on an unseasonably rainy & cold night in mid-August I had an appetite for the above. I wanted to look in less obvious places. I have a stack of above/ground press chapbooks published in 2014, since i am a subscriber…i was curious to see if any of the authors had a penchant for the Gothic, etc. what i found primarily was an overriding tone of anxiety concerning the monotony of 21st century existence. seems scary enough to me...
Sarah Rosenthal’s "Estelle Morning Star" fits the bill nicely with descriptions of women carrying “dying dead things” “emaciated/mangled/animals” I love her turns of phrase & odd juxtapositions, a sense of the macabre amongst business like celebration: “hard core birds in the / ballroom throw themselves/at convention windows/clatter to the table their/colours running out.” she paints a vivid picture. Estelle wears mary janes.
Hugh Thomas gives us absurd portraits of anxious composers pursued by fierce demons in "Albanian Suite."“When I was with you, the ravens/and milktrucks made such music.” a fun use of black & white. in “Epithalamion” there are bite-marked necks, the monotony of waiting. “It misunderstands today’s poetry/overgrown with wildflowers to forget these sojourners.” “Poetry is a pagoda, built of friendly embracings, like a square dance complicating society” … a ticket to days of radishes/and saliva” not to discount the beauty in these poems. it’s there between ice-cold moments: “Time, you murderous sun fills my lungs with honey,” there’s something sweetly chilling about that image. & another from “Selfportrait Unwilling to Sit”: “a tramcar apocalypse/on the move/dragging behind dissonance, divine regret.” there’s something Gothic about that image. & in “Metropolitan”: “The two sicknesses frequent in this epoch are heat and isolation.” Thomas’ poems alternate between the tiniest, spot on observations to elaborate, absurd images. I have to say, this is one of my favourite chapbooks this year so far. some of the poems are translations.
In "Present!" N.W. Lea opens with a gangster with rubber extendable arms holding someone up like a baby. an absurd image & not without its horrifying effect…followed later in the next poem in the sequence by “the swans of hurt/burn circles in the snow” there’s lots here about the terror of mundanity, of the burbs…even a littered cough candy is menacing: “a pale pink/half-sucked lozenge/on the pavement/glinting//plus us//have to contend with the teeth of the neighbourhood” you are “snug in your death-sweater.” there are “great swarms/of dusk-bats” "Present!" is a sequence of estrangement.
there are some menacing animals & a kind of helplessness, a monotony in Camille Martin’s "Sugar Beach:" “A leap of leopards under a crescent moon/happens without us, but we’re there/just the same.” “Newfangleness” Sharpshooters are juxtaposed with picnics in “Blind Engine.” In “No Such Identical Horses,” Martin writes, “I was counting on my favourite superstition/to endow the mirage with authority.” There are rotted leaves, wormy fruit, a beast stampeding down a trail, “the chitinous exoskeleton of a locust” & in the title poem a feeling of wasted extravagance in an image of a rusty tanker scooping “mounds of raw sugar.” “Machine in the Ghost” evokes a cemetery scene. The poems in this chapbook are sound & image collages.
Eric Baus gives us fanciful nightmares of octopi with burned tentacles, ghosts, insects in “The Rain of Ice.” I loved how imaginative & unusual these prose poems were.
In “Many forms in water,” Rachel Moritz gives us white coffins, bitter flowers, gathering storms, “the ribbon of heat rising past digits black in air.” In “The finished forms in the sand record movement that has ceased,” this is a particularly grotesque image: “I carried her through the woods, slept in waterlogged leaves with her body on my chest.” This poem & the others manage to create a tone of melancholy, grief, poignant emotions. I’m quite enamoured of these poems, especially imagery like “How we carried the bell down irrevocable stairs, passed our sentence of doubt and kept moving.” in “Flowing water encounters a widely submerged outside.”