25 Points: Webster’s New World English Grammar Handbook

by Jane Keyler

webster71X5PA2FMWL._SL1500_Webster’s New World English Grammar Handbook, Second Edition
by Gordon Loberger and Kate Shoup
Webster’s New World, 2009
408 pages / $16.99 buy from Amazon

1. Do you guys know about all of the different types of pronouns? There are so many different types of pronouns.

2. New theory: 85% of people who claim to understand grammar actually just have three to four grammar pet peeves they won’t shut up about.

3. Should I be embarrassed that while I did know the name for the “perfect” tense, I didn’t know that the other tense was called the “progressive” tense. I should definitely be embarrassed, right?

4. And don’t even get me started on prepositions.

5. I dare you to get through the Misused Words and Expressions section without your stomach dropping in panic at least once. Don’t worry, you probably didn’t confuse “awhile” and “a while” in your MFA application packet.

6. If you think you might have confused those words in your MFA application packet, just stare at them for a long time. Pretty soon they won’t even seem like words anymore.

7. The Commonly Misspelled Words section made me want to have all of my friends over for an impromptu spelling contest. (This is maybe related to why I have so few friends.)

8. In order to really understand grammar—for it to really stick—you have to learn the names of things. This seems like a metaphor for something.

9. I can never remember anyone’s name when I meet them. Is this why I’m bad at grammar?

10. Mindy Kaling seems to think it just makes me rude: “I don’t think it should be socially acceptable for people to say they are “bad with names.” No one is bad with names. That is not a real thing. Not knowing people’s names isn’t a neurological condition; it’s a choice. You choose not to make learning people’s names a priority. It’s like saying, “Hey, a disclaimer about me: I’m rude.”

 

11. I once knew a girl who would diagram sentences to ward off panic attacks.

12. Note to self: find something more productive to do in order to ward off panic attacks. You’re not going to impress anyone at parties by telling them you sit on the ground in the bathroom, compulsively playing candy crush to prevent panic.

13. Should I tell you about all the different types of sentence modifiers? Single-word adverbials. Clause adverbials. Prepositional adverbials. Absolute phrases. Infinitive phrases. Participial phrases. “-ever clauses.”

14. Which reminds me of one of my best English teachers in high school. In order to teach us grammar and promote sentence variety, she used to make a checklist of different grammar tools we had to use in our essays. For example, on the list might be something like “Use five adverb clauses. Underline in red.” It was kind of a pain in the ass at the time, but looking back, it was kind of genius.

15. Appendix B: All Right, Alright: (Insert Matthew McConaughey joke.) “Alright is a corrupt spelling of all right.”

16. If I have children, they will never spell anything incorrectly, they will instead corrupt the spelling of words.

17. Because my children will be badasses.

18. “Troublesome Verbs” is the name of my new band.

19. Our first album: “Dangling Modifiers.”

20. If I had my own brand of popcorn, I would call it “Colonel’s Kernels.”

21. “Writers and reporters for various media are increasingly sensitive to possible legal repercussions regarding the things they report. As a result, many of them, seemingly to protect themselves and their organizations, tend to overuse hedge words—that is, words that allow the speaker or writer to hedge on the meaning of his or her statement.”

22. Examples of hedge words: alleged, apparent.

23. Hedge words are also surprisingly useful in arguments with your significant other.

24. If you can’t think of a hedge word during an argument with your significant other, just use air quotation marks over whichever word or phrase you find the most stupid.

25. I’m sorry I hurt your (alleged) “feelings.”

Concurrent Events: There is no money

by Reynard Seifert

I hate when people announce a series. Usually when I announce a series, it just doesn’t happen. Like talking about something you’re writing, it makes it hard to finish, because talking about it makes it exist a little and that means you can move on. I prefer to move on. But I see no way around it: this is the first in a series of Concurrent Events. Hold on to yr butts.

mallarme by gaugin

At the crash of a Bank, vague, mediocre, gray.

Currency, that terrible precision instrument, clean to the conscience, loses any meaning.

