Micro MICRO Review Monday Part II

Both this and last week's micro reviews are more micro than usual, and extra special. Janaka and Minetta each read close to thirty books in thirty days as part of the National Poetry Month festivities. This week, enjoy Janaka's top three picks from his April reads.

Paige Ackerson-Kiely - My Love Is a Dead Arctic Explorer

Full disclosure: Paige is a good friend of mine and co-edits the literary journal I publish, Handsome. That is just how much I loved this book; I'm willing to risk you thinking I'm a nepotistic asshole just so you'll do yourself a favor and read one of the best collections of poetry I've picked up in years. Paige hits it out of the park with poems that are so completely realized, I can't help but believe she is securing a prominent spot in the history of American letters.

Karen Rigby - Chinoiserie

Although Karen and I are press-mates, I don't know her--in fact, we're not even Facebook friends (OMG!). Black Ocean is known for publishing a fair number of prose-poems but I personally value the line tremendously. Karen's meticulous attention to enjambment and white space, combined with her brutal economy of language, make for a cavalcade of knock-out lines that also amount to really satisfying poems.

Ariana Reines - Mercury

I'm not friends with Ariana either, though I'd like to be if she'd just return my emails... If I loved the other two books for their fine-tuned restraint, I loved this book for its wild willingness to indulge impulse. Peppered with pithy short poems, sigil-like inscriptions and incantatory language that is at times absurd and at times arresting in its seriousness, Mercury is the id within my conflicted heart.

—Janaka Stucky

Micro MICRO Review Monday

Both this and next week's micro reviews are more micro than usual, and extra special. Janaka and Minetta each read close to thirty books in thirty days as part of the National Poetry Month festivities. This week, Minetta shares her top three reads and a line about each.

Emmanuel Hocquard The Invention of Glass  

If you ever have any desire to understand the poetic tradition post Romanticism then you know a thing or two about reflection and know a thing or two about self-reflection in the poem and know a thing or two about how mind blowing the mirror (here glass and its invention) can be to your poet heart. This translation is important and should not be missed. 

Ben Lerner Mean Free Path 

Mean Free Path is smarter than me and my own walk-a-bouts. This doesn't mean I wouldn't fire walk with it if it proposed we do.

Lily Ladewig The Silhouettes 

This books offers silhouettes of brevity brought to the windy paths of the New York style observation: everything I adore about honesty buckled up, gagged, and given mere moments breath. 

—A Minetta Gould

Micro Review Monday!

by C. McAllister Williams
Alice Blue Books, 2010
$10.00, Limited Edition Chapbook 

As the crowd around a car accident, WILLIAM SHATNER draws your eye to the devastation that surrounds its savior. Shatner is the subject. Shatner is the object. Shatner is not what you think he is. WILLIAM SHATNER marries biblical verse with Us Weekly, producing a journey for salvation that doubles as a gossip column through the arc of the poems. Williams tells us “william shatner is a ghost. by ghost i mean / he is a great television. in the city square, / william shatner has become multitudes. / or so says my souvenir tee shirt.” Be warned yet assured. WILLIAM SHATNER polishes its brass knuckles before punching you in the face.

—A. Minetta Gould

Micro Review Monday (on Wednesday)!

Correct Animal
by Rebecca Farivar
Octopus Books, 2011

Yes, this is an animal, cooing under terse lines mirroring old fashioned poetic disturbances. Disturbances in the sense that young poets can be terrorized by mere existence too. Farivar writes

If she wants
to say bird
not finch
not starling
not snipe

let her

This is how to break a heart, to rip into poem flesh and say “give me some space to breathe,” to show a subtleness in what plagues the poet that can at once be gendered and completely not. All I want to do is synchronize my movements with this animal. All I want to do is be correct too.

—A. Minetta Gould

Micro Review Mondays Are Back!

