25 Points: Ozma of Oz

by Debbie Urbanski

Ozma of Oz
by L. Frank Baum
HarperCollins, 1989
272 pages / $6.95 buy from Amazon

1. This past year, my 5-year-old has been obsessed with me reading The Wizard of Oz to her over and over and over. While I have loved that book for decades, I reveal to her it is a series – there are more!

2. So we begin book two in the Oz series, The Marvelous Land of Oz. Which turns out to not be marvelous. “Where is Dorothy?” my daughter asks. In fact, Dorothy is nowhere to be found. Instead of Dorothy, there is a sorceress who is trying to force her ward Tip to drink a potion that will turn him into a statue. The sorceress is kind of scary.

3. Though the sorceress is not why we stop reading the book.

4. We stop reading when the ridiculous all-girl Army of Revolt storms the Emerald City, making the men mind the children and do the housework, only to get scared off by mice.

5. We move onto Treasure Island which I realize, early on, is not appropriate for a 5-year-old because of large quantities of murder and rum, finally settling upon Pippi Longstocking which, despite the heroine’s coffee habit and dead parents, appears a good fit. Then it is back to The Wizard of Oz.

6. Then instead of rereading The Wizard of Oz again, I suggest why don’t we try book three in the series (Ozma of Oz). The book is #83 on the School Library Journal’s list of the best children’s novels ever. Unsurprisingly, The Marvelous Land of Oz is not on the list. Still, I am nervous, making my daughter nervous. Reading bad books is an awful experience, but reading bad books aloud to your child is much worse, as it takes longer and skimming is difficult to do.

7. In the case of Ozma of Oz, There was no need to be nervous. It turns out I love this book. I have loved this book. This is the book with the lunch-box tree. “The tree seemed to bear all the year around, for there were lunch-box blossoms on some of the branches, and on others tiny little lunch-boxes that were as yet quite green, and evidently not fit to eat until they had brown bigger. The leaves of this tree were all paper napkins, and it presented a very pleasing appearance to the hungry little girl.” Inside the lunch-box was, “nicely wrapped in white papers, a ham sandwich, a piece of sponge-cake, a pickle, a slice of new cheese and an apple. Each thing had a separate stem, and so had to be picked off the side of the box…”

8. But the tin dinner-pail tree is even better. The dinner-pails grew on another tree and inside each pail was a thermos of lemonade, plus “three slices of turkey, two slices of cold tongue, some lobster salad, four slices of bread and butter, a small custard pie, an orange and nine large strawberries, and some nuts and raisins. Singularly enough, the nuts in this dinner-pail grew already cracked, so that Dorothy had no trouble in picking out their meats to eat.” I remember these trees. These trees are one of the most vivid memories of reading I can recall as a child.

9. I think it was a tragedy of extreme proportions to the child-me that such trees were nowhere to be seen in my Chicagoland home. The lack of such trees was proof that there had been some mistake and that I was living in the wrong world.

10. This is also the book with Princess Langwidere who has a room full of velvet lined cupboards and, inside each cabinet, is a different head that she can put on or take off whenever she likes. Unfortunately, when Dorothy is visiting, the princess puts on the mean head. Continue reading

I Don’t Want to Want to Win: A review of Mathias Svalina’s Wastoid

by Natalie Eilbert

by Mathias Svalina
Big Lucks Books, 2014
166 pages / $12 buy from Big Lucks Books







John Berryman wrote in a letter to Allen Tate, “I don’t write these damned things willingly, you know,” an exclamation that fits the vertiginous, character-addled world of The Dream Songs. Certain writers demonstrate this possessive spirit effortlessly, and Mathias Svalina fits in among them in perfectly discordant harmony. Wastoid, his latest collection from Big Lucks Books, has crawled inside the desiccated body of the Sonnet and formed an impenetrable shell from its remains. Like The Dream Songs, Svalina absorbs the personal into a visionary metamorphosis of the real. They both discard tight form to maintain the bare mechanisms of the sonnet. In Wastoid, men swamp to and from the path to gaze into mirrors, open doors into other doors forever, tell their shitty dads to fuck off, and eviscerate themselves to gift themselves to the lover.

Early on, Svalina gives us two aesthetic choices—substance or form—on how to “tame the unrammable will,” a nod that feels self-conscious, an impossible promise. The unrammable will, like Berryman’s immutable drive for substance and form, is a concept that gains traction from isolation. And isolation, more than in any other poetic form, carries a potent smell in the sonnet. While I don’t want to convince anyone that this early moment is manifesto’s sneaky thread, it points to a duality that is signature in these poems, a duality also signature for the sonnet. The lover is the volta sluicing the flood, spilling the guts, trapping the speaker between water and whale. Any other feature of the sonnet falls to the wayside, because, in this heightened realm of lovers all called “Wastoid,” it is only the slaughter of arguments that count for anything.

