Monday, November 28, 2011

The Rumpus Poetry Book Club: Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan

The Rumpus Poetry Book Club Chat with Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan

BRIAN SPEARS BIO ↓ · November 23rd, 2011 · filed under BOOK CLUB BLOG, POETRY, RUMPUS ORIGINAL

The Rumpus Poetry Book Club chats with Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan about her poetry collection Bear, Diamonds and Crane.

This is an edited transcript of the Poetry Book Club discussion with Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan. Every month The Rumpus Poetry Book Club hosts a discussion online with the club members and the author, and we post an edited version online as an interview.

Brian S: Well, even though it’s just the three of us right now, we should probably start talking about the book.

Camille D.: I’m just down the street from Stanford. The game’s on in the room I’m in.

Claire: That’s right. You’re in California. Where I’m from!

Camille D..: I know! I recognized so much of the landscape of CA. An emotional landscape.

Claire: Yes, Northern Calif. is an emotional landscape for me and my family.

Brian S: One of the few places I’ve lived where I would gladly move back, if I could afford it.

Claire: I’m in Houston, but my heart will always be in California.

Brian S: And Houston is, coincidentally enough, where I was born, though I moved from Texas when I was young.

Claire: Yes, I would love to live there if I could afford to and if my husband and I could find good paying jobs.

Camille D.: How about we start with that question. The loss in these poems is so palpable, but at the same time, there is this very present presence of past and place.

Claire: Yes, and hopefully there’s a sense of the future.

Camille D.: There is a sense of future. Especially with all those mentions of of your niece and nephew. I found those really interesting.

Claire: I wrote this book with them in mind.

Camille D.: Can you speak more about that?

Claire: They will have questions about our family.

Well, my father passed away on Sept. 27th, 2011. Vince and Emma know that Grandpa lived at Manzanar. I want them to know their family history. My mother’s parents were very good about telling me about their history. But in 2011, it’s difficult to sit the two down and say, “Let me tell you about our family. . .”

It just doesn’t happen that way. At least not in conversations.

Camille D.: Oh my goodness, Claire, that was so recent. My deep condolences to you. I’m actually amazed by your ability to be so clear headed in writing when you were in the midst of dealing with the loss so immediately.

Brian S: I liked the way you dealt with how kids pick up on things even when you don’t tell them, like in “At Seven and Nine, My Niece and Nephew Know.”

Let me add my condolences to Camille’s as well.

Claire: It’s been difficult, but I feel that my father is with my mother. He’s where he should be.

Thank you.

My parents were very close. They shared the same birthday. Sept. 21st.

Camille D.: I’ve been talking a lot to people about the need for poetry. One of the reasons I’ve presented is that it provides language for us in time of trauma or in sacred spaces like memorial services and weddings. But one of the other uses is that poetry can be such a fluent repository for history. It sounds like you have consciously used it in both these ways.

Claire: My father passed away one week after their birthday.

Camille D.: That’s my sister’s birthday, too. Gorgeous spirits came to us on that day.

Claire: Yes. I like the term gorgeous spirits.

Camille D.: You’re welcome to share it.

Brian S: Was there a sense, in that poem, that your mother’s illness caused them to grow up a little more quickly?

Claire: Yes, I do think it caused them to grow up.

Vincent had a profound understanding of my mother’s illness. Emma took a while to understand how serious my mother was. I guess my mother’s passing was their first experience with death.

Camille D.: People often ask me if they should scared about writing about and/or to people who are alive. There’s a real responsibility there. How did you face down that responsibility while you were writing?

Claire: There are things that Vince and Emma may forget with time. I wanted to capture them at certain ages.

Brian S: I would imagine it’s also difficult writing about relatives who have passed, since there’s a desire to tell and hear only the good things about them. Was that an issue for you?

Claire: No. My family embraces the negative and positive qualities of a person. In Snow White you have the seven dwarfs. One is grumpy, sleepy, etc. If someone is grouchy or ill-tempered, they don’t see that as a fault. It’s just the person’s personality. So I was labeled “the sensitive one.” That was who I was.

Brian S: There’s a moment in “Diamonds and Crane” where the conversation goes “Did you look back, did you write back?” and the response is “No. You ask too many questions,” which sort of brings us back to that question of how we tell our children our family stories. That’s always a problem, isn’t it?

Because we as adults don’t always want to give up our secrets.

Camille D.: Is that part of how you come to be able to write in such a balanced manner? I see that as a poetic way of seeing the world, seeing all its nuances. But I think you might be saying there is something perhaps cultural there. Or maybe not cultural but at least part of your family’s world view.

Claire: My grandmother was open about telling us things about my grandfather, but very discreet about her side of the family.

It’s cultural, yes.

Camille D.: And yet, even though you say it’s cultural, you also say you were marked as particularly sensitive.

Claire: I never thought of my writing as “balanced.” That’s interesting.

Yes, I remember that my mother told someone that I was the sensitive one. My mother, by contrast, was tough.

Camille D.: One of the things that drew me to your book is that is seemed to be two sides of the coin all the time. Brief, stanzas, big ideas. Florid descriptions, spare language. Eastern worldviews, Western materials.

Claire: So you mean it’s bi-cultural.

Camille D.: Will you talk a bit about your choice of forms. You range so much. I’m interested how much you are led by form or if the content drives the form or if and how your method varies.

Brian S: I get what Camille is saying, and I feel the same way. I’ve been considering assigning this book for a class I’m teaching in the spring which deals with culture and identity for just that reason.

Claire: I think that content drives the form.

I don’t think of myself as a form driven writer, even though I make use of forms like the villanelle, haiku, sestina. . .

You can read the rest of the discussion here!

The Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews BREAKING AND ENTERING by Eileen Pollack

From Association of Jewish Libraries: Nov/Dec 2011

Pollack, Eileen. Breaking and Entering. Tribeca, NY: Four Way Books, 2012.
386 pp. $18.95 (9781935536123).

“When a client of Louise’s husband Richard commits suicide, the couple is plunged into a dark period. In an attempt to recover both professionally and maritally, they move to a small town in Michigan, just before the Oklahoma City bombing. In some ways, this move seems like it might bring this family together, but in other ways they are as far apart as ever. Can Louise and Richard figure out how to fight their personal demons and come together as a family again? There are many issues facing these characters and the way they deal with them is both complex and interesting. Pollack takes on many controversial and emotional issues in this novel about which readers are sure to have strong opinions, including intermarriage, cheating, and racism. The writing is very good and makes the book an easy read. This book could be really great for book club discussions. Readers will care for this family and root for them to succeed. This book is recommended for Jewish libraries and public libraries.”