Panic Attack, USA
by Nate Slawson
Yes Yes Books, 2011


The lust-filled teenage heart that Slawson provokes out of the I of Panic Attack, U.S.A. has nothing on the mature articulations of contemporary anxiety these poems present in their hot bellies. As if peeling the band t-shirt off adolescence’s sweaty, nervous body, Slawson opens up the poem to a tragic humor that is so delicate I wonder if its skin has ever seen light: “what sucks about the soul / is not knowing if it ends / like a parade ends.” If poetry had a yearbook, and that poetry yearbook held a vote for “most popular” or “best hair” or twenty other meaningless awards, Panic Attack, U.S.A. wouldn’t win any of them; it’s too slight and quiet to ever be thought of for the ballot. It’s too smart to care.   

—A. Minetta Gould


Micro reviews will be posted every Monday on our blog. Interested in submitting? Send your review of ~100 words to nikkita@blackocean.org.

Microreview Monday!

Put Your Head in My Lap

Claudia Smith
Future Tense Press, 2009

Swiss artist Urs Fischer says “art works best in people’s memories” by which he means “it’s not just the act of going to see it on the wall.” Fischer is talking about visual art, but, in the case of Claudia Smith’s Put Your Head in My Lap, at least, the same could apply to literature. The 16 short short stories in this 41-page chapbook are compelling and immersive when you’re in the act of reading them, but they get even better when you’ve finished and moved onto recalling them.

This may be because the stories operate like memories, sharp and edgy on some points, like when the narrator of one recalls, “The air smelled of clean laundry and coffee. It smelled so good,” but also blurred and dreamy at other points and seeming altered by the process of recollection as when another protagonist says, “Four years ago, my son wore mittens with elastic at the wrists, so he wouldn’t scratch his face. He looked like a little lobster […] His eyes were a still sky on a rainy day.”

Small details make the stories feel lifelike, inhabited, and even well-documented as if they could almost be nonfiction, like when a protagonist says of a rough time in her life, “I shopped from a list. I made pretzel Jell-O. My grandmother had made it; I Googled the recipe.”  

The final paragraph of the book depicts the speaker of the last story this way: “She is remembering, holding her face up to the flakes the way she’d read about and seen in Christmas movies. It happened, it happened, she’ll say and you can’t take it back.” These stories feel, in the best sense, like they are true things, like they are things that happened. [Kathleen Rooney]



Microreview Monday!

Glory Hole/The Hot Tub

Dan Hoy & Jon Leon
Mal-o-Mar Editions, 2009

Glory Hole/The Hot Tub, by Dan Hoy and Jon Leon is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The narrator of Glory Hole “heart[s] synthetics / of all kinds,” “tell[s] the sky / to suck the fat one“, and “drive[s] like an asshole because it’s the truth.” The Hot Tub is a collection of prose poems about “How we are decaying as we party hard.” Poetry has made the narrator so rich and famous “helicopters buzz above my head and paparazzi disappear among telephone poles” as he rides his bicycle in Versace pajamas, drinks, does copious amounts of drugs and has lots of sex.

Kind of ridiculous. Totally brilliant. [Justin Marks]

Microreview Monday

The Essential Numbers 1991 – 2008

Gordon Massman
Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2009

 Gordon Massman will “die for a cause.” He is the “King of rodents roaches and duikers.” Massman is “God and me, I punch, you fucker.” Gordon is “In the penis colony,” he is a “testimony of the best pig in the sty.” Gordon Massman is a “Vulgar poet, disgusting egotist, porn purveyor, fixator / on genitals,” and his Numbers are absolutely essential. Massman’s poems burn like pure grain in the mouth and nonetheless “It is unimportant to me whether anyone reads these poems . . . I have noticed the world is full of cowards.” Read, you pithy coward—read. [Auguster P. Hideousness]

Microreview Monday!!!