Most of the poems organize themselves around the lover’s growing imperialism, fame, opposition, deterioration. Pick your poison, the lover seems to say, as their agency bloats into objects while the speaker flattens under the power of decorum, becoming more and more corporeal. The lover is an obstacle when the speaker is crushed beneath doors. The lover is a window when the speaker is only skin. The lover is a trampoline when the speaker is a “canyon killing a praying man.” The lover is a tinfoil quilt when the speaker splits into two writers. Steeped in the logic of the poems, such declarations make perfect sense. We know that the subject-predicate is at war with itself, and the battle is pathetic and terribly effective. Take this poem in full:

My lover has an enormous name. It only just fits in the minivan when we go to Home Depot. We used to fold the name up neatly for travel when our relationship was new & he wore all the jewelry that were gifts from me. But now my lover’s name has such strength & such wealth that it is impossible to fold. There are so many things that command the attention of men—for instance, I love prizes. But my lover looks at photographs of horses online & looks at how much they cost & imagines what it would feel like to purchase a horse. He drags his name from one room to the next & rarely can I edge my way past it.

Continue reading

25 Points: The Pedestrians


The Pedestrians
by Rachel Zucker
Wave Books, 2014
160 pages / $18.00 buy from Wave Books

1. The ‘Once upon a time…’-style tone of the beginning of this book reminded me of the short story ‘Clay’ in James Joyce’s Dubliners and what he or someone called the ‘marmaladey-drawersey’ tone it was written in.

2. I really like the phrase ‘sublet bed.’ Sublet properties and the whole poetry of the rented house concept are so often commented on but not sublet beds. Hurray for this.

3. To return to the style and tone for a moment, if we may…(hey that was really formal for a moment wasn’t it, cool) I really like what I’m going to call the circumlocutory descriptions here such as ‘She had a small copper wire inside her. This made conception highly unlikely.’ when she could have said ‘coil’ or ‘intrauterine contraceptive device.’ This starkness really makes me laugh for some reason. In England, there used to be books called ‘Janet and John’ books for small children that used this kind of tone to help the kids learn how to read. They didn’t mention coils or IUCDs but I really think that style transplanted to adult life is cool.

4. ‘Every day she watched the UPS truck come toward her up the/road, make a three-point turn into the driveway before hers,/and pull away’

This is beautiful, man. I can’t say more about it than that.

5. ‘They had not known each other when they were teenagers but/when the radio with the human genome played Phil Collins it/was 1985 bar mitzvah season all over again.’

I have no idea what a radio with a human genome is but the imagery is fantastic that’s just my point I suppose, that’s just my point about this book, the imagery is delicious throughout.

6. Such juxtapositions. Babysitters, Buddhist monks and pole dancing competitions. The world and this book are full of such juxtapositions.

7. Another reviewer worried about this book. They worried about how the main character who lived in the most expensive city in the world (New York) and had trips to Paris and an apparently idyllic bourgeois life with husband and children and so on and yet complained all the time. They worried how this might be taken perhaps. Whilst my own working class proletariat background could go probing into this with my bullshit-detector, instead I was reminded of DFW and his thoughts on his, albeit slightly earlier, generation and how despite all the opulence everyone was still so lonely and miserable and how much of an interesting question this still is (even now the middle-classes have discovered Occupy in their gap year).

8. I’m defending it but it’s ok to worry about that too, I think it’s a valid point. Marxism is one of the better lines of enquiry for me.

9. I have a real affection for the poem called ‘Real Poem’ because it neatly and concisely parodies Poetry (that’s poetry with a capital P) and all its big profundity and arrogance.

10. Reminds me I haven’t had babies yet. Continue reading

Daniel Shapiro: Why Shld I Read YOUR Book ??

by Rauan Klassnik


ok, Daniel, so why should we read YOUR book ???

Why should you read my book? Until recently, I might not have known, but after the death of Robin Williams, something happened: A number of people took to Facebook and Twitter, and some debated the role of popular culture in our society. One person asked, “Why are we so sad about a celebrity when there are more substantial things to worry about?” Another wrote, “I can’t believe this. I remember watching him on ‘Mork and Mindy.’ I was supposed to be in bed, but I would sneak downstairs to the console TV,” etc. Somebody reminded us to talk to someone when we’re depressed, and another chastised that person for suggesting depression could be cured via hotline.