Debbie Feder, Director, Library Resource Center,
Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Chicago

Life in Full: Sydney Lea on former Vermont state poet Ruth Stone

Editor's Note: This column was written before former Vermont State Poet Ruth Stone died Nov. 19. Current state poet laureate Sydney Lea writes about how Stone, in a few words, evokes life while writing about loss.

I want to pay a brief and inadequate tribute to Ruth Stone, my predecessor as Vermont Poet Laureate. Ms. Stone is remarkable in every way: 96 years old and all but completely blind, the woman still generates some of America's most compelling poetry.

Compared to her, I'm a mere youngster, just shy of 69. And yet, like anyone blessed to live past middle life, I feel a profounder sense of loss with every year: dear friends and family die; faculties and physical resources fade; I anticipate more funerals than weddings. I scarcely expect to reach 96, but if I did, such losses as I have known would surely have lost themselves among the multitude that followed.

It is entirely understandable, then, that at her great age Ruth Stone should be a chronicler of sorrow; but in fact she suffered gut-wrenching loss even before she reached 50. Her husband committed suicide half a century ago, and to one extent or another, we sense the man's presence (or rather his absence) in all Ms. Stone's work. She has described her own work as "love poems, all written to a dead man." Consider the following:


When you come back to me/ it will be crow time/ and flycatcher time,/ with rising spirals of gnats/ between the apple trees./ Every weed will be quadrupled,/ coarse, welcoming/ and spine-tipped./ The crows, their black flapping/ bodies, their long calling/ toward the mountain;/ relatives, like mine,/ ambivalent, eye-hooded;/ hooting and tearing./ And you will take me into your fractal meaningless/ babble; the quick of my mouth,/ the madness of my tongue.

By my reading, the speaker here finds herself looking forward from winter to the warmer seasons so brilliantly evoked by her meticulous attention to natural detail. That will be a fecund time, a time when poems return to her; and yet "when you come back to me" seems poignantly to suggest the return as well of an absent lover. The tragic subtext here is that the human "you" will not come back after all, that the speaker must settle for what she calls "fractal meaningless/babble."

Lyric poetry, however, more than any other mode of discourse, can contain opposite impulses without lapsing into mere self-contradiction. While this is, yes, another Stone poem about grief and loss, and about the resulting erasure of meaning, it's also about "the quick of my mouth," the life-force that this valiant woman enacts by means of her own eloquent speech The "madness of my tongue" is the madness of desolation — but also of exhilaration. The reader can all but hear the sound of spring freshets in her diction.

For me, "Poems" captures in very short span what it is to be human. Our lives do not consist of a simple good day/bad day dialectic, it seems; for as long as we draw breath, we experience pain and fulfillment simultaneously.

Ms. Stone invites my admiration and gratitude: the very music of a phrase like "fractal meaningless/babble" makes me feel more alive, no matter the losses that I, like anyone, have known, and that I am bound to know further.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Publishers Weekly Reviews Eileen Pollack's Forthcoming Novel, BREAKING AND ENTERING

Breaking and Entering
Louise Shapiro is thoroughly beset in this thorny, lucid novel. Her bad luck begins in California, where her husband abandons his psychology practice and takes a job in a rural Michigan prison. Louise struggles to adjust to the heartland, which seems overpopulated with religious nuts and militia members. Her husband drifts away into a rebellious, gun-toting fugue, and the lover she takes becomes remote in his own way. Contributing to and reflecting her malaise is the ominous sociopolitical climate: the Oklahoma City bombing occurs midway, and throughout Louise grapples with the suddenly vivid awareness that the country is full of people whose worldviews are almost incomprehensibly different from her own. Her increasingly nuanced view of the sociopolitical divide is reflected in Pollack’s sensitive portrayals of both liberal Louise and her ilk, and their conservative counterparts. Weaving the personal with the political, Pollack (In the Mouth) creates an encompassing haze of dissatisfaction and misdirected passion. Despite the unrelenting misfortune, though, the tone is more solemn than dark; there’s a beautiful contemplativeness, and a believable sense of redemption in the end. Louise is jarred into a kind of awakening that might not have occurred in comfortable Berkeley, and is, if not happier, more enlightened for it. Agent: Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Jan.)

LEO Weekly: [Sarah] Gorham's poetry has teeth

‘Bad Daughter’ By Sarah Gorham. Four Way Books; 67 pgs., $14.95.

Mothers — everyone’s got one somewhere, and our feelings about that inescapable fact are as personal and nuanced as fingerprints, those unique, inescapable markers of self. Since every mother is a daughter herself, the particular intergenerational ways in which women relate (oh, the banality of daytime talk show vocabulary!) is fundamental to the ongoing work of understanding our own human puzzles. And so Louisville writer (and editor-in-chief of Sarabande Books) Sarah Gorham’s new collection of poems, “Bad Daughter,” is not mere girl talk, nor is it a sentimental glossing over of the exquisite violences, large and small, that families visit upon themselves.

I don’t know whether to give a copy of “Bad Daughter” to my mother for Christmas or to hide it when she visits, which is to say this is no benign little memoir in verse, thank God. Gorham’s poems have teeth.

Indeed, in her poem “Homesickness,” Gorham poses an unsettling thought on the nature of life replacing and replicating itself: “What is a mother but a tooth’s way of producing another tooth?” In this collection, mothers are remote and mysterious, recriminating voices haunting from a distance, yet at the same time so close, a constant echo swirling through the daughter’s head. In the poem “Floaters,” a plain thesis (“The fear in a mother’s voice/that you’ll never be useful or clean”) plagues both mother and daughter — the fear of not raising children right, and of not living up to your own raising.

The poet uses her vantage point as mother, daughter and grandmother to examine the life cycle from points delightful and disturbing — a baby girl is an intoxicating, otherworldly creature, “skin like spun sugar, fingers pink fiddleheads” and “a fresh cutting,” while the aging woman “full of stirs and folds, whips and dark layers” who must approach the baby, a gateway to a strange alternate reality, with reverence.

