Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Three Grange Halls
Swan Scythe Press
There are reproductions of sketches from Edward Hopper's notebook sprinkled around this chapbook, very handsomely presented. In fact, I think the poems are sprinkled about as well. Tumbleweed. Milkweed in autumn breeze. Dandelion "helicopters" floating on a summer's day.
And I think that's my problem with poetry like this. The breeziness. The lack of depth. It's 2002 and the poetry in this collection like so many other collections anticipate the surface emptiness of "Instagram Poetry" perfectly. It's singy-songy nothingness. I read the whole book feeling like my hand was out of a window on a hot summer day, feeling air. Feeling air because there was nothing there. Nothing I would remember tomorrow. Chinese food for the soul.
Sunday, December 09, 2018
Pollock Pines, CA
Chapbooks like this one become journies into new and different threads that are the tapestry of small press history in this country. This chapbook was part of a lot that I found & bought online and I mostly got it because I didn't know any of the poets nor any of the publishers. Like Rattlesnake, which seems to be a big-deal West Coast regional press. Poetry with fangs, or something. That's what the website says. "Poetry with fangs."
Kate Wells' poetry is fangless. But it exists and I am acknowledging it. So, there. Next!
Friday, December 07, 2018
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Pat Parker, editor
the women's press collective
I bought a small press lot of books from a seller in California who was highlighting this book in particular, but I bought the lot anyway because of the variety of authors and presses I have never heard of before. It wasn't until it arrived and I looked through the books that I started to feel uneasy about this one - this Pit Stop left me a bit cold and it took me a few extra minutes to work through my brain why that might be and it wasn't until after I read over the publisher information that it dawned on me that I had seen "the women's press collective" before, and that it was in an unsavory context.
I quickly looked through my own blog and also typed in "Lesbian Poetry" for the name of this publisher and found that it was linked to Diana Press out of Baltimore. Ah, that's right - Diana Press out of Baltimore. Lee Lally's book that they stole. Lee Lally's book that they published without permission and never gave a dime to the original publisher, Some Of Us Press. Yes, scumbags. Yes, dirtballs. Yes, uprooting themselves from Baltimore to merge with/become the women's press collective. And that name : Pat Parker. Her name was involved with both Diana and the Oakland re-grouping.
Lee Lally passed away years ago now and my own involved with any of this was a stillborn effort on my part to publish an inclusive "Some of Us Press" anthology. While it didn't come to bear, it did enlighten me about this unethical action by Diana Press. I found it interesting that in the Lesbian Poetry Archives listing of the books published BY Diana Press that there was no mention of the pirated publication, These Days, but I just looked through my copy of the book and it clearly states that it was printed BY Diana Press. Someone is attempting to airbrush history a bit.
Since this is now the second time this incident has come across my screen, I will now have to research a bit more. I do want to get to the bottom of this sorted affair simply because whoever made this underhanded decision should not go unpunished.
Friday, November 16, 2018
Drinking the Light
Finishing Line Press
Laverne Frith is a widely published, award-winning poet and a nationally published reviewer of literary journals and magazines. Laverne is on the reviewer panel of the New York Journal of Books. He is the proprietor of Frith Press and co-editor of Ekphrasis. He is the author of a handful of chapbooks including this one. However, this one is from Finishing Line Press and I do not much like Finishing Line Press. At all.
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
I have been writing this blog for a number of years now (12) and admittedly several of the postings have been pretty "surface". I haven't dug into either the subject nor the work terribly hard. But then - well : I have a new query – I bought a chapbook printed in 1967 by BLACK SPARROW PRESS. Now I always thought that Black Sparrow only did full books with spines and that it started out to publish Bukowski but this chapbook undercuts that narrative. Because it’s a chapbook of James Purdy’s work and it’s a signed copy. So, if the Press WAS formed in 1966, as the history on Wikipedia states, then this is a first year project that predates Bukowski (?). The evidence I have so far found online suggests that the Press was created for Martin, the publisher, to promote Bukowski, “the new Whitman“ (Martin’s words – not mine). And here is a chapbook that is an outlier. Purdy is as underappreciated as Bukowski once was. So Black Sparrow worked with other unknown authors before striking the chord with Charles.
