I adore chapbooks. Usually themed, they can simmer a story down to its bare emotional essentials, while at the same time displaying a keen sense of language. Like a full length collection, their forms of self-expression run the gamut from poetry to fiction to nonfiction and even hybrid works—all in a delightfully consumable-in-one-sitting package. In our Give It To Me E-gain issue you will find a sampling of this diversity, and like a chapbook, this spotlight of works selected by our staff is designed to be a brief read. Their impact though is anything but ephemeral.
Sundress Publications (2015)
On the conference call, Rimbaud complained
from Vladivostok that several ventures would suffer
languid sales and laughable costs if the training staff cannot
convey the softer side of capitalism
(from “An Apple That Falls”)
A narrative which is both disjunctive and invasive, The Bureau imagines a systemic corralling of the everyman in a world with a capitalist governmental run organization loves its populace into assuming compliant positions. While not quite detailing a dystopian, at least not from the viewpoint of our narrator, who may or may not be losing his mind, the manuscript is eerie and makes poignant connections to our own society. The Bureau is also playful, incorporating elements of magical realism and occasional humor with characters such as an iguana who consults, a boss who may or may not be Satan, and a Spanish-speaking collie, who is, after all, a bitch. Published in a typewriter font and incorporating redaction, the presentation is as smart as the writing.
Call It a Premonition
BOAAT Press (2015)
What is the Voynich Manuscript? A complex code, some lost language, or a hoax? (Or, as this reviewer previously believed, an excuse for a medieval doodler to draw fantastical plants, astronomical musings, and naked ladies bathing?)
By offering us a translation, Call It a Premonition does what scientists, linguists, and even a team of WWII code breakers have not been able to do. Feldman’s author of the Voynich Manuscript is a young woman growing up in the 1400s and an avid diary keeper. Starting with an account of how “sir gawain won’t look at me/ even though I wore my best frock,” this wildly charming echap, full of smart side-eye, walks the line between the gender expectations of middle ages and a modern feminist lens.
Forensic Foraging with Crawdaddy
Cover Artist William C. Crawford
These photos embody the forensic foraging technique of photography Crawford developed with his colleague, Sydney lensman, Jim Provencher. Whether in color or black and white, they feature extensive shooting of everything encountered, bringing Main Street Americana and abroad alive in their most base, everyday state. The images are then selectively presented with heavy contrast and saturation, with minimal computer manipulation. This genre borrows heavily from Stephen Shore and his color post cards from Amarillo, as well as the photographic DNA of Walker Evans on the move (foraging?). Read more about this technique in the essay “Forensic Foraging Embraces Minimalist Throwback Techniques To Unlock An Evolving Photographic Genre,” co-authored by Provencher.
In the Voice of a Minor Saint
Sarah J. Sloat
Sundress Publications (reprint 2016; originally published Tilt Press 2009)
If the moon comes out bearing nicks and bite marks,
you’ll find me smoothing my skin of its cares tonight.
Under a halo the size of a ring, the old
arguments sit splitting their oldest hairs tonight.
Look at me crooked. Mistake me for Eve. If looks
deceive, who knows which mask our maker wears tonight?
(from “Ghazal with Heavenly Bodies”)
In the Voice of a Minor Saint highlights the extraordinary in ordinary moments: the golden of a shaft of wheat, the heavy buzzing of bees at the end of summer, the sadness of a barren womb. Her language is rich and musical, never overbearing and always tonal. Sloat gives voice to the forgotten, the disenchanting, the wallflower of the world; she unwraps her universe carefully and lovingly. Each poem is always delicately woven, each word carefully picked; it is difficult not to be moved and charmed by the recurring themes and feelings conveyed in this book, not to elevate to sainthood what may seem insignificant. I was delighted to discover not one but two Ghazals in the folds of this chapbook, a form we do not often see—one more minor saint brought to our attention by Sloat’s clever writing.
The Marriage Bed
Wordrunner eChapbooks (November 14, 2015)
FREE to read online, $2.99 Kindle & additional formats on Smashwords
The seven stories in The Marriage Bed examine the ways that romantic relationships are complex, risky, and disappointing endeavors that people can’t help but enter into. In the collection’s third story, ironically titled “Rita Lafferty’s Lucky Summer,” an unnamed narrator tells the story of her thirty-year-old female coworker’s love affair with a man who proves not to be what she initially thought. Ford develops the boyfriend’s deceit skillfully. He is purportedly a train conductor, yet is always available to pick Rita up after her work shift, no matter what time she gets off. When the narrator questions this, Rita naively answers, “He has a lot of seniority. He gets first crack at the work sheet.” In response, the narrator tells us, “Well, I believed it if she did.” Ford crafts her characters with compassion. Even when the two young women discover the boyfriend passed out in his apartment after failing to pick Rita up after work, and his drinking problem is exposed, no judgment is made of him. Or of Rita, for becoming his fiancée.
Tomas Bird & The Madman’s Cabaret
£1.50 BandCamp any and all proceeds donated to charity
Redemption for me I think,
Is now slim.
Previously published in our Trigger Warning issue with his song “Senses,” Bird is back with a new EP Medicine. With a haunting ambient quality, Bird seamlessly mixes folk and psychedelic qualities together with his own soulful lyrics. Although only three songs long, this EP is a burning mix of contradictions, providing a stunning breadth of the human experience.
Take heed of the warnings,
But follow your heart.
The only aim you see,
Is to live.
(from “Draw in the Dirt”)
Five Quarterly (2015)
Neil asks where the photos are. I hand him a sheet of paper, his favorite green crayon. “What do you want to remember?”
“You know what to do.”
The crayon hits my collarbone. “I know you have to have at least one photo of her. Where is it?”
It’s better you forget. It’s better to learn to quit missing her.
