Daily Postings
literature : first proof

Mooning

by Kenward Elmslie

I felt something bosomy pressing against me. I opened my eyes, and craned around. It was Mummers. His lips were moving rapidly. He squatted down beside me. I took the wads of cotton out of my ears.

"…to share whatever it is you're experiencing… not a stickler for everyday reality so-called… ha!… see by your eyes you're onto something… layers… not forcing… trust… mutual trust… wouldn't force anything… privacy… particulars… not forcing you."

I said no.

A diatribe followed, difficult for me to make much sense of—an attack on everyday reality, "Satanic" trick, any logical system that can be laid out can be controlled by viewer, dangerous, imposed on other viewers who become feeder stations to original viewer, vision widened with auxiliary antennae—distance between center and perimeter so immense, visions become garbled—weird statistics become law—misplaced zeros—cow is elected President of Meat Board (regulation to implement democratic process)—enforced Daily Poet Celebrations (regulation to implement anarchy necessary to weeding out of outworn regulations)—newsflash: Venice has sunk—all cities try to figure out how to sink (regulation to—to—layers—fragments—)

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literature : review

Sit, Scroll, and Fume

by Sarah Jean Grimm

Tommy Pico's IRL searches the catacombs of history and hashtags of today to create what can't be salvaged.

Tommy Pico's debut book, IRL (Birds LLC, 2016), is an origin story rooted in epic tradition and a long-form poem that unfurls as a hyperconfessional scroll. Confronting legacies of colonial trauma, it inscribes an identity in "a post-apocalyptic America / that started 1492." Pico's speaker, Teebs, is an alter à la Sasha Fierce, navigating his experience as a queer Kumeyaay Indian alienated from his ancestral language, religion, and history. The personal is always political, but rarely is it treated with such deft humor. Sharp, successive pratfalls land us firmly in tragicomic moments, so that even as Teebs mourns a cultural inheritance marred by loss, there is play—or rather play is employed to access that mourning. Despite its precision and proliferation of wit, it would be a mistake to frame IRL as light.

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literature : interview

Yoss

by Jacqueline Loss

"Look at me, I have an inner life, I think differently, I am different, and yet, I can also reflect back your own thoughts."

I first met Yoss, a biologist by training, around fifteen years ago through a friend who studied snails. This mutual friend also happened to be a rabid fan of heroic fantasy fiction and predicted, way back then, that Yoss would become something special in the Cuban literary scene and beyond. It wasn't until years later, though, that Yoss—now an acclaimed sci-fi author, among many other things—and I were able to exchange ideas about the differing ways that Cubans remember the Soviet era. More generally, it's indeed his ability to examine the human experience from different vantage points that really entraps readers of his work. Fortunately, Super Extra Grande, the 2010 winner of the prestigious UPC award in Spain, was published by Restless Books this past summer, giving English readers another taste of Yoss's generous fiction.

Jacqueline Loss Could you speak about this current interest in Cuban science fiction?

Yoss Well, Cuba is at a crossroads with regard to its future right now, and sometimes it's only by contemplating the future that can we understand what's happening in the present. Two years ago nobody could have predicted this moment, when Cuba and the US are getting closer and there are so many possibilities. The unimaginable might happen: the first woman president of the United States might be elected, and right after the first African-American was. But it's important to hear what sci-fi authors think, because, in a way, they can be a nation's conscience, even though the work often transcends its own historical moment. They worry about the consequences of decisions being made today.

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literature : first proof

From Vegas Girls

by Heather Skyler

She was still wearing her nightgown but decided it could pass for a simple sundress with its spaghetti straps and cotton material. It hit her just at mid-thigh where there was a centimeter's hem of red lace, the only real clue, she hoped, of the garment's intended use. As she walked down the sidewalk she wished most of all for her sunglasses, because her head was pounding. Her second wish would be for a cold glass of water. It was already hot out there, and sun burned the space between her shoulder blades as she trudged blindly up the walk.

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literature : review

Speculative Heroism

by David Burr Gerrard

Alexander Weinstein's debut collection, Children of the New World, presents us with a future absurd enough to be our own.