In later interviews Martin does seem to gloss over his own history a bit and told people what they wanted to hear or what made them cream their jeans : that in fact the Press was formed to promote Bukowski and while it’s true that he wasn’t the only successful relationship that Black Sparrow formed with authors, they also brought out work by Paul Bowles and John Fante, in our media culture narrative we associate Black Sparrow SOLELY with Bukowski. So, what am I to make with this chapbook I am holding?
Monday, October 22, 2018
That Bird Your Heart
Finishing Line Press
Tasha Cotter has been quite productive since 2013. In addition to this book, there 4 other books published in the same time frame and one of them, Some Churches takes its name from the first poem in this collection. The poetry itself is quite good. My only issue with it is that I am not a fan of Finishing Line Press.
Wednesday, October 03, 2018
Another time capsule from the Central PA environs. Ryder has been a poet in the area for a number of years and this is one of her earlier chapbooks. One of the poems was published previously in Experimental Forest which was a mid-state journal that I loved reading back in the day. Mid-1990s. The poetry is good. Worth collecting.
Tuesday, October 02, 2018
Featuring Jack Veasey
Iris G. Press
Iris G Press & Fledgling Rag are the brainchildren of Le Hinton who has become a regional poetry superstar. This issue features many of the region's finer poets and that region is Central PA to Washington DC but that came later. In the beginning and this is closer to the beginning as FR only began in 2006, Le asked poets he knew or heard while visiting the Harrisburg to Allentown area. I contributed to one of his issues as well, but not this one. Susan Norris acted as his technical assistant and layout specialist. They worked together for many issues. It's a Heroic effort that deserves attention for both of them.
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Standing in the Chaos
Steven G. Concert
Harveys Lake, PA
Concert is a mover and shaker in the poetic world of NE Pennsylvania. He has been actively involved in the Pennsylvania Poetry Society for a number of years and have at least one other book out. This one is thin. A mere 13 pages of verse. I am mentioning the book to talk more about the poet and the fact that poetry thrives all across the state. I am glad to have gotten to know or read a good number of poets from all over PA and hope to spread the wildfire of poetry wherever I roam. They have all inspired me. So, thanks, Steven. Thanks!
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Third Book of Poetry
Noah J. Augarten
Spiral bound chapbook. Plain paper. Unpaginated and yet there’s a table of contents with page count. I mean, unpaginated means no page numbers and there’s a TOC with numbers. Um, yeah, okay: I give up.
It is way too often true that just because someone can doesn’t mean someone should and that’s is especially true of self-publishing books. To friends and family this might be welcomed. But to someone reading it who doesn’t know the writer except for the words on the page, this effort really should have been suppressed.
Sunday, September 23, 2018
To be Santa you have to be tested
little vanity press
San Francisco, CA
When I was in Toronto over the summer I happened across books by Canadian writers Liz Worth and John L'ecuyer dealing with "cool fringe" culture : drugs and music, but mostly drugs. So when I found this tiny sliver of nothing, the chapbook by Joe Donohoe, I thought of the cool Canadians. This one though wasn't quite the others. Reminds me of that Sesame Street tone "One of these things is not like the other". Indeed. Not that the writing is terrible because it does fit what the Canadian writers were portraying. It's that the presentation was god-awful.
So, I found Donohoe's chapbook on a shelf behind a front row of books, and it didn't stand out so much as I was intrigued by the thinness of it. I recognize a chapbook when I see it. This staple bound effort is completely slap-dash in the most kind was of saying it. There are illustrations in the book but they didn't distract from the absolute primitiveness of the book's appearance. They actually make it more blatant since the illustrations look like they were photocopied poorly and simply put in as pixelated and gray and dirty as they were. Plus each illustration has the title of the book above the image. Like I would be confused or something? I am holding a wreck of a chapbook, I know what I am holding. I half expect it to vomit on me at each turn of the page. Like a chapbook form of a bad punk music show where a speaker falls on a teenage girl and splits her head open. Gushing blood and puke and boy did you see that, dude, that was awesome! (except it wasn't) And neither is this chapbook but not everyone feels like way about his work! A different chapbook by Donohoe was actually distributed by Last Gasp. He's a niche artist, it seems. Not my niche, sorry.