Like my Facebook friends, my recent book of poems, How the Potato Chip Was Invented, wrestles with the concept of fame. Its audience may include people who are Continue reading

Tex Coda

by Janice Lee


TEX is a bricolage novel using correspondence to construct its multi-level narrative. Collecting text messages, phone photos, emails, Craigslist responses and more, the book explores the various relationships formed and maintained by its author, Beau Rice, during the process of its making, with one relationship taking center stage: his evolving attachment to an Austin-based former fling, Matt G

Included by Rice in TEX are text-based “screenshots” of the author’s inbox: exchanges between he and his editor at Penny-Ante. Giving a nod to the book’s format, we asked the editor at Penny-Ante to form a collection of “Letters from Beau” that were sent during the editorial and now, ongoing post-book promotional process.

The below fragments were submitted with the author’s permission.


From Beau Rice (an inbox screenshot):

I just wanted to make sure you were still interested, because the text is growing and I’m thinking about it constantly, so I just wanted to make sure you were still interested.

Your help with this impasse would be much appreciated.

I’ve given [the work] a preliminary title, ~book: [corn] [alien head] [baby bottle] [showgirls]. Thoughts?

Pics attached (lol, I’m so not used to typing that phrase outside of, like, responding to sex ads on Craigslist).

I’m going to have to fight you about [possible book title] Untitled.

Noooooo — why??

I feel you on the reshuffling.

If you insist, I’ll need a week.

And I know you want to be a dominatrix about it because it’s urgent, but I’m ready to start looking at other stuff.

I’ll be shopping around for something perfect-er.

Let’s keep in touch about any other text message books we come across, I want to be as aware of them as I can.

Ooooooops — the draft I sent the other day was missing a few things and fucked up in a few ways, so please work with the one I’ve included here.

(“Forms of incoherence that are listenable to.”)

I smoked weed for the first time in a while earlier tonight.

Q3: Let me know about your trip to LA!

You’re surprisingly clever when you’ve just woken up.

It’s very preteen-y but surprisingly relevant.

(I hate the first email I sent to you today.)

Are you in LA?

I favorited it.

Give me a few minutes.

I have to warn you: the list of changes I’ve mentioned is not insignificant.

I also want to see it with our names in Calibri or whatever that chat one was.

I’d like to reemphasize the Matt thing (I just landed in Austin) and try to procure a photo of him in profile to stare impassively at me from the back of the book (?).

Actually this gets us closer to what my original intentions were.

Also/omg, including the drug dealers and online sex people: YES.

Here are those pixx of him + more to follow.

Sorry, that just does not work for me.

Let’s redact “Scissor Sisters” and “Le1f.”

Let me know if you want me to fictionalize any of the YOU IN THE BOOK shit.

That phone has been violated in a final manner, it is not to be turned on.

Tomorrow I’m taking Vyvanse and dealing with as much of this drudgery as I can.

I’m beyond tipsy and this is not a real message.

Here are more chats, mostly of the BDSM variety.

“But really it is I who have invaded my own privacy.” –Dodie Bellamy, Pink Steam

Apologies for the folder weirdness yesterday, I don’t know what was up with that.

For example, the one that references the galley copy of Knausgaard should appear in spring of this year (but I’m not worried about being totally accurate).

Oh my god, I cannot shut up.

But that is our secret.

I had a feeling.

SO BUMMED ABOUT THAT, but it’s fine.

Hahaha — “all these intense writer people.”

I agree with you totally on the “dildo in the corner” thing.

THANK YOU. I can only imagine what an incredible headache it is to format all of this.

We were only focusing on his missives.

Either pseudonym is fine with us.

I like “Tex” too!

I trust you.

We don’t need to change Alex’s name.

I am happy to lose most of the poetry, but NOT the ones I send to him in the first email sequence [p. 3-4].

Lol — I just said to my friends, “I think she [you] is pretty aware that I get fucked up at this time every night.”

We both want to tone down the meta-narrative.

I so relate, I ask everyone I’m around not to let me talk about it at all.

Seriously — I am 96% convinced of this.

Lol, I really did feel like a demon.

I understand and I wish to continue.

Feeling down with the cheap lazy vibe you describe.

Can you give me some other font options for the email essay?

I think I might reactivate my [Facebook] profile sometime around October to promote the book to my friends on there, but for the most part it’s important to me to stay off of it.

As much as I’d like for us to be in agreement, I’m still uncomfortable with my face being on [the cover] in such a big way.

