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Ahsahta’s books are collectibles. They’re objects of art, a good reason to collect them. It’s an incentive for libraries, both private and public. But the imperative reason is that Ahsahta’s books represent the research and development in poetics that will shape our perceptions of poetry in the 21st Century when the next century turns.. . . . [W]e have allowed the popular press to shrink our definition of poetry and thereby to marginalize its influences on us. Ahsahta is unimpressed by media mythologies. Ahsahta and its poets understand how integral poetry is to society. —Djelloul Marbrook, Galatea Resurrects
Beast Feast by Cody-Rose Clevidence ($18)
In a deconstruction not only of the idea of “Nature” but of language as well, Cody-Rose Clevidence has created in Beast Feast a total-immersion experience of what William James called the “blooming, buzzing confusion” of being in the world. This is an attack on the Emersonian myth(ide)ologies of peaceful nature, moralism, and the state as well as a reminder of the complicated histories of cruelty and commodity that haunt the American forests. Clevidence celebrates the bodies of beasts, human and non-, and all the weirdness of the real and constructed world while wondering where a safe place might be found for them. “With Beast Feast, Cody-Rose Clevidence joins a phalanx of 21st-century poets who are rethinking the human occupation of our Planet from that zero-point of Western lyric function: the Garden. This poetry is wild, embroidered, helical, fitful, torn, ripe, spiky. Beast Feast makes us remember that we cannot dwell in this Garden without our Arsenal, Language, even as it pushes toward some syntax which will denature human language into a nonweaponized state.” —Joyelle McSweeney
After-Cave by Michelle Detorie ($18)
After-Cave is the narration of “an adolescent female who may or may not be human,” an odyssey feral, feminist, and ecopoetical. More pressing than hunger for this speaker is the need to know what “cruelty” means and how one might live in its absence. In this way, After-Cave is a book about the impossible and how to make it hospitable, and thereby prepare oneself to meet one’s friends: human, animal, the always alive and the already dead. Using language that moves over the speaker like weather systems and migratory birds, troubling notions of linear time and traversing the spaces of human-made and “natural” disaster, Detorie in this first book introduces us to the distinction between a state of being and an act of being. “Like Helen Adam before her, Detorie sings this afterlife-life, often via attention to noise, meaning that ‘voice’ here picks up some unnatural instruments: ‘Tumbleweeds or / teeth? [ . . . ] Fur / for a mouth.’ I make my way through After-Cave as I’d enter a woods where ‘the trees have decided to grow underground’—certain that finding my feet will involve a death to one nature or another. In this kind of apocalypse, it’s the ideology of ‘the natural’ that’s haunting the house—not any actual fact of organisms. Or (if you like ghosts) maybe it’s the natural’s propensity for systematic violence that leaves us with such fiery spectral lives.” —C.J. Martin
Mimer by Lance Phillips ($18)
Mimer is about the mutability of experience, the contexts that contain mutability, and the stories we use to make sense of it all. “We live by our mythologies,” says Lance Phillips, “and those mythologies are evolving as quickly as details can shake themselves free.” The fourth book in an ongoing series that maps the personal to the mythological, Mimer is erotic and ecstatic, taking those details and investigating what makes them honest. “With their uncanny quality of attention and gnomic precision Lance Phillips’s brilliant poems readily accord neither with our normative arrangements of language nor with our manifest schemas of perception. This book is both an ingenious meditation on, and a ‘disportraiture’ of, the transitory and miraculous nature of the world’s assemblages, our provisional and thrilling successes at description and understanding, our incapacity for thoroughly fathoming the real, and the necessity of continuing to try.” —Gabriel Gudding
Dear Herculine by Aaron Apps ($18)
The 2014 Sawtooth Poetry Prize winner, selected by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. A book-length epistolary collection of hybrid-, trans-, and inter- genre prose, Dear Herculine is an intertextual project that recalls portions of the 19th-century French hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin’s memoirs, discovered and re-published by Michel Foucault. The medical reassignment of Herculine’s gender eventually led to his/her death in February of 1868. Herculine’s experiences are set against and interwoven into the author’s experiences as an intersexed body through the epistolary form. “Unlike Yeats, who desired to be consumed in artifice to escape the human condition, that of being ‘sick with desire/ And fastened to a dying animal/[That] knows not what it is,’ Apps plunges into the carnal killing floor with his nineteenth-century interlocutor, binding their fates as he is ‘shackled to a rotting double, rotting in the space between, rotting in the space of the letters.’ Apps’s fearlessness and the beauty of his prose inspires, pushing poetry, kicking and screaming and expiring with shame, to where it desperately wants to go. A brilliant achievement that defies the triumphalism of that descriptor, Dear Herculine is a cache of love letters urgently needed to heal this world.” —Maria Damon
Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer ($18)
Garments Against Women is a book of mostly lyric prose about the conditions that make literature almost impossible. It holds a life story without a life, a lie spread across low-rent apartment complexes, dreamscapes, and information networks, tangled in chronology, landing in a heap of the future impossible. Available forms—like garments and literature—are made of the materials of history, of the hours of women’s and children’s lives, but they are mostly inadequate to the dimension, motion, and irregularity of what they contain. It’s a book about seeking to find the forms in which to think the thoughts necessary to survival, then about seeking to find the forms necessary to survive survival and survival’s requisite thoughts.
Trafficke, by Susan Tichy ($22)
Rigorously interrogating three hundred years of family history in Scotland and Maryland,Trafficke tracks and remixes questions of race and identity, fact and legend into a mosaic of verse, lyric prose, historical narrative, and quotation. As it strips away the glamour—in the old Scottish sense of a spell, an illusion—of legends, Trafficke takes shape not as a simple uncovering of truth, but as a dis-spelling, a building and tearing down of identity’s various disguises, of power’s relentless self-justification, of the poet’s own bitterness and complicity. Stepping forward and backward in time, sampling texts that range from 16th-century Gaelic poetry to runaway slave advertisements, Tichy’s narrative pulls readers through a many-layered critique of ownership and the timeless seduction of beauty. Violence and language, literacy and desire—these too are characters in the lyrical, fraught, and grief-charged text of Trafficke.
This Is the Homeland by Mary Hickman ($18)
Mary Hickman’s This Is the Homeland consists of eight poetic sequences written over a ten-year period, begun when Hickman worked as a surgical assistant in open-heart surgeries. The sequences are linked by an attention to the visceral elements of language and by an exploration of the themes of health, transformation, desire, and identity. Hickman charts the precarious and ecstatic response of consciousness surrendering itself to language and experience, a vertigo in which the self is called back to itself and the world through losing itself. These poems are as much about love as loss, therefore—elegies to times, places, and people whose presences sear and haunt the poems. A grappling, using the teeth of language, with the exhilarating passage of time, This Is the Homeland presents the deft maneuverings of a vibrant new poetic intelligence–sensuous, sensitive, and awake.
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