of language” as “you and your pronoun whirl about…” to where “[e]verything was without writing…[m]usic came into the body; the sun was not a figment.” Under the arc, we experience “…the cycle of breath following the cycle of desire, and then suspended softly the two pauses there.” Dreyer gives us a way to experience language as a “…room on a diagonal to reveal the world…[e]ach to its own square. This meant not to write.” Instead of words spinning us, we whirl with words under the arc into joy, into life.

Tina Darragh

distance decay
Cathy Eisenhower
Ugly Duckling Presse

At a poetry reading a few weeks ago, two women read work about being raped. Their poems were acts of triumph over the horrific acts, and they made it clear that they were moving on. I wished I had copies of Cathy Eisenhower’s distance decay to give to them for when the memories of their assaults came back stronger than ever. Eisenhower knows that acts of violence such as rape are all-consuming narratives—a vast face”—that never truly leaves. In distance decay, she addresses her assault by broadening the frame to include cultural and historical factors and then reconfiguring her memories to include the world—candling, a public alone/pulling off the little part.”

Eisenhower does not claim a victory over the experience of being raped. Instead, she demonstrates how one continues to move through fragmented experience—and endure: as I sit and breathe grow mode rat e as I sit and breathe keep co ming/ back and sayin g that /and to uching gen tly the sayi ng of it back.” Ultimately, distance decay addresses the long-term consequences of any violent act, and provides comfort and support to those who have experienced violence in their lives.

Tina Darragh

Prynne Poems
Nava Fader

Each of Nava Fader’s poems, in this recent gathering, begins with a line of J.H. Prynne’s, and so proposes a poetics of reading, a poetry as collaborative act, and the themes of violence which pertain to Prynne’s work are here examined in sometimes disturbing detail, yet Fader’s style and prosody are all her own, by turn beautiful and frightening. The “feedstuff for ruin” of Prynne’s line, for example, is transformed into a broken female body; “all parts / of yourself in hedgerows parceled / and packed flash / frozen” as if the body had become a commodity at the mercy of the laws of the market, in which “your food / stamp purchase time,” as another poem memorably puts it, is itself a commodity.

These poems remind us, albeit quietly, that an early volume of Prynne’s was Kitchen Poems, and here Fader’s images of eating and cooking—“fiddleheads / a marvel in their butter”—can abruptly shift to “mouthfuls jab uppercut” and the domestic realm has become a dangerous, contested or desolate space, from which “the water the fire has gone.” The kitchen is constantly threatened in these poems, and “fox / calls to the chickens this way / to heaven.” It is remarkable that Fader can find images of desire rewarded, of beauty’s calm, in such an environment, and that a lyrical grace can restore hope against the odds: “sustenance your face corona,” one poem has it, a return to the body, this time not broken but glowing.

This book is a response to Prynne, then, but interpretation is here the act of a radical and creative will, as vision slips into hallucination, and one thing becomes another at the turn of a line. Fader’s writing possesses the power to astonish and to shock; one line does not necessarily predict the next—a jolly rancher suddenly becomes a marionette, for example, or a “pandemic generosity” abruptly turns into a “leering residue,” and our reading of these poems becomes a journey from surprise to amazement, and from amazement back to surprise.

Nava Fader is developing a notable oeuvre, to which this handsome, hand-stitched and glittering PressBoardPress chapbook is a beautiful addition.   
Marten Clibbens

yes & what happens
Hailey Higdon
dusie kollectiv/what to us (press)

“I believe we come back” – back home, back to ourselves, to each other, back to our solitude, back to rivers and seas and cities, “back when we were / without compression.” Hailey Higdon’s yes & what happens constantly draws us back, asking us to re-examine ourselves, our relations, and our intimate spaces in the process. In its dream-like merging of cityscpaes and riverbends, of lonely drug stores and shared dinners, yes & what happens questions boundaries, acknowledging their presence only to surge through them. These fluid, dreamy transitions bring the disparate into proximity – “trees across trampolines” – and in doing so urge readers to re-examine our own boundaries, to consider “the colonization of our cognitive processes,” the imposition of borders. And what happens, Higdon asks – what happens when we come back, when we say yes to dissolution and merging, when we permit ourselves “[t]o believe in process, in moment to moment, to let / to be as queer as you are without boundaries?” yes & what happens is itself a dream of amalgamation and connection, “a dream of melting into other people” – and its words will linger long after you’ve dreamt it.

