Jen Tynes. The End of Rude Handles. Red Morning Press: 2006. $12.

This Is (Never) The End

It is common knowledge that a magician, having beguiled her audience, must never produce her secrets to even the most imploring ear, even when prodded, the lucky recipient of squalid apples tossed on stage. Should she let slip her magic potion, her recipe of fashioning, her scrolled map in cipher, our magician risks mockery, or better yet, imitation of the closest degree. Jen Tynes come dangerously close, in the final pages of The End Of Rude Handles, her debut collection of poems from the newly engendered Red Morning Press. But dangerously close is not giving in, and Tynes lingers on the edge for a reason, to sustain her craze with language and its ever pushing limits. The book’s closing section cum prosaic poem cum guidebook colophon is perhaps the collection’s finest feature. In it, Tynes writes:

       I’m still new blood and I can’t tell you what I’d do in your
       shoes, but I’m trying here to manage two things: always maintain a con-
       stant and a variable, make them both get up and walk around sometimes.
       Want to have a difficult conversation with someone, ask them what they
       mean when they say traitor.

This section, ‘Ways of Contrariness’, acts as a sort of summary and explanatory note to the poems in the rest of the book. This is an odd choice, though, this explaining, since ‘Ways of Contrariness’ is perhaps the book’s most syntactically lucid ‘poem’, while the rest of the book is anything but. ‘Ways of Contrariness’ peels back the curtain on the poet’s philosophy and approach in piecing together the book, and it comments, if obscurely, on the contrariness and cryptic nature of the book’s other pages. The End Of Rude Handles is a brazen collection, progressive in its syntax and form. The very way it presents itself as a book both enacts and possibly shadows its very premise, that language is one tough cookie, and a bottomless cavern of variety. Tynes presents her readers with interactions and meditations on family, on love(r(s)), on the constant combat between and coalescing of power and vulnerability, risk and safe seclusion. And this all against a rural landscape of back yards and unending fields.

Don’t magicians, artists, and writers alike all place their work close to, if not directly upon, the apex of their passions? Here, the poet, along with Foucault and Butler, finds chronic interest, even, at times, obsession, in and of language, its scaffolding and its fleshy parts. In a poem titled fittingly ‘THE END OF RUDE HANDLES’, the poet writes ‘Your hands make / jars everywhere.’, implying that, although meaning is embedded in words (i.e. woman meaning literally ‘of man’), sometimes words mean more than they let on, as in the above reference. The End Of Rude Handles aims to do away with the handholds we think we have on language, and likewise the grip language undeniably has on us.

Tynes seems to simultaneously be in love with and abhor the very wordstuff our world—terrestrial and ethereal—comprises. At first, Tynes comes off as just another Post-Modern voice, pinning words to the page in seemly erratic fashion, all pattern and form gone missing, and thus all sense gone too. She seems to toy with language repeatedly, and baits her readers just so. But simply dismissing Tynes as another Post-Modern oddity wrongly one-ups her otherwise roundabout end—that one cannot, despite all effort, talk about language without first drawing a line where it no longer speaks of itself, but circumnavigates itself. From the page en face to ‘WHO HAS BEEN DEAF FROM BIRTH’:

                    A continuous economic pressure is between my
       skin and yours,

                                               switches its tail.

While, at times, and mostly, the poet’s use of italics and all caps proves useful and uniquely sundry:

     Pushed a chair away from the table




FROM BARK                    AND SEEDS

                                                            GOUGES AND OTHER


                                                                                         AROUND DINNER’S NECK BUT NOT WITHOUT


                                                                                         WHEN YOU CALL IT DOES IT


ultimately this system tires because it is so random and may or may not be a system at all. Some poems have titles, while others don’t; some poems are titled in all caps, while others aren’t. The pattern is not an easy one to follow, and my guess is Tynes knows this, and respects and feels endeared to it for this very reason. In ‘Ways of Contrariness’, she tells her readers:

      hear that some families pass their patterns down by writing them in code
      that outsiders can’t decipher. Meaning: first item on the to-do list of any
      quilter’s legacy: learn the code.

      I don’t write the way people talk; my intention is to make conversation,
      make it over and over again until it figures out, fills out, shows itself.

      [. . .]

       All the italics are mine.

      [. . .]

