07 June 2007

The Poker #8 & Saltgrass #1

As I've been going through the process of becoming single again, I've been reading two new journals:

Saltgrass #1

"Look through a complex eye / and see 1000 of everything." is the first sentence in the first poem in the first issue of Saltgrass. Zachary Schomburg wrote that sentence and the ones that follow it in a poem titled "Look through a Complex Eye and See 1000 of Everything." But the vision the poem describes doesn't just multiply -- it transforms: "A bird becomes / a black cloud ... One boy falls from / a tree // and rains on / a cornfield."

And if I had to characterize the work in the first half of Saltgrass I would say something about transformation, about sideways worlds that look, smell, but don't dance like ours. "All the dead / raccoons en route," writes Jen Tynes, "were once ghosts / in the machinery like us, / then they accepted / their serious wardrobes." ("I Took My Hands from the Machine")

Bill Cassidy's "The Siding Looks Like Face in Addicted Town and You're Not Resting" runs along at a quick clip. The speed of Cassidy's rant crashes into the tangle of language that frays as the poem's long lines play out: "it's dark so i can think about nudity / and clothesline the rooftops, never resemble you again, your teeth / are yellower and you've been at it less, i've plunged off the crag, / i've had dementia, bit back at it with rubber bands." The poem's energy and leaps of (non) logic are compelling: "it's / scardy catty, the uneveness of the sideburns, i'm cancerish / from saying this, but you don't know, obsession is too easy, short- / pants, urinating in plastic bottles, it still isn't catapulted, / i can't look at these fat fucks no more, i am on the deepend and you / call it eccentricities, who's going to get laid / drinking coffee?" After three and some pages, the final line's clarity comes across as rather wry: "i will be angry my entire life."

Saltgrass #1 also features a lengthy interview with David Barber about his recent book Wonder Cabinet ("So I tried marrying the contemplative scriptural conception of the Eastern sutra with the robust tradition of commemorating historical figures ... It was a way of paying homage to an eclectic posse of my favorite American geniuses, folks like John James Audubon and Louis Armstrong and Buster Keaton."), a short story by Malwina Andruczyk about fractured family patterns ("I'm sure I'll be back in time for the baby." "I hope so," Agata says.), and poems by Daniela Gesundheit ("I told him that I was in love with a girl. He was telling me that this one can go 170, but the brakes cease to function at around 150.") and Edith Zimmerman ("the Texas Bikini Team is so pretty.")

The work in the second half of the magazine has a more realist bend than the first half; the poems and stories document what exists, bringing to light the subtle, stopping an action in mid-motion. And so Saltgrass contains these two broad trends: the desire to document a strangeness that reflects back into our daily world and the desire to document our daily world such that the strangeness in it becomes clear.

I suspect the 200 copies of the journal's first print run are almost all gone; I'm eager to see what editors Julia Cohen and Abigail Holstein present in the next issue.


The Poker #8

"Draft 75: Doggerel," a section of Rachel Blau Duplessis' Drafts project, sets the pace for the latest Poker. It's inclusion also demonstrates one of several things I appreciate about The Poker, that being that Daniel Bouchard publishes some of the same poets from issue to issue. Eight marks the fourth time Duplessis has appeared in an issue of The Poker. And "Doggerel" gets thing rolling with a, well, rollicking rhythm set against the heavy beat of end rhymes as in "Mug of the month, sneeze of the day, / whose germ warfare? Bombs away!" Duplessis is doing Alexander Pope here, a modern version of "An Essay on Criticism" complete with tercets set off by brackets. Along the way we get "I'll defend to the breath not the dog trot or dog cart / but the woman, as best source of poetic dog-art, / form being no more than extensions of cunt-tent, / Best woman, best thought gets the poem unbent." "Draft 75" winds from end rhyme to end rhyme commenting on poetry, politics, and gender and ends with "Doggerel's so bad that it can't come to grief. / It's Two Thousand and Seven. We need Comic Relief! / We need more mixage-drivel, less straight-edged bevel. / We need poetry played on the mishegoss level! // Enough already? of going round and coming round. But no-- / there's plenty further coming round to go."

Richard Roundy's piece, from String Theory, works over an undertone of the same rhythm as "Draft 75." In from String Theory, the rhythm is subtler and breaks down often, but there are a lot of iambs in these lines. Two lines, that don't demonstrate this rhythm particularly well, are "the entire universe is made up of everything / and its opposite, commonly called everything else." Such line breaks against syntax provide nice counterpoint to that ghost meter lurking about the piece.

"Ode Amo" by Anne Boyer reminds me of the Bonnie 'Prince' Billy song "Beast for Thee" in that both treat love and animals. Boyer's piece responds, or launches from, a quotation from the 20th century Russian philosopher Alexandre Kojeve: "no animal can be a snob." And the poem moves through four related sections that hint at the werewolf archetype ("My beast back // carries on in a courtyard of sparrows"), body parts ("the clitoral nub of the cigarette butt / held like that, against two happy folds ... If the intestines are resurrected, are they brim / full of shit? ... I wobble so spherically, an amputee"), and death ("Say you pulled apart your sinews / and gave your flesh to all comers. / What will the end give you? / Beauty, who can again be a child?") Towards the end of the poem we get these two musical lines, "Won't no longer so wander no coughing // so trembling at the sentiment braying I in I." And the poem closes with Parascelsus and "all homunculi." The poem is rich with fruitful allusions.

Work by Noah Eli Gordon, Landis Everson, Carol Szamatowicz, Douglas Rothschild (2nd appearance), John Wilkinson, Pattie McCarthy, Anselm Berrigan (2nd appearance), Rick Snyder, Deborah Meadows (2nd appearance), Ming Holden, Nadia Herman Colburn, Robert Kelly, Dan Beachy-Quick , and an extensive interview with Jennifer Moxley (4th appearance) round out the rest of the issue.

The 24-page interview with Moxley includes questions like "you studied the letters of Rosa Luxemborg?" and "There's a lot of emotion in [The Sense Record]. There's joy, there's anxiety, from the speaker. "Impervious to Starlight" and "Fear of an Empty Life" -- they're almost recurring themes. And maybe this actually goes back to your thoughts on language and literary activity and if, as we talked about in the beginning, this is all worthwhile?"

One of the last pieces in this issue is Ming Holden's piece about discovering remnants of the days of George and Mary Oppen on Eagle Island in Maine; Bob, who remembers the Oppens, says "they were like hippies but too early to be hippies. Bohemian, I think they were called."

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