Paige Melin

Deep City
Megan Kaminski
Noemi Press

Megan Kaminski’s Deep City opens with the speaker confessing:
            dear city I want to crawl inside your chest
            ply rib by rib by rib and slip soft
            extol your innerworks colder sounds

Kaminski’s project reads as if the speaker were Eros walking the streets of his polis composing poems of warmth that emanate from the “colder sounds” of city life. Her ability to stack perception, music, and desire atop one another builds a monument to our hopeful inner-lives. These poems reveal how the meta and physical structures we have erected to protect ourselves from the daily onslaught of the world have tragically separated us from expressing our base longing for another. It becomes evident that desire has moved underground, such as is shown in “Before the steel bridge east,” whose 2nd section partially reads:
                        left legs move into a fondu après an attitude

            where were you yesterday morning when the fog resisted
                                                  and my knees buckled

As the reader moves through the book, she traverses the changing landscape of poetic forms as the trans-temporal place of the city is mapped onto the page. Closing with a set of intricate poems under the title “Collection,” blank space separates as if a median of consciousness divides them. Witness the depth of our divisions:

            grayed asphalt                     To say the trees green the sky blue bricks red
            stadium lighting       letter spill point to further destinations     the body
            cellular tower                        shop on 45th across from white office buildings

Patrick Riedy

Apology of a Girl Who Is Told She Is Going to Hell
Devon Moore
Mayapple Press

Devon Moore’s collection of poems names itself as an apology, and it reads largely as such. Often the speaker seems to be floundering, wanting to be sure of herself but reaching out to grab onto lovers, dead fathers, and broken mothers as she slowly falls into the unknown of herself. Her slippage is rooted in a shame or discomfort in embodiment – the speaker draws attention to the freak-show quality of being a woman constantly under scrutiny from herself and others, equating it with being a “creature mov[ing] / as I move forward in the perpetual tunnel before a parade of eyes.” And this shame in embodiment is learned: the speaker asks us to consider the   hypersexualitzation of the (young) female body: “Think about your own / body. How it ripened before you were ready. How there are never enough / layers to cover you up.” Despite the slippage, Moore reminds us that in one thing we are constant: “we’re always changing.” And so at rare moments, the speaker shines through the changes as a confident self, as in the poem “This Is Your Warning:”

I saw in your eyes that I had hurt you,
but it wasn’t enough,
so I took off my shirt and then my bra.
You said “milky” and “white,” I said “don’t touch,”
and I fastened my heart rate monitor’s strap
beneath my breasts, licking each electrode
moist. “This is your warning,” I said
as I handed you the digital watch, “77?” you read.
“Yes,” I nodded, “It’s barely beating for you.”

At times strong and unapologetic, at others timid and remorseful, Apology of a Girl Who Is Told She Is Going to Hell takes its reader on a raw and unfiltered journey through embodiment, grief, self-questioning, and, ultimately, self-discovery.

Paige Melin

Servant Drone
bruno neiva and Paul Hawkins
Knives Forks And Spoons

bruno neiva and Paul Hawkin’s Servant Drone plays on a linguistic register alongside of Ian Heames’ Gloss to Carriers and a number of other recent, predominantly-British, collections which critique the devastation of drones strikes on foreign targets. neiva and Hawkins’ collection engages the polysemy between military reportage and the colloquial utterance of the urban everyday. The poems play on the chaos and clanship of metropolitan margins, markings of passage and the communality of exchange, driven by a characteristically charged bifurcation of meaning in which the interconnectedness of global militarisation determines the flourishing excess of civilian lives. Servant Drone collapses regimes of authorship and ownership, as the poets collaborate with a lexis mediated in exchange surplus and post-consumption ephemera.
The collection presents a number of engaging facets that require considerable attention. The graphically-enabled semiotics of neiva’s poem #6 or Hawkins’ #25 function in a semi-coded reality of broken electronic communication, highlighting linguistic barriers and typographic dissonance. The collection’s early exchange focus on image-complexes of surveillance with radical juxtapositions of ‘café wives’, meta-commentary highlighting the control and contortion of the poem’s frames. These poems give way to sloganeering turns of phrase, critiquing the aimless chatter of marketing and salability. Hawkins’ #10 highlights the compressed boundaries of a post-capital life, the blitzkrieg of reportage and chem-life while synthesising sardonic glimpses of the “shimmy-shimmer” of pastoral skies. Irony typifies the collection: neiva’s #14, which is characterised by a run-on of post-purchase refuse, is heartily juxtaposed by the minimalist strings of Hawkins’ #13. KFS once again delivers a serious, hard-hitting collection and a signifier of the plenitude of post-Avant poetry today.

