In Past Lives, each line deftly leaps to the next in glorious unpredictability, forming a latticework of surprise. In the world of V. Joshua Adams, we have competitive knitting, beer commercials, Cabriolets, and mandolin players breaking ukulele players' fingers. To employ a Pavement title, Adams's poems are "slanted and enchanted": their surrealist strangeness is sometimes meditative and sometimes mercurial with acrobatic associative jumps. These are poems of wit, inquiry, and sonic vigor that examine issues of being, textuality, and the imaginative act. Past Lives is "swift-winged and sharp" and "darkly bright" as its sentences spin with wryness: "Even the language of ruin gets run-down," "The question filled me with dread, / which was better than nothing," and the following excerpt, from which the title Past Lives arises: "A lot of people have past lives they are covering up./ For example, I was once an Episcopalian." Though Adams's poems aren't overtly emotional, he extends his antennae into a range of consciousness, including desire and darkness; or, to use a phrase from Mark Doty, they are a "logarithm of decay and rekindling."
“Sometimes our past is the only truth-teller, specially when the real-life persons are not always factual to us, or when the personal memories likewise are not so certain over the years.” Such is the wisdom of kind-hearted Erasmus T. Yang, frustrated journalist wannabe and proprietor of a mama shop in the fictional Southeast Asian of Tandomon, who finds himself inadvertently embroiled in the Sino-Soviet border clashes of the late 1960s. Told by journalist and award-winning novelist, Scott Shibuya Brown, the novel takes a comic look at one ambitious man’s efforts to promote a fraudulent war memorial, thereby almost precipitating international conflict through Yang’s enthusiastic news reporting. Narrated in a charming first-person narrative of Singlish and Manglish (Singaporean and Malaysian English), as well as invented colloquial English, the tale is both an entertainment and a warning, in the tradition of early Naipaul, Graham Greene, and Joseph Heller.
Recalling Joni Mitchell’s famous lyric “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot,” Solastalgia is a heart-wrenching and harrowing overview of environmental destruction. Though it is an ominous exploration of the Anthropocene era and the ways humans have contributed to the changing climate and landscape, it spends much of its time honoring all the strange and wondrous creatures—“may you outlast us”— that humans, both intentionally and unwittingly, are shoving toward extinction’s cliff. Solastalgia is an eloquent tribute to all the awe-inspiring flora and fauna that we have failed as a species. I love this book not only for its incisive eco-eye but also for its dazzling language terrains. Using language as the tool to effect change, these poems make you want to be better, do better.
Yours Creature is composed of epistolary poems in the voice of Mary Shelley. Often written as missives to her famous literary mother, Wollstonecraft, the poems address months, years, and her own monstrous creation as they contend with exile, transience, and desire. These poems ask us to imagine the physical elements of Shelley's existence in language that is both luminous and visceral. This is not a book that simply recreates a past, but one that transcends time as it threads together the loss and violence that history has asked women to suppress. The poems recognize the unspoken pairing of scarcity and creation; they explore how the monstrous is born out of rejection. Yours, Creature responds to a literary and historical narrative, but the poems exist as lyric, singing of the pleasure of creation and its transformative power.
When nurse Frances White is pickpocketed while waiting for a ferry in Ireland, she ends up stranded on a remote Aran island without phone or passport. The theft kickstarts a journey of self-discovery aided by the strange and beautiful Irish landscape. The one island doctor, a handsome local fisherman, and the vivid Gaelic-speaking community help Frances face her dark past, including her part in the murder that caused her to flee to Ireland the year before. With her sketchbook and her beloved father’s ashes still in hand, Frances explores what it takes to find the courage to trust and even to love, even after the darkest of times. With storytelling as self-reliant and idiosyncratic as the narrator herself, Hey, Pickpocket explores Frances’ rebirth on Inis Mór with an emotional realism that is authentic and heartbreaking.
Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
“Reginald Gibbons’s first novel takes place in east Texas in 1910 during the time of white rule―not by law but by lynch mob. Amid the suffocating racism and fear, half-Choctaw, half-white Reuben Sweetbitter and Martha Clarke, a white woman, fall in love. . . . Reuben and Martha’s love is strong, but, dishearteningly, racism is stronger. Timely in the subject of interracial love, this authentic, richly -detailed novel plumbs sacrifice, fear, and the loss of one’s identity, bringing the -anguish of the two young lovers to life. Highly recommended.”