Tuned Droves
Eric Baus
Octopus Books, 2009

Eric Baus’s buzz is the kind that jars the latent sounds of life. The experience of reading Tuned Droves begins as if you’re standing a few feet from a bee hive and proceeds to curl up right inside of it, close as possible to the bees, the tiny hairs on the bees, the little lungs of the bees: “Wake up a little more, Ding. Be still, and hear a bee breathing.” [Dara Cerv]



A Million in Prizes
Justin Marks
New Issues, 2009

Justin Marks’s A Million in Prizes communicates with us on the terms we know but cannot speak ourselves. He plucks so clearly from the life that floats perpetually in front of him. The small things are the biggest, the common the extraordinary: “The fact that....there / are no root canals expected makes me smile with all of my soul. / My love is strong and will float atop my chest forevermore.” [Dara Cerv]

Microreview Monday


Paul Siegell

A-Head Publishing, 2009



Like his dazzling debut Poemergency Room, Paul Siegell’s second collection jambandbootleg buzzes with exuberance so huge the book can barely contain it. From the blurb by his dad—“What a rush!” to the “(((Whooo’s got my publisher?)))” where most would put “acknowledgments” to the “SETLIST” instead of a “Table of Contents,” Siegell’s book embodies the non-stop sensory overload of a super-fun show.


Like the bands he idolizes—Phish, the Disco Biscuits—Siegell’s poetry has an improvisational quality, but not an optional one; there are surprises, certainly, but so too is there skillful decision-making at work; he is causing effects to happen for a reason. Or as he puts it in “SET III” “for Dionysus speaks: / Apollo descends w/ boundaries.”


In “Meet Me at Will Call” he writes:


I. Today

I was told

over the phone

that I sounded



And he sounds that way over the page, too, which makes this book refreshing, a romp—a cover-to-cover experience of Dionysian excess, ecstasy, and escape. In poems that take concert-going as their well-spring, Siegell carries on the visionary tradition of Ginsberg and Blake. [Kathleen Rooney]


Early Morning Micros


Kathleen Rooney

Switchback Books, 2008



Kathleen Rooney's Oneiromance echoes Lincoln's sentiment of Niagra Falls -- "Never dried, never froze, never slept, never rested --" It is an epithalamion full of life and movement, enjoyable niblets -- "nunfits," "Bluestocking scholars" -- and enjoyable lines -- "We wish on a fishbone, though fish don't / have wishdones ..." "The room & his trusty sidekick the groom," "Lawn mowers / moan like the ghosts of generals./ Cicadas drone like the ghosts of American-/made cars," "Legends ionize the air," and "Rosa rugosa creeps from the pergola / to the groom's throat." [Evan Fleischer]






Cancer Mon Amour

Kathrin Schaeppi

Winterling Press/Dusie Chap Kollektiv, 2009


All gasp and tension, any moment something could happen. Something bad. To be “scaaared” - oh soscared. Cancer Mon Amour moves like its cover image says it will: “REPEAT” “STOP”. Back into treatment. Memory. Remembering Mother’s treatment. Inescapable mortality. Is there “any god in this”? These pulsing prose poems of helping a friend through illness - of “volatile amour” - are urgent in their telling. i love i love i love notarikons punctuate the chap as abbreviations of our complicated relationships with our own humanness and with each other. With much love, Schaeppi has used her words to “sew pearls onto branches.” [Cara Benson]


Microreview Monday...Late Night

City of Moths

Sampson Starkweather
Rope-a-Dope Press, 2008

“This is one of those stories with a boy and a girl. Spark, chasm, spark.” Starkweather’s prose poems suggest epistolary but whom is he writing to? A girl? Us? Himself? None of the above or all of the above? So goes the machinations of Starkweather’s mind, eschewing straightforward logic, the narrative of these poems accumulate and blur, while the language vacillates between coo and rage. “In war, when enemies speak different languages it is said to make the killing easier, as for love...” Or to read City of Moths is to know everything and nothing all at once. [Steven Karl]

The Marble Palace
J. Mae Barizo
Fields Press, 2008

“In the dream the season./ Water on the lash then further down./ We kept hinged for the most part in an uneasy/ crowd. Blue undiluted, no leaf cover.” The opening stanzas of Barizo’s second chapbook finds the poet fragmenting her finely attuned sense of lyric so she can arrange, rearrange, or derange the world one segment at a time. These poems give you the expanse of the sky and the hairline fracture of the ice. “The citizens here are like watermarks, I said./ A stain or/ leaving no trace of it./ Which are you./ Pick one.” [Steven Karl]

Microreview Monday...on Monday! Finally.

