On the subject of serial killers, poet Ruth Danon writes that they “leave notes, write in code.” They “grow increasingly impatient.”
“They hate the dark,” she muses. “They want to be found.”
So do poets. And Danon’s latest collection, Word Has It (Nirala Publications, 2018) reads like a series of notes dispatched from the brink of an apocalypse. Birds fall from the sky. Red-eyed people weep. There is blood. Dark, ominous omens of all shapes and sizes rain down.
In a time of deepfakes and alternative facts, we often ask ourselves what is real anymore, how can we trust our own eyes? Chris Campanioni chimes in on our collective existential crisis with his latest book of hybrid works, the Internet is for real in which he proposes, as the title indicates, perhaps the most sure thing in our world is that which is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. As if cutting and pasting a Pinterest of poetry, memoir, and essays, Campanioni invites us to join him through a pastiche of pop, pulp, and philosophy as he analyzes the internet and its impact on intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships, as well as identity within individual and cultural contexts.
It is believed that the arrow that caused Ötzi the Iceman to bleed out on a mountain in the Alps had been used to kill two other people, probably by Ötzi himself since there’s murderous evidence on his knife as well, and I’m sure there’s a moral here or a handy metaphor, but what really fascinates me are his 61 tattoos. CT scans have shown he must have suffered physical pain, and the black line tattoos were an early form of acupuncture and meant to treat his ailments, ashes of old fires turned to ink that could draw his pain to the surface of his skin.
Not long ago, I wrote an essay reflecting on the many forms delusions can take that included some snippets from my childhood that I’d more or less suppressed for years. When I shared the essay with some other writers, I knew they would tell me that it was great. That I was great. But they didn’t. Nearly all of them wrote in the margin by the passage about my father, “this isn’t enough, go deeper.” I knew it wasn’t enough, hence the suppressing. But their pointing it out meant I had to do something about it or bury it for good.
We danced as if the booze had made / the hips of me the all of me / and no one had ever told me no. / We danced, the cheesy DJ crying out
Ilya Kaminsky’s second poetry collection, Deaf Republic, is an exhilarating and anguished poetic narrative. Sixty poems tell the story of an unspecified event wherein, “SOLDIERS—arrive in Vasenka to ‘protect our freedom,’ speaking a language no one understands.” The chilling poems that begin and end the collection suggest an acceptance of the preposterous—an all too familiar, yet distressing reality in today’s Unites States of America.
I turned to the breath-steamed window, parting a pane with my ungloved hand. There among the ornamental maples of the cemetery, I could just make out the wise men: bulb-lit, clustered, faces in prayerful repose. They appeared the day after Thanksgiving and stood through late January, long after we’d packed the plastic mistletoe in tissue, dragged molting trees to the curb. I never found out where the extension cords led.
I am a child in the lunchroom / which is the sometimes gym / singing my known truths: I love milk
Enough red to end / all desire for sex—reflected / in her stern countenance. / Her stance mocks / any sense of calm.
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