by Janey Smith
Heavy Feather Review
Volume One, Issue One
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Whenever Janice Lee emails me with a chance to review something for HTMLGIANT, I always respond too late. Which means I never get what I want to read to review. I was late responding to Janice’s email about reviewing Eileen Myles’ new book. I was late responding to Janice’s email about reviewing Brian Evenson’s new book, too.
Of course, I was quick enough to get Heavy Feather Review to review. At first, I resisted reading the stuff in it. I thought maybe I could write a review without reading the stuff in Heavy Feather Review. I’m glad I didn’t do that.
If you don’t already know, Heavy Feather Review (Volume 1, Issue 1—hereafter, HFR) is produced by four people: Nathan Floom, Jason Teal, Jason Carnahan, and Kyle Bialko. After reading HFR I’m not sure what the general aesthetic of the journal is. It seems like everything goes. There is a tendency towards the absurd. And moments of really wonderful writing. There are a lot of writers in HFR. Some with whom you may be familiar, some not. I wish I could say more about HFR in general but I can’t think of anything. I hear it’s available on Amazon or something. If you can’t find it there, or don’t want to pay for it, email me. I have an electronic review copy so I can give it to you for free.
There are thirty-seven writers in the first issue of Heavy Feather Review. I like that. I wish there were more.
Steve Roggenbuck is one of my Facebook friends. He is on the cover of every significant literary magazine in the country. He’s on the cover of the first issue of HFR, too. How did he do it? Charm, wit, a certain sex appeal. But also other things like misspelled words and incomplete sentences—and making funny, dark, sappy, romantic poetry. Yes, sappy. If you think ‘sappy’ is pejorative, think again. Sappiness is what holds trees together. In the forest that has become the online alt-lit universe, Steve Roggenbuck’s stuff is holding the trees together.
Jake Wrenn is not one of my Facebook friends. That’s okay. Neither of us have heard of each other until now, I think. I tend to make a bad first impression anyway. Some thoughts about Wrenn’s ‘Gossamer’: I didn’t develop a crush on Monica Seles until after she got stabbed on center court. Andy Warhol always looked so much more attractive after he was shot four times by Valerie Solanas. If you look closely at sand, you will see colors. That said, my favorite character in this story is TV. TV plays itself. It makes a cameo appearance, but is always on. And like the story in which it appears, if you stare at it long enough—well, you know.
Roxane Gay is a Facebook friend. I have been on Facebook for two years, one month. Roxane has been my FB friend since the beginning. She has even published some of my stories. She responds to my desperate emails and gives me lots of encouragement to write stuff from the heart. Here’s what I value about her thing in HFR: it attempts to find a truth in the insignificance of something of little value. That’s a tough thing to do sometimes. I don’t know if “How All Things Rot” comes to show me how all things rot—or why—but it did make me think about things in ways that got me to question the logic of the story, its argument, and certain aspects about life. I wish more stories did that.
John Dermot Woods is a Facebook friend. I’m going to go out on a limb: someday Action, Yes will published a book, or something of mine. That said, all three of Woods’ stories in HFR read like police reports or news wires. I like that. His obsession: missing children or what is absent. That’s important, too. We tend to come back to those ‘places’ where someone significant to us went missing. I know I do. But sometimes I also want to not go there—avoid those places that bring back sad memories. I like the formality of Woods’ style and tone. I like the concepts he’s working with.
Jesse Bradley is definitely one of my Facebook friends. He interviewed me as Mike Buffalo forPANK about a thing I wrote about a couple of Nazi fags. Jesse’s first poem confuses me. I like that. The poem is more a statement, it seems, than a poem. Poems make statements, that’s for sure. This poem’s chief interpretative export, or statement, is exhaustion. I didn’t feel that way after reading it. His second poem has a nice fisting scene in it, seems very punk rock—despite its title—and revels in a kind of sado-masochism. For the record: I have received only two restraining orders in my life.
Lori D’Angelo is not a Facebook friend. I think she will be someday. I love conceptual writing—it’s all I ever do. Her story “Neighbors” is a neat conceptual exercise—and a pretty good story, too. It goes like a spy-versus-spy comic from Mad magazine except there’s more on the line and less slapstick. It’s interesting how the story itself telescopes and blinds the reader to its internal logic while not giving everything away. The story seems to end twice. I like that. Both endings stun in a gentle, mysterious way.
Robert Vaughan is a Facebook friend. He too does this thing with words. It’s really a neat way to tell stories, write poems: choose a word, write stuff using all the definitions—including etymological—of that word and its associations with other words and anything that comes to mind. I mean, this would be a great way to rewrite the dictionary. We’re long overdue for that. Super cool, Robert Vaughan.