Dead Letters
Alan May
BlazeVOX, 2008

Situated between abjection and negation, May’s playful minimalism explores disquieting gaps and valences in a de-centered Southern landscape, revealing various forms of poetic/cultural dementia; there’s Oedipal drama, abcedariums, a parrot named Absalom, the blank stare of aporia, whimsy as heart punch, and well, angel pee. The poems are narrative and nonsensical, but the language that remains gleefully unassimilated into larger conceptual/formal armatures glowers most insistently: "The verse consumed behemoth / as tilted the metropolis"; "By beyond deserve never mind / Me molecule Genghis Khan." Illustrations by Tom Wegrzynowski and May himself add additional doses of creepy pleasure. [Tim Earley]

Whim Man Mammon
Abraham Smith
Action Books, 2007

Whim Man Mammom reveals Abraham Smith (an unearthly virtuoso of a reader) as magisterial scarecrow, addled charmer, divinator of pine and snout, anti-bowdlerizer, chirruper of harvest desire, infinitely fiddle tongued, carnal fish burglar rent with high lonesome chilblains, ravine-nerved, gasoline holy, wrought from crow caul and rakish angles, monstrous harmonica, taut and jittery in wave after wave of amens, snake-bit heaver, iridescent arsonist, stammering and coyote hopeful, Kandinsky in Wisconsin, amnesia porn flee on the leg of night, apparational folk singer in a blaze of bootlegged days, or, more simply, his is the ontology of the sacred juke. [Tim Earley]



Microreview Monday...on Tuesday. Again.

Areas of Fog

Joseph Massey
Shearsman, 2009

Massey's first proper collection bundles work from his brilliant chapbooks with new poems. Casting a transparent eyeball on Humboldt County, California, his style vibrates with tones of Niedecker, Schuyler, and a 21st-century American Basho. Such short, haiku-esque poems can go very wrong very quickly, but Massey makes it seem easy as breathing. Not simply "nature poems," these exacting observations of the physical world -- "moonlight a bat bats / above the / shattered plum blossoms" -- fulfill Emerson's charge of having “no covenants but proximities” in a most sublime manner. [Michael Schiavo]

Land of Amnesia

Joseph Bathanti
Press 53

In Land of Amnesia, Joseph Bathanti moves from Anson County dialect to biological specificity to spiritual erudition with grit and grace. The “Christ-haunted landscape" of this collection has a Catholic sensibility, seeing saints and monks among rural North Carolinians, the sacred in the profane. Bathanti’s poems are heartbreaking and profound, the language and observations nuanced and complex, as he engages with and honors the terrible and the beautiful in our everyday lives. [Debra Kaufman]




Measuring Tape For The Midwest

Noah Falck
Pavement Saw, 2008

The conversational tongue that resides inside Measuring Tape of the Midwest is the one that brings these poems together. Imbued with trenchant humor, incongruous ideas are released from the poet’s endless register of imaginative images that indulge in the very best of American miscellany. Reading these poems one gets the sense he is rewriting history (“today is a new version of yesterday“), employing his paraphernalia as tools for building upon the melancholic everyday, a process that overall proves to be most profound. [Brian Foley]


Oni Buchanan
University of Illinois Press, 2008

In Spring, Oni Buchanan does not shy from taking on larger metaphysical themes or delving into the didactic. Her verse comes in uncommon variety— often built with a strong sense of form, other times as experiments in visual and grammatical breaks calling to mind the playfulness of Cummings, or going even further to rely on the pure mathematics of language to do the heavy lifting. If none of these things puts you off, you will likely enjoy this book. [R. Clark Morrow]



Microreview Monday

Julie Doxsee
Octopus Books, 2008

Doxsee’s work in Undersleep shows preference for a style of brevity rooted in the American tradition of imagism. But unlike many contemporary examples of this tradition, however, her verse is not bounded by stark realism but instead ventures into landscapes where images flow together with the disturbing pace of a fever-dream and the logic of tones mixed from the material and the chimerical. The strangeness and layers of emotion alone makes this book worth reading. [R. Clark Morrow]