Matthew Hall 

Deborah Poe
Furniture Press Books

Exploring various forms of imprisonment, whether living under surveillance at a factory-convent or the complications that arise from intimate relationships with fellow worker M— and M— ’s brother, Deborah Poe’s Hélène examines the strive for inner beauty amongst constant exploitation. Our heroine, Hélène, relates the experience of claustrophobic conditions within a 19th century French silk factory from the onset of the project:
To eliminate succession of movements is to linger in lament. Feel but tell no one a way of      being. Insects on the interior. The cocoon makes something beautiful in shelter, before the breaking out.
By the book’s end, we are forced to grapple with subtlety of Hélène’s “breaking out.” Rather than loiter in the messiness of narrative, Poe shows us “What life would be like after your own revolution.” Deliberately understated, the revolution “is your dream now—and in it you hold my loneliness.” As Hélène sits amidst continual captivity, she is remarkably deft at making “something beautiful”:
            I crush my chest and pull out a string of songs
            bone inscriptions, notes on a score—in the right hands something becomes
            music—these are the notes which code a becoming
            phenomena maneuverings otherwise left unscribed.
Finishing as more of a philosophical tract and less as a self-enclosed narrative as to the question of why beauty is valued, the final section ends the sentence of loneliness as previously described. We are left to muse while Hélène proposes, “You are the thing meaning might depend on.”

Patrick Riedy

Commentary (A Tale)
Marcelle Sauvageot
trans. Christine Schwartz Hartley & Anna Moschovakis
Ugly Duckling Presse

“You take this as a proof of love, don’t you?” Marcelle Sauvageot opens her memoir with a quote from a letter from her then-lover, “Baby.” His dwindling affection is evident in the letters he writes her from Paris as she journeys to a sanatorium where she will spend her last days dying of tuberculosis. But Sauvageot’s memoir, though it centers around her relationship with Baby, resists becoming a proof of love itself. Rather, her memoir unreservedly examines their relationship as though through a microscope, turning the (traditionally heteronormative male) gaze away from herself and onto Baby. She analyzes his writing as she analyzes him, reading almost scathingly between the lines of his letters while reflecting on moments in their relationship. And this honest and critical analysis is a feminist undertaking in revenge; she knows that the male subject does not want to be seen so clearly: “But if you notice two eyes watching you, then smiling, you revolt. You feel that you have been ‘seen’ and you don't want to be seen: you want only ‘to be.’” Yet it is also a feminist assertion of self-sufficiency; though her emotions of love, loss, and hurt are clearly and descriptively articulated, the narrative abstains from falling into cliché or becoming the trope of a woman pining over her lost man - she is passionate without being effusive, analytical without being removed, self-reflective and romantic all at once. This lost feminist classic is the story of a woman who feels deeply and believes in herself strongly, whose resolution to carry on is stronger than her need to hold on to the past: “You are gone, but I am finding myself again ... I have come back to myself, and with myself, I will fight to carry on.”

Paige Melin

Prima Vera
Jill Tomasetti
Drop Leaf Press

In the Orphic tradition, there is a strong belief that human and nature were once and will be again one and the same, that each being in the universe is a part of a whole, that, in the words of Kaja Silverman, “everything derives from the same flesh.” This interconnectedness is central in Jill Tomasetti’s PRIMA VERA, a collection which focuses on the chasm between the human and the natural world and our primal longing to mend it, our “trying to get past ourselves and into it.” The speaker’s own desire to be in closer commune with nature is manifest throughout. She asks of a plant shoot, “give me words / teach me your language,” and, later, she regrets the lack of that language: “i don’t know what to say / i bought these seeds from the store / i can’t make even one of you.” The desire for interconnectedness is met with the frustration of separation, as well as the constant human impulse to impose and the capitalist drive to produce; the speaker recognizes her own medium of conveyance as a form of obstruction:

submerge this

dissolve the smooth paper

    so the twilight sounds are left
                                        to talk to each other 

Yet even as human language and forms (the book-object) act in themselves as barriers to the natural world, poetry, the speaker recognizes, also has the potential to breach the chasm: “we burrow / into the theme / biting juicy bulbs of / new language.” And though the speaker manipulates nature to make a point, her willingness to abandon herself to “unknowing,” to a negative capability, keeps her from imposing on the natural world and instead puts her in a sort of tandem with it. PRIMA VERA is an evocative collection, filled with yearning, quiet contemplation, defeat, and hope.