Friday, September 21, 2018
Jumping into the time machine for a second time to deal with the previous published work by Julia Tilley, we come upon her 2002 book, Anticipating You, which was published by Jennifer Ryder. Or rather "a" Jennifer Ryder since I was about to snap-assume that the publisher of this book was also related to Debbie Ryder, a Harrisburg-area poet, but the website given at the back of the book goes to an Australian writer of best-selling romance novels. Not sure I can square that circle.
Regardless, this book is much better made than the 2009 effort. The poems are tighter, the presentation is more professional; it's just better. Joyryder Enterprises has disappeared into the ether of time. No electronic footprint left to follow. And to be fair to all concerned parties, I had by 2002 moved to downtown Philadelphia and was trying to lay siege to that fine city. Harrisburg, in case some of you don't know, is the state Capital of Pennsylvania and like some other state capitals is much less interesting than the largest city in the state and in the case of Pennsylvania - that means less interested than TWO cities : Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But it did have a poetry community in Harrisburg that was tighter and more buoyant than most other communities in the state. I tip my hat to them! Uptown Poetry Cartel, et al.
Julia Tilley is still quite active in the arts - she has done a one person show as Emily Dickinson recently and is part of the Flying Marmottes Performance Troupe. Good on her!
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Cheez Whizz and Other Processed Poems
a Division of Thiaw & Tilley Enterprise
It doesn't help that I know one of the principals in this endeavor. Back in the day, before I left for Philadelphia, I participated in the poetic scene from Allentown to Harrisburg so I know a good number of the active poets in the region. So it does pain me to say that this chapbook coming out in 2009 with such a horribly pixelated cover image is simply not good. These are 24 pages of unremarkable poetry as well. Unfortunate, especially in light of her previous work (the 2002 chapbook Anticipating You). I will discuss that one next.
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Friday, September 14, 2018
Diana Smith Bolton
Diana Bolton is the founding editor of District Lit. Her work has been featured in numerous publications. This is her first chapbook. The poems within are good and the visuality of the physical book is adequate but it overall lacks something.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Carl S. Kaucher
The image is that of a cloverleaf where the by-pass and roads leading into Reading and West Reading, PA convene. This self published chapbook with the quite pixelated photo on front and similar photos throughout is the work of Carl Kaucher, who along with her sister, Candace, were among the local talent around at the time that the poetry scene in Berks County, PA was coming together in the mid to late 1990s as I remember it. See, I was a catalyst of that particular shift in poetic happenings there in Berks County which led to the Berks Bards and the poetry festival that they present annually, Berks Bard Fest. The first year of that festival was 1999 and this chapbook was either created that year or possibly in 2000. I don't recall and since there is no publication information it's impossible to be sure. I do remember seeing it around before I moved to Philadelphia in 2001.
Fast forward to my last trip to Berks County, PA and I visited the same place that I found books from Norman Pritchard's library in 2001 and in a trailer where books are dumped, I found a handful of chapbooks of which this was one. There's a certain amount of symmetry in discovering chapbooks from that period now. The poetry festival is 20 years old now and those poets and artists who made up the first core of the poetry readings across the county from 1995-1998 are now themselves 20 years older. I look that the chapbooks as historical documents, not for the poetry in them per se, but for the time period and the fact that many of them were complete DIY efforts.
Thanks for the memories, Carl. I hope you are well.
Saturday, September 08, 2018
A Week With Bejing
I enjoy the work of Meg Eden. Now, I have to say that I am limiting these comments to the one book of hers that I have - this one, but this one is good. Just sayin'. I got to hear her read in Arlington several months ago. It was a worthwhile experience. All the poems in this collection have to do with a person or city or State that may or may not answer to the name Bejing. Short poems with a zip in each one. Very cool.