I’m glad you’re doing that list thing — I worry I was overly delete-happy yesterday.

Let me know if I’m being too vocal and stressing you out.

The butt plug photo?

I’ve been drawing that icon a lot recently.

I like the fragmentary vibe of those inbox shots.

The version of this intertwined legs pic you’re using is slightly different, and not as good.

Since you mention “fixing the peach” [on the cover] I want to emphasize again theBUTT [Magazine] thing, and ask that we go peachy enough to not be pink.

It’s funny how unrealistic the prospect of fame makes us.

Could you try phrasing that differently?

No no no no no no no.

Haha jesus.

Just curious.

I totally lied to you.

I could get behind that.

It’s pretty unromantic in actuality.

Did simultaneously!

Happy birthday!

Anything particular instructions for that?

I’m still not sure whether or not to say this [and I am saying it] but — I apologize if any of the stuff about our parents in that excerpt made you sad.

All I need to do is link my current checking account to my PayPal account, I guess.

Note: you aren’t as defined/personified by this as you probably imagine.

Ah dang, I’m glad it was meaningful to you.

Two word answers!


A nice texture!

I feel like a human makes it less sterile

I’m wondering (finally) what the money/royalty situation is.

Hmm… still UGH.

I think that’s my car insurance.

But now I’m done emailing you for the night.

Hahahahaha — that is precisely my feeling.

Which I’m all in for, in most cases.

At USPS now, about to mail this fucker to Hilton Als (bad idea?).

Just using you as a therapist slash neurosis hole.

I’m about to go to bed and listen to this song and cry:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu8MqdC0Zms

Wow… Typos. Embarrassing.


You just got engaged. Why are you emailing me? Shouldn’t you be having sex or something?

Lol — “I’jj.”

So how do you want to do this?

Here’s the thing on that: No, it doesn’t.

Really, I’m up to discuss this.

“IT” is the “proprietor” ? The proprietor is non-gendered?

This process is weird.

Redundancy, bad poetry, etc.

This book is not going to ruin my life.

Beau Rice_Tex_Penny-Ante Editions


25 Points: Sprezzatura

by Richard Brammer

by Mike Young
Publishing Genius Press, 2014
132 pages / $14.95 buy from Publishing Genius

1. Deep down he thinks he’s too much of a redneck to have got into Husker Du.

2. Syntax 1: His syntax is fascinating. Someone – can’t remember who – once said that ‘a poem should be a machine for re-reading’ and that’s what you do here. You read, you skate across the surface and then you re-read and it’s different the next time and you can’t get bored.

3. Syntax 2: Because of this, it sometimes seems like he’s put a real long scroll of paper into a typewriter emulator and just kept on Benzedrine-typing until he was finished.

4. Don’t get carried away with the Benzedrine though. There’s something else going on here:

“Often I throw a tennis ball against the wall and hope

the people downstairs believe more people exist

above them than really do…”

There’s a bit of craft at work here. Don’t get carried away with the Benzedrine. This isn’t just typing.

5. ‘On the bus, I pass through unobtainable wi-fi’ might be one of the best lines I’ve heard to sum up now, right now.

6. There are things here in this book. Things everywhere. Nouns.

7. There are unfashionable adjectives with fashionable nouns and fashionable nouns with unfashionable adjectives everywhere here.

8. Mike Young is a poetic phrase-maker in a way you don’t see too much in contemporary literature/Alt-Lit etc. He’s bringing phrase making back and making it cool.

9. I want to make a phrase now but you know you can’t just make a phrase just out of the blue as easy as you might think, it’s hard. If you plan it too much and try to think of a noun and an adjective and put them together the only noun you end up thinking of it ‘sea’ and the only adjective is ‘blue’ (or if you’re feeling revolutionary ‘green’) and that was all well and good 700 years ago but now it’s just some blue or green sea that isn’t even good enough for a corporate advertising slogan advertising shower gel let alone a book of writing/poems. So, it’s hard making phrases. It’s an art form. It’s easier to consciously make a bad one. This book is full of none-bad phrases. Here’s some:

10. ‘…imported mango soda’ Continue reading

Before and After

by David Fishkind

An analytical approach to living, that is a problem. I said it to S, I said I didn’t think that the examined life was the right one. I said it was, well, I could look it up it was on Gmail, but I’d rather try to remember. The point was, I was trying to tell him. I didn’t try that hard. I knew he wouldn’t like it if I put it that way, but the point was what I was feeling, which was that the too examined life lacked the types of brief, transcendent emotions that made it meaningful. If everything was studied very precisely, tried to be understood, attempted to be made into language, something was lost. More thoughts seemed to occur without language. Its usefulness to one’s, like, being could be put in question.