Children of the old world respected distinctions between realist fiction and speculative fiction, earnestness and satire, prophecies of apocalypse and unexaggerated descriptions of the present day. In a year that has seen the rise of Donald Trump, Pokémon GO, and seemingly impossible phenomena like luxury cruise liners touring a rather warm Arctic Circle, it's difficult to see how these old aesthetic boundaries can be maintained.

The jacket copy of Alexander Weinstein's funny, discomfiting, and excellent debut collection Children of the New World says "speculative fiction," but we could really classify its short stories as "realist fiction" and be just as accurate. Better yet, we could regard both of these labels as the distorting goggles they are, and simply take them off.

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literature : first proof

One Poem

by Ian Dreiblatt

cant will

and to the republic
cartwheel grimace
skitting filmily across
a sea of culpabilities
the boy is witched
language goes out
of his mouth like a
firm red egg

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literature : first proof
literature : first proof

Three Poems

by Francesca Coppola

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

She’s an archaic, the last meaning of a word. He’s a drunk, but of the ultramarine kind. Her body is a library he eats and sleeps in. Books fluttering seagulls in her electric hair. The alphabet hangs a wet towel on the door, while other birds are exchanged in their mouths. “Danish charcoal”... then another doorway, then “A little yellow tree”... then a few inches of carpet touched by human fingers. Sentences remain in the cupboard. Everyone else is asleep in the city, holes cut to the shape of their feet. Behind the glass is the ocean, the tree, a beard, tall African masks. Inside the dark lays furniture like perfect bodies... “Dying is not a tendency or the bottom of a well”... appearing faintly, in a fingerprint, then “Green, incapable clouds”... “We’re barely here,” she says. It was cold and rainy and full of shoes.

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literature : first proof

Room Tone

by Bill Berkson Archie Rand

It was one year ago (June 25, 2015), at Poets House, right before the late Bill Berkson's reading began, that I casually said hi to him and he, always a generous and prolific collaborator with artists, said, "Let's talk." We found a corner and quickly acknowledged that we had both, for a while, wanted to work together. He preferred using a pre-existent text and after some email exchanges we landed on “Room Tone” from Expect Delays (2014).

When working with poets I like to offer something a bit off-putting, which acts to refresh the text and generate a synapse rather than having the poetry puddle alongside a simperingly sympathetic image. In this format I imagine myself a composer working with a lyricist—and Bill and I got along like a team of songwriters. After I had tweaked the paintings in a way that I thought would echo each line, Bill wrote the poem, line by line, onto each panel with an acrylic pen. We were thrilled with the results. (Or as Bill put it in an email, "we IS Stephen Curry!") That was in March.
 
Bill gave a few local readings after our meeting at Poets House and he always ended with “Room Tone”—a private nod to our work together.

—Archie Rand

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Announcing the Winner of BOMB's 2016 Poetry Contest

Each year BOMB hosts a literary contest, alternating between fiction and poetry, with a distinguished guest judge in the field. It is with great pleasure that we announce the winner of this year’s poetry contest, Marwa Helal, whose work was selected by poet Bhanu Kapil.

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literature : review

Solmaz Sharif's Look

by Rebekah Weikel

First published in 1989, the U.S. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military & Associated Terms outlines the terminology used to obfuscate military procedures. Modified continually, this dictionary consists of thousands of acronyms and euphemisms that veer between the banal, bizarre, and callous. While "warhead mating" and "kill box" might be a few of the more exotic examples, it's a familiar term like "collateral damage" that best illustrates the dictionary's reductive function:

Unintentional or incidental injury or damage to persons or objects that would not be lawful military targets in the circumstances ruling at the time.
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literature : interview

Susan Daitch

by Evan Lavender-Smith

"There are times when all writing is like the cinema hat you can't take off, and once it's in place, there's a tendency to catastrophize, to make things more interesting."

