Sweetmeats to Cure: Lionel Ziprin’s “Songs for Schizoid Siblings”

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Written in 1958 but given due packaging in a new book from Song Cave, Lionel Ziprin’s Songs for Schizoid Siblings are, at the simplest assessment, a historical oddity. They were even at the time of their composition. But their rhythms and psychological shape should be deeply familiar to most of us. Here is one example:

i had a friend.
i had a friend.
his name was pembrooke pete.

i had a friend.
i had a friend.
till he moved down the street.

Limericks! And songs, nursery rhymes, funny little catalogs, most of which roll out in the meters and rhyme schemes of our childhood. We might think the conceit is ironic, that these are excruciatingly hip — and hip they certainly are — but indulging oneself in these for more than a few minutes and one begins to perceive two distinct qualities to the poems of this three hundred page volume that bring them beyond mere curiosity. First, for as whimsical and wry as these pieces can be, they are also extraordinarily genuine. Second, they evince — both across and within the poems — a sophisticated layering of mystical pursuit, existential inquiry, and historical anxiety. These are, in short, real poems — more real than many.

Read the review at Michigan Quarterly Review

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A new poem project! Alphabet: A Rolodex Poem

Erasure and material poetry artist Jenni Baker (please read our wonderful conversation, and have a look at her incredible erasures) invited me early this year to make a rolodex poem. It was a fantastic experience that had me, each morning, really studying a letter, a through z. The result was an austere project, but one of which I am incredibly proud–especially as it takes place with extraordinary projects by  M. NourbeSe Philip, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Micheal Leong, Evan Kleekamp, James W. Moore, Barbara Balfour, and Collier Nogues. I would love if you have a look at the project and a few of my thoughts about it here.

Or you can just watch my weirdo promotional video, in which I sing the alphabet:

“Season / Dogma / Ghost” finalist for the Anomalous Chapbook Open Reading

I’ve been working on a long poem, which I very much view as an entrance into a new modality, titled “Season / Dogma / Ghost.” I’ve been very judicious about what to do with it, and in fact have only sent it to one place, Anomalous Press (the re-up of Drunken Boat). I am so thrilled that it has been accepted as a finalist! See it tucked here with an incredible roster of finalists. No matter what, some great things are about to be published.

Book Review, “Lowly,” by Alan Felsenthal

 

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The opening poems of Alan Felsenthal’s Lowly suggest a collection that will fall squarely within a familiar subgenre of contemporary poetry: newly crafted myths, fables, and parables. Taking up classic modes of speech and story-telling, many poems of this subgenre operate according to a fairly defined mechanic, developing tight, logical sequences that utilize inversion, tautology, and other structural maneuvers to arrive at illuminating surprises—often with a bit of jesting. . . . But as we progress we begin to see quickly that Felsenthal is interested in something more complex than the mere crafting of postmodern parables. By the fifth poem, “If You Need a Ride,” it’s clear that we are in a much broader project. . .

Read the review at Newpages

Climbing Lion Rock: An Interview with Wawa and Henry Wei Leung

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Hong Kong poet Wawa writes from an extraordinary intersection. Her poems in Pei Pei the Monkey King, a book set within a city where enormous shopping malls and historic temples stand one next to the other, where pet birds sing from cages in city parks while Umbrella activists protest for universal suffrage, capture an urgent and tumultuous sense of change in a place hurtling toward its future—specifically, 2047, when Hong Kong will be fully absorbed into mainland China. And yet, these poems also serve as an astonishing preservation of childhood imagination, delivering raw fables alive with animal immortals and magical forces, in which caterpillars enter our bodies through our navels and flying trees whisk us away on starry evenings. . .

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review