 

By the light of phantasmagorical sunsets when clouds alone are sinking, with whatever man surrenders to them of dreams, a liquefaction of treasures runs, gleams on the horizon: I thereby gain a notion of what sums can be, by the hundreds and beyond, equal to those whose enumeration, in the closing arguments during a trial involving high finance, leaves one, as far as their existence goes, cold. The inability of figures, however grandiloquent, to translate, here arises out of a case; on searches, with this hint that, if a number increases and backs up toward the improbable, it inscribes more and more zeros: signifying that its total is spiritually equal to nothing, almost.

Mere smoke and mirrors, those billions, outside the moment to grab some: or the lack of resplendence, even of interest, shows that electing a god is not for the purpose of sheltering him in the shadows of iron safes and pockets.

— Mallarmé, “Gold,” from Divigations, Tr. Barbara Johnson Continue reading

Daddy Cool Edited by Ben Tanzer

by Quincy Rhoads

daddy-cool_coverDaddy Cool: An Anthology of Fathers Writing For and About Kids 
Edited by Ben Tanzer
Artistically Declined Press, 2013
272 pages / $15  Buy from Amazon or Artistically Declined Press

 

My wife and I are arguing over the amount of books in our house. She says it stresses her out that there are stacks of my books piled into every corner of our duplex.

I ask if it would make her feel better if all of my books were placed on the built-in bookcase in the back of the house.

She reminds me that the back bookcase is already overflowing, some shelves being two books deep, others having stacks of books on top of the books lining the shelves.

We start boxing up some books and DVDs to sell at the McKay in Nashville. I hope this will alleviate her stress, but then she asks what we’ll buy with the store credit I’ll inevitably insist upon in exchange for my prized books.

We can get whatever you want, I tell her.

All I want are books and things for the baby, she tells me. Then she concedes we’ve already developed a pretty great book collection for him.

Finally, something we can agree upon with regards to books. Our son is not even six months old and he has an entire shelf of board books and even more picture books. My wife and I have also prided ourselves on our discerning taste, returning or selling books like Chamelia and Skippyjon Jones with problematic messages. Plus, in our state all newborns are eligible for the Imagination Library, so our son’s book collection grows by at least one book every month.

My wife and I come from impassioned reading stock. My mother bought me tons of books (some of which are now on my son’s aforementioned shelves) and my mother-in-law was a preschool teacher for years. I’m certain ya’ll can see why we want to pass on the joy of reading to our kid.

Daddy Cool is “an anthology of writing by fathers for and about kids.” It’s an idea that is intoxicating to Gen X and Y parents—the hip dad, the cool dad, the dad who shares an interest with his children. In many ways it’s a direct backlash to how their boomer parents treated them.

I can certainly relate. I spend far too much time agonizing over which book to read my son at bedtime (it’s not like he cares). I also am on the hunt for books to share with him that match my same literary tastes, which is why when I learned about Daddy Cool  I was very excited, especially because it’s edited by Ben Tanzer, who is a shining star in both the dad writer and indie writer circles.

Tanzer’s introduction to the anthology is heartrending, too. He begins his introduction by discussing how he intended to begin his introduction:

I imagine I would have gone on to say something about the profound impact of reading to your child, telling stories, bonding, and brain development, and how as a writer anything I might say about any of this can only be magnified, or maybe it’s illuminated, though regardless, I would have said something about just how cool this project is, because we are about words and narrative and immersing ourselves in the stories of our lives.

But what Tanzer winds up doing is even more important than stressing our future’s need to love reading. Tanzer writes about his dad, how he read to Tanzer and his brother as children, how he frequented the library, how he made Tanzer the writer that he is today, and how now that he’s gone, Tanzer thinks about his dad, especially when working on projects like the Daddy Coolanthology. It’s this sort of honest pathos that draws me into a book.

Sadly, because the anthology is geared towards being shared with the reader’s children, this pathos doesn’t carry over into many of the stories. In fact, the selections are wildly uneven with regards to reading level and age appropriateness. Many are the type of silly stories and poems that would be right at home in an episode of The Wiggles or Yo Gabba Gabba while others are so dark in their depictions of humanity that they make the existential malaise of Up and Toy Story 3look like a fun jaunt that won’t leave you soaking your couch cushions in tears. The best selections in the anthology are those co-written between father and child, as in Davis Schneiderman’s story co-written with his daughters and J. A. Tyler’s story written alongside his son, but even these stories vary wildly in writing style and the maturity level they’re geared toward.