Stories and texts get passed from one character to another in Susan Daitch's fictions. Details change. Truth becomes relative. For the reader, the desire to understand "what happened" soon takes a backseat to the appreciation of "what is happening" with respect to narrative form. Tensions between form and content—constant alterations to the map's depiction of the territory—are especially prominent in her newest work, The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir, a novel in which an international, intergenerational series of characters searches obsessively for a phantom city. Over the course of a few weeks, Daitch and I corresponded about her characters' obsessions and the value of art in relation to cultural and geological catastrophe. 

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literature : interview

Geoff Dyer

by Ryan Chapman

"I'm glad that the work is still proving elusive enough to resist attempts to gather it all up in a critical hamper or net."

Because Geoff Dyer's two previous books tackled Tarkovsky's film Stalker (Zona) and life aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier (Another Great Day at Sea), one might be forgiven for approaching White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World as a stopgap work, a mere collection of previously-published essays and reportage: fan service. Rather, its seemingly straightforward travel narratives—with stops in Tahiti, the Arctic Circle, New Mexico, and China, among others—are obliquely fictionalized and rife with the author's hopscotch intellect. Everywhere he goes Dyer finds inspired connections across music, art, and time.

Perhaps White Sands can be best summarized by the two photographs bookending the text itself, both taken during a trip to Egypt. Dyer noticed a half-ruined ancient statue of a king and queen appeared complete if one simply stood from a different vantage point: the woman's absent form becomes instead a gesture of shyness, as if she were ducking behind her partner. The moment rewards a skewed, deep-time approach to looking at the world. In an email interview conducted during the author's book tour, I asked him about these approaches.

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literature : first proof

The Hypochondriac in the Landscape

by Walter Benjamin

Penned between 1906 and 1912, the following fragment of fiction is among the earliest writings of critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin. This tale—along with many other of his fables, parables, riddles, and novellas—are gathered in The Storyteller, forthcoming in late July 2016 from Verso Books.

 

ONLY FOR GROWN-UPS. NERVOUS TYPES—BEWARE!

Above the landscape hung such storm clouds as cause that specific fear of storms among young people known to physicians under a Latin name. It was a gently apprehensive mountain scenery. The path was steep and tiresome; the air was very hot and high temperatures prevailed. A mature man—greyed by the passing of the years—and an adolescent moved as inaudible points through the silence. They carried an empty stretcher. From time to time the gaze of the younger man fell upon the stretcher and his eyes would fill with tears. It was not long before a doleful song streamed forth from his mouth, reverberating from the mountain with a thousand sobs. "Red of the morning, red of the morning lights the path to an early death." In the distance, bloody bolts of lightning tinged the sky. Suddenly the singing broke off and was followed by a faint groan. "Permit me for a moment," the young man said to the elder one. He rested the stretcher on the ground, sat down, closed his eyes and folded his hands.

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literature : interview

Dorthe Nors

by Lauren LeBlanc

"The adjective is just something we put in front of beings or places to tie them to the ground or lift them to the sky."

To Americans, Scandinavian literature in recent years has been synonymous with crime novels. Incidentally, the popularity of books such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo introduced fiction in translation to thousands of readers who might not have otherwise encountered it. Writer Dorthe Nors found herself translating these novels before going on to publish her own work—fiction which is playful and dark in turn. But where Scandinavian crime fiction employs psychological strategy to probe a wide range of human depravity within the genre, Nors in no way conforms to this or any other literary standard. She experiments with form as a means to explore the rich inner lives of her characters. There's great humor and unflinching pathos in her examination of modern life in all of its absurdity and loneliness. She skewers our relentless need to be connected. Her story collection Karate Chop was published in 2014, and a collection of her novellas, So Much for That Winter, is now available from Graywolf Books.

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literature : review

Visible Men

by Paul Devlin

"A thousand clinics could not cure the sense of unreality that haunts Harlem as Harlem haunts the world."

Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem, which accompanies an exhibition now on view at the Art Institute of Chicago, collects and contextualizes one of the most significant archival finds of mid-century American culture: their hitherto lost 1948 collaboration—an essay by Ellison with photographs by Parks that offers a gritty panorama of Harlem life. Foreshadowing each man's achievements in subsequent decades, the book also reproduces and explores Parks's interpretive photo spread of Ellison's Invisible Man for Life magazine in 1952.

