What creates more and bigger monsters…
fear or drink?
boredom or loneliness?
Hell or High Water?
And when the Captain points the way…
How does one know that one has put the monster to the fore?
What lurks in the shadowed archway, behind?
Who charges forward to the tune of,
“Lead onward, oh ye of the pointy stick!”
And why does yonder illuminated woman carry a chicken?
It’s a snack too raw for the Night Watch,
but too small to distract a monster.
I’m so glad you asked:
Just convince the right person you’re a genius,
and you’ll be in like porn star penis.
Just stack some boxes of Brillo pads,
reprint some old burger joint ads,
slather color on portraits — Tammy Faye Bakker-style —
(just make sure to showcase the subject’s creepiest smile.)
Lest you think I’m just being snarky,
I say this without a trace of malarkey,
if you can buy mansions off a soup can label you didn’t design,
genius is too meek of a word, you stink of the divine.
[Like Odysseus being dropped in the lap of goddesses
who were ready & eager to pop open their bodices.]
Do you think the Campbell’s marketing artist has a mansion?
He probably retired with a meager pansion.
I say this without derision,
to be great artist you don’t need to show in galleries, Parisian
you simply need to showcase your vision
of some poor shmuck’s labors
to the person who can get you a better class of neighbors.
Available March 3, 2020
This work provides a biographical sketch of Gertrude Stein, her partner Alice Toklas, and their life together in Paris. The vehicle is free verse poetry, although it reads more like a children’s book than poetry. That may sound as though I intended it as a burn, but that’s not the case. The marketing materials for this book present it as a child-friendly picture book, if not entirely marketed in the children’s literature market. What I mean to say is that the writing is simple, literal, and isn’t filled with complex metaphor or cryptic description that one might expect in adult works of poetry.
The book is illustrated in a child-centric manner as well, with whimsical, unintimidating, and colorful art.
I didn’t know much about Stein, and had only heard the title of the book, “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” in which much of this book’s source material presumably resides, and so this was a nice background, without getting too deep in the weeds.
If you’re a Stein fan and are interested in introducing a kid to her biography, or if you have your own limited but adult interest in her life, this is quick read to get you up to speed.
Available March 31, 2020
This anthology of twenty-four classic poems is set apart by the artwork used to convey the illustrator / anthologist’s view of each poem. The poets are all virtuosos, including: Dickinson, Angelou, Cummings, Langston Hughes, Auden, Seamus Heaney, Wordsworth, Shelley, Yeats, Poe, and Eliot. The poems are sometimes, but not always, among the most anthologized of the respective poet’s work. I would say that most poetry readers will probably find something that they haven’t read, but – even if not – it’s worth re-reading them as you enjoy the artwork.
The illustrator, Julian Peters, makes a bold decision to use the widest variety of artistic styles in an attempt to more aptly capture the tone of each poem. I recently reviewed a similar book, Chris Riddell’s “Poems to Live Your Life By,” and that book used a consistent style through out (which isn’t to say that tone and reality / surrealism didn’t change.) I’m not an artist, and don’t really have a vocabulary to describe the various artistic styles employed, but will attempt to give one some insight. There is the obvious shift between monochrome and color strips, but even within each of those categories there is great variation. Some monochrome strips were mostly gray, while others were exclusively black-and-white. Color works ranged from shocking dayglo to subdued pastels to dominant single color (e.g. blue) pics. Various poems were represented by a modern comic book style art, an old fashion comic strip approach, those which looked like paintings, those that were highly realistic, those that were surreal, those that were retro-chic, and even one [for Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird”] that was in a quilt-like style.
I enjoyed this work tremendously. Most of the poems were short works, single pagers, and the fact that I’d read possibly all of them before wasn’t a problem because these are the kind of poems that should be revisited. Only the postscript poem, Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was of substantial length.
I’d highly recommend this book for poetry readers, particularly those interested in are of imagery and how it’s conveyed and perceived.
Taken in Almaty in July of 2019.