The whole idea of a book geared towards sharing between dads and kids sounds wonderful, but I’m left wondering, are we ultimately foisting our desires upon our children? At least for me I’ll have to wait until my son is older and able to give me feedback on his literary taste. In the meantime, I’ll keep cultivating a wide-ranging library for him, and I’ll revel in his warm little face nuzzling into my neck while I read him The Whitsun Weddings.

***

Quincy Rhoads lives in Clarksville, TN with his wife and their son. He teaches English composition at Austin Peay State University. His writing is forthcoming in Metazen and What Weekly.

Overboard

by Alex Kalamaroff

I.

On this particular evening, the musician allows his fellow lodger in the house on Rue d’Auseil to listen to his feverish viol music. “It would be useless to describe the playing …. He was trying to make a noise; to ward something off or drown something out—what, I could not imagine,” writes H.P. Lovecraft in “The Music of Erich Zann.” The listener, a metaphysics student at an unnamed university, is an interloper, a voyeur who, on hearing Erich Zann fill his garret room with this crazed playing, hopes to peak into the source of the music’s beauty, to penetrate some “far cosmos of the imagination.” On this particular evening, the cosmos stabs back. Lovecraft describes Zann’s playing, which grows “fantastic, delirious, and hysterical …. [l]ouder and louder, wilder and wilder,” until other-worldly chaos and pandemonium explode into the house on Rue d’Auseil and the listener flees. It is a bit much.

zann

Howard Philips Lovecraft wrote “The Music of Erich Zann” in 1917. Over the next 20 years, he would go on to write his best known tales of horror and wonder, those involving Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, and Azathoth, his mythos monsters, the Great Old Ones whose names you can’t pronounce. The language in “Erich Zann” is toned-down, tolerable, a pale lilac compared to the rich purple of his later prose, where, as Michel Houellebecq writes, “the adjectives and adverbs pile upon one another to the point of exasperation, and he [Lovecraft] utters exclamations of pure delirium.” Most readers would not consider anything by H.P. Lovecraft well-written in the traditional sense, and yet there is power in his work, a majestic and odd darkness that isn’t matched by much else, an appeal to the unimaginable, our dread of looking into the night sky and hoping, only hoping, we’re alone. Lovecraft’s best sentences are always overwrought. There are excesses of bland fright words—“monstrous”, “horrible”, “grotesque”—mixed with archaic vocabulary, weird words that both in texture and meaning evoke the unusual, “eldritch”, “rugose”, “squamose”; there are extended hallucinations, delirious exclamations, and dream descriptions of nightmare cities, all of which are the antithesis of subtlety. All stylistic restraint has been set aside. Lovecraft eschews any kind of linguistic modesty so he can unleash his unmistakably curious vision of cosmic horror and god-things—this is the source of his style.

“HPL would probably have considered a story a failure, if in writing it he did not have a chance togo overboard once at least,” Houellebecq writes in H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life(published in France in 1991; translated into English by Dorna Khazeni and published by Believer Books in 2005). Houellebecq, a French novelist who writes about sex, brand names, technodystopian malaise, and ennui-ridden postmodern consciousness (very French, yes), sees Lovecraft as an American original whose uncompromising weirdness and “stylistic explosion[s]” lead to a unique body of work, the sole goal of which is to fascinate the reader. Houellebecq sets Lovecraft up against more mundane sci-fi and horror writers and against all realism. Lovecraft, Houellebecq argues, whose style is defined by precisely that which it’s easiest to criticize, is interesting not in spite of his grandiose and ridiculous prose, but because of it.