Parks was also an accomplished writer, and Ellison was also a professional photographer—a curiously symmetrical pairing that undoubtedly adds dimension to this reconstruction. They knew how to communicate, and Ellison even printed from Parks's negatives, which is how some prints ended up among his papers. At the time of this collaboration, Parks and Ellison—born in 1912 and 1913, in Fort Scott, Kansas and Oklahoma City, respectively—were running in parallel, both accomplished journeymen in the fields in which they'd find the most success. They'd both had years of significant achievement to look back on, but were still scrambling for steady traction. By 1952, both had achieved national recognition and prominence that would never dissipate. The book straddles that liminal moment when both failure (or at least frustration) and success looked equally possible.

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literature : first proof

Late Saturday to Early Sunday

by Olga Tokarczuk

Translated by Jennifer Croft

God created drugs with an addendum, a few minutes after midnight on Saturday night—in other words, on Sunday, when he wasn't supposed to be doing anything anymore, for the work of creation had reached its end. Thus it might be said that God's creation of narcotics was a violation of both law and order.

And the fact that he was tired after his six-day project is hardly an excuse.

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literature : interview

Daniel Saldaña París

by Ottessa Moshfegh

"I feel ignored and doomed to anonymity, but free to do whatever I want within the sacred space of literature."

I met Daniel Saldaña París last fall and soon discovered that we probably descended from the same galaxy; our imaginations have traveled a similar celestial pathway down into this mysterious shitstorm called "life on Earth." I'm not afraid of being completely grandiose and arrogant around Daniel. He's a generous friend and understands what it means to be overwhelmed by one's own growth, and devastated and entertained by the limitations of the idiots all around. It's important to have at least one friend like this.

This interview was conducted over email rather formally alongside a more personal correspondence. "All my appetites are on the rise lately. I want to eat, drink, and fuck all day. I think it may be from overexercising," he wrote. "Everyone is a slave. I am retreating from the brainwashed society. The only way for me to spiritual freedom is celibacy and daily purge of delusion," I wrote back. So, it's like that between us.

Daniel is from Mexico and writes in Spanish. I don't read Spanish, so I haven't read much of his work. His first novel, Among Strange Victims, was recently translated into English by Christina MacSweeney. As I read it, I felt I was witnessing a great performance. It reminded me a little of young Mozart showing off at the emperor's golden harpsichord, giggling and improvising variations on Salieri's welcome march, startling all the wigged and powdered Viennese stiffs. And I sensed something desperate and inflamed in the writing, too, as though the author assumed all along that nobody would ever read his book. That's probably what I like most about it—the cocky, indulgent, nihilistic virtuosity.

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literature : first proof

Horizontal Bar

by Benjamin Fondane

A cinepoem—introduced by Leonard Schwartz.

What needs to be understood about the following text is that Benjamin Fondane wanted it to disappear. Let me explain.

Benjamin Fondane was born in 1898 in Romania, the second child of a Jewish family of German descent. At the time when his poems first appeared in Romanian in the avant-garde literary reviews of Bucharest and his native Iasi, Fondane believed that poetry represented "the sole reason for being to persevere in being" and that "only poetry could succeed where morality and metaphysics had failed." But by the early '20s poetry as it existed (after the war years) seemed as much a lie to him as everything else, and his belief in an aesthetic justification of the universe crumbled. In a statement in which much of his later writing and thought is already prefigured, Fondane wrote of this break that "dans la nuit, jai commence a crier sans mots"—"in the middle of the night, I began to cry, without words." From this point forward Fondane's abiding interests would be the absurd and the contradiction between human liberty and all forms of rational thought and language.