The Devil's Library is a love letter to the boundless pleasure and peril of reading: it's a catalog of books that never were, complete with side stories and annotations and more than a few nicely placed hauntings and curses. There are stories within stories. There are surprises on practically every page. There is the occasional frisson of the familiar (Phineas Gage, whose horrific spike incident triggered our understanding of the frontal lobe, shows up in these pages) coupled with the wavery awareness that we're reading fiction (and that we're getting infinite varieties of fiction, down to the Western Gothic stylings where readers will find the Ghostmen). Comparisons to Borges are inevitable and earned, but Glage's work stands on its own and will delight those who delight in books and the redemptive joy of a lifetime pursuit of a well-told story.
Call it Absurdist Realism. Call it Midwestern Gothic. Or, call it a book of stories that grab ahold of your head and heart. Whatever you call it, Kruse’s To Receive My Services You Must Be Dying and Alone takes us to the edge of lived experience and guides us to look back in wonder at essential elements of humanness: hope, grief, confusion, and joy. Reading this collection is an exercise of empathy and acceptance, an invitation into the narratives of individuals who are never quite invited into the mainstream. While the worlds and characters in each of these stories arrive fresh and distinct, we grab hold of a throughline: the book spills over with people building and breaking idols to find love and survival where they can. And we cheer them on at each step.
When memory fails, what can take its place? Speculation, Brigitte Lewis suggests, other ways of knowing: myth, history, science. Imagination. The quicksilver of language itself. The result is a memoir about what it means to re-member a life. Hybrid in form and lyrical in style, Speculative Histories is driven by an authentic voice and a singular intelligence. This is a mind on the page, a story unfolding. To read it is to fall in love with what writing can do. ―Beth Alvarado
Karen Rigby writes with “fingers cocked like a gun.” Deliciously inventive in its linguistic unfurlings, Fabulosa fibrillates with “noir and glitz” in these strange, seductive poems that are in conversation with a range of players from Dior to Inspector Morse to Hieronymus Bosch. Shimmering with diamond-cut precision, Fabulosa underscores Rigby’s observation that “I never write / without measuring, each line /hooking a quicksilver hunger.”There is no bloat in this book; it is exquisitely hewn. Underpinning the collection is a keen interest in cinema, fashion, feminism, transformation, and textuality (from ars poeticas to portmanteaus to ekphrastics). Seamed with goldshine and darkness, we find in these fireball poems a “wilderness/ glanced through the bull’s eye.” As the title suggests, Fabulosa is indeed absolutely fabulous!―Simone Muench
Rita Mookerjee’s False Offering, while providing a trenchant critique of the oppressiveness of “white space,” is also glittery, culinary sumptuous, and scythe sharp. Shot through with equal parts “nectar and venom,” Mookerjee’s poems pirouette with muscular grace in a kaleidoscopic whirl of myth and alchemy, gods and feasts, rot and rose gold. False Offering is a feminist ledger of “battle armor meeting ballet.” Like a medieval tapestry, it is piped through with an elaborate galaxy of nightviolets, rosewater, bonedust, “snakes and shibari,” origami, and the KKK. It is a rare book in that even while flipping the middle finger; it has its hands held out in tenderness to those in need.
In this elegiac collection fittingly titled Everyone I’ve Danced With Is Dead, Mamie Morgan’s poems are exquisitely stitched as they offer up lamentation for and salutation to the dead. These are dedicatory jeremiads against loss that flame with anger, anguish, feminism, and, yes, even humor. And though they are underscored in a bladed nostalgia, they are never sentimental; instead, they are “finding new ways to feel” while “flinging every street-facing window open.” Swirling in the poetic spaces of this book are caribou, witches, and chickens as well as cameos by Amy Poehler, Mary Oliver, and Iphigenia; but, most importantly, ascending from the book’s foundation is Morgan’s incantation for the living and the dead—the clear and sustaining phrase, “I want you alive.”
Copyright © 2021 JackLeg Press - All Rights Reserved.
JackLeg Press is a nonprofit entity. EIN: 86-2029501