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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

In her debut novel Mosh It Up, Mindela Ruby proves that she’s done her time in mosh pits. She knows what it means to be loud, fast, and punk and Ruby’s characters are alive with this same energy.

Mosh It Up is about Boop, a San Francisco punk of the punk-revival 1990s, when “real” punks acted curmudgeonly because bands like Green Day were rocketing to success while the real punks continued to play dingy basements and do drugs in dirty bathrooms.

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For the first few months of a job—maybe a year—you feel you have a great thing, until the boredom, the stagnation, the frustration, the repetitiveness sets in. You want out, but it is also your livelihood. You feel hinged between two places, and the powerlessness of it all, until you make that big decision to let it go.

Gary Beck’s collection, Songs of a Clerk (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014), hearkens back to those moments of job dissatisfaction I have experienced, yet in reading this collection, I travel back vicariously, enjoying the journey with Beck.

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Noel Sloboda’s collection, Our Rarer Monsters (Sunnyoutside, 2013), gives voice to the monsters, misfits, outcasts, and bit players of literature in poems that are funny, insightful, and sometimes, a bit heartbreaking at the core. Our Rarer Monsters appeals to fans of fairy tales, mythology, Shakespeare, and of course, monsters. The book is a slim volume of poems and short narratives that explore what is monstrous and what is human and the places where those elements intersect. (more…)

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Blitzkrieg, John Gosslee’s latest poetry collection, recently released by Rain Mountain Press, defined by the poet himself as “a surprise artistic assault by massed electronic, air, sea and ground forces under close coordination” is structured in an unusual way.

After the epigram (“Father, deliver me / I am a pelican / that has swallowed a fish / being reeled in by the fisherman), I read the table of contents, then embarked on my one-sitting read. I found the poems at the beginning of the collection to be straightforward. They can be characterized by possessing concisely rendered images, clarity of insight, descriptions of space and place, musing on time and freedom, human volition and statements about the self’s relation to the universe. They were elusively quaint, yet also absolutely raw and rugged. I felt transported and felt ready for more. One of my favorite poems, entitled “I Stop Like an Axe Flung into a Tree,” has a hellfire immediacy, yet gripping imagery: “I stop like an axe flung into a tree / my hand on the deer’s neck rests / its antlers point at the constellations.” (more…)

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Eating the Heart First (Press 53) by Clare L. Martin is a haunting, lyrical collection that cannot be read in a rush, or in a single sitting. Martin cleverly divides the book into several sections, which are micro-poems in themselves: “Fables of Skin,” “A Fire of Words,” and “All That We Conjure.” Nature’s dark side is revealed: images of winter, death, and storms abound. Martin pulls us in and out of a dozen different worlds in this collection, but nature, and its ubiquitous presence even in the most ordinary, domestic moments, grounds many of the poems. (more…)

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A daring experiment, The Exhibit (Hyacinth Girl Press), by Lauren Eggert-Crowe, might intrigue you, if you’ve ever loved—or suffered the illusion that you had. As Eggert-Crowe specifies early in the sequence, “We had been thinking the exhibit was about love, but it turned out to be something else.” And yet, The Exhibit holds many images of love and many references to it. Imagine visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History crossed with a carnival funhouse, where the museum docent has read your diary. (more…)

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Roughly a hundred years ago, James Joyce brought the life of Dublin’s residents to the page with musical, muscular language that hinted at the influential style he would mature into and showed off his ability to describe human frailties. Like Joyce, Mitchell S. Jackson has a deep understanding of human emotion, a keen eye, and a well-tuned ear. His debut novel, The Residue Years, published by Bloomsbury Press, is full of carefully wrought lines that give painful insight into the lives of main character Champ and his mother, Grace, as they fight their self-destructive impulses. Jackson’s novel presents us with a strong, sure voice that draws attention to class division in America that fuels the drug trade and keeps entire families locked in a cycle of institutional life. (more…)

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