Tomaž Šalamun (trans. Joshua Beckman)
Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008

This beautiful little book, a new edition of Tomaž Šalamun’s first translated by Joshua Beckman and the author, Poker is obsessed with lexicology and ontology—the names of things and their being—culminating in a dictionary of nonsense terms. Šalamun, as Matthew Rohrer says in the introduction, has a “gravitas,” but it’s paired with a playful sense of comedy: “I love this kind of seriousness.” [Elisa Gabbert]



Microreview Monday

Dear Ra
Johannes Goransson
Starcherone, 2008

The flinches of Dear Ra consist of confessions, cautions, and insincere apologies. "If the ship is sinking don't make love to the rats." Like Burroughs without the slamming boys, it's a constantly-changing party line. It's "a Haiku about Bang-Bang-Ugh." Too many poems these days are really surrealist novels in hiding; it's nice to see one that comes into the clear. [John Cotter]




My W/hole Aesthetic
Matthew Henriksen
Cannibal Books, 2008

In this 7-page lyric manifesto, Henriksen oscillates, with equal parts wisdom and contempt, between negative capability—poet as receptacle—and positive capability—poet as God. He writes: “This cavity of forgiveness (a lie) / and love (a lie we make into birds): Sparrow! Irony makes the / stilled wings flutter with my heartbeat!” With his signature rawness and beauty, Henriksen reminds us of the most primitive struggles and pleasures of poetry. [Chris Tonelli]


Microreview Monday

Hit Wave
Jon Leon
Kitchen Press, 2008

Leon’s Hit Wave is a racy tour de force, a fake memoir written in an absurd world where a poet can live the decadent life of the rich & famous. The depraved, egomaniacal narrator is better at “making real life seem like movies” than directors are at “making movies seem real.” Not “academic cool” but “world cool,” Hit Wave is a mockumentary for the chapbook set. [Elisa Gabbert]


They All Seemed Asleep
Matthew Rohrer
Octopus Books, 2008

“Don all I did / was see some shit / happen I wish I hadn’t / and then got on a night bus / which didn’t even charge me / and let me off way up here / and now I’m drunk and walking / to a cave.” Like the narrator, a reader familiar with Rohrer’s previous work is apt to feel blindsided by this mini-epic. But it is actually sort of a mini-miracle. Conjuring the likes of Hemingway and Pynchon in forty-three pages of short-lined poetry is no small task, and Rohrer does just that with They All Seemed Asleep. [Chris Tonelli]


MICRO-REVIEW MONDAYS: A New Black Ocean Feature

Case of the Monday's? We've got just the thing. Two micro-reviews EVERY Monday to get your week started off right. High in fiber, low in sugar (and words, for that matter), these micro-reviews are clinically proven to help lower bad cholesterol. Mom's love them because they're healthy; kids love them because they're friggin' delicious.

Check out today's first installment:


Coeur de Lion
Ariana Reines
mal-o-mar, 2008

Ariana Reines’ Coeur de Lion is many things—hip, pretentious, a bit self-conscious, maybe even a little affected; and, with its references to gmail, MP3s, jpgs and YouTube, contemporary with a capital C. At the same time, it’s vulnerable, sincere, tender, ironic, angry, sexual and sad. In a word, it’s great. Utterly human in its emotional and intellectual complexity. [Justin Marks]


Chris Vitiello
Ahsahta Press, 2008

Chris Vitiello’s Irresponsibility is an Ammons-esque snowball of ethos. Propelled by one of the most trustable voices I’ve come across, Irresponsibility incorporates philosophy, grammar, domesticity, nature, mathematics—whatever’s in its path—often into the same poem: “Interruption is interaction // Iris says ‘All I can see is this’ / and points / As close as things need to be to be / seen as consecutive.” This book is both intelligent and down to earth, self-aware and sensibly happy. A rarity. [Chris Tonelli]


 If you'd like to write a micro-review, send  a less-than-100-word review to: chris@blackocean.org