He seemed to think I was an idiot, he might have said so. G said what could I expect, he made his whole life based on that kind of tenet. That way of looking at things—S is a PhD—and trying to put that into some comprehensive explanation. Also he’s a poet. He never talked to me again. I can’t remember if I tried to strike up conversation with him. It must have been in winter. Could it have been during the time I was still doing crosswords? that was obviously a conflict of interest for me. There was a thing where I would always see the same words coming up, which was distracting. They’d be too easy or too hard.

I can find very little middle ground in stuff like that. I don’t know if I’d had the thought, but what if, what if, I had told him that I was more concerned with the exact reality as it appeared from an empirical, outside perspective, and that inner thoughts deflected it… Would it have been a lie? that actually bothers me a lot. How when you pose a question in writing (not a question in terms of “idea” but in terms of, like, a person thinking a question, I often think one vies to answer it), I always want to answer it immediately.

It was sort of a great relief, one less force to fear incurring—is it incurring?—my madness. My ideology appears, like it had sprung, only through disagreements with people. It’s weak. I felt like I’d escaped from the possibility of living S’s life. Something that required so much attention to the things beyond itself might cease to be substantive. Things are more often than not, I assert, concerned with what is directly, immediately happening.

Continue reading

The Space Reserved In Every House For Emptiness – A Review of Does Not Love by James Tadd Adcox

by Meghan Lamb

doesnotloveDoes Not Love
by James Tadd Adcox
Curbside Splendor Press, 2014
275 Pages / $14.95 Buy from Curbside Splendor

I recently married someone. We drove to Vegas to get married. This is to say, we drove together through the desert.

We drove together through the desert to a city filled with neon signs, designed to distract from the fact that on all sides, the city’s surrounded by emptiness.

We drove together through the desert, and we got into an argument. I don’t remember what started it, but I remember driving down the strip at 1am, me squinting and crying, him slamming his fist on the wheel.

I looked at him and thought, how did this even start? He looked at me and said something that made the fight feel finished.

I felt an overwhelming warmth. I thought, this is the man that I love and the man I am going to marry. We’re staying together through strangeness, and that is what matters.

I also felt an overwhelming corresponding chill. I thought, he could have left me. I too could have left, in a burst of adrenaline.

We could have left each other standing in each other’s emptiness. Instead, we stayed together in the desert.

Every marriage is built of moments where two people stayed, but could have left. And all the moments in between. And all the emptiness between them.


James Tadd Adcox’s novel Does Not Love is a beautiful compendium of these moments within the fictional marriage of Robert and Viola. It is a study of ways that the couple makes meaning—and, trying and failing—attempts to make something. Appropriately, Adcox sets the novel within an alternate reality Indianapolis—a city which, to me, has always felt like something akin to a giant parking lot. Robert and Viola live in a blank space where people put new things. I feel that Does Not Love is about their unease with this space, and what they do to live with that unease.

Does Not Love analyzes this uneasy landscape in a tone that is—in many ways—redolent of Don Delillo’s White Noise. Just as White Noise describes an unfolding relationship drama against the background of a more literal “airborne toxic disaster,” Does Not Love is—in Adcox’s own words—“a domestic novel about domestic terrorism.” The imagined fears of Robert and Viola commingle with the worldly terrors of gun violence, secret service interrogations, and inhumane pharmaceutical drug tests. Continue reading

Bye, past.

by Catherine Lacey


The internet is a cannibal. Things come out and things get chewed right back in.

I don’t know what compelled me to start a blogger account in 2007 or 2008 or whenever it was. Loneliness probably and the sense I had back then that “one should blog,” a sense I no longer have but an impulse that ended up teaching me so much.

Anyway, from this weird ring of blogger accounts of fledgling writers and poets, the giant grew. We wrote things we might regret. We argued. We read so much internet our eyes stung and swole up and we maybe lost real life friends and gained internet friends that became real life friends. It was here I started writing stuff that strangers read, that I learned to defend myself in words. I read a lot, thought a lot, went to school, had this second school of folks here, teaching me the shit they actually do not teach you in school. I hope the writers younger than us have their giants, too. I’m sure they’re out there.

I don’t blog anymore (though I suppose this is one last exception!) and my internet consumption is way, way down, but it still means a lot to me, that this place was here, that it was what it was for a time. Thanks Blake & Gene & all you little lovely weirdos.