It’s easy to take too much for granted when thinking about books, to avoid fundamental questions—questions such as, Must the characters be human? Should events unfold though comprehensible cause-and-effect in a realistic manner? Will there be aliens? (So much fiction is blandly the same because although their prose styles may vary greatly, authors answer these fundamental questions in the exact same way.) As readers, we’re asked to accept whatever fictional world the author submits. If reviewing some pleasantly realistic novel about familial conflict and interpersonal relationships, it would not be kosher to write, “This book would have been better with more space monsters and fewer descriptions of kitchen appliances.” And yet these fundamental questions control a story more than a single sentence or paragraph ever can. Lovecraft’s work, Houellebecq says, is founded on two fundamental rejections: no sex and no money. “He deliberately chose to ignore what he considered uninteresting or artistically inferior. And this very limitation gives him power and distinction.” Without money and without sex, those two key players in so many stories, Lovecraft was able to invent and explore strange realms filled with incomprehensible horror and alien evil. This amounts to an entrenched rejection of most fiction and of ordinary life.

Feedback can impede the development of style. For Lovecraft, it’s the passages that a well-meaning editor would have x’ed out that define his writings. “Excision by others is probably one reason why no living American author has a real prose style,” Lovecraft wrote in a letter sent toWeird Tales magazine in 1923. Lovecraft stated that, if published, not a comma or semi-colon in his stories could be altered. Only by total self-indulgence, by allowing for every extravagance of his imagination and refusing to amend the deep flaws in his writing (Stephen King rightly says that Lovecraft’s dialogue is often “stilted and lifeless, brimming with country cornpone”), was Lovecraft able to pursue his furious vision to the fullest: The tall, gaunt man in a once good-looking suit, a divorcee who’s fled from Brooklyn back to his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, where he eats little, refuses to leave his aunts’ house, and writes strange stories late into the night, this man has style.

II.

Here is the first paragraph of “Call of Cthulhu”, a story Lovecraft wrote in 1926: “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

“Call of Cthulhu” is the first in a series of stories that deal with the Great Old Ones, freak-beings who exist in outerspace or are asleep on the ocean floor and who inhabit the peripheries of our worst nightmares. This story, narrated by a smart, bland young man who’s trying to discover the real cause of his uncle’s death, is a collage of scientific findings, police reports, analyses of dream journals, newspaper clippings, and monsoons of adjectives, descriptions that at first rankle then eventually overload the reader’s senses; there are many passages which hint then more-than-hint at such “terrifying vistas of reality” that exist barely beyond our dreams. Lovecraft annihilated every traditional topic, every bit of psychology, and every stylistic restraint to find out what he’d be left with: only the dark, depthless pit of his own imagination expressed as gods and monsters, Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, and the Great Race of Yith, these attempts to name the namelessness of fear.

cthulhu_by_douzen-d5i2saj

Fear is not a literary emotion. It’s an embarrassment, the kind of thing that brings you back to childhood, where you’re still afraid of what goes bump-in-the-night. Lovecraft’s stories mix fear with fascination, a usual combination perfected into a thick potion that goes down easy and comes back up harsh and unnerving in the black of the night.

Houebellecq’s point is that Lovecraft’s prose, so often full of excesses, combined with an across-the-board rejection of traditional fictional topics and a total acceptance of the bizarre and occult, makes Lovecraft one of the most intriguing American writers of the 20th century. Like Erich Zann’s music, there’s a possessive quality to Lovecraft’s stories, a demonic enchantment that fascinates and justifies the extravagances. The very passages that a scholarly reader would try to excuse are the ones “true fans prefer.” Of course, Lovecraft’s writing isn’t well-written—it lacks subtlety, simplicity, clear emotional descriptions, and contains tons of adverbs. But then the least interesting thing to say about a book is that it’s well-written.

III.

Whether or not you enjoy Lovecraft’s work (I’m somewhat of a fan), there is something exciting about reading him because his stories are so unrelentingly weird. Lovecraft has an originality that can’t be overlooked. When I was 19, I had a part-time job working at a nursing school. I got very good at doing phlebotomy on a robot. I could hit a vein 95% of the time. On our breaks, my friend Ashley and I would practice phlebotomy on the robot arm. We’d draw blood using the videogame-like system and watch the blood fill up the virtual syringe on the video screen. The IT expert in the building was named Philip. Philip was a chubby guy in his mid-thirties, which to Ashley and me was incredibly old. He was a movie nerd and loved Ed Wood. Ed Wood was a genius, according to Philip.

