Though I was only ten years old I had a mild crush on Monica, and fantasized running my fingers through her lusciously long, auburn hair, which highlighted the sheen of her pretty face, faintly freckled. She, however, preferred George, which I accepted with the resignation of a younger brother. She came to mind as I pried a tick from my armpit after a stroll in the woods around our property in upstate New York . I rarely think of her, except when I find a tick on me.
Archive for January, 2011
In this month’s issue Amber and myself bring you a collection of working class poetics, confessions of the insane, West Covina Madmen, Australian Anarchists and general poems with flu-like symptoms. Enjoy but be forewarned: you will probably get sick.
New Poetry Scout
By John Grey
I’m only pumping gas
to make some money for college.
I can afford to snicker.
Once I graduate,
I’m out of this town for good.
Fanner’s sixty and he’s been
driving the same pickup
with the dent in the driver’s door
for twenty years or more.
Teacher’s fifty and she’s
never seen a one of the places
her skinny fingers spin to
on her rinky-dink globe.
There’s Henry who beats his wife
and Avery who turns junk cars
into cars that look like junk.
And what about Harry,
high school quarterback a quarter century back,
now with gut enough
to wrap around the steering wheel
when he exhales.
Here’s Doc Jones,
with his degree
that may as well
mop up the blood that’s spilled
bursting infected fingers.
And Roy in his rusty Caddy,
quit state university
to work the farm
when his old man lost a leg
in a chainsaw accident.
There’s busted dreams,
and dreams that didn’t know
enough to even dream.
And I’m pumping gas,
my dream job. (more…)
Welcome to Issue 124 and a new year of Fiction. From Fantasy to Fabulous to Final good-byes, fiction grabs our soul and turns it inside out. Kick up your feet and let Adrienne Bard, Christina Cole, and Brian Tucker renew your soul with their words.
Confessions of a Narcoleptic
I don’t know when it started. For as long as I can remember I have been falling asleep almost constantly. I start to have a conversation, and I drift off within moments. I go off to work and I’m usually passed out on the lawn before I hear the first, “hi ho”. It’s terribly inconvenient when I sit down at night to eat dinner and I can only get in a few bites before I’m facedown in my spaghetti. I promise I’m not just lazy.
Grumpy hates it and tells everyone that I am faking to get out of going to work. He says when I sleep at night I snore and keep everyone else up. He thinks I have sleep apnea and he’s constantly yelling at me. I feel bad, but I can’t help my snoring. It’s been getting worse. Doc noticed there was a problem when Happy stopped smiling and when Bashful confronted me, saying that it was my fault the birds stopped singing in the morning. It wouldn’t be as bad if I were only sleeping at night. Lately it seems like I’m sleeping more than I’m awake.
Review by Alan Garvey
I don’t like rave reviews. I don’t trust them either – they’re usually written by friends / college mates / those who are looking-for favours or about the living great whose every written word seems to be momentous, a part of history and an object of study – which is why I’m asking you to make an exception and trust this. I was asked to review Old Men, Girls and Monsters by Peter Schwartz and I’m raving about it.
The book is constructed of two sections: first things first, the anonymous confessions, a sequence of twenty-four individual poems (each of eight lines written in couplets) where each poem seamlessly slopes into the next. If there is something which I might describe as a refrain, then it’s the listing of various articles; at times it’s almost as if Schwartz’s pen is spilling out of control, words all-a-tumble but it’s very tightly written, giving the sequence a powerful sense of cohesion, unifying the narrator’s concern across the series, in order to:
I name you: virgin scavenger, incubus
totem, threshold, pod, shrine, egg
clock, flag and scissors, lotus farm
I’ll name you anything that will let me
get closer to you.”
This involves the casting-off of inherited notions of divinity, “I’ve boxed / the worst of you next to my old toys / no matter how hard / you’ve played”. The use of lists is a simple poetic device but one that’s mishandled all too often – here, it’s used in the right places at the right times. The narrator’s voice is gentle but insistent in its cadences; the use of enjambment is not slick or clever-clever but consistent and certain. Nowhere does the language feel contrived or artificial. Schwartz’s manner of naming illustrates the immanence, plurality and many contradictions inherent within the nature of divinity, sometimes unusual and surprising but always appropriate. The circular nature of each contained section seems the most apposite structure to represent infinity, a snake eating its own tail in twenty-four sections.