But neither is the unnatural experience spared, as Gorham examines in “Bust of a Young Girl in the Snow,” which former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins selected for the 2006 edition of “Best American Poetry.” In this poem, the woman’s eye observes the snow falling and collecting on the grotesque metal still-life of a hundred younger selves: “an elephant girl, a misshapen/Phantom of the Opera mask/covering half her motionless face.” And that tooth pushing out another tooth, undone:

How often resurrection’s a slight miscalculation of past, present, and future. A cow nudging its dead calf. A little girl’s eyes in winter, opened rigid and wide.

This poem is followed by what could be the film trailer of the collection, a memory-poem of girlhood. “When we were good we were” foreshadows events of future poems while examining the feminine and its evil twin, the ladylike, in its careful deconstruction of how to be good at being a girl — so “precise, mindful of our tools.” In the turn, Gorham’s bold metaphor startles: “When we were bad, we were extravagant/like cruise ships through a canal.” The poem closes with the rejection of the ladylike bird in favor of the unbridled dog rolling in manure, a strange and satisfying twist on the expected images of fertility, and a celebration of the wild glory that reverberates throughout the collection.

Friday, November 18, 2011

BK Poet Laureate Tina Chang Celebrates Her Newest Poetry Collection With a Reading Tonight in Boerum Hill

Brooklyn’s poet laureate has regained her voice.

Park Slope’s own Tina Chang will celebrate the release of her first book since being named the Brooklyn poet laureate last year on Nov. 18 — a collection that took her 10 years to complete.

The poems that comprise “Of Gods and Strangers,” weave together the story of Chang’s struggle to cope with Sept. 11, and examine her role as an observer of world history as economies collapse, foreign wars rage on, and the city continues feel the pain, and attempt to heal, 10 years after the Twin Towers fell. But make no mistake: Chang’s book isn’t therapy — its elements are personal, but they’re also universal to Brooklynites, and everyone else living in contemporary society.

“I came to terms with what it means to be alive, survive, try to cope and live as a human being,” she explained. “This book is about what it means to live in the modern world, and what it means to live in war; the self that is situated here in New York, and the self that relates to other parts of the world.”

After Sept. 11, Chang experienced an extended bout of writer’s block that she was ultimately able to overcome in order to finish “Of Gods and Strangers” — after being appointed Brooklyn’s official disseminator of verse in February, 2010.

“After 9-11, so many writers and artists were reflecting right away, but I experienced a silence,” Chang said. “Becoming the poet laureate of this borough became cathartic — when I stand in front of a classroom full of 7-year-olds and see how excited they are about finding a form of expression, I know that words really do have power.”

Tina Chang reads from “Of Gods and Strangers” at 61 Local [61 Bergen St. between Boerum Place and Smith Street in Boerum Hill (347) 763-6624], Nov. 18, 7 pm. For info visit

Reach Arts Editor Juliet Linderman at or by calling (718) 260-8309.

11/19 Elise Paschen and Kevin Prufer Reading at the Chicago Poetry Center

Elise Paschen and Kevin Prufer Reading
Saturday, November 19, 2011 - 3:00pm

Poetry Center of Chicago Office
78 E Washington St., Pedway EastChicago, IL

Take the Cultural Center elevatior to the Pedway level, and turn left. Poetry Center office is on the left.


Elise Paschen is the author of several poetry collections including, most recently, Bestiary (Red Hen Press, 2009) and Infidelities, winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in The New Republic, Ploughshares and The Hudson Review, among other magazines, and in anthologies such as A Formal Feeling Comes and The POETRY Anthology, 1912—2002. She also has edited numerous anthologies, including The New York Times bestsellers, Poetry Speaks and Poetry Speaks to Children. A co-founder of Poetry in Motion, Paschen teaches in the Writing Program at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kevin Prufer is the author of five books of poems, the most recent of which are In a Beautiful Country (Four Way, 2011) and National Anthem (2008), named one of the five best poetry books of the year by Publishers Weekly. He is also Editor of, among others, New European Poets (Graywolf, 2008; w/Wayne Miller) and Editor-at-Large of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing. The recipient of three Pushcart prizes and numerous other national awards, he is Professor of English at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program.

MORE Magazine Reviews Eileen Pollack's Forthcoming Novel, BREAKING AND ENTERING

Book Review: 'Breaking and Entering' by Eileen Pollack

A compassionate, humorous new novel about the ambiguities of modern life.

by Lynn Schnurnberger
Photograph: Avery Powell

After his patient commits suicide, a shattered Richard Shapiro and his wife, Louise, both therapists, move from upscale, liberal Marin County, California, to a rural Michigan village in 1995. But so much for the great escape: Louise takes up with a magnetic married minister, and Richard befriends members of the local militia, which has ties to the Oklahoma City bomber. Set against the backdrop of a divided America, Breaking and Entering by Eileen Pollack is a novel laced with compassion, humor and wisdom about the ambiguities of modern life. (

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sarah Gorham Reads Tonight at 7pm at Carmichael's in Louisville, KY

Louisville poet and publisher, Sarah Gorham, explores the “Bad Daughter” in us all at Carmichael’s [Books]
by Erin Day

The term “hysteria” can trace its rather curious roots back to the ancient Greeks. Often attributed to Hippocrates, “hysteria” began its journey to the modern English lexicon as a term used to describe the movements of a woman’s uterus as it flew about her body, causing disease and driving her wild. A fun fact. While it is now clear that the female womb remains stationary, the idea of the wild or “bad girl” still remains an alluring taboo in our society. Grabbing misbehavior by the horns, Louisville poet Sarah Gorham explores the risky business of being a Bad Daughter. Unleash your wild side with her at Carmichael’s Bookstore, tonight at 7pm.

Sarah Gorham is the founder of the Louisville-based publishing house, Sarabande Books, a heavy player in Louisville’s literary scene. But Gorham’s talent is not limited to behind-the-scenes when it comes to the world of books. A forceful writer, Gorham is the author of four collections of poetry, including The Cure, awarding-winning The Tension Zone and Don’t Go Back to Sleep. Her work has been featured in numerous publications such as Best American Poetry, The Nation, Antaeus, American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Grand Street, DoubleTake, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Ohio Review, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Missouri Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry Northwest. Gorham is a well-lauded poet, with awards including the Carolyn Kizer Award, the Gertrude Claytor Prize from the Poetry Society of America and the Prairie Schooner Reader’s Choice Award, among many other fellowships and grants. Her latest poetry release, Bad Daughter, has been hailed by both critics and fellow poets alike.