“Oh yes, he was terrible,” Philip said about Ed Wood. “But he was so terrible. Nobody else could do terrible like him. Nobody!” Philip cherished Ed Wood because Eddie was uniquely awful. Eddie possessed a peculiar and outlandish awfulness that served as some disastrous proof of the auteur theory; whatever Ed Wood touched turned to earnest zombie kitsch. Eddie wrote dialogue that was so kooky, so unmistakably his own, my co-worker Philip could tell if a movie was an Ed Wood or not from a single line. A part of me has always respected Ed Wood because of this. At times, reading Lovecraft, I understand Philip’s passion for Ed Wood, a passion which could only be so intense because Ed Wood was so bad. While Lovecraft’s language is often redundant and predictably over-the-top, his approach is dedicated, encompassing, and unapologetic. The effect is impressive. For a moment I’m the listener in the garret room, eavesdropping on demonic sounds that titillate my imagination and make me think that the night sky is really a thin veil beyond which exist the Great Old Ones, whose silly names I always stumble over.

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, / And with strange aeons even death may die.”

Philip was the kind of person who would talk at you about his passions because he had no one else to tell them to. We’d be on our break, poking the robot arm. He’d come in and explain what a demented genius Ed Wood was. We’d smile, nod, and go back to seeing who could draw more virtual blood. Ashley and I always joked about doing phlebotomy for real but never did.

***

Alex Kalamaroff is a 26-year-old writer living in Boston. He works on the administrative team of a Boston Public Schools high school. You can read his other writings here or follow him on twitter @alexkalamaroff.

Herschel Hoffmeyer, Dinosaur Enthusiast

by Byron Alexander Campbell

Herschel Hoffmeyer alternate image“I’ve been learning about and drawing dinosaurs since I was a kid,” explains Herschel Hoffmeyer, creator of the Apex Theropod Deck-Building Game,now on Kickstarter. “I even won a dinosaur art contest at a local library when I was very little. I was made to create these guys and bring them to life.”

Apex Theropod looks like a dinosaur-lover’s nocturnal emission…and Herschel himself might be the biggest dino-enthusiast you’ll ever meet. “I have National Geographic’s The Ultimate Dinopediaand the super-sized book Dinosaurs by David James. I really love what the indie company Lukewarm Media has done with their game Primal Carnage,” he gushes, adding as an afterthought that he hasn’t actually been able to play said game yet.

According to his Kickstarter bio, Herschel is an 8-year Army veteran and Game Art and Design student at the Arts Institute International in Kansas City. Intrigued about how his Army life segued into his current saurian pursuits, I contacted Herschel for an interview. “Apex started as a simple prototype dinosaur-themed game used for an assignment in one of my game design classes at the Arts Institute International of Kansas City,” he explained. “After seeing my game concepts compared to others, I knew I had a knack for game design. Shortly after, I worked on many different prototype games under the same dinosaur theme, game goals, and playable class ideas.”

“The dinosaur theme was definitely the theme from the beginning, just because I thought it would be really fun to play.” As for the mechanics, they were inspired by the Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game, published by Upper Deck Entertainment. Like other deck-building games,Legendary starts each player with a small deck of relatively weak cards (in this case, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents). However, over the course of the game, they can use these cards to “recruit” more powerful, iconic Marvel heroes into their deck, and the winner will be the player who builds the cleverest deck in the shortest time. This evolution from humble beginnings is a potently addictive formula, which explains the explosion of popularity deck-builders have experienced since they were popularized by Donald X. Vaccarino’s Dominion in 2008. Herschel isn’t naive to the economics of the situation: one reason he selected the deck-building format is that, since the bulk of their contents are composed of duplicate cards, deck-builders are relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

Apex theropod cardsThis evolutionary gameplay is also the perfect complement to the theme of becoming the world’s top saurian predator. Herschel explains, “Most of the game’s mechanics are shaped around the theme, and three are really unique to the game. The first is the territory-based decks. With the environmental deck affecting those territories, that drives a sense of environment immersion. The second is that each player has a nest. The nest is separate from your playing deck and unique to whatever dinosaur you’re playing as. In the nest, you hatch cards that consist of just your dinosaur, and you also bring any prey hunted back to your nest to eat later. The third unique mechanic is the unforgiving boss battles. To dominate each territory, you have to fight off the other competing apex predator of that territory, and that is the boss. In a 5-player game, you have eight total bosses, and in a single-player game, you have three bosses and one ultimate boss.”

