Friday, August 17, 2018

Robert Lawson / Blue Bathtub Books

Robert Lawson
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 by Stephanie Weissberg (2017)

Rough Cut: Independent Japanese Animation
Stephanie Weissberg
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 1812-1870 by Walter Dexter (1937)

the life story of Charles Dickens
Walter Dexter
The Dickens House
London, England

A staple-bound biography of Dickens with B&W images. Very informative booklet.

Monday, July 09, 2018

cunt. bomb. by Jessica Helen Lopez (2015)

cunt. bomb.
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

2 booklets by Tilak (1991)

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

Hawk High by John McKenzie (1974)

Hawk High
John McKenzie
self published

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

six-minute poems by George Hitchcock (2012)

six-minute poems
George Hitchcock
tavern books
Portland, OR

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

Catching the Light by Ann Slayton (1998)

Cathing the Light
Ann Slayton
Dryad Press

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 by Kim Garcia (2015)

Tales of the Sisters
Kim Garcia
Sow's Ear
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 by Paul Stebleton (Squirrel Cane Press)

A Bill & Bob Sampler
Paul Stebleton
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 by Mary Daggett Lake (1926)

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

Lucky Girl by Tatyana Brown (2012)

Lucky Girl
Tatyana Brown
self published

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

Heartbeats by M'Lou Getz (1985)

M'Lou Getz
C. Michael Spain and Assoc., LTD
Loveland, CO

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 by Michelle Brooks (2003)

No Half-Measures Here
Michelle Brooks

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 by W. H. Auden (1985)

The Platonic Blow and My Epitaph
W. H. Auden
Orchises Press
Washington, DC

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

The Hancock Shakers (1961)

The Hancock Shakers
Edward Deming Andrews
Shaker Community, Inc.
Hancock, MA

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.