                                                                                                            I’m partial to stealing
      the heavy, charged parts of things that wouldn’t walk off by themselves.

Tynes knows well what she’s doing, and likely that The End Of Rude Handles requires some additional work from the reader, in a way the reader may not want to dispense his or her energy. It’s not the content and message of Tynes’s poems that becomes taxing and, at times, distracting; there the book lacks nothing of ingenuity or anything novel to say. The back and forth slingshot of Tynes’s method left me wading in her wake, bobbing and groping for a handhold, though not entirely bothered by the sway.

Lines like ‘Caught in the / act of emphasizing.’, from a weighty, imagistic poem describing a pant leg soaked through with monthly blood, ‘Women as waterproof / as pails, men / as waterproof as water.’, ‘WE ADOPTED / THE INSPIRING PRINCIPLE’, and ‘No one traveling / through the country / eats at the side of the road.’, and I’ve again secured my balance, brushed my hair from my eyes, resolved to unlock this book in my hands and get to the marrow of it.

The poet’s diction and her syntax might befuddle readers, but it’s her fearless facing and exploration of life’s scarier corners that holds interest. Jen Tynes’s book sides with a version of poetry that implores readers to do more than just read. The End Of Rude Handles is a dictionary, a phone call, a bus conversation, doing back flips repeatedly. Like a ruddy wise old orangutan hanging from your kitchen light fixture, Tynes has something really good to say, if only you can decipher her.

                                                    --Review by Erin M. Bertram.


It's a Two Reading Weekend, Folks

Slope Editions: Matt Hart & Amanda Nadelberg
Friday, April 28th, 8PM
Pierogi Gallery
177 North 9th Street
Between Bedford & Driggs
L to Bedford
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Timothy Donnelly, Sarah Manguso, & Eugene Ostashevsky
Sunday, April 30th, 4PM
238 East 9th Street
Between 2nd & 3rd Avenues
East Village, NYC


Matt Rasmussen. FINGERGUN. Kitchen Press: 2006. $5.

“Suddenly and Suddenly”: All Those Important Moments—

The delicate compression of Rasmussen’s narrative & clear-headed voice in FINGERGUN carefully & discretely amp up the emotional power of these lyrics. Here there are moments considered, juxtaposed, and then held up “against a future/that never arrives.” Rasmussen locates the power of his work

In the moment between
what happens
and what doesn’t […]

(“Suddenly, the Poem Is”)

Figuring out how this poetry works is the key to its heart, really, which is deep & complex. The work throughout this sharply designed book demonstrates a range of earnest sentiment presented as a plea. These things happened & are crucial but they just as easily could not have happened & what would have happened in place of that happening would be just as crucial. Each poem is, then, a kind of question: does what I’m feeling make sense to you? Is it ok to feel this way? Is there something else I’m missing?
“Please read this and tell me/how much it moved you” (“Titled”) is both a central question for the speaker & an ultimately unimportant one. It’s as if the sensibility here needs support & an acknowledgement of human-ness. But it is that moment of bare & open address that resonates, that purely hopeful need for connection.
A poem like “Dream after Suicide” is a good example of the shifting registers in these poems, a kind of scenic estrangement shackled to this plain spoken emotional depth. Here, the speaker deals with the image of his brother “in the refrigerator light/drinking milk that poured/out of his head.” Such a jarring juxtaposition forces the reader to reconcile the quotidian nature of the scene with the shockingly macabre figure of the brother. Except the moment is decidedly not macabre or sensational, or even especially pitiable. It’s all presented in a matter of fact tone, a diction that is equally suited for dealing with the apparition of the brother as it is the weekend sports scores. The main concern here is connection:

I wanted to put my finger
into the hole,

feel the smooth channel
he escaped through[…]
These poems show that the future never arrives because it is always becoming the present, something we can’t consider & prepare for but must live & live through.

                                                    --Review by Nate Pritts.


Chris Tonelli. Wide Tree. Kitchen Press: 2006. $5.

What seems to be the fabric that weaves itself through, and holds together Chris Tonelli’s collection of short poems, Wide Tree, quickly wears thin in subsequent reads. Most of these poems work like jokes that turn on us in the last line. They are punchy and intelligent, juvenile and unapologetic. They bravely toe that line between profoundness and shameful failure. His poem, "Think Outside the Box", for example, reads (in its entirety):

                Think inside the butthole.

