Archive for June, 2010

A Review of “Forked Tongue” by Craig Sernotti

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Spencer Dew

Having, in an earlier poem, denied belief in the moon, this book soon after paints an image of a “bank executive / drunk on absinthe / thrashing his / F2M transsexual paramour…for acknowledging his / receding hairline.” So surely no moonlight shines down on this brutal, lonely, ultimately pathetic scene.

Sernotti’s is a world of senseless violence and violent lusts, of incest and porn, of drinking piss on a dare or passing out after one too many attempts to insulate the vulnerable self from reality writ large. “We run on empty stomachs in cardboard shoes,” one poetic voice declares.

Mixed in with nightmare images of peeling faces and toilets overflowing with fresh shit, Glenn Danzig and John Updike exist as ciphers in a world spun off axis, broken. Videos of decapitation play out their grisly one-act joke, while worldly men, no longer young, talk about what they’ve done, recently, with high school girls.

At times, these pieces seem like so much braggadocio, drunken mumblings about strippers and shaved scrotums, perverse retellings of fairy tale with the whiff of French onion soup. But, as with that bank executive beating the lover he cannot name, there’s something strikingly tragic just under the surface here.

“We were drunk, / we were high, / we were walking the dog,” and anything that happens after is unable to make anything more of those conditions. There is no transcendence is orgasm, just another little ending, a measure of lost time. Blow jobs become exercises in futility, even metaphors for mortality, no matter what sort of swagger the individual poetic narrator may take in the retelling.

“I die in my dreams,” one poem says, yet dreams lie dead here, too, crushed under the weight of all the accumulated grit. “We are ashes trying to be flowers,” runs another line, but the sense one gets from Forked Tongue is that this metamorphosis is not to be–rather, the poetry here contemplates these ashes, sifting through them for bits of broken teeth and globs of silver fillings. “We cry into our empty glasses. / We tell jokes about graveyards, / ovens, money, dead babies.”

Whatever wonder moonlight may have once provided for the romantic imagination, it’s been excised here. Forked Tongue narrates the hangover that comes after.

Official Blue Room Publishing Web Site

Frank Hinton Reads “Comorbidity” from Our October 2009 Issue

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Check out Frank Hinton read “Comorbidity,” which first appeared in the October 2009 issue, in Episode Thirteen: Suckers Wear Sunglasses of the Orange Alert Podcast. For more from Hinton, visit her joint-venture Metazen.

A Review of “Editorial” by Arthur Graham

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Spencer Dew

This self-published book of prose is all over the place, veering through time and space out into flights of sci-fi and fantasy, with shape-shifting characters, a recurring self-reflexivity about narrative and editing and fiction and lies, and a bulging bag of so-called postmodernist tricks, some of which seem designed like knock-off versions of the name brands Kurt Vonnegut and William S. Burroughs. There’s a little Dr. Strangelove in here as well a bit of chemically-filtered Michael Crichton fragments–the U.S. government loads up into a post-nuclear ark, in the far-flung future a virus eats all materials on which writing might be preserved. There’s no small amount of attention to alcoholism, which may or may not hold larger, metaphorical meanings, and there are statements, amidst the cartoons and comic anecdotes about masturbation, such as “The lies of the author are thus supplanted by the lies of the editor, which somehow results in the conveyance of truth, or a kind of it anyway….” The ellipses are original, as are quite a lot of chains of Xs marking the text as censored in some way.

Consider this example of biographical, historical writing:  “XXXX XXXXXXXX was born to XXXXXX and XXX XXXXXXXX on XXX XXth, 19XX CE in…,” etc. Graham is interested in how all language use is paraphrase, how all acts of memory are instances of editing.

‘Historian’ (or in this case, ‘biographer’) is the name given to the individual charged with plumbing the depths of time, taking each notable occurrence and describing it with the appropriate level of detail, context, and (perhaps most importantly) speculation…. The true fullness of history is invariably reduced to a flat, empty point on a timeline (or a chapter in a book) where it remains–dead, static–until the next brave soul dares to descend into its turbulent depths.”

Editorial brings no real new perspective to such considerations, however. Stories rather predictably turn out to be “not what you expected,” even if the predictable, in most cases, is boilerplate absurdity. Scenes are written and edited as they unfold (or explode), with various authorial or editorial presences playing first person protagonist, etc., which is, precisely, what you would expect.

Oscillating between “more pedestrian–more printable” bits of rehashed class notes on various waves of navel-gazing and attempts at associative pyrotechnics that do little more than fizzle (“your catfucking mother with reptammary glands suckling frogs and pigs alike in a bucket of nuclear war winter time in Reno Nevada has never been so hot girls in school on paper…”), the 136 tedious pages of Editorial will likely strike its readers as–to quote one of its autobiographically plumbing voices–“self indulgent in retrospect.”

Buy Editorial from Amazon

A Review of “When You Feel & Don’t Know How to Say” by Estefania Crespo

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Spencer Dew

“Pit me of my resources, / Poach me of my life,” writes “actress, singer and songwriter” Estefania Crespo in a self-published bit of self-promotion, When You Feel & Don’t Know How to Say. This collection of poems comes complete with several photographs of the young actress, a filmography (she played “Make out Kissing Student” in Bart Got a Room), and a full-page advertisement for her and her twin sister’s band, EnV, and their EP, Beautiful Thing. You can look up her Web site on your own; my task here is to take the text seriously. So, what sort of poetry does Crespo write?

The poem “Sensations,”  for instance, ends:

Continue on your way,
Continue with speechless sulk.
When you think of a person with my name,
And feel a bit of heavenly warmth.
May it continue synergistically,
Sarcastically within abundant bulk.

I’m not entirely sure what that means, though, within the context of the poem, the narrator “cannot help feeling insufficient,” even though “Our favorite is in our favor,” and “Our wanting is in our want.” I’m not entirely sure what that means, either, though, again, the narrator claims to be “glad you have hesitation” before sending that “you” on with the aforementioned silent sulk. As the title of this book indicates, speech–saying–isn’t always easy. “My feeling keep on spilling,” she writes elsewhere, and, in another poem, “Try giving yourself up to words, / It is hard when you are successful.”

Crespo isn’t particularly successful in this regard. “I cannot help but to think of you, / When you accompany every time I breathe,” for instance. Crespo is at her best not when she’s trying to convey what she does not know how to convey–“The way we will never know you,” as she writes in one poem–but when she gives in to the “climbing intensity” of language itself, not speaking from her heart but just playing with words:

Single, secular sorrows,
Bravo to plastic pleathered thoughts.
Thinking is no longer instinctual,
As enhanced green bamboo rots.
Humans limitedly control,
And devices perpetually robot.

I’m not entirely sure what that means, either, but such knowing seems beside the point. There’s something trippy and fun, at least, in such associative acrobatics, which avoid the overcooked sentiments of, say, “You are a tantalizing love fantasy, / Not to dwell upon fantasies that will never die. / Because of you love can only be, / A fantasy so tempting.” I’m pretty sure I do know what that means, but I certainly don’t care. For the most part this book consists of similar pre-masticated tidbits–“Sickening, suffering, trite,” to quote a poem. But there are a few moments when instead of “sensitively burning” her overly self-serious, melodramatic emotions on the page she embraces poetry as “A chomping, charging playful game” and thus succeeds, in part.

“To know and now yourself,” for instance. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I’m willing to be seduced, a bit, by its newness, to find it sort of neat.

Official Estefania Crespo Web Site