Chloe Caldwell is not one of my Facebook friends. She gives an interview. All the questions are one word questions—so it’s like a game of association. Chloe Caldwell really enjoys talking about herself—it gives her, in this case, a chance to write about herself, which she does very well. Chloe Caldwell is a fascinating person. I keep imagining that she must have flourished in the 90s when things were more critical and more intense—and by flourished I mean had sex with lots of people. I would like to talk with Chloe Caldwell someday.
Bradley Sands is one of my Facebook friends. Not only that but he has about 50 more Facebook friends than I do. Funny, his prose poem here is something he started a while ago but didn’t finish until Heavy Feather Review published it. I wish my stories were done when somebody published them. Anyway, Bradley does a neat thing: he puts a farm in the middle of Times Square and sees what happens. Everything is absurdly comic of course, full of caricature, loud puns, and advertisements for the self—whatever that is. But it works. Timely story.
Len Kuntz is one of my Facebook friends. I don’t remember how this happened. I don’t care. I’m glad we’re friends anyway. Kuntz’s story “Gravity” is neat. Kuntz takes gravity and personifies it—and all these wonderful things happen. I really think exploring the sciences through fiction/poetry is a great way to make art. The part about the astronauts is amazing. I wish I could get that high. Someday I imagine people will say only a nobody walks around in outer space.
Andrew Rihn does something that I like a lot. He takes a certain science and turns it (in)to poetry thus reinvigorating both disciplines. I think poetry and science should face each other more often. They could teach each other a lot. And the sciences have so much to give poetry. Wow. And what poets do with language defies logic sometimes—I have a headache. Andrew Rihn and I are not Facebook friends yet.
Peter Schwartz is one of my Facebook friends. He is also someone who has been very supportive of my writing. For a long time, I thought Peter Schwartz was a girl. It’s okay that he’s not. But, I wonder. The guiding thread of these twelve parables resembles Nicolle Elizabeth’s Facebook posts which are supposed to become a book soon. Maybe Peter and Nicolle are the same person? Well, if they aren’t, these parables would still be strangely amoral little things that take minimalism to a new level: near absence itself.
Elizabeth Ellen isn’t on Facebook. That makes sense. Reading her two stories makes me feel like I’m out in the world. In fact, as soon as I read these two stories, I went to her website to see if everything she had ever published was this good. I am grateful that not everything she has had published is as good as these two stories, which are incredible. Every once in a while I read a story and wish I had written it. I feel that way about these two stories.
It’s funny that Rick D’Elia and I are not Facebook friends. He lives in San Francisco and listens to the Cro-Mags. His story is pretty clever, too. He writes about Thomas Paine—the Thomas Paine—as if Paine were transported into today with today’s dilemmas and problems. Imagine Thomas Paine, the great revolutionary and provocateur, as a slacker—a TV-watching lowlife. I happen to like lowlifes. I like TV, too. And I like this story “What’s Good for the Goose” by Rick D’Elia as well.
James Valvis is not one of my Facebook friends. Yeah, I’m starting to feel insecure. “Seizure” is a set up. It’s a game where James uses the title word to make something really interesting and revealing—in a mysterious way. I kept thinking about Ian Curtis while reading this poem. And my Aunt Judy. I got my foot fetish from Aunt Judy. She used to drive me around in her Mustang barefoot. At Thanksgiving she’d sit at the table barefoot. She did everything barefoot. She even had seizures barefoot.
Alex Austin is another person who is not my Facebook friend. Alex works at a law office. I almost became an attorney before I made the mistake of thinking I was a writer. Alex, if you’re hiring, I’m available—in fact, I used to clerk at Angela Alioto’s civil rights firm. Seriously, available: 415.202.4378. What Alex has done in the story “Sayonara” is write a little pillow book. It is dreamy and sexy and confusing in a good way—the way good sex is confusing.
I’m writing this review very stoned. I can tell you, though, that Ricky Garni is not one of my Facebook friends. It’s funny but after I read Ricky’s two poems I wanted to take a walk with him after midnight, and catch a late night movie. These two poems are walks—like taking a walk with someone who’s really thoughtful and kind and humorous in a soft, clever way. I don’t know if Ricky Garni gets high. If he does, I want to get high with him, talk a walk along the North Carolina coast.