Yes, Apex can be enjoyed by a single player. “The main difference with a one-player game is that you are fighting the clock, the environment effect deck, and at the bottom of it is a one-player-specific Apex Boss. You still have the bosses associated with the territories, but you only have three territories to choose from in a one-player game. If the Apex Boss shows up before you dominate two out of those three territories, you are automatically eliminated. The Apex Boss battle is a more in-depth boss battle system, and you win if you defeat him. Each playable dinosaur will also be an Apex Boss.”

Environmental EffectsLike anybody else whose interest in prehistoric animals survived the mass personality extinction event called adolescence, Herschel has a few bones to pick with their popular media portrayal. “Well, the most obvious ones are in movies. The ones that bother me the most are when Disney doubled the size and mass of Carnotaurus in their movie Dinosaur and the fight with T. rex against Spinosaurus in Universal’s Jurassic Park 3.”

“There’s a couple of things wrong with that battle in JP3,” he elucidates. “The first is that T. rex gains the upper hand early in the fight against Spino by clamping down on the spine lizard’s neck. T. rex’s jaws were designed to crush bones, especially ones in the neck that can easily be broken. The fight would have been over instantly. However, Spinosaurus was a behemoth, and was actually even bigger than he appeared in JP3. His spine was also much greater in size, and he was missing his nasal crest. Due to their relative mass, I’m afraid T. rex would never have had the option to bite onto Spino’s neck.”

Herschel’s pet peeves go beyond mere factual inaccuracies. “Dinosaurs simply don’t get the respect they earned,” he complains. “The most famous of all, Tyrannosaurus rex, was a very deadly monster with the strongest bite force in the history of land animals. However, there’s a whole lineup of dinosaurs that could have sent rex to its grave if they’d lived side-by-side. My goal is to always give each dinosaur the reputation it earned and nothing more.”

VelociraptorsMore than just a game, Apex attempts to be as factually accurate as possible in its visual and mechanical depiction of the dinosaurs. Each dino card even lists the historical habitat and time period in which the animal lived. “When designing Apex, I mostly wanted to target the more mature audience, but I knew kids were going to play it as well. I thought the game could be an awesome learning experience for adults, as well, because dinosaurs have changed so much since we were kids. For the prototype, I included one distinct fact about the dinosaur on every card, but the cards began to look messy, so I removed them. That’s how I came up with the Dinosaur Guide, so the people can still learn about the dinosaurs and I could showcase all the artwork used in one place.”

The Dinosaur Guide, a 20-page booklet of illustrations and facts, is available on the Kickstarter for $18 or bundled together with other pledge tiers. “The Dinosaur Guide is pretty much like a small dinosaur encyclopedia that consists of only the dinosaurs used in Apex,” Herschel explains. “When choosing what dinosaurs I wanted to include, I focused on two things: fan favorites when we were kids and newly discovered dinosaurs that stood out from the rest. The Dinosaur Guide will include newly discovered information about those old favorites, as well as all the info we know about the newcomers.”

Giganotosaurus

What if we want to imagine our own apex predator showdown? “All dinosaurs in the guide will be to relative scale, as well, so any page you flip to, you can accurately compare sizes of two different dinosaurs from two different pages (and eras).”

When asked about why he thinks people should support the project, Herschel replied, “The main reason is because I thought it would be cool to play out the most recent talked-about dinosaur battle between a T. rex and Spinosaurus. You can do that in Apex!”

What about an Apex Quadruped game? “I don’t know if there will be much demand for a Quadruped game, so probably not.” Disappointing, I know, but maybe we can still change his mind; there are over 3 weeks remaining to voice your opinion on the Kickstarter’s comments section.

***

Byron Alexander Campbell is an aspiring human living in Southern California. He is interested in games, story, and the surprising ways they intersect.

Poem by my friends Bela and Katya

by Andrew James Weatherhead

Standing Poem

I take my job really seriously.
My job is standing:

Your job is being. Your job is not being naked.

