24 July 2011

REVIEW: Correct Animal

In the opening section of Rebecca Farivar's book Correct Animal (Octopus Books 2011), readers encounter the poem “Le vieil homme et la mer” (French for “Old man in the sea”), which can be read as an ars poetica for the collection as a whole:

No matter where you go
you are a small thing
inside a large thing
filling yourself
with smaller things
like the difference
between a fishless desert
and a desert without fish
or an entire plate of fries. (14)

We can read “you,” in this instance, as the text itself, such that the minimalist poem is “a small thing / inside a large thing,” wherein the “large thing” is the particular discourse or thematic field in which an individual poem locates itself. Moreover, the “smaller things” within these already “small things” (i.e. the poems) are the words themselves. What is“the difference,” then, between “a fishless deserts” and “a desert without fish,” which the poem uses as an example of said “smaller things”? Quite literally, “the difference” between them is the difference between eighteen and twenty-one characters. In other words, there is a linguistic economy found in “a fishless desert” that is more frugal than “a desert without fish”; and, at least aesthetically, this economy attempts to undermine “The indignity of needing / to fill empty space” (57), or the belief that “more is better,” by championing poetic compression wherein we discover something as expansive as“land [can be] collapsed into sound” (62).

One maybe compelled to ask, then, what are these “large things” found within Correct Animal? In the first section of the book, one can reasonably argue that the “large thing” enveloping the “small things” is the nature-culture binary in an effort to conflate these distinctions via the aforementioned linguistic and spatial economy. More precisely, to achieve this effect Farivar employs spartan imagery wherein she juxtaposes and combines objects from both the natural and human worlds for the purpose of ornamentation. For example:
decorate the tree.
Ornaments dangling
from every branch. (3)
Other conflation techniques the poet uses are associative logic, wherein beached whales that have been “washed to shore” are compared to the mass suicide of the “Heaven's Gate” (4) cult; and metamorphosis, such that “my breath turns air to dust” (10) so that the human body becomes a organic machine transforming the world around it.

In the second section, the “large thing” appears to be literature and, perhaps, our reception and consumption of it within a contemporary culture that privileges concise and efficient texts (i.e. tweets, status updates, etc) more so than expansive ones. To wit, the titles in section two are taken from famous works, such as Wharton's The House of Mirth, Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, and Hawthorne's “The Birthmark,” just to name a few. While some of these selections read, merely, as micro-summaries, others employ language so deftly that they equal, if not surpass, their namesakes' beauty. Take, for instance, “The Awakening”:
He disrupts you—you are
a very bad mother—

and moves you
to a mood.

You did sweat
into skin.

You did swim
toward the tear. (29)
The second and penultimate stanzas, in the space of eleven words, manage to capture fully Edna Pontellier's psychosomatic torment, while final stanza does the same for her eventual suicide. It seems what Chopin took over three-hundred pages to accomplish, Farivar succeeds at in four couplets. While the project of re-writing literary classics may seem somewhat pompous, Farivar's tone is both utilitarian and self-effacing when she writes “anything can be / cut and stuffed // in a can” (38), thus making them both palatable and enjoyable.

Finally, the “large thing” found within the closing section of Correct Animal is the human life-cycle itself, perhaps reminiscent of Pozzo's declaration in Waiting for Godot that “one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you?” That is to say, in the opening poem “Conception,” we find a gestation period that lasts no more than a few hours: “I am pregnant tonight / and only tonight” (47); followed by “all the paths...her body” takes during life in“While Making Love,” which we can “read [in] each line” (49) of the poem; and concluding with a funeral scene in “Horse Forms on the Hillside,” wherein “grievers will inhale the ash until it's breathed away” (59). Birth, life, and death in the same section, the same poem, is that not enough for you?

22 July 2011

Hammy Hamburglar's Second Favorite Band

After Smoochknob, Hammy Hamburglar's favorite band is Barenaked Ladies. Over double Long Island Iced Tea's me and him have discussed their debut album Gordon quite a bit. Hammy say it's his favorite. There's the epic cover up above.

