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Greetings, friends:

Thomas Hummel, Brenda Shaughnassy & Craig Teicher will be reading Sunday, Feb 26th at THE FALL CAFE at 7:30PM.


The Fall Café
307 Smith Street
Between Union & President
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
F or G to Carroll Street


Lara Glenum. The Hounds of No. Action Books: 2005. $12.

If, as Jacques-Alain Miller proposes, “the choice is a forced choice: either our clinic will be ironic...or our clinic will be a resucée of the psychiatric clinic,” then perhaps we are getting a little bit closer to understanding what Lara Glenum’s poems are doing. But Miller’s admission (cf. Breton’s Anthologie de l’humour noir) that surrealism affords humor sets up an interesting continuum. The pivot between this ironic clinic and Breton’s black humor is a good way to approach Glenum’s brilliant work, which I find both troubling and liberating.

But let’s put that idea aside for a moment, for, plainly, Glenum’s poems both delight and instruct. In “How to Discard the Life You’ve Now Ruined,” Glenum gives us a step-by-step process for ridding ourselves of an unhealthy “life” in order to make room for a new one:

       Sneak into the “shame hole”
       Remove the squirming pink sack from the gray pelt & put a second
               body inside
       Or hang the body from a telegraph wire that transmits instructions

Which instructions are we to pay attention to? Glenum’s, or the eerily “state-licensed” telegraph’s? My favorite stanza in this fabulous poem provides a more than explicit answer:

       In the evenings
       Use the spine as a flute to play
       the soft nationalistic marches of the “bodies without organs” collective

Here Glenum taps into her first point in the “Manifesto of the Anti-Real”: “Art is neither a form of consolation nor a butler to hegemonies.” Both nomadic and collective models of protest are here brilliantly swept aside as “nationalistic” in the context of a brilliant book that serves as a protest itself. Incredible.

The last stanza:

       You’re a weeping brute clogging the light-hole
       in the eye of the sun

What could be more profound? A perfect ending, I think, to perhaps my favorite of Glenum’s poems.

Another favorite of mine is “Message to the Department of the Interior,” whose title doubles (triples?) as an address to both the state, and the subjective “realm,” and the physical interior of a body. I read the speaker as a pregnant woman, with good reason. Here’s a taste:

       I have decided to grow a second body This may be of some concern
               to you

And here’s a poignant parent-child moment that speaks directly to the aforementioned subjective “realm”:

It will most certainly attempt to cut off the face of the first body & wear it as a mask whenever it enters “the reality testing booth”

Or does it? Let’s see where the poem goes.

       I know you said I should try to relax & ignore the residue the bombs
               left in my torso

       by eliminating all my bodies & proto-bodies, but who can relax in our
       republic now that it’s laid its terrible eggs on our tongues

The poem becomes less a mother’s confession than…a mother’s lament. The speaker shifts here entirely into the subjective, becoming the subject of the realm formerly addressed (a shift that I think mirrors what I spoke of earlier—a move into the ironic clinic). First the bombs are a “residue,” and then the awareness of them (may I call them scars?) shifts, in the last stanza, to an admission of carrying “bodies and proto-bodies” (concepts? ideologies? more scars? fecundity?). Glenum then brings the poem home with a zinger—revolution as a… snake, infesting its true believers with the inability to speak truthfully and singularly. Incredible, revolutionary, etc. It cuts like a knife.

In closing, it’s possible to both look for, as well as find, these rewarding and illuminating shifts and placements in this amazing debut. Glenum takes her readers through what we safely call the psyche, but, wisely, she does not neglect the complex relationships that we have to the state, to our families, to those we have loved. And her wildly ironic humor helps the medicine go down.

I leave you with Glenum’s words, an address from Kreimhilde (an inmate) to the scientists:

       I am very interested in your experiments. I do own a baton. When do
              you visit?

                                                    --Review by Laura Carter.


The Fall Café 2006 Reading Series

The Fall Café ~ Fridays 7:30 PM
February 17th ~ Brendan Lorber & Dustin Williamson
February 26th ~ Thomas Hummel, Brenda Shaughnassy & Craig Teicher
March 17th ~ Samuel Amadon, Stephanie Anderson, & kari edwards
April 7th ~ Brian Howe & Christian Peet
May 12th ~ Anna Moschovakis & Sheila Squillante
June 16th ~ John Coletti & Stacy Szymacek


The Fall Café
307 Smith Street
Between Union & President
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
F or G to Carroll Street


