Jun 6, 2009

Chapbook Extravaganza 1

So after AWP, there were a pile of chapbooks collecting notes and dust on the dining room table while I attempted to figure out how to give these poets the reviews they so properly deserve. Since Perfect Bound Karma’s mission is to help spread the word regarding worthy unknown poets, published by presses which might be off the beaten path for some readers, the best way to highlight each of these chapbooks is through some sort of extravaganza. For the very first extravaganza (catchy name to follow soon – suggestions are always appreciated), we have three chapbooks, each of which following a very specific theme.

Ten Songs From Bulgaria, by Linda Nemec Foster, features poems based on the photographer Jacko Vassilev. There is a quietness Nemec Foster evokes with her images, whether it be in a litany like “because her fingers conspire with the knife” (“To Protect Her Property”), or in looking at a reflection: “Call us the curse of clouded mirrors” (“Two Vladimirs at the Window”). Nemec Foster lingers over these photographs to recreate how Vassilev captures moments, and does so with a sense of self-awareness that her personas are the subjects of both poem and photograph: “Once upon a time, I did not exist / in this frozen pose. Only danced / in your dreams like a myth: / bear of elegant waltz” (“The Dancing Bear”). Ten Songs From Bulgaria is available from Červená Barva Press and can be ordered here: http://www.thelostbookshelf.com/index.html

Fourteen Ways to Die, by Kendall A. Bell, is a series of poems both in remembrance for the dead and in personas that are engaged with death. Bell creates a simultaneous level of intimacy and distance Bell creates in, for example, his title poem: “12. A ramming at full speed with her Chevy. / 13. A hard shove down the steps. / 14. Drowning, in a pool. // This is clearly a woman not to be crossed.” We trust this poet, these scenes are true to our real lives and therefore a comfort: who fought valiantly / and lost / despite the fundraising spaghetti dinners” (“That Word of Dread”). Fourteen Ways to Die is available from Maverick Duck Press and can be ordered here: http://www.maverickduckpress.com

The poems in The Hanging of the Wind, by Shurooq Amin, are full of images of food and hunger for connection. Often the speaker obsesses over another character: “You make it very hard / for me to masticate, / sloshing around / in my head like that.” (“A Case of Mistaken Pears”), and through this chewing the reader clearly sees that Amin’s various hungers are inextricably intertwined. Of course, with talk of love and hunger, the images regarding the body in Amin’s work are crafted as if all bodies are in flux. In her poem “What of it?” Amin addresses the body, “What of it, body rejecting body? / Miscarriage. Abortion. It’s just semantics.” With these lines, Amin reserves all meaning and significance for the body, the visceral experience, and she carries this motif throughout the chapbook. The obsession over food and love and the body feels right in the chapbook format; any more would be a gluttonous feast, and any less would be an unfulfilling snack. The Hanging of the Wind is available from Finishing Line Press and can be ordered here: http://www.finishinglinepress.com

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