Characterized by a combination of several lyrical forms – “mortality tales”, ironic prayers, sonnets and meditations – Bad Daughter surveys concepts such as envy, detachment and immorality in the lives of “bad” women and the sense of self forged in the ruckus. Described by fellow poet, Linda Gregerson, as “the book of a poet writing at the height of her powers and confidence”, Bad Daughter delves into the generations of bad daughters, sisters and their mothers and the powerful force of being female.

Get in touch with your inner demons and head out to Carmichaels’ Frankfort Avenue location to hear selections from Bad Daughter. Gorham will be on hand reading her work, and be available for signatures starting at 7pm. Bad Daughter can be purchased in paperback at Carmichael’s for $15.95. Check your hysterics at the door (it’s good to keep the uterus in place) and embrace your bad side for an evening.

Carmichael’s Bookstore has two area locations 1295 Bardstown Road and 2720 Frankfort Avenue

West Branch Reviews Monica Youn's IGNATZ

“Foundations of Wonder”: Popular Culture in Three Recent Books
by Chris Cunningham

We do not, with sufficient plainness, or sufficient profoundness, address ourselves to life, nor dare we chaunt our own times and social circumstance…Banks and tariffs, the newspaper and caucus, Methodism and Unitarianism, are flat and dull to dull people, but rest on the same foundations of wonder as the town of Troy, and the temple of Delphos, and are as swiftly passing away…Yet America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet,” 1844

Within a dozen years of the publication of Emerson’s essay, Whitman answered the older writer’s call as plainly as he knew how, offering a poetry peopled not with gods and goddesses but with as many American selves as he could catalog, decorated not with hothouse roses but with the unadorned green of grass, and written in an idiom that drew its music as much from American colloquial speech as from the English of Shakespeare and the King James Bible.

It’s been a long time since one could complain that American poets fail to address their own times, or that we lack poets who, in Emerson’s words, dare “to write [their] autobiography in colossal cipher.” Indeed, one of the hallmarks of American poetry since Whitman is an active engagement—thematic, formal, stylistic—with the American present. The most powerful effect of this engagement has been the rejection, following Whitman’s example and Wordsworth’s Preface, of traditional poetic diction in favor of the “language of common men.” At the same time, poets have been equally willing to take up what Emerson called the “raw and dull stuff,” the “barbarism and materialism” of American culture, to make poetic art. “The experience of each new age requires a new confession,” wrote Emerson. All three collections discussed here carry Emerson’s project forward in one way or another, engaging and using American popular culture and colloquial speech to sing their own times and ways.


George Herriman’s Krazy Kat comic strip, which ran from the mid-teens to the 1940s, offers a corrective to the world’s most famous comic mouse. In place of Disney’s cheery, whistling, hail-fellow fellow, Herriman’s comic presents Ignatz, an unapologetic cynic, whose recidivist brick-throwing continually lands him in jail in the Dali-esque desert of Coconino County. A less well-nourished mouse than Mickey, Ignatz is drawn with skinny legs and scrawny tail, a compact body, flat, clawed feet, and a long, rat-like nose. In his recurrent abuse of the hopelessly amorous and self-deceiving Krazy Kat, Ignatz is more like Bugs Bunny without the charm and dapper dress: in each full-page comic, Ignatz devises some new way to connect a brick with the back of Krazy Kat’s head, which impact Krazy takes as a token of Ignatz’s affection—for Krazy, abuse is how it feels to be in love.

And so this is the romantic duo that Monica Youn selects for her collection, which traces a speaker’s—the volume’s Krazy—serial romantic failures through four destructive relationships. Just as, say, the Demeter/Persephone story offers a mythic template by which poets can explore the mother/daughter relationship, Youn adopts the tragicomic eros of Krazy/Ignatz as a way to understand a certain kind of romantic self-destruction: for Youn, Ignatz is not so much an individual—although each of the men the speaker loves has his own distinctive character or physical features—but rather the name of the way the speaker loves, a serial beloved whose secondary qualities may change but whose essence is betrayal.

The first section has at its heart an intense, sexually charged relationship, as we see in the surreal “Landscape with Ignatz”:

The rawhide thighs of the canyon straddling the knobbled blue spine of the sky.

The bone-spurred heels of the canyon prodding the gaunt blue ribs of the sky.

The sunburnt mouth of the canyon biting the swollen blue tongue of the sky.

The hangnailed fingers of the canyon snagging the tangled blue hair of the sky.

The blistered thumbs of the canyon tracing the blue-veined throat of the sky.

The sleep-crusted lids of the canyon blink open…your soft, your cerulean eye.

As in the original comic strip, Ignatz’ eroticism is mingled with intimations of violence. Suggestions of rough sex run throughout this section, whether thematically, as in this poem, or on the level of simile and metaphor. The section opens with a bloody sunrise: “A gauze bandage wraps the land / and is unwound, stained orange with sulfates. // A series of slaps molds a mountain, / a fear uncoils itself, testing its long / cool limbs.” Or again, in “Ignatz Oasis”: “When you have left me / the sky drains of color // like the skin / of a tightening fist.” And yet, almost as soon as things are good—and the good here is certainly ambivalent—things are bad, for Ignatz leaves and the next poem announces his “wedding,” leading immediately afterwards—from Krazy’s romantic perspective—to his “Death.”

Ignatz is resurrected in the second section as a self-regarding, “gloaty giant,” a self-important hero in awe of his own god-like “sufficiency” (“The Labors of Ignatz”). Youn simultaneously dramatizes and satirizes this Ignatz in mock-heroic diction in the prose poem “Afterwards Ignatz,” where Ignatz’s departure from a party for a walk on the beach takes on an ironizing epic grandeur:

Afterwards Ignatz rose and without taking his leave of them opened the sliding glass door and vanished onto the lightless beach. And there were those who later said that he never opened that door, that the molecules of glass parted at his touch, or still others that he stepped through the glass door as some of his brothers might move swiftly through a downpour while never being wetted, for as his brothers were to the common run of men, so it is said that Ignatz was to his brothers. But the truth of it was that Ignatz slid open the door, stepped through, and slid it shut again so smoothly and swiftly that to distinguish one action from the other would be to count the blades of a flying helicopter, and that good door, well-greased in its gasket, did not betray him by a single ill-timed creak, so that by the time that they say that he had gone from them, his dark head was already lost in the black waves of sand and the black waves of water.