Friday, September 07, 2018
Poems Cradled in the Horn
I am writing to acknowledge this book. Perhaps the translation fails to bring forth the color of the original language, but I see a dull palate here. The downside of self publishing is that there is no one to suggest that an author not move forward with a project. Perhaps too this does speak to people from the Horn and I am simply missing the context that informs the pieces. Perhaps, maybe, but
Thursday, August 23, 2018
The Metaphysical Salvage & Scrap Language Yard
Plan B Press
I am wearing a t-shirt right now that has the slogans “Made in America Store” on the front and “Because China Is A Long Drive to Work!” on the back that was made by the Save Our Country First.com (company). At the time I bought the shirt, it reflected a knee jerk reaction on my part about how everything that we used to make in this country was no longer made in this country but was being produced EVERYWHERE ELSE. Now the store still exists, in Elma, NY and they still have a website but I remember feeling cheated about a store that proclaimed its “Made-in-America”-ness that basically was selling bobbles. Kitch. Grab bag stuff, nothing substantial or essential to my life in America was being sold in this store. But I bought a t-shirt to express my outright at – globalization? In this context all “globalization” means is that corporations and companies make deals to produce good in foreign countries to screw American workers out of decent paychecks to improve the bottom line for CEOs and shareholders. And, I fell for it.
But that knee-jerk reaction, that Nativistic impulse to flip someone off, that comes from somewhere in this country’s experience too. As the head of Plan B Press, I realize that I in fact published a chapbook that dealt with that “somewhere” when we published Kenneth DiMaggio’s 2007 The Metaphysical Salvage & Scrap Language Yard.
DiMaggio is an educator and he wedged these poems together out of left over bits of unfinished and unpolished pieces that in hindsight presented a lead up to the current “know-nothingness” of the Donald Trump supporter. It starts right away with the first poem : PROPAGANDA which contains the lines
Oh don’t tell me your
ideology or your religious
affiliation just quit your
job and let someone else
clean up the mess
the future is not our responsibility
the future is our ongoing art project
In the poem INSOMNIA DiMaggio wonders
where did your education disappear
but into an electric TV-screen
And as sharply as the pointed tip of the reality we are living through right now, he presented us this Polaroid image of the future in his poem THE LAST CLASSROOM CHALKBOARD:
Johnny may not be able
to read or write
but so long as he knows how
to salvage pieces of the Emancipation
Proclamation and the First
Amendment into marijuana pipes
and Kalashnikov rifles illegally made
in metal shop then he will still
have learned his lessons
DiMaggio leads us “astray” through the lens of an educator who is being outflanked on all sides by forces indifferent to values and principles that made this country the envy of the world – once – asking at the end of the last poem in the collection, WHERE IS PARADISE?
so don’t we need
what was once vital and alive
Friday, August 17, 2018
Blue Bathtub Books
I don't recall exactly when I met Robert Lawson electronically because I never met him in person but I met him a handful of years ago when he was just starting his Blue Bathtub experiment of creating a book of poems a month for something like 3 years. (Correct me if I am wrong, Robert). Lawson is a teacher of English in Spain. A Brit. A man of boundless energy and a bit of Brautigan/Bukowski in his soul. The books he created and sent me in the mail monthly were both explosive and more than occasionally written on a typewriter with drunken fingers.
The covers began humbly but over time became more distinctive and dare I say it - professional looking. The poems were mixed but definitely immediate. I completely enjoyed Robert's experiment and results thereof.
Once his project was completed, he went silent. Onto his next endeavor. Whatever that might be. It will be nearly impossible to find any of these chapbooks since he didn't mass produce any of them. What was most important was immediacy and that he accomplished.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Rough Cut: Independent Japanese Animation
Pulitzer Arts Foundation
St. Louis, MO
This thin pink booklet is an exhibition guide to show by the same name held in St. Louis. The booklet is tiny thin since it online deals with 3 animations and some additional words which to a non-film maker read like "blah blah blah".
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
the life story of Charles Dickens
The Dickens House
A staple-bound biography of Dickens with B&W images. Very informative booklet.
Monday, July 09, 2018
Jessica Helen Lopez
Swimming with Elephants Productions
Slam Poetry has created in 1990 by Marc Smith of Chicago who lamented that no publication would print his work. So, he "invented" a poetic form in a competitive format where money could be made via the performance of one's "work". I am oversimplifying, perhaps, but I am also not a fan of slam poetry. No one who has come up through Slam has been successful on the page. This particular chapbook is typical of the chasm between poetry on the page and poetry from the stage. The most shocking words in the entire book are the two on the front page: the title words CUNT BOMB. Those are some words alright, surprised that WHORE wasn't scribbled across the back cover for good measure.