My job is not standing for something but rather simply standing.
Standing for nothing? I don’t stand for anything…I won’t stand for just anything. I’ll stand for $8.75 an hour.

I don’t stand for that much else otherwise, but I can stand $8.75 an hour. I can’t stand for any less, but I could stand for more.

Oh, this is stand up.

I am standing up for my right to get paid a minimum hourly wage for standing up.

I stand for at least the minimum — at most, I stand for 8 hours. I can stand on my own two feet, but only if I am paid to be standing. Otherwise, I will sit.

I don’t stand for freedom; I can stand for minimum wage.
I don’t stand for free dumbdumb. I stand for: a living.

A high standard of living?

I’m pretty short so not that high a standard, but some take me as their standard.

My standing is standard.

I will take $8.75 sitting down, but I will take it standing up also. When I can’t stand anymore they won’t pay me for standing any more. I will keep standing as long as I can stand to keep standing.

Get up, Stand up. That’s a standard workday. You can think on your feet, but you don’t have to. Understanding standing plays a big part in the job of standing: you must understand that your job is standing to stand for a job.

It’s taken a long time to get over sitting, but I’m finally beginning to understand.

by Bela Shayevich and Katya Tepper

*Bela also wanted to make sure I let you know about her upcoming book tour with Ainsley Morse. They translated Vsevolod Nekrasov’s collected poems together. Go.

Too Animal, Not Enough Machine

by Anonymous

tanemToo Animal, Not Enough Machine: Have You Seen Gretel?
Christine Jessica Margaret Reilly
Sundress Publications, July 2013
46 pages / $10.00 buy from Sundress Publications
Rating: 8.0

 

Christine Jessica Margaret Reilly’s collection Too Much Animal, Not Enough Machine: Have You Seen Gretel re-imagines the Grimm’s Tale of Hansel and Gretel alongside other mythological characters in new, haunting, and evocative ways.  I’m always intrigued by the recasting of myths in contemporary landscapes, as many of our myths are fraught with monsters and madness that intend to expose the horrifyingly hideous rather than teach valuable life lessons.  Reilly places Hansel and Gretel in today’s New York City, and her retelling with this backdrop prove itself skillful, chilling, and revitalizing.

While these poems exhibit undeniable darkness, they also weave in humor and highlight problematic societal constructs for children coming of age.  In “Gretel Notices the Whale is a Witch or Gretel Notices the Whale Has a Kitchen that Has Not Been Remodeled Since the 70’s,” Reilly outlines a stark critique of gender constructs and the notion of fairy tales serving as moral cautionary tales.

“Gretel smells wolf in the Whale’s hair as she counts the days till she’s free
on her fingers.  On the fridge there are magnets of the children who
died of too much fun the Whale explains. But Gretel’s no fool.
Things go down like a pianissimo in her, her body feels too
animal and not enough machine, her throat flaking off
and the room is a fluted boat, a vague sheet
being quilted, seams waning inward like
ribs, but Eat up you’re a growing
girl the whale says with
spiced breath.  It’s a
free f(or)all.”

Continue reading

I Am Heavy Bored

by Adam Robinson

It’s amazing how many times I’ve received this email, usually from a sane, diligent, intelligent and widely-published poet. Have your received it too? Have you done it?

I’m totes pro this sort of thing, cuz, whatever, it’s sweethearted and anyway I’m against more important things like reality TV, but when I first received it (from Mike Young—I told him it was going down on his permanent record), I thought for a minute about what poem I would send.

Then I realized if I did this, I could potentially receive a poem from ~20 people.

Who started this?

Some friends started a collective, constructive, and hopefully uplifting exchange, a form of email art exchange. It’s a one-time thing and we hope you will participate. We have picked those we think would be faithful, and make it fun. Please take just a few minutes to send an encouraging quote or verse to the person whose name is in position 1 below (even if you don’t know him or her). It should be a favorite text verse/poem/meditation/recipe that has lifted you when you were experiencing challenging times. Don’t agonize over it–it is one you reach for when you need it or the one that you always turn to.