Again, Ignatz betrays the besotted Krazy, when his epic self-regard takes a spiritual turn in the form of Augustinian asceticism:

in medias res Ignatz remarked,

Sometimes I don’t like

fucking. Whoosh!

The third and fourth sections follow similar trajectories, retracing two more times the path from eros to loss: the third lover, a blue-fingernailed man first seen slumped in a chair at a Free Clinic, attracts and then burns the speaker, leaving her a “moth sobb[ing] brokenly in the middle of the room” (“Ignatz at the ________ Hotel”); the final Ignatz seems safely domesticated, a sleepy lover apparently content in the “sylvan bower” Krazy creates for him, until this flighty, “winged Ignatz” escapes from his birdcage into the neighbor’s bed.

The collection ends not because Krazy comes to some culminating self-understanding—on the contrary, the speaker recognizes over and over her own self-destructive impulse, does what she knows she shouldn’t do. As she says in “Invisible Ignatz” (quoted in its entirety):

I would forget you were it not that unseen flutes
keep whistling the curving phrases of your body.

Or again in “Ignatz Recidivist,” whose seven short lines rehearse the direness of Krazy’s situation:

to blush
to blame
to bleed
to bless


The poem’s anaphoric infinitives not only take these actions outside of the conjugated time of any individual relationship but also underline the sheer repetitiveness of Krazy’s romantic failures, which repetition we hear again in the head-shaking hopelessness of the final tercet. Indeed, what is striking here is precisely the lack of emotional progress or growth. In this sense, the comic strip is the ideal means for expressing Krazy’s dilemma. As a narrative form, the comic strip is simultaneously static and iterative, re-enacting versions of the same story—without character or plot development—year after year: Charlie Brown will always fall for Lucy’s football trick, Calvin will always cause trouble for the babysitter, Blondie will always be shocked by Dagwood’s huge sandwiches. The comic-strip genre thus rehearses formally—as Krazy and Ignatz rehearse thematically—Youn’s vision of romantic-erotic defeat.

Indeed, the problem for Youn’s Krazy seems to be sexuality itself. The challenge ultimately is to imagine a right relation between man and woman, between what, in a different context, Youn calls the hard and the soft:

…if this is a lesson in how something harder and something softer can achieve a mutuality if the harder thing has a curvature that suggests an accommodating mindset and the softer thing is willing to relinquish some measure of contingency so the softer thing can come temporarily to rest and if a test were devised on the subject of this lesson then what would be gained for one who took this test and passed it or one who took this test and failed?
(“At the Free Clinic Ignatz”)

In the context of the larger prose poem, Youn is describing the man who will become the third Ignatz sitting in a “secondhand classroom desk” chair, but the stakes are higher than how to design comfortable seating for high school students: rather, the problem is whether—how?—one can “achieve a mutuality” between two beings apparently willing to make accommodations on both sides in order to come, at least, “temporarily to rest.” But the prospect of “mutuality” and “rest” seems almost impossible to imagine, much less describe. Embedded within a series of hypotheticals and concluding inconclusively in an interrogative swirl of subjunctives and conditionals, the poem loses itself in a syntax and diction as baroque and abstractly euphemistic as late Henry James.

Understood in this way, Youn’s collection is almost gothic—sexual violence, emotional self-destruction, repeated romantic failure. But there is a tension in these poems between their explicit emotional content and the style and form in which that content is given voice. Herriman’s Krazy Kat is a singer, often pictured with a stringed instrument that looks like the bastard child of a sitar and a banjo. And indeed part of the fame of the Krazy Kat comics is due to Herriman’s own voice, his stylized ventriloquism of the American vernacular, Krazy and Ignatz and Officer Pup speaking in an urban demotic rendered in dropped g’s, apostrophes, and creative spelling. Youn’s Krazy is also a singer, her four linked love songs to Ignatz serving as epigraphs to the four sections, offering lyric expression of more or less traditional romantic love:

O Ignatz won’t you play me
like a filigree flute?
I’d trill any tune it might
please you to hear.

“O Sweet Adeline,”
“Au clair de la lune,”
Your song my only voice,
your breath my only air.

But Youn’s mercurial voice is harder to pin down, ranging tonally from irony to eros and formally from terse, fragmentary lyrics to substantial, sometimes garrulous prose poems. And yet, what ties these poems together is the way they handle their emotional content. Youn draws on a range of techniques to craft a poetics of emotional restraint: her use of the third person, the personae/characters of Ignatz and Krazy themselves, irony and satire, violent enjambments, imagistic juxtapositions, and fragmentation create poems that invite aesthetic contemplation and appreciation rather than emotional engagement. In the end, we are less moved by Krazy’s loss—or outrage or desire—than by the often startling, careful beauty with which these emotions have been sculpted.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gonzalez and Chang on The Poetry Foundation's Best-Sellers List!

See the Best-Sellers List here!


Four Way Books has a couple of recently published collections on this week's contemporary bestseller list. Black Blossoms by Rigoberto Gonzalez explores the private lives of working class women, rooting his poems in the female body and employing language that's been described as "lush," "sensuous," "graphic," and "grotesque" (Publishers Weekly). Also from Four Way, Of Gods and Strangers by Tina Chang meditates on history (“How the past/ holds onto us with its short leash/ and yelping") and raises questions about poetry's responsibility to bear witness to darkness and disaster.