Lyonel Feininger

The Newspaper Readers

Carnival in Arcueil

"Feininger is best known for the semi-abstract landscapes and cityscapes that he started painting in earnest. In them shafts of blurry light, falling on indistinct suggestions of church steeples, buildings, sailboats and ocean waves, suggest a kind of heavenly immanence."

20 July 2011

John Maus

I'm still trying to figure out if I like this fellow or not. On one hand, he's insightful and intelligent; on the other hand, he's sound a bit over-done and too theoretically grandiose. I'll let you know what I decide, but I'm probably gonna purchase his compact disc, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, either way:

19 July 2011

Excerpted from "Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 (withheld)" by Charles Olson

An American

is a complex of occasions,

themselves a geometry

of spatial nature.

I have this sense

that I am one

with my skin

Plus this—plus this:

that forever the geography

which leans in

on me I compell

backwards I compell Gloucester

to yield, to



is this

Excerpted from “Relearning the Alphabet” by Denise Levertov


Relearn the alphabet,
relearn the world, the world
understood anew only in doing, under-
stood only as
looked-up-into out of earth,
the heart an eye looking,
the heart a root
planted in earth.
Transmutation is not
under the will’s rule.


Wisdom’s a stone
dwells in forgotten pockets—
lost, refound, exiled—
revealed again
in the palm of
mind’s hand, moonstone
of wax and wane, stone pulse.

18 July 2011

This Week on No Tell Motel

I'll be the featured poet over at No Tell Motel this week. Each day, Monday through Friday, a new micro-poem from my series "Specimen Cuts" will appear. They're so fucking small, it won't take you but a moment to read them. So do it.

13 July 2011

The Lover by Paul Eluard

She is standing on my eyelids
And her hair is in my hair,
She has the shape of my hands,
The colour of my eyes.
She is absorbed in my shadow,
Like a stone upon the sky.

She keeps her eyes open
And doesn’t let me sleep.
Her dreams in broad daylight
Make the suns evaporate,
Make me laugh, weep and laugh,
And speak, without a thing to say.

For Jeffboy: New Weezy Mix-Tape

Click here for the mix-tape player


11 July 2011

Micro-Review: Left Having

In his second full-length collection Left Having from Kenning Editions, Jesse Seldess explores the possibilities of repetition, “[r]egardless the echo that it takes.” To wit, even if "the airwaves" (i.e. our vocalizations of these poems) end up being "broke signaling" that sound "Across the shattered airwaves // Across the scattered airwaves," the auditory momentum of these lines carries us through words that are "gathered as by some order." True, each poem therein "falls apart on its own over time," at least in the sense that they cease to communicate salient information, but this hardly seems to be the point. Instead, the poems function as texts that "String...the words together to keep [us] warm." Warmth, it could be argued, functions synecdochically for all physical or affective reactions we have to these poems. As such, when signification "falls apart," our bodies begin to "warm" up so as "to be reformed" into echo-machines that produce "One word after the other." But why would one want to cast-off meaning in favor of sound? The answer, perhaps, can be found in the final poem, titled "End": "Separating // Thought" from words affords us the opportunity to "happen," which is to be, existing in the moment.

02 July 2011





diode: V4n3

Sacramento Kings enthusiast and Shawn Kemp Carwash contributor Jeff Alessandrelli has five poems in the new issue of diode; they're pretty killer, with such enormous lines as:

it is only the imagination
that can resist the imagination,

it is only the imagination
that can withstand, uphold,
subvert and resist

the imagination
Other contributors in the new issue are: Traci Brimhall, Ethan Saul Bull, Joseph Cooper, Susan Elbe, Thomas Fink, Ray Gonzalez, Matthew Guenette, Julie Hanson, Tom C. Hunley, David Dodd Lee, Deena Linett, Sandy Longhorn, David McAleavey, Kyle McCord, John McKernan, Keith Montesano, Alison Pelegrin, Emilia Phillips, Kevin Powers, Margot Schilpp, Matt Schumacher, Nate Slawson. As well as special features by Kyle McCord, Didi Menedez, Maureen Seaton, Kristine Snodgrass, and Zoe Virginia.