Most of all, this series unfolds a language of loss and reconnection:
“I’ve sweat and salvaged the music
of your plastic plateau
played archivist to the here-
after of your soft lightning
and irredeemable thunder
I’ve built museums in
your absence to remember
There are wonderfully simple and clear images to be found, “you’ve left me / sick as a parachute / with no passenger” in “the penny / alleys and troubled corners of / our partial extinction”. Even though this sequence maps the latitudes of grief, there is a very real warmth and fondness permeating Schwartz’s writing throughout. He displays an adept and extremely relaxed facility with near rhyme, alternately using assonance and alliteration to imbue the sequence with a gentle harmony. The individual confessions of this sequence are not confessional (in the narrow solipsism we tend to associate with the phrase, rather its exact opposite) or even in the Roman Catholic tradition, rather they are songs that become hymns through their (un?)requited and profound yearning for understanding and acceptance within a spiritual framework. All of which makes anonymous confessions a substantial and noteworthy achievement.
The second part of the collection is formed of individual but inter-related poems such as artificial light, a meditation on being a writer, and much more than that, being a writer who reaches out to humanity in its all-encompassing and beautifully-flawed fragility where, “if we were / guilty it was only of being / aerodynamic, of being living catalogs” – a sense of letting so much fly past us in our slipstream yet at the same time trying to catch as much of this fleeting life as we can, Kafka’s handfuls of the stream.
In portraiture Schwartz makes free and easy with the sonnet form in a five-poem sequence – but that’s not to say he plays fast and loose with it, look closer and you see a very tight control, the sort of deceptively simple manoeuvrings of mastery. please don’t name that reservoir reminds me of a line written about The Brothers Karamazov, that it is such a strange book that it must hold an almost irrefutable and uncomfortable truth,
“…a reservoir of objects and objections, of near and far
reaching paralysis, of defiled ambiguity, voyeurism, puppet
games, preservatives, hot-and-cold
hatred, and silencers.
of drones, blurs and tiny murders
of hypocrisy, pollution and bad artifice
but it is also a reservoir of strange power
slow fermentation, chances and mercy.”
At this point I feel like a pedant, the worst sort of critic who is determined to find fault or flaw, something I didn’t like or thought could be improved within this collection so I’ll give it, just one, and it’s a fault in Schwartz’s consistency; his use, or omission in this case, of end-line commas – sometimes it just doesn’t scan – it can interrupt the flow and makes the reader stop where they shouldn’t need to stop, as in artificial light, where we read, “hourly guerrillas / reinvented cynics”, which can be read over the lines making no sense in the context of the poem, unlike most of the examples where it is impossible to do so. Told you, real nit-picking.
If I had the time I could easily and willingly write 1500 / 2000 words on every poem in Old Men, Girls and Monsters, there’s so much meaning packed into each and every line and phrase; the writing is extremely dense which is not to say that it is in any way impenetrable – it’s anything but, being clear and accessible, layered in its valences. Part of me doesn’t want to say that this is the best book of poetry, and not just new poetry, that I read in 2010 (and will continue to read for years to come) but it’s a very small, curmudgeonly part tipping its hat to the ancients and stolidly-established, tiny in comparison to that part of me which is delighted to be made aware of this most gracious and humane voice emerging in poetry. Old Men, Girls and Monsters is a beautifully-wrought reflection of what it is to be human, to be no more than one of those “haunted stars / in a box of aching heirlooms”.
The book can be bought on the following link: http://achilleschapbook.blogspot.com/2010/02/peter-schwartz-old-men-girls-and.html
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.
About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 38,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.
In 2010, there were 59 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 266 posts. There were 53 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 7mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.
The busiest day of the year was January 6th with 346 views. The most popular post that day was Prose #113.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, duotrope.com, networkedblogs.com, pw.org, and stumbleupon.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for gloom cupboard, cupboard, chloe caldwell, stephen jarrell williams, and gloom cupboard magazine.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Prose #113 January 2010
Submission Guidelines September 2009
Meet the Editorial Team September 2009
The Artists November 2009
The Penis Game by Chloe Caldwell February 2010