About the List
Our poetry best-seller lists are based on data received from Nielsen BookScan, which tracks sales from more than 4,500 retail booksellers. Retailers included in the list include both large, high-volume retailers such as Borders and, and more than 400 smaller, independent bookstores. We generate the lists each week by tallying the number of books sold for recently published volumes of contemporary poetry, poetry anthologies, and children's poetry. The contemporary poetry best-seller list is meant to reflect the current market for new poetry, and so excludes translations and new editions of classical works. Our small press list is based on Small Press Distribution's poetry sales to bookstores and individual customers, which are reported to us on a monthly basis.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chamber Four Reviews Sarah Gorham's BAD DAUGHTER

REVIEW: Bad Daughter
Chamber Four

You can already tell by the title of her new collection that Sarah Gorham has a sly, subversive sense of humor. From modified “prayers” saturated with irony to a five-part reflection on bureaucratic and other absurdities associated with a frankly horrific accident, Gorham regards the world with a disengaged, puzzled fascination, and at its best it is as if you see things through her eyes for the first time. Her poem, “Detach,” captures this attitude, evident throughout her poetry:


Thank the stars for distances between
stars, for broad mountain meadows
that shrink your troubles to ants
carrying leaves five times their size.
The sun is 91 million miles away;
not too far, not too close. Be like that.
Perch in a look-out tower, overseer of campfires
and dangerous breezes. You’ll spot the heat,
pick up the phone. Let others
put their faces in the fire.

The world is a wondrous place if you twist your head and look at it from a different angle. “Odd place for a sculpture,” she begins the poem, “Bust of a Young Girl in the Snow.” Indeed, Gorham’s logical leaps from line to line are breathtaking. “I long for babies,/but never more than mountains./My view of the Jungfrau: peaks like starched/petticoats I could bury my face in./She is a cold confection, a meringue/I feel in my teeth. When I am/in the presence of mountains,/there will always be enough sex./But never enough mountains,” she concludes the poem, “Three Sides to the Mountain That Are Really One.”

Gorham is truly one of those poets you don’t want to have to “explain” so much as simply “show,” bring to the reader’s attention. Look at this! And this! It’s the overall tone, a sort of Dickensonian playfulness, that’s really enchanting about her verse. Her poetry can pop and sparkle with the wisecracking wit of a Dorothy Parker. Take this sonnet, for instance:


“No woman should call another fastidious.”
- James Thurber

She had in mind dahlias, a stretch
of dianthus, Jack-in-the-Pulpit or two.
For this rot. In candid view!
Enough to make her retch –
the certainty of being touched, mussed,
dog-snouted till the prettiest sheen
turns brown, black-brown, black-green.
Once they called this mush fastidious.
Now it’s the woman’s touch, tight
as she flips a grub-infested
compost heap. Breath held, over-dressed
in fleece, gloves, clogs, apron, hat.
It’s garden variety metamorphosis –
plain disgust to petal-perfect daintiness.

Gorham’s prayer poems–“We Are Bold to Say,” “Prayer During a Fast,” “Parting Prayer”–likewise display this charming irreverence. “I confess that I have/sinned against you/by what I have eaten/and by what I have/not left uneaten,” she writes, in a cadence reminiscent of the Al-Chet prayer Jews recite on Yom Kippur (Gorham is Jewish on her father’s side, she notes in “Accommodation”). It’s as if she has taken the Almighty aside and nudged Him in the ribs. “Eternal God, charitable one/you have reluctantly included us/your back-up guest list,/for the birthday of your Jesus Son/who will be two thousand ten/this December if the faithful have it right…” she writes in “Parting Prayer.”

As the title of the collection suggests, there is a potent theme of mothers and daughters going on throughout this collection. “What is a mother but a tooth’s way of producing another tooth?” she writes in “Homesickness,” and in the metaphor we see the almost claustrophobic bond she elaborates on all over these poems. “To my child I became my mother, and her mother, and hers.” ( “Accommodation” )

Part Two of this three-part collection opens with a Jewish proverb as its epigram: “What the daughter does, the mother did.” And then the first poem in this section, “Sixteen,” focuses on a mother and her rebellious daughter, who “conjured the toughest boy of all/to push my love aside.” “On the Birth of a Daughter,” which concludes the collection, ends with the admonition, “When your daughter matures, the tree must be sacrificed./A phoenix will alight there/only when the queen steps down.//You must step down.” And yet how difficult stepping down must be! As the epigraph to the third part advises, “Researchers have found that certain cells escape from a fetus, persisting in the mother’s bloodstream decades after she is pregnant. These cells migrate to wounds in the mother’s body.” Wow.

You could call this “fatalism,” but that sounds too harsh. Still, there is very much the attitude that “the child is father to the man,” or at least that daughters become their mothers. “Immortality,” another baby poem, concludes: “Touch that fantastic little foot. The baby is an implant, a fresh cutting./She will take. She will take you away.”

“Prick and Twinge”–daughter injures herself, requires medical attention and a mother feels guilt through negligence–“Barbeque”–a girl learns to eat with utensils (“Is it progress if a cannibal uses a fork?”)–“Lost”–she loses her mittens (“The brain is a wicker basket”): so many poems about the quotidian events that bond parents and children. And then there is “Passeggiata,” a poem in which the relationship between a college-age girl and her mother has become attenuated, part of the letting-go that never really lets go.

But all of these poems are rooted and related in the endearing detachment with which Gorham regards the world, the fresh metaphors with which she envisions and presents to us the world around her. And so, concluding on another sonnet, this reviewer shows Gorham and doesn’t try any longer to explain:

Pond in Winter

A garden pond rimmed with stone
has frozen over, but under the ice
(like a soap-streaked shower curtain,
or distant light pollution),
a dozen goldfish churn the water
flourishing their Isadora fairy fins.
Above, a cat follows the orangey action,
pretend-yawns, skids, saunters
with sprawled claws. Winter insulates –
with just an inch of oxygen
the fish respire, feed, swim,
while our cat is a frenzy of gesture,
paws drumming: You are going
to die. If not now, in Spring, in Spring.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Interview with Sarah Gorham, by Rachel Andoga

Rachel Andoga talks with Sarah Gorham about her newest collection, Bad Daughter.

Rachel Andoga:
The relationship between mothers and daughters is central to the book-what is it about that relationship in particular that drew you to launch a book-length investigation? Did you know that the book would organize itself around mothers and daughters? What surprised you as you investigated this bond from both sides?

Sarah Gorham: I'm the eldest in a family of five girls, had two daughters, one of whom has two daughters herself. Suffice it to say, I'm surrounded by daughters and mothers, and have now experienced all identities: daughter, mother, grandmother, and hopefully great-grandmother! My last book, The Cure, focused on a family recovery from alcoholism (among other things); it was clear to me as soon as I finished it, this would be the next step.