Simultaneously sweet and creepy, Neil creates parallels between father and son. First our narrator about he and his son (the titular Neil), and then he and his father. Parenting techniques that go from “straight out of Parenthood magazine” to “curious but effective and clever” to “worse than The Great Santini” to “something isn’t right” actually serve a narrative purpose. Intergenerational kidnapping. In both: A motherless upbringing. A call to be absolutely average to avoid attention. A call to simultaneously remember and forget. For the narrator, this is second nature and, for whatever the reason, he continues his father’s tradition. No explanation offered. No explanation ever given. Not by his father to him nor one from him to Neil. Cleverly written, this is a piece full of questions with no answers. Infer and guess at your own risk.
No Ghost Goes Unnoticed
M. Drew Williams
Leaf Garden Press (2016)
FREE pdf or name your price epub/mobi
No Ghost Goes Unnoticed is sure of itself, and aware of its distance from the world at large and its curator’s core, though as the poems progress, it becomes clear: it was not always this way. Its enticing medical metaphors slowly color in the story with hints of the poet’s empathetic, and often self-deprecating, character through poems about seemingly insignificant things as is highlighted in “Comparison.” While the cold, removed voice generically gives little away about the underlying story, there are refreshing moments of sensitivity as with “An Elegy for Daytime.” The author offers many metaphors for his distant voice in, “The Desert is Decidedly Quiet,” “Image of a Stranger,” “Conquistador,” among others. The work showcased in No Ghost Goes Unnoticed gives away how visceral the experiences that led to this book were, to house the startling awareness they give the reader. “Palabras” gives the most insight into his interactions with people, eloquently, using wordplay about a designated number of words recycled to get through the author’s day. No Ghost Goes Unnoticed explains depression, loss, and numbness in both exceedingly vulnerable and impassive, if unfeeling, ways.
The Persistence of the Bonyleg: Annotated
Essay Press (2015)
FREE Issuu or pdf
126. Narrator: Maybe I will have a little child for a while. Then, when she gets too big, when she first starts hurting, I will eat her.
127. Narrator: She will only ever be the right kind of alone.
This hybrid essay explores the manner in which our patriarchal society has historically, and currently, talked about women, particularly those existing outside of the normative expectations of heterosexual marriage. With many irons in the fire, The Persistence of the Bonyleg juxtaposes the real-life history of the Lykov family, a Russian family of Old Believers who moved deep into the wilderness to avoid prosecution, with the mythology of Baba Yaga, elements of traditional fairy tale narrative, the writings of Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić, and the narrator’s own interjections. Agafia Lykov, the last surviving family member and an unmarried older woman, is placed center-stage. Stylistically, The Persistence of the Bonyleg splits its narrative between two collocating writing styles. Even pages recount the Lykov’s family’s struggles and religious practices in the taiga, chronicled in poetic passages which are narrated by a tree stump (one recalls The Giving Tree). Odd pages take inspiration from the Bible by numbering their verses and script conventions (most likely an influence from the documentary Far Out: Agafia’s Taiga Life) where each line is voiced by a character. Rather than lead the reader directly to a single thesis, Minor’s feminist essay asks the reader to confront the text and allow their thoughts to take part in the conversation.
Sarah Ann Winn
Sundress Publications (2015)
I was made to portage, by Portage, a girl raised by reservoirs,
lifted from one lake and carried to the next,
made to find joy in journeys.
Stringing together vivid tellings from youth and discovery to loss and regaining wonder, Winn reminds us of the fluidity of our lives, however jagged moments seem in the now. There is movement, always some sort of progression. The highlight of this collection is simplicity: the poetry is both relatable but individual with focal points such as apples, a hammer, or camera lens. These seemingly trivial objects add tremendous depth to the poems—as we notice there’s always an object in our recollection that seems insignificant to a broader picture but was, in truth, the center of a moment.
Revisiting Dreamworlds: Art Feature
Eddy Martin Graham
Graham’s artwork is about individuals becoming their own selves within their dreamworlds, the facing of hard facts within reality, and how by intertwining fantasy with the day to day, humans manifest their own destinies.
Shake it up & throw it at something hard
Essay Press (2016)
FREE Issuu or pdf
So you think creating a baby makes someone intelligent. I would say the opposite may be true. Why would a peaceful person like Jesus create a baby?
(from, “If Jesus was perfect, how come he couldn’t solve calculus problems and equations and create the atomic baby?”)
A game of mad libs gone awry (“Babies for bombs! Bombs for babies!”), Shake it up and throw it at something hard does more than cause some silly imagery. In the process of finding humor in a thousand babies pelting down on an unsuspecting city or swaddled-up bombs given names like Kimmy or Bryan as they are presented fresh and pink and blinking to the world, the reader is forced to give pause. In the midst of this laughter, there is a deeper contextual possibility. Overpopulation. Humans waging war. Bombs created. Bombs as tools…but only for war. (What else could bombs be? Even fireworks contain danger.) Lack of sexual education. Romanticizing war; downplaying destruction. Accessibility, accessibility, accessibility. In short: A strange yet marvelous read.
When Minerva’s Knees Hit the Ground
Words Dance Publishing (2016)
but my mind
for the game
for the bluff
(from “In This Room We Can’t Touch the Floor”)
Oaks nods to The Deftones with this collection, but whether you dig the band or not isn’t a huge deal; these poems have their own appeal, while maintaining the rhythmic and emotive draw of music. Where that likeness ends is the conversational approach she takes to point the pieces inward or toward a lover, all while keeping things curiously anonymous. The erasures come across blunt, but show intent, whereas the original poems they’re paired with bounce between the chaos of infatuation, admissions of flaws, and the way hurt contributes to self-awareness. This layout gives the book a unique posture: strong, with earned fragilities, but ultimately resilient.
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