Three books to look for

Not exactly reviews, just comments about a couple of books I’ve been impressed by lately.

I. Craig Morgan Teicher’s Brenda is in the Room and Other Poems
From the little I know about Craig, I never expected to really like his poems. Maybe they would be ok; but when you hear “Publisher’s Weekly” and “State Prize” (in this case, Colorado), “good experimental poetry” isn’t necessarily the next association you make. But I went to a mammoth poetry reading on Friday night and he read. I wasn’t expecting to like it. I certainly wasn’t expecting to like it so much that when he was finished reading, I snatched the book out of his hands and eagerly devoured half of it there and then while he looked on nervously (“who is this girl and is she going to give my book back?”). Such is almost never my reaction to a poetry reading, and it’s not like Craig’s reading was such an amazing performance that I was drawn to the book by the force of his personality. He’s just a normal guy. But this is a fucking good book, especially if you like thoughtful poetics. (UP Colorado, $16)

II. Lisa Forrest’s To The Eaves
A Buffalo poet from the ecopoetics tradition, Lisa has been an active organizer in the Buffalo community and a rising star for many years. She’s not really the “rising star” type– she’s never obnoxiously careerist, but is deep and shiny and real in the way that many of my favorite female poets are. If you like the other earthy experimental female poets that I like– let’s say, Susana Gardner, a.rawlings, K. Lorraine Graham, Michelle Detorie, Alixandra Bamford, Brenda Iijima– you’ll love this work too. Better cover design than usual from BlazeVox and free mp3s to accompany the text. (BlazeVox, forthcoming)

III. Sandra Beasley’s Theories of Falling
Maybe I’m just weird, but when a book wins a poetry prize I’m actually less likely to buy it. I think poetry prizes– especially those sponsored by state university presses– are often bullshit and the work they put out is usually middle-of-the-road stuff– it almost has to be to get through the first round of judging and make it to the final celebrity judge (I’ve been a silent screener for such contests so I’ve seen how they work from the inside). I keep my eye on a couple of presses rather than on contests when I’m considering the publishing pulse, and when Foetry was up and running I was glad there was a contest watchdog. But, then again maybe sometimes a book wins a prize because the poetry is actually just really good. I know Sandra from my days in D.C. and although her work looks and sounds very different from my own, I love and respect her work thoroughly. She is more likely to write left-aligned narrative poems than I am, but in the subgenre of narrative poetry, her delightfully rhythmic ear and the uniqueness of the stories she tells overwhelm my prejudices. Poets often fall into “camps” or cliques and in some less-than-grand scheme of things I think that Sandra and I are not in the same camp, but if one discards all that and looks at the work, one cannot help but want to read it over and over again. In this way Sandra reminds me of Alice Notley– her poems might well transcend petty poetry politics. The book website features selections, one of which is one of my favorite of Sandra’s poems, “Cherry Tomatoes” (it was also recently featured at (Western MI UP, $14)


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3 Responses to Three books to look for

  1. yesIsaidyesiwillyes says:

    Thanks for this. May I make a request.? Write just a little about the poetics of the Brenda book. I like the prose poem from it I found on-line, called “Night” with three sections.

    I love that you grabbed the friggin’ book from the poet’s hands.

    That’s an endorsement for sure! I think I’ll buy it for that reason alone.

    One time ten or fifteen years ago after a reading in honor of Kenneth Rexroth I went up to Michael McClure (one of the readers) and raved about the remembrance he had written and read about KR. He smiled, asked my name, signed the double-spaced two-page typescript (with about twenty handwritten additions) to me, and just handed it over. How cool was that? I just pulled it out. McClure uses the word “chryselephantine,” to describe one aspect of KR’s pastel paintings. That’s a word I’d never heard before, and haven’t heard since.

    Forgive the ramble here. I’m a bit drunk.

  2. @steve, i don’t think one ever needs to apologize to an audience of poets for being drunk and rambling. i will need to have the book in hand again to comment, but my favorite poem that Craig read repeated the phrase, “to speak is an incomprehensible act of faith,” and of course i liked the post-structuralist play there– the poem was separated into strophes each of which treated a moment of such faith, the most striking to me of which was a description of marriage (much of the book seems to be about marriage and the act of joining one’s life with another’s) as an act of long-term faith in which one believes that the listener will continue to understand the speaker on each separate spoken occasion for decades to come. i liked the mix, in this long poem, between earnestness/tenderness and language theory/the philosophical. perhaps if anything it reminded me of Zukofsky– because of the mix of types of languages (the phonics/images aren’t Zukofsky-esque). i would like to comment further on the entire reading– on each poet– in a separate post.

  3. Books says:

    Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for providing the information about these three books. I was looking for the same.

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