Some Enjoyments During Our Daily Devastations: Five Books on my Desk

Holly Melgard Catcall. Ugly Duckling, 2018

The book imagines a score for a voice catcalling “a guy” in a public space. I am enjoying this chapbook because of its sound– it sounds like someone drew the Sirens from remote islands and into our streets and bid them lure misogynists and sing them to sleep so they could mount these “guys”– great guys, all of them– with their scaly feet and suffocate them with their birdfaces. It is the music of rhetorical reversal, of calling out by cat calling by calling, cattily, those alley cats, those guys. Melgard’s music is mesmerizing, disorienting– one gets sea sick and delirious, in a place where to flirt really does return us to its 16th century verb sense: to ‘give someone a sharp blow’.

Aditi Machado Some Beheadings. Nightboat Books, 2017

“I had thought to tell a tale but between having had and having thought a plant fell out from within the crease”

I’m enjoying this book because it simultaneously demonstrates a kind of cubist tenacity in perceiving the world and a kind of romantic ability to see the trees beyond the forest. There is real care taken here to make syntax do what diction can’t. Machado’s poetic tending allows the perceivable plane to shift shapes and shrug shy when touched by language.

Mercedes Eng, Prison Industrial Complex Explodes. Talon Books, 2017

 This is documentary poetics undone, made daunting, and done right. I’m enjoying this for its utter disregard of catharsis, for its unrelenting questioning of the failures of multiculturalism, for its unflinching baring of our racist and classist present. I am especially enjoying it for the way Eng carries out a slow, seething critique of neoliberal rhetorics that profit from our deepest losses.

Eric Schmaltz Surfaces. Invisible Publishing, 2018

I am enjoying this for its attention to the pleasures of the shallow (instead of the deep), for its honoring of the wade (instead of the dive), for its celebration of the opaque shape (in lieu of the transparency of language), for its insistence on the distinction between the imprint and the sign, for its ability to show us the pressures of any body on its enveloping space. Through its studies of texture, emotive grey-scales, and the behavior of lines, Schmaltz’s visual texts have me paying attention to every shadow on my study’s walls, to every jettisoned leaf framed by this window. Reading the book makes me want to write an ode to every Allen key I’ve never taken seriously for what it can do to collapse or construct a world just by inserting itself and looking in a certain direction.

Serena Chopra Ic: A Sociolinguistic Conspiracy Theory   Horseless Press, 2017

Lit a room
Where the wea
Ther’s new is
My skin trans
lates a trem
Bling agen
Da lust line
Loosing its
Hinges on

A book which returns Icarus to us, us, us, Icarus, us. I’m enjoying this because it makes reading feel archeological, like a study of the remains that tell us about our present condition, like finding sooty feathers and finally understanding something about patriarchy, which is our very own cosmic outrage. The bodies composed into becoming in Chopra’s poems shred past (and through) exquisite, unintuitive, and precise enjambments, following a limpid music, the way Nancy Spero’s bloody woman, like a charred palimpsest, flies through mythology and falls into the present to fuck up your daily comforts– see her, “its knotted fist/ damage, undone”.