But these poems only wear thin in subsequent reads because they can be read so quickly and unabashedly at first, it causes burn-out. Tonelli manages to sell these brave little poems well (he somehow writes them with a straight face) so the reader has no choice but to let go and think inside the butthole. And they work. They are funny, and oddly enough, thought-provoking. But when the reader returns to these poems, he or she must look for something new, or else the poems will fall flat and have nothing left to give.

Luckily, most of Tonelli’s poems reach through the strange humor and tug at heart-strings, evoke emotion beyond peculiarity. His best poems ("At a Theater Urinal," "Public Garden", "Nearing Summer") do this with ease and manage to create a pining (for a place in life, for guidance, for woman). In "Marxist Poem w/ Rodent," Tonelli pines for a place in life:

                When I was in NYC,
                I made a pact w/ the
                rats. I will help you
                take over, I said, if
                when you gain control
                you give me a job.

And in the very next poem, "Funeral Eve," he toasts his newly dead family with Manhattans "because I’m one step/closer now to being/king of nothing." There is nothing funny about the turn at the end of this poem. It is brief and poignant. It uses the same tools as the poems that make us laugh, which allows a sad punch-line to be all the more painful.

"Night Terror" evokes a similar emotion while pining for woman. Although Tonelli’s intentions here are likely to only drop a good Benny Goodman-esque one-liner on us, he perhaps inadvertently manages to plant a seed of emotion for later in the book, when he dims the lights and gets more serious with us:

                I had a dream that
                the train seemed
                important in passing,
                something charged.
                And I felt as if I was
                easily going to have
                sex w/ somebody
                on that train. But, as
                usual, it was someone
                on the train before.

This poem is within a group of poems that, together, holds up more thematically than emotionally. The first five poems occur on trains or have trains in them. With these, a setting was created, a metaphor that we could climb aboard. But after these five, Tonelli forgets about trains and replaces them with trees. It is at the beginning when the book reads most cohesively. The train is the same train, but the trees that replace it are very different from one another.

There are a few poems that do not belong here: "Dabbler", and the two poems titled "Poem." These three poems are absent of any thematic or emotional connection to any of the other poems. "Dabbler" is one of the poems that leans too far toward shameful failure (but it is exceptionally difficult to make a penis work well in any poem, particularly one called "Dabbler"). Also, "For Robert Creeley." Halfway down the page, it reads (in its entirety):

                I’m flying
                my poem at

It is not because Creeley is somehow above poems with farts and penises in them, he’s not. But Tonelli’s poems still work as jokes, regardless of how successful they are at evoking emotion. So, we’ve been falsely instructed to read the Creeley poem ironically, when it is my guess that Tonelli wants us to read it without irony (unless he is far braver than I think). The only thing holding this poem within the collection is the fact that it is very short. And brevity is not the most significant qualifier for these poems. The rest of the poems in Wide Tree are way too strong for that.

                                                    --Review by Zachary Schomburg.


Friday, April 7th ~ Howe 'n' Peet ~ The Fall Cafe

Get yrself rocked!
w/ The Burning Chair

two true rockers

Brian Howe
Christian Peet

Friday, April 7th, 7:30PM
The Fall Café
307 Smith Street
btwn. President and Union
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
F/G to Carroll Street

Questions: Call Matt (not The Fall Café) @ 917.478.5682 or email matt @ typomag dot com
Note: Please respect our free space at The Fall Café by not bringing in outside food or drink.

Brian Howe is a writer living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he carouses with the Lucifer Poetics Group. He writes about music for and Paste Magazine, and his poems have appeared in various journals he's too much of a gentleman to mention by name. He's sitting on a nearly complete manuscript called F7, portions of which will appear as a chapbook called Beta Test, forthcoming from Atlanta's 3rdness Press in early 2007.

Christian Peet's chapbook, The Nines, will be published by Palm Press ( in Spring 2006. His poetry and prose appears in Bird Dog, Drunken Boat, Fence, Octopus, Parakeet, Pom2, SleepingFish, Unpleasant Event Schedule, and other great independent journals. He teaches Poetry and Creative Writing classes at Brooklyn College and at Hunter College, CUNY, and edits Tarpaulin Sky (

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