Paige Melin

A Liquid Bird Inside The Night
Alexandra van de Kamp
Red Glass Books

Alexandra van de Kamp’s A Liquid Bird Inside The Night offers “a rain of hums” (“Nightgowns”) amidst “an ocean of sound” (“How to Survive Yourself in Nine Steps”). In these poems, words as stillicide fall into a vast sea of dreams and movie scenes. Music propels the reader through van de Kamp’s dream-like world. In the poem “Sleep: An Update”, van de Kamp writes, “Teeth dream their way / through the language they are forced to chew.” Echoing Berryman’s Dream Songs, van de Kamp’s utilizes the logic of dreams as a means of carrying back clarity from the other world of sleep. As the poem “The Swill of Sleep” announces, van de Kamp believes:
            When we sleep, we tip over
            the jar of our dreams and end up
            backstroking through the muck of ourselves

Having practiced her backstroke, these poems shine through their wisdom. In the poem “How to Build a Summer Vacation” the speaker states, “Clarity is just a matter of distance mixed with a massive / dollop of patience.” However, no reader should discount how difficult this lucidity was achieved. As the last poem comes to conclusion the questions culminate:
            At 45, what stream am I rowing down? What coordinates
            do I possess? Maps suggest you can criss-cross
            from one continent to the next, with no cost to yourself

Yet she knows the maps, like dreams, are lovely false images because “Every distance I’ve meandered / resides in me.”

Patrick Riedy

i know that this ritual
Brad Vogler
Stockport Flats

Brad Vogler’s beautifully designed and quiet assemblage of words titled i know that this ritual culls a way to return to place which “is not static” in order to re-perceive an aura of the everyday. Vogler’s book reflects upon how the “shore is not still”, finding comfort in the changing certainty of circumstance. Addressing the largest questions on an intimate scale, its publication is restricted to 50 copies as part of the LUTE & CLEAT limited edition series. Vogler’s poems embrace, rather than reject, this ephemeral existence and flux. The book begins with an act of collection, evident in the poem “note: a remembering”:

            belly of artifacts
            memory : lake : yard


                                                                         here some pieces

            here a holding of unearthed bits                        here fragments shored by the lake

Reassured by visiting the question of personal and philosophical place, Vogler’s fragments construct a common ground partially through a series of handwritten letters between sender and receiver. The copyright page notes that Vogler assembled these handwritten words from letters his mother sent him, and the weight these pieces unearth carry the project’s aura. One such piece, titled “note: ritual”, ends:

                                    a procession
                                    that sings to me


                                    the lake

                                                            it always comes back

            I think of you writing
                                 -watching warm day changed     gone

                         between worry and poetry
                                         away and here
                                        (     )2 and (     )3



                              try-                         ing

            I know that this ritual comforts some people

                                               know that someone is listening

Patrick Riedy


Marten Clibbens, a British-born poet, is author of Veterans Day (Buffalo Ochre Papers, 2010) and Sequence (Lost Pages Press, 2006).

Matthew Hall is editor of Cordite Scholarly and recently published On Violence in the Work of J.H. Prynne (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015).

Paige Melin is the author of two recent publications: the chapbook Puddles of an Open (BlazeVOX [books], 2016) and the chapette MTL/BFL//ÉTÉ/QUINZE (Buffalo Ochre Papers, 2016); she recently completed a MFA at the University of Maine, Orono.

Patrick Riedy is the editor of PressBoardPress and author of the chapbook Five Points (Buffalo Ochre Papers, 2016); he is currently pursuing a MFA at Brown University.

Tina Darragh lives in DC and earns her keep as a librarian at Georgetown University. Her recent works Deep eco pré—a collaboration with poet Marcella Durand available from Little Red Leaves—and opposable dumbs (Object 001, zimZalla Avant Objects) are freely available online. 

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