David Greenspan is not one of my Facebook friends. Although I wish he were. He lives in Florida and I need a vacation from unemployment. There’s a really funny part in one of his three poems where a bunch of junkies have a revolt. David’s also kind of obsessed with a girl named Sarah. That’s okay. She seems to like baseball a lot. I like baseball a lot, too. I cried when the Angels won the World Series in 2002. For me, the Angels winning the World Series is a lot like David’s poems in HFR, wonderfully absurd.
Nicolle Elizabeth is one of my Facebook friends. We had a funny encounter in which I sent her some poems for Word Riot which she accepted, then changed her mind. Actually, she accepted one line of one of the poems, then realized she had misread that line after I pointed it out to her. Then she changed her mind. Now that I’m an editor at metazen I think it would be fun to write really discouraging rejection letters followed by “just kidding—your thing was awesome—I’d like to include it in the next issue.” There’s some things I really like about “Nautical Miles”: the gold spray-paint, the community college, the three-cent screws. That is, I like the things that glow, and this story glows. What’s also neat is that Nicolle gives her characters Southern accents, I think. This made me imagine Nicolle busily writing this story in blackface. If this story were a glow-in-the-dark poster, I’d hang it above my bed.
Larry O. Dean and I have a shitfuck of mutual Facebook friends but we’re not Facebook friends ourselves. That’s too bad because I really liked reading “Mia Is on Cloud Nine.” Let me tell you something, Larry: the gags in the other two poems are good. But “Mia” is magnificent. I think its deadpan delivery is pitch perfect. And the punch line is right on the mark. If you guys are hiring at Indiana University Northwest, I’m available. firstname.lastname@example.org
Gregory Sherl is one of my Facebook friends. I feel we’re really not that close, though. There is something absurd about his “Memoir Pt.2” that I like. It’s touching in a punk rock way how he wants to get hit by a car so his girlfriend will come home sooner. I wonder if anyone has ever published nothing but contributor bios? I mean, just the bios—with no contributions other than the bios? I’m sure my publisher will do that in no time now that I’ve brought it up.
Nick Barr is not one of my Facebook friends. I really liked his thing “craigslistgirls.” Barr’s thing looks like it’s a craigslist page. But there’s a poem there or a story or something. It’s really neat. It’s moving. That is, it does something that not a lot of craigslist ads do: makes you long for someone. I guess sometimes there are missed connections ads that do that but not very often. I like experiments like this one where you take a popular medium and you use it to make something more wonderful.
Zulema Renee Summerfield is not one of the my Facebook friends. I haven’t seen The Social Network. So, I might not be getting everything that happens in this story. I haven’t read The Lord of the Flies either. I probably need to get out more or join a book club. I like that Summerfield asks a lot of questions. She interrogates Mark Zuckerberg and because Summerfield is writing the story she doesn’t let him answer any of her questions. That’s cool. Or, if not cool, then it’s torture. And torture—in certain contexts—is pretty fucking cool.
Howie Good is not one of my Facebook friends. I was hoping that when he introduced the five men sitting at the table there’d be a joke or something. Robert Duncan Gray owns a revolver. I’m pretty sure Diana Salier still has it in her pants. I like poems with umbrellas in them. I like musicals with umbrellas in them, too. I think Good’s poem “Kafkaesque II” would make a great musical.
Amy Glasenapp is not one of my Facebook friends. “I Don’t Want to Bury Dreams Yet” is a story about getting caught in the rain. It’s also about sticking with someone you love even during bad times. The story is neat because it seems to take place in Oakland, I think. It feels familiar wherever it is. I feel lonely tonight. Amy? If you read this, will you call me? 415.202.4378
Here’s something: Paul Arrand Rodgers is Facebook friends with Karen Craigo. It’s a small world. I love personification. I don’t do it very well but I like trying. Rodgers does it with Xerox machines. How cool. He tells us a little bit about ourselves by doing it, too. His other poem is short. It tries to make the case for the right way to do a full nelson. I don’t know if it succeeds, though. In a way, I hope it does.
Thomas Patrick Levy is one of my Facebook friends. Diana Salier asked him to read at 851, an abandoned apartment that Mike Kitchell and I have been using to host readings. I can’t wait to see him read there. This is the first time I have read his stuff. I really like it. There are three stories—all about a really cute monster. Levy uses capitalization to emphasize certain things. I remember when I used to do that. I really like the part about the string, the heart strings. I wonder if Levy is familiar with String Theory?
Karen Craigo is not one of my Facebook friends. We have 93 mutual friends, though. “Small Gestures for the Newly Departed” is wonderful. It’s a ghost poem which plays with Boson Theory, it seems. The first stanza doesn’t seem to have been written by a real person but by somebody other-worldly maybe. Craigo empathizes with her ghost friends. She proposes an ethics of the spectacular and advocates we develop a capacity to accommodate our ghastly friends. This poem is about working through trauma and memory. Done with light touches.