1)
2)

After you’ve sent the short poem/verse/meditation/quote/etc. to the person in position 1, and only that person, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to position 1. and put your name in position 2. Only my name and your name should show when you email. Send to ~20 friends BCC (blind copy). If you cannot do this in five days, let us know so it will be fair to those participating. It’s fun to see where they come from. Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas and inspiration. The turnaround is fast, as there are only two names on the list, and you only have to do it once.

The Tooth Fairy by Clifford Chase

by Shena McAuliffe

ows_139172290065204The Tooth Fairy: Parents, Lovers, and Other Wayward Deities (A Memoir) 
by Clifford Chase
The Overlook Press, 2014
256 pages / $24.95  Buy from Amazon

 

Clifford Chase’s The Tooth Fairy begins with an epigrapha line from a James Schuyler poem: “Out there/ a bird is building a nest out of torn up letters.” And this is Chase’s task in The Tooth Fairy,to weave a home from fragments of thoughts, memories, journals, dreams, and song lyrics, each ribbon and twig twisted with the other ribbons and twigs, until the strands form dense architecture, a story that holds one close.

At first, it seemed The Tooth Fairy would be an exhausting read. In the first chapter, an essay partly about the extraction of molar #30 from the author’s mouth, each of the fragments—which meditate on everything from blood oranges to antidepressants to sexual confusion—are, with few exceptions, a single sentence long. I’m a reader with an affinity for books made of fragments—I adore Barthe’s A Lover’s Discourse, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Wayne Koestenbaum’s Humiliation—but I wondered if I could keep up. The sentences leap swiftly from image to image, subject to subject, developing few of the connective strands. The images are at turns funny (a fat little dog with a plastic steak in its mouth), and at turns lyrical (clouds are “golden cloth with a purple sheen”). My mind felt a little jet-lagged. Chase was building this nest from such small twigs. But the warp and weft of the first chapter continued into the second, and the nest began to grow.

Each chapter considers a different time in the author’s life: a trip to Egypt with his partner John, a period of sexual confusion in college and afterwards, the deaths of his parents, a strange luggage mix-up. And each chapter has its own narrative arc, a central focus for meditation. There are strands, too, that connect each chapter to the next: Chase worries, suffers guilt, attempts to be a good son, partner, and brother, loses family members, loses part of his city, loses his sense of himself, loses love. He gains things, too—understanding, occasional connection. The book is full of emotional punches. Continue reading

Kaleidoscopic Omniscience by Will Alexander

by Patrick James Dunagan

kaleidoscopic300Kaleidoscopic Omniscience
by Will Alexander
Skylight Press, 2013
274 pages / $21.99  Buy from Amazon or Skylight Press

 

What is in essence a collected early works Kaleidoscopic Omniscience gathers together Will Alexander’s early collections Asia & Haiti and The Stratospheric Canticles along with a long-promised but never published collection of shorter poems Impulse & Nothingness.

Vermillion shades of astral haunts abound as Alexander takes his readers through a psychedelic romp that leaves the consciousness reeling. There’s nothing usual about Alexander’s visionary take on history: the contemporary, the ancient, and the yet-to-be-possible-yet-possibly-not all come together simultaneously happening in the immediate now of his poems. Welcome to the sci-fi gothic splendor that is Alexander’s forte.

This is news from the beyond gathered by a shamanic visionary. Spun from out his psycho-imaginative journeys through previously unheard realms of existence. All grounded within his particular chthonic as well as vatic orders. He’s listening to frequencies to which few others are privy. (Too few others.) The messages conveyed by his poems are imbedded beneath soaring tonalities and scattered throughout lines with cryptic zeal.

Both “Asia” & “Haiti” are epic in scope. The ghosts of silenced communities spanning a global axis of oppression and denied freedom are given voice. The poems from beginning to end are one long address.

“we
the once green wings of magical Tibet
accused by the Maoists
by the exterior flames of ideology & assault”
(“Asia”)

And

“it is we who speak
with a sun of splinters spewing from our heart
from our thorax burning with intestinal moray explosion
we
the Africa of Songhai & Mali
we
of original reptile wisdom
we
the first gatherers of wool
through sun
through apertures spinning
in a ruptured lightning gorge”
(“Haiti”) Continue reading