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literature : review

Body Party

by Andrew Durbin

On Robert Glück's Communal Nude

In her 2000 essay "Writing/Sex/Body," first published on the Buffalo Poetics Listserv, Dodie Bellamy describes her practice as "a writing that subverts sexual bragging, a writing that champions the vulnerable." This constantly changes her relationship to her audience, her community—and to the text: "No way I can stand in front of an audience reading this stuff and maintain the abstraction of 'author.'" She "stiffens" herself in the performance of her "I" and "invades" her own privacy. In reading, she freezes herself into a corpse, a "not a body": Is this a problem? In his response to Bellamy, "Writing Sex Body," the poet and novelist Robert Glück writes: "Why write about body and sex unless they are problems?" He argues that these categories and their performance, the thing that "stiffens" us, allow for a beginning—of an argument, of an exchange. And they are problems, of the body and of sex, and of the communities of those bodies and sexes, that are central Glück's own work, from his novels to his critical essays, which have been collected for the first time in Communal Nude (Semiotext(e) 2016). "This is the goal," he states from the outset of the collection: "to unframe writing about sex and the body, to derail the mechanisms that make a unified position."

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literature : interview

Alexandre Vidal Porto

by Bruna Dantas Lobato

“What can’t I be in São Paulo that I could become in New York?”

In Alexandre Vidal Porto’s debut novel, Matias na Cidade, published in Brazil in 2005, the protagonist is at a crossroads: he can choose to stay with his wife, kids, and maid—or he can leave everything behind. He seems to have that choice, but really he’s run out of options. The desire to find oneself is central to Vidal Porto’s characters. In his second novel, Sergio Y., published in English this month by Europa Editions, the titular character chooses to leave São Paulo for New York and change his name to Sandra. But, once again, there’s very little choice in the matter. It’s more like fate.

Vidal Porto leads us into the private lives of frustrated urban explorers who need a change of scenery, flâneurs who feel confined in familiar streets and seek a new beginning. His writing moves from dark to light, as his characters walk to higher ground for safety. From up there, they are able to see their own paths and decide where to go next. When faced with crisis, they choose life.

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literature : interview

Abdellah Taïa

by Georgia Phillips-Amos

“I’m not influenced by literature. I find everything I need in the reality of life, in my place within that reality.”

At twelve years old in Salé, Morocco, Abdellah Taïa touched a high-voltage generator and lay dead for an hour before surprising everyone and breathing again. He defied death and would have to keep doing it: as a lone effeminate youth in his neighborhood, he was a target of sexual violence every day. On one occasion Taïa cites as a turning point, grown men on the street yelled in the night to wake him, threatening rape, and though he lay sandwiched between his mother and seven siblings in a shared bed, no one sheltered him. He is an artist intimate with vulnerability and he is unafraid. He is also a political activist who, in 2006, became the first renowned Arab artist to come out publicly in Morocco, a country where homosexuality continues to be illegal.

Born in 1973, Taïa has lived in Paris since 1998 and writes books and films in French. Following his first two novels, Salvation Army and An Arab Melancholia, the forthcoming Infidels is his third to be translated into English. Echoing Taïa’s own exile, these books take place between Morocco and Europe, where on the streets and in bedrooms his stories collide in tenderness and violent urgency.

Built in a series of rhythmic soliloquies, Infidels is a timely novel about Islamic fundamentalism, intimacy, betrayal, and panic. “I change realities,” the protagonist Jallal says, “really and truly enter fiction, cross the border, take on other colors.” Taïa’s characters are fugitives constantly in motion: they get close, they love; they manipulate, they spit at each other’s feet. Their days and their transgressions are beautiful, but in a merciless world they can also be terrifying.

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literature : first proof

Two Poems

by Eric Amling

“Consider Satan’s feelings…as love is the anvil that shaped the scythe…let summer loosen your expectations…the hottest night of the year…in a little leather pouch…”

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literature : review

Bad News

by Lizzie Tribone

Disobeying history in Don Mee Choi’s Hardly War.

Don Mee Choi quotes Gertrude Stein’s Wars I Have Seen in the epigraph of her new collection of poetry, prose, and opera, Hardly War: “It is funny about wars, they ought to be different but they are not.” This line introduces the book’s preoccupation with the homogeneity of conflicts, certainly, but also with Stein herself. Not only does Choi display a stylistic fidelity to Stein’s oeuvre, by way of radical experiments with language and syntax, but the very inspiration for the collection stems from her as well.

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