Even as recited work, slam poetry is shallow. It's performance but there are rules about what qualifies as performance (no props, no visuals) so really it's a performer, com'on really that's what they are - they aren't poets, the language is in no means "poetic", a performer who can recite his/her work. And if they stumble, if they forget a line they tend to attempt a reset; they start over. What does or does not work on the stage does not at all translate to the page. Nearly even. Perhaps Saul Williams bridges that divide, depending. But for the most part no. And I speak as someone who has slammed and come up during the early years of slam when the film came out and the movement was fresh but even then I felt and sensed and knew that what was on the page was empty bullshit and what was on the stage was written for performance and did not come from the page. And these slam'vocates who proclaim they are heirs to the Beats are delusional. Yes, they all were outsiders. All were derided by the establishment, however one defined it, but not all Beat poets read their work well in public whereas the very existence of SLAM is performing in public.
I have been saying since the mid-1990s that a slam artist should release a CD of their work SPOKEN and not a book. Never a book. Because it does not translate and I maintain that to this day. I have repeated told poets who have sent me their manuscripts that aren't at all manuscripts but skits, pieces to be performed on stage that they need to present their work in some electronic way since I (as Plan B Press) would not publish their work as a book. This book reenforces my view entirely. Perhaps Ms. Lopez's stage presence is awesome; but her book is extremely lame.
Saturday, July 07, 2018
Sumithrayo organization published a series of staple-bound booklets in 1991 to promote the "teachings" of this fellow named Tilak. Not much to see here, really. Breaking Reality is 12 pages. Inner Visions is 10. Not a perfect 10 but a mere 10. And without the space is the title of one of Stevie Wonders greatest albums.
Just acknowledging them before pulping. Pulped. Move along.
Wednesday, July 04, 2018
This is a dated chapbook. Yes, 1974 but also dated in that it's really not poetry as much as its song lyrics. I guess, I guess it's song lyrics because as poetry on the page it really isn't good. The singer-songwriter/poet is still with us. Living in Florida. There are some illustrations throughout the book and the copy I have was signed at some point by the author. But..... save a tree! (like the one drawn on the front cover!)
Sunday, July 01, 2018
George Hitchcock was an influential publisher and writer for several decades before his death in 2010. His magazine, kayak, along with the books published under that impress touted some of the most significant writers of his generation. His own work was highly praised as well. These were among his final poems, collected here by tavern books, a non-profit publisher out of Portland, Oregon. Hand-sewn. Handsomely done.
This work would not have been possible without the assistance of Hitchcock's partner, Marjorie Simon. These 15 poems were selected from nearly 100 "final poems". Most poets do not know their final "final" so whatever is produced before last breath is determined by the living. The poet merely writes. It's what we all do. Hitchcock's poems written toward the end of his life reflect the humorous observations of this surrealist pen's man. Life is absurd as well as bitter as a scorpion's bite. He knew it, and wrote it. And we are collectively better for it. This collection is a fine tribute to a great American poet.
Saturday, June 30, 2018
Cathing the Light
Long before I landed in the Washington DC area, this Press was doing yeoman's work in the Nation's Capital. This chapbook is an example of that effort. The poems float through our history, starting with a nod to Anne Bradstreet, this first poetess of what would become this country. A tight collection. Worth the find, and read.
Friday, June 29, 2018
Tales of the Sisters
Mount Jackson, VA
This was the 2015 winner of their chapbook contest. 26 pages, oddly sized. The poetry is good. Overall, it's a worthy book. My acknowledgment of the book is more sparse than the book itself. Sorry, perhaps I didn't have enough coffee this morning.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
A Bill & Bob Sampler
Squirrel Cane Press
Traverse City, MI
A few years ago I found online a copy of a book by some poet I never heard of, Paul Stebleton, and enjoyed the book enough to research the dude and discovered that he ran a bookstore in Traverse City, Michigan. I sent him some stuff and he sent me some stuff which included this "sampler" from his soon-to-be-published novel Bill's Thumbnail Sex Manual. I liked the cover imagery and text a good deal but only write about this now since it lay at the bottom of a heap of things in my office. Clutter mess heck and darn.