The Cloister Café 2006 Reading Series

The Cloister Café ~ Sundays 4 PM
March 19th ~ Cannibal Release Party: Jim Behrle, Anthony Hawley,
              & Tao Lin
March 26th ~ Kate Greenstreet, Brenda Iijima, & Joe Massey
Mid-April (tbd) ~ Slope Editions: Matt Hart & Amanda Nadelberg
April 30th ~ Timothy Donnelly, Sarah Manguso, & Eugene Ostashevsky
May 21st ~ Edmund Berrigan & Joshuamarie Wilkinson
May 28th ~ Matthea Harvey, Aaron Kunin & Peter Jay Shippy
June 25th ~ Anne Boyer, Phil Cordelli & Brandon Shimoda


The Cloister Café
238 East 9th Street
Between 2nd & 3rd Avenues
East Village, NYC


"Crimp with the Universal Accordion": Corinne Lee. Pyx.
Penguin Books: 2005. $18

The poems within Corinne Lee’s debut, PYX, each contain a unique and fully manifest beauty, but what really compels is her elegant crafting of the collection’s whole. Within the entire arch there is a sense of continuity akin to what might be expected from a single long-poem and a sense of tonal control that is rare in a first book. While the work is divided into four sections, TERRANEAN, MEDIAN, ASCENSION, and EMPYREAN, categories that adeptly reference the dominate emotional state of each grouping, there is also a secondary logic of order that, with lace-like complexity, interweaves this primary ordering and dually guides the book’s fundamental structure.

This secondary principle is lens-like and, as if with a steady and well-directed cameraman’s hand, the book opens to blurred images of sonic and pictorial beauty. These spectacular images keep such a pace of steady splendor that they can be culled nearly randomly. In “Manganese Variations No.1” we read that “In the barn,/ the rusted tractors begin sizzling// into laughter.” In “Lysistrata Motley” “Even the quitch loves, sashaying/ belly-blade to blade-belly.” In “Allegory of Venus and the Oligarch” “Our former nudes observe/ from an olive grove.”

Throughout the bulk of the middle sections the lens comes gradually into a focus of nearly crystalline clarity as Lee joins, in a straightforward manner, the large voice of younger female poets, such as Rachael Zucker, Catherine Wagner, Kristen Kaschock, Arielle Greenberg, and Julie Carr, who are writing frankly on the pleasures and challenges of marriage and child-raising.

In the poem “Excavation” the scene is one likely to strike a familiar cord with any reader who has spent much time with a child. The speaker here watches an “apostasy of the visual” as “children crouch among mobs at a mock dinosaur dig,/ exhuming plastic bone” while her own idle mind wonders, stopping at this thought and the next, until her “son and daughter run up,/ shellacked with muck… [and] flesh chooses to embrace and tickle,/ its tenderness a mere hint// of Paradise.” Then, in a moment of everyday revelation, a sparking parallel to the earlier excavation is drawn as the following final phrase arises: “Longing from below, buried--/ our insatiable bone.”

Lee’s tone, though, is not always this serious. When she writes about the domestic, elements that set her work apart include a finely tuned balance where there is no over-emphasis of any one emotional state, but rather an unflinching compassion that is both human and humane, and a kind humor that neither obscures earnestness “Hallelujah/ for our ragged vegetable plot” nor seeks to disguise pain “Give me/ attachment/ or give me death.”

Eventually, the focused lens of more literal poems pulls subtly away and we journey into the final section with the advice that “[a] chord cannot be held always/ or boxed.” And so, the cord struck is not boxed but allowed to gradually lift and dissolve into meanings that are wider than any crystal articulation can contain.

Although the images grow more surreal as Lee’s gaze softens, there is never a break in continuity. Rather, we continue to take in moments of domestic and interior life that are, again, presented with such balance and so unaccompanied by banality that the most common incidents and emotional states arrive with a sense of surprising disclosure. In “What We Fail to Read, is Reading Us” one who has lost love is described as “[b]lank and mute, blind/ like worms nosing loam.” In “Risorgimento” “our children// [are] fizzing in glee/ as their lungs expand, crimp/ with the universal/ accordion.”

It is a testament to how seamless PYX truly is and how elegantly Corinne Lee’s vision rests, deeply personal yet supported by a foundation of knowledge, which works for her rather than intruding into her project, that the vast scope of illusions drawn upon—at one moment Greek, then originating in quantum mechanics, then surrealism—that her encyclopediatic knowledge and undaunted vocabulary have not been mentioned. Her gift is one of tolerance. She can look into “measureless waves/ … galloping—in random directions” and not draw back, but rather construct an order that seems nothing other than natural, true, and complete.

                                                    --Review by Andrea Baker.

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