RA: In "Salon," the speaker struggles to remain "polite" despite the "foul water / stir[ring] under her 'nice' membrane." Many of the poems in Bad Daughter seem to celebrate what Poe called "the imp of the perverse," that impulse to indulge the worst in ourselves, especially in the context of female relationships or "feminine" environments like in "Salon." What draws you to this idea and how does it play out throughout Bad Daughter?

SG: "Bad" behavior is interesting to me, when it's not the result of mental illness. What strains will play out in continued difficulty through adulthood, what strains will make a more rounded, successful, assertive woman. If you speak to anyone in my birth family, they'll have stories of my terrible behavior (biting, scratching, bullying, shouting, shirking of responsibility) at home. Some of that acting out allowed me to take the kind of risk in my later life that led to successes. I love the language of bad behavior itself: permission to say the unpredictable, the utterly honest, even the mean. It's also where I've found my sense of humor.

RA: You play with form so compellingly throughout the collection, sometimes dipping into more traditional, classically recognizable forms like sonnets or prose poems and, at other times, turning these forms on their head, as in "Scaffold for a Sonnet," which not only plays with form but also comments on it. What is your relationship with traditional form and how do formal conventions operate in Bad Daughter?

SG: I managed to get through high school, college, and grad school without writing a single poem in form (this was definitely the era of free verse). My husband Jeffrey Skinner suggested I write an acrostic, then a sonnet, then a villanelle, when I was having trouble starting up again after grad school. What I love is the forced march towards something new: form yanks you away from the stuff you always write.

RA: Similarly, you seem to work with rhyme in these poems as a way closing or undercutting a striking moment. What role does sound play for you in your free verse poems?

SG: I think I have a good ear and love toying with music in all my writing: poetry and prose. Writing that lies flat (sonically) on the page is just not doing enough, not employing all the possibilities. You can obviously hear the difference when a writer reads her work. When I rhyme or alliterate (is there such a word?) I'm moving the line along as if it were a refrain, but also celebrating similarities between words. Then comes the verse, so to speak, which should sing out in a new key or everyone will get bored.

RA: Many of these poems seem to revel in the grittiness of the physical realm (both of the human body as well as natural landscapes). For example, "After the Accident" details the specific injuries and an operation following a car accident and the epigraph for the third section of the book explains how fetal cells can continue to exist in the mother's bloodstream dozens of years after she gives birth. What appeals to you about this kind of physicality, especially as it relates to the book's central concern of mothers and daughters?

SG: Here's a secret. My husband and I had a motorcycle accident out in the country. He was more seriously injured than I was: eighteen rib fractures, collapsed lung, chest tubes, then MRSA from his several operations. He nearly died. I cracked my chin, broke my toe, knocked my teeth back (and pushed them in place myself!) and suffered road rash in areas you'd never want it. So, I stole much his hospital experience and fused it into mine.

That said, the minute focus on body, the specific details are just another expression of the sharp honesty I was hoping for in this book. Also, all these women in my life are linked by DNA, which can appear to be gentle as braided hair or stringent as piano wire. What are we but a collage of body parts, something borrowed, something new.

RA: What have you been working on lately?

SG: I've been writing essays for the last ten years and have assembled a collection, called Study in Perfect. It's a natural progression from the longer lined poems I wrote for Bad Daughter, not to mention the subject matter. Some titles include: On Selfishness, On Lying, On Sentimentality, etc. And Study in Perfect (a segmented essay spread through the collection) of course, which is really a study of imperfection. They've all been published in good literary magazines. Now the trick is finding a book publisher for this kind of thing. You think it's hard in poetry!

* * *

Rachel Andoga is a poetry candidate in the Masters of Fine Arts program at Arizona State University. A graduate of Davidson College, she recently received a first-place award in the Academy of American Poets’ Katharine C. Turner Prize as well as runner up in Yemassee’s 2011 Pocataligo Poetry Contest. She has forthcoming work in an anthology titled …AND LOVE…, published by Jacar Press in 2012.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Newly-Appointed VT Poet Laureate Sydney Lea in Burlington Free Press

from the Burlington Free Press:
The following is a slightly abridged version of Sydnea Lea’s acceptance speech Friday on being designated Vermont Poet Laureate:

I want immediately to start this commentary with some modesty, dismissing the notion, for example, that the opinions of poets are brighter than others, and particularly that poets are more “sensitive.” I’ve known barbers, loggers, and waitresses more sensitive to those around them than many poets. If poets do possess an enhanced sensitivity, it is surely only to language.

I have always hoped that my own words might speak to and sometimes for people whose command of them is less developed than mine. Yet even my poet’s claim to eloquence can collapse before me. I don’t want to strike an anti-intellectual pose here, because I have greatly benefited from scholarly intellects, nor some phony pose as poet of the people. Yet I’ll insist that if those with fancy educations like mine have no exclusive claim to brains, still less do they have one to lyric expression. Certain yarns and poems have had the profoundest influence on my view of the world. I heard most of these early on, from a cherished group of northern New England men and women with scanty formal education; but those testimonies have stayed with me at least as vividly as those of literary lions who sleep in more visited graves.

I have learned, too, in large part by association with my dear introducer Mary Leahy of Central Vermont Adult Basic Education, that a sophisticated demeanor is no indication of a deeper humanity than that of many who struggle with the daunting challenges of illiteracy or sub-literacy. The accomplishments of such people make my own seem minuscule; they humble me.

But a little humility never hurt anyone. I know that in this poetry-rich state, there are people who have as good a claim to my new distinction as I do. I’m conscious too of the mastery that precedes me in the work and person of outgoing laureate Ruth Stone. Self-congratulation would erect barriers between my work and fabulously rich relationships and narratives, available from those fellow poets, yes, but also from many another citizen. With that in mind, I mean during my tenure to visit as many of Vermont’s town libraries as welcome me. I’m a long-time trustee of my own town’s library, and so understand the centrality of these institutions to community life. I’ll make my visits, though, not to spread wisdom but to garner it.

In “Hyla Brook,” one of my favorite poems by Vermont’s first poet laureate, Robert Frost celebrates a brook so small that it’s “A brook to none but who remember long.” With Hyla Brook, he says, things are “other far/ Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.” The poet concludes, however, that “We love the things we love for what they are.”