The previous book of his that I found was Bus Station Meditations which came out in 1992.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
The Legend of the Bluebonnet
Mary Daggett Lake
Found this amazingly beautiful booklet in a 1875 Art Journal tome which was itself donated to the local library. In the thick book was also a hand-painted tintype. Astounding items from long ago. Like this attractive booklet produced in Texas in 1926. Hand tied blue string with color photos of a field of bluebonnet flowers throughout. A definite keeper.
Wednesday, March 07, 2018
This chapbook is the opposite of the recently mentioned "Heartbeats" which was a 75 page staple bound "chapbook" (should have been a book with a spine); this chapbook is 44 pages and does have a spine, with no words on it. What exactly is the point of that?
This collection is a good marker of the history of poetry in the United States in the Internet age; self-published surface poetry which isn't quite prose and isn't quite poetry and isn't quite good but the author was able to bring it out and she did. And I am acknowledging it. It seems a touchstone to the Instragram poets of dubious talent or knowledge. I am sure that I am coming across as a grinch, perhaps I haven't had enough coffee this morning. Or perhaps I get tired of reading "me" poetry.
Tuesday, March 06, 2018
C. Michael Spain and Assoc., LTD
As much as anything, this is an acknowledgment entry: this woman brought out this book of poetry. It was brought out as a staple bound chapbook although at 75 page, it ought not to have. It should have been a book with a spine. The author was wife of a Episcopal priest to whom she was married to for over 45 years. Her poems are quaint and in that regard, comforting. It is not my cup of tea, but it many people would be gratified to read through it. It's heartfelt which counts a great deal in this age of internet "poetics". And that alone is saying something.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
No Half-Measures Here
I would add additional information about this chapbook but it's uncertain. This book was the 2003 winner of The Ledge Poetry Chapbook Award. I had to research online to find out that The Ledge is the name of a magazine that does indeed sponsor the contest and that the magazine is located in Bellport, NY but none of that information is IN the chapbook.
I digress. It's a good starting point for Ms. Brooks who has two collections published since this "tiny" as well as a novel. Everybody's got to start somewhere!
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
The Platonic Blow and My Epitaph
W. H. Auden
A number of years ago now I had a copy of this tiny booklet containing two poems. It was published in 1985 by Orchises Press which at the time was located in Washington, DC. The Press is now firmly located in Alexandria, VA just south as the river flows. I was taken then as now by the disclaimer on the front cover "Please Read Before Opening - This is a piece of homosexual pornography. If such material shocks or offends you, do not open this book...." and it goes on from there on the inside cover so in order to read the full explanation or apology or whatever the publisher was attempting to say, one needs to actually open the book that they were just warned against doing. Interesting. And, yes, there is porn - in words. The flashing red description of this booklet would suggest PORNOGRAPHY which in most minds would be visual and not in print. I have a book by Stanley Fisher, an obscure bit of mimeo from the 1960s that has pornographic images on the front and back cover. No attempt to hide anything there.
I said I did have - because I mailed the copy I had to a friend and figured I would never see another copy of it again. And I can happily say that I was wrong. For the Auden completist, this is worth having. Orchises has gone on to publish dozens of titles, none as thin or primitive as this one which suggests that it's early in the life of the press.
Thursday, February 08, 2018
Edward Deming Andrews
Shaker Community, Inc.
The history of the Shakers is fascinating in the US. Shakers were more than a community of believers, they were also craftspersons of distinctive and original works of furniture and art. This 39 page booklet is in actuality the first publication of previously unpublished manuscript records including the documents "A Book of Records kept by Daniel Goodrich" and "Manuscripts found among the writings of Deacon Daniel Goodrich, Senior after his decease." Deacon Goodrich, one of the principle founders of the Hancock Society, died in March, 1807, at the age of 68.
This is a gem of a booklet and especially collectible among members of this community. It was also beautifully done.