J.A. Tyler is famous. His writing appears everywhere. He does Mud Luscious, which is great and in Colorado. I really want Mud Luscious to publish my book. I think Mud Luscious should be my editors. They have a good ear for my stuff. Anyway, “[the second bear /// re-split]” is really wonderful. (I’m not just saying that because I want my book to be published by Mud Luscious.) Not a lot of the story makes sense even though it is about a bear. I like that. There is also a logic and recurrent characters and scenes that seem odd, familiar. I think it’s really neat when you make the familiar odd. The story’s center is inside a mountain. The story’s other center—at the same time—is inside a bear’s belly. There are all these colors.
I don’t think Matthew Savoca has a Facebook account. That’s pretty cool, I guess. I like poems about refrigerators. This poem is confessional in a way. It reveals that the narrator person is insecure and co-dependent. Those are very attractive qualities in a person. I think it would be hard to eat the plate of turkey and mashed potatoes in this poem. They are so cute. I think that eating when you feel sad—or wanting to eat when you feel sad—is kind of a nice convention.
Joshua Young is one of my Facebook friends. He’s famous, right? Well, he’s written a lot of books. Here, he writes two little epistolary prose-poems. Really neat. He writes letters to groups of people who have survived something. Possibly the ends of capitalism? Or just the dregs of everyday life? It’s hard to say, really. I like that.
Adam Moorad is one of my Facebook friends. His name is everywhere. I think if you looked around online for magazines to send stuff to, you’d find Adam Moorad published in at least three of them. I think “villa adrian” is a really wonderful poem. It’s simple. It involves two people and a secret. It reveals the secret but withholds a certain mystery. The poem is kind of confusing, which is sexy.
D.W. Lichtenberg is one of my Facebook friends. I see him at lit events in the city a lot. “The Upset of My Fool Hope” is almost a perfect story. The language is real, not anything trying to sound literary. Although I didn’t care for the second paragraph so much. It kind of defied the intelligence of the first. I like the concept of taking signs from protests or advertisements on television or the language of billboards and making it art. I hope the 99% gets everything it wants.
Meg Pokrass lives in San Francisco. She was the first person to ever solicit me for some writing. We met for lunch once. She is always writing. I have a feeling that her published stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. I like the use of the dog as a vehicle for something else, something more important maybe, more emotionally charged, in “Universal.” I really liked all of the little surprises and revealing signifiers in both stories. Writing about insignificant things—lint, for example—really makes great art. I wonder when Meg Pokrass is going to get an agent?
Seth Berg is not a Facebook friend. Although we have 99 mutual friends. His poem “Coleoptera Leukemia Morphology” is really neat. I like starting from the ‘outside’ of something and moving to the ‘inside’ of something, especially if that something is a human being. Berg seems to have discovered a new gothic or a new grotesque—with a light, imaginative touch. Some thoughts on the other poem: I wish people wore stilettos waiting at the post office or shopping for groceries. The sound of freckles makes me laugh. Does anybody remember xTx’s Elephant Summer? It is now a pine cone.
Anhvu Buchanan is not one of my Facebook friends. He seems to live in the Bay Area, though. I have a thing for certain paraphilias. I never use condoms. I also like to prohibit breathing—under certain circumstances. Electricity is fun. I like the concept of imagining what a certain kind of couple might say, and do, to each other in certain contexts. In this case, two paraphiliacs. It feels as if Anhvu Buchanan wrote “Sweet Nothings of a Paraphiliac Couple” while watching Pulp Fiction—if so, awesome.
Molly Prentiss and I used to sit in Cooley Windsor’s workshop together. In fact, “My Someone’s Ears” was work-shopped in that class. I like what it’s become. I like using disability as a constraint. I’m surprised it’s not used more often. This story is light, touching, and funny. I miss hanging out with Molly Prentiss, eating pizza and talking about sex.
Well, that’s it. Janice suggested I write some kind of closing paragraph at the end, but that’s not my style. I don’t want things to end—and I feel that closure is overrated. If I had to say something to sum up my experience reading Heavy Feather Review, it’d be this: if you take your time, carefully pick through it, you’ll find some neat stuff.
Janey Smith lives in San Francisco, California. She is the writer of ANIMALS (2011) and THE SNOW POEMS (forthcoming on NAP, 2012). She is editor at metazen (email@example.com) and contributing editor at Big Other.