Like Frost I am no native, but like him too I do love our tiny state. I love Vermont for what it is: an enclave of civility amid the virulence of our current national life; a cauldron of inventiveness when many of us seem stuck in our tracks; a repository of humor at a time when Americans appear addicted to grimness; and –as the response to Irene demonstrated– a context for collaboration at a moment when, as one of my dear old native friends puts it, “people sometimes forget how to neighbor.”

Let us remember the imperative to neighborliness. Let us remember, in the words of another great poet, W.H. Auden, that “We must love one another or die.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pansy Poetics Reviews BLACK BLOSSOMS by Rigoberto Gonzalez

On Rigoberto Gonzalez's New Collection "Black Blossoms"

I believe the dead listen to us. After his poetic mentor, Ai, died, Rigoberto González wrote quite movingly about her: "Even in my third book (which I dedicate to her memory) I can still detect traces of her influence--we shared a love for the dark and disturbing narratives and gave them homes on the page."

Never mawkish in his elegiac statements regarding Ai, González has always appeared respectful and honorable. No doubt Ai appreciates his prose tributes, but I strongly believe what would matter most to her is the development of his poems. With Black Blossoms, his new collection, González has performed the ultimate tribute: he has made his poems better than hers. I have no doubt she is still listening and learning from his work.

As an undergraduate, I was introduced to Ai in my first poetry workshop. I remember reading Cruelty and The Killing Floor and being shocked and relieved that someone could write about lower middle-class people with such determination. Ai truly strove to have an empathetic imagination and risked the potential failure and the predictable criticism that comes with it. I can still remember various Ai dramatic monologues: a boy who has just murdered his family; an aborted fetus; James Dean. Over the years, when I've returned to the poems of Ai, I've grown more ambivalent about her work. It's too easy to say that the poems are sensationalistic, exploitative. It is one of inevitable dangers of writing persona poems; it's a pretty boring knee-jerk liberal criticism--you're exploiting a certain class of people. However, truth be told, sometimes Ai did just that.

González's poems, though, offer a generous and urgent corrective of her occasional limitations. Through his extraordinary use of figurative language, he reveals that a wholly self-conscious aesthetic can triumph over a flat, journalistic one. To defend Ai, I think that her desire to tone down the language was most likely the belief that understatement works best when dealing with sex and violence. By rarely, if ever, challenging this assumption in her work, her books become somewhat repetitive. Through what I see as honorably defying Ai, González reveals the breadth and depth of what a personae poem can do.

One of González's recurring trademarks is his obsession with similes. Due to spiritual reasons, I've always been suspicious of them. Why not accept the fact that everything in this universe is on some level uniquely its own? To imply that something is "like" something else is to ungenerously take away from the thing's specialness. But in Black Blossoms, González's book, which consists largely of persona poems, the figurative language is used less to compare but to show a different side, a nuance, or a shocking oddity of and within the same thing.

In the poem "Flor de Muerto, Flor de Fuego," González exhibits this masterfully. Here's the opening. Pay particular attention to the two similes embedded in the rhetorical questions:

Cempoalxochitl. Marigold. Flower,
the scent of cold knuckles delights you, as does

the answer to death's riddles:
What's the girth of the hermit tongue once it retreats

into the throat and settles like a teabag?
What complaints do feet make when they tire of pointing

up and fold flat like a fan of poker cards?

Or take notice of the unexpected similes in the poem "Floricuatro":

Every birthday you eat a year off your mother's life--your mother plucked
in parts, petal by petal like the schizophrenic daisy, stares down as her heart

bubbles out vulnerable as yolk.

The list could go on indefinitely. But I must add one last one which is the opening of "The Mortician's Daughter Dies Each Night":

"When my father laughs my stomach scatters in the wind like hay."

Teabags, a fan of poker cards, a schizophrenic daisy, yolk, and --yes!-- even hay. What an odd and fascinating list of things juxtaposed in a single book of poems. By inserting these sort of images in a book that deals significantly with the grotesque, decaying bodies, political injustice, and violence, González's relies on similes to create an intimacy with the reader (you might not understand mental illness, but you can imagine a daisy!).

At the same time, he pushes the reader away by forcing them to remember that all they're doing is reading a poem with strategically artful language. The self-consciously slippery poetic language acknowledges that these personaes, these "scoundrels" (to use Ai's word) cannot be captured. They haven't found a home in life or on González's pages. He's acknowledging them in a supremely graceful and ethical way. Also, he gives the grotesque, the tragic some sort of relief. Rather than affirm the horrible with a comparison to a grotesque object, he offers the reader a kind of momentary solace; he doesn't want to add insult to injury.

Another prime example of how González achieves this is through metaphor in the poem entitled "Mise-En-Scene." After the title, it appears "after Lizzie Borden." Then the actual poem begins:

You are not a woman
you are not a ghost,
or the shrill that makes the neighbor's hounds abort.

You are not a space between buildings,
not wind tunnel or porthole
through which the indigent cat slips in and out of its coma.

You aren't the hermetic door with its back to the street,
You are not the center.
You are not the interruption of the window

surprising the postman as he skips the tin mailbox once more.
Every person in this house has died.
You buried your mother with a plum pit in her throat...

This poem is merciful. González allows the narrator of the poem acknowledges his own failure in his need to "capture" Lizzie Borden. Gender is but only one of ways González does this, creating a wonderful, peculiar jitteriness

You are not the dress
that opens from the outside like an iron gate,
you're not the stupid woman

with her finger shoved inside her mouth.
When she goes up in flames
she will melt into the fruit bowl.

You are not the fire, you are not the bowl.

There's what I like to call a discursive lyricism operating in González's poems. Although the poems are long-lined (at least much more so than in his last book, Fugitives and Other Strangers), González interweaves just the right amount of figurative language with a necessary talkiness in the speech of these tragic personaes.. To limit, as Ai did, your characters' speech into "chopped" prose, isn't fair--they deserve the space, a large enough space, to explore their thoughts, motivations behind their unsavory actions. Paradoxically, as the personae of Marisol in "The Mortician's Bride Says I'm Yours" says, "Sound is death because it's /irretrievable and every time I speak I die a little more."

If it wasn't sacrilegious to insist, I would say that through the splendor of Gonzáalez's poems, he allows them to live once again in every delicate, precarious way they deserve.

Rigoberto González's Black Blossoms is available for purchase at Four Way Books.
Posted by Steve Fellner