Friday, April 30, 2010

Reading Log

It was nice to immediately dive into Stuart Ross's poetry collection I Cut My Finger right on the heels of finishing his stories (Buying Cigarettes for the Dog). As with his prose, there's a lot to like about these poems. There is the same predilection for the surreal and absurd but much more abstracted and unrestrained. Quite a few of them left me mystified (as a lot of poetry is wont to do with me) and quite a few had me marveling delightedly at Stuart's incredible imagination and wordplay. Overall, a very worthwhile read.

Apr 30, 2010 4:36PM

There's a lot to like, as well, in Jason Heroux's poetry collection, Emergency Hallelujah. For me, it was especially nice to read an entire full length book of poems and not once be totally baffled by any of them. Heroux, like so much of my favorite writing these days, works in the surrealist/absurdist vein but with a much lighter, less aggressive approach than Schomburg or Stuart. There's less risk taking and less pushing language and syntax into rarefied territory. At times, I felt there was an over reliance on similes and recurring metaphors. But there were also a lot of deliciously imaginative formulations such as:

"The clouds overhead looked like crumpled
suicide notes."

So, quite an enjoyable book. Recommended especially for the poetically challenged such as I.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Buying Cigarettes for the Dog by Stuart Ross

I was a little surprised by the refined craftsmanship of the stories in Stuart Ross's Buying Cigarettes for the Dog. I guess I've come to expect some degree of heavy-handedness or lack of depth in fiction written in a frankly surreal/absurdist mode. Ross's examples, however, display a lot of writerly intelligence in knowing just exactly how far to push a bizarre concept to arrive at a perfectly satisfying aesthetic result. I was repeatedly impressed by the restraint and subtlety shown in dealing with totally off-the-wall characters and situations. The poetry of the language certainly enhances this perception too. In fact, I was motivated to order one of this author's poetry collections because it seemed I was getting some representation of what he could do in that arena by these prose pieces. Needless to say, this is a very worthwhile book.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reading Log

Apr 15, 2010 5:08PM

Walkups by Canadian author Lance Blomgren is a quite fascinating cycle of fictive fragments bringing the reader, as if through the keyhole, voyeuristically into bits of the lives of the inhabitants of apartment units scattered around Montreal. Accompanying the texts are a series of enigmatic photos of interiors which perfectly match the tone of the scenes described without in any way illustrating them. The style is reminiscent of the French New Novel c. 1960 and also reminded me very much of Mario Bellatin's novellas in his book Chinese Checkers one of which also had text with accompanying photos which I liked a lot. Walkups is well worth tracking down.

Apr 16, 2010 4:11PM

Just finished Zachary Schomburg's Scary, No Scary, his newest collection. Once again this guy's imagination tickles and delights me. There's something very refreshing, like a gust of cold, pure mountain air, in Schomburg's writing which makes me sad when I get to the end of one of his books. I'll always be on the lookout for whatever he can get into print.

Apr 19, 2010 11:09PM

I liked Mairéad Byrne's latest collection, The Best of (What's Left of) Heaven, a bit less than than the earlier Talk Poetry. Unlike the earlier book, there are a variety of different formal strategies employed and a wider scope to the thematic content which was, indeed, interesting, but I felt there was some loss of consistency in the strength and effectiveness of the poems here as compared to the more uniform and focused work in Talk Poetry. Byrne's wit and wry humor are still much in evidence in TBOWLOH and I certainly found it worth reading and look forward to more from this author.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reading Log

Apr 08, 2010 04:23PM

Zachary Schomburg's Man Suit is a collection of prose poems but, as with so many of these little small press books, such labels are misleading inasmuch as the pieces here seem to be clear examples of flash fiction. And what hyper-imaginitively surreal and LOL funny work this is! I was completely entertained, frequently amazed even, by Schomburg's off-the-wall and extremely clever whimsical flights of fancy. It's the funnest book I've read in the past year or so and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Apr 08, 2010 04:48PM

Holy Land, a prose poem collection by Rauan Klassnik is filled with disturbing imagery of war and violence juxtaposed with wildly surreal renderings of male/female couplings and the natural world. Unlike some other work labled "prose poetry", these most definitely come across as poems and very good ones indeed. I really liked Klassnik's aggressive, unflinching attitude in bringing together very sharply contrasting elements in very creatively clever ways. Bravo.

April 12, 2010 11:05PM

My first encounter with Sam Pink is his newest book, Frowns Need Friends Too, which turns out to be a poetry collection that is riotously funny and off the charts in the absurdity of its biting and caustic imagination. I was sometimes reminded of the self deprecating comedy of Emo Phillips though with Pink, self flagellation or even annihilation is more like it.

Here is perhaps my favorite line in the book (from the poem Holographic Personality Disgrace):

Some people are such assholes that saying, "Look, again, I'm sorry I cut off my thumb and glued it to your baby's head because I thought you'd like him better as a unicorn" means nothing to them."

4.5/5 stars. And I can't wait to get my back-ordered copy of I Am Going to Clone Myself Then Kill the Clone and Eat It.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Reading Log

Mar 30, 2010 05:45PM

Finished the very fun little collection of narrative fragments which comprise Notice by the Canadian writer Geoffrey Brown. I came across this title among a favorite books list by Ken Sparling here and the book itself indicates some form of involvement by Sparling in its production. There is obvious similarity with Sparling's own fragmented prose stylings and a good thing too since I love Sparling's books. The story fragments in Notice are if anything even more decontextualized than in most of Sparling's writing but still, there are connections and correspondences which, to some extent, bring things together into something (albeit remotely) like a novel. 4/5 stars.

April 5, 2010 02:19AM

Really liked Zachary C. Bush's poetry collection Angles of Disorder; he mixes wit, whimsy and verbal/formal/typographical creativity in work that is fun for someone like me who has always tended to be mystified by a lot of contemporary poetry. Most of the pieces have a narrative structure and read like wildly imaginative prose. Great stuff; highly recommended.

April 5, 2010 02:19AM

Read another book of poems (albeit prose-ish ones): Kathryn Regina's chapbook I Am In the Air Right Now. Fun and whimsy feature prominently here but with tinges of darkness around the edges. The theme of flying is carried throughout, each poem being narrated by a female who prefers to remain permanently aloft piloting her hot air balloon. Thoroughly charming.

April 5, 2010 04:45AM

Finished another poetry chapbook, The Deviants by Jack Boettcher. A few of these, especially the title poem, were beautifully strange and fascinating multi-layered little journeys. A lot of them had me scratching my head struggling toward some sort of comprehension.