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Five chapbooks from 2011 that made me say, “Oh shit!”

December 29, 2011 \pm\31 10:18 pm

Sorry It’s So Small, Lauren Ireland (Factory Hollow Press)

Reading Lauren Ireland’s poems make me feel like a sparkling piece of matter. Like I have potential and am dreaming awesome everywhere and if I want to use a weed whacker on the roses that’s just fine. These poems are having emotions, making mistakes, and falling in love all wrong and Cyprus Hill is playing and maybe there are some drugs. Every poem is accompanied by a tiny drawing, like a radiator or a Big Gulp. I bought this chapbook at Flying Object in April and my friends and I read the whole thing out loud in the car and laughed and we recorded it and listened to it later and it was even funnier then and I remember looking out the window at the trees between Northampton and Amherst thinking about sandboxes.

Favorite line: “the party            has birthed            another             evil party”


Revenge Poems, Christie Ann Reynolds (Supermachine)

Revenge Poems was published in 2010, but fuck that. I read this chapbook over and over this entire year and it’s still dope. The voice in these poems wavers between regret, celebration, and some awesome fury, always touching the world with a need that feels as tender as it does virulent. Reynolds shows how we fuck up, how beautiful and strange it is, and how much love, or what was love, rips at the heart, holy ghost, and all the flesh between. These poems come out of a real need, and no matter how much transformation or invention makes these poems sparkle, there is always something breaking, leaving, or bleeding at the end. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a serious party going on here. There’s a line about a StairMaster that sums up everything I could ever say about human trying. I bought this chapbook because the cover image is beastly good. It’s the kind of book you lay on top of the stack to make the rest look good.

Favorite line: “I am telling you all of this because there is so much prettiness / that flies out of me”


AT ME, Brandon Downing (Octopus Books)

Brandon Downing is an original Coors. He makes collages and put words on them and takes words off other things and puts poems together out of words. AT ME is a 30-page poem that touches everything from Robin Williams to “Federal pandas” and functions and malfunctions as an exploration of its own existence as language; the inevitable wreckage of meaning and being. Embedded throughout is a case for poetry as what happens when the poet isn’t present, or more precisely, isn’t present worrying about what’s right or wrong. I want a cognitive linguist to write an essay about this chapbook while a baby sits next to him trying to figure out how to eat its own hand. I got this chapbook in the mail earlier this week by surprise because I forgot I had a year subscription to Octopus. I read it on my aunt’s couch in Cleveland on Christmas while drinking a Bloody Mary that I was later told was actually a Clam Digger.

Favorite line: “I have joined the Omnivortex. / Do you understand. / If you’d drown the art could go on.”


On Happier Lawns / Digital Macramé, Justin Marks / Paige Taggart (Poor Claudia)

This is by far the most beautiful chapbook-as-art-object of 2011. Liz Hildreth interviewed Justin and Paige about their chaps together at Bookslut, and they say more than I can here. But beyond the physical elegance of the book, the editorial dreambrain at Poor Claudia that led to these chapbooks being paired together is something to celebrate. The meeting of Taggart’s symbol-titled avalanches and Marks’ mutated sonnets is a new kind of radness that emphasizes the similarities and differences between two young, inventive contemporary poets. I hope more small and independent presses play around with this kind of chapbook format, as projects like this would put more responsibility on editors to make pairings that challenge and complicate the larger aesthetic conversation. I bought this chapbook on the internet and then watched a video of a goat.

Favorite line from Digital Macramé: “the face of a zebra / launches at me and I / feel the tempo / of an Icelandic song / coming into existence”

Favorite line from On Happier Lawns: “I saw a femur once”


Love Me or Love Me No1, Guy Pettit (Minutes Books)

Who is Guy Pettit? These poems that make me feel irreverent and human in a way that’s full of light and confusion. It’s like my arms are covered in honey and I’m hugging you in a parking lot and both of us are going home for the first time.

Favorite line: “Someone downstairs kissed a dolphin. / If they worked on anything / It was a mystery to us.”

  1. December 30, 2011 \pm\31 8:39 pm 8:39 pm

    cool post, welcome

  2. December 31, 2011 \am\31 11:06 am 11:06 am

    Thanks, Ani!

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