Fall/winter issue of The Stray Branch due soon. Work by me in it thanks to editor Debbie Berk. For now there’s a featured poem by me here on the first page, you need to scroll down a bit. Illustration by Debbie there, it kicks ass.
Joanna C. Valente
The Gods are Dead (2015)
(Deadly Chaps Press)
review by David McLean
This book by Joanna C. Valente is like a naturalization of Tarot & occult symbolism reflected in the bizarre unlikelihood of real lives since the symbolic figures of the major arcana are used to symbolize something of contemporary relevance. It’s beautifully illustrated by Ted Chevalier & the book itself is very well made.
Valente is good at titles: “The Moon is Always Horny”, “The Hermit Used to be the Guitarist in Your Favorite Band”, “Judgment Promises Life After the Internet”, “The Hanged Man Will Ghostwrite Your Life”, & so on;
I am dead as a forgotten
man, no mind / I am a broken vessel.
(The Hanged Man Will Ghostwrite Your Life)
says the lamb, before he “spreads, purrs into a shit/ angel”. These are poems of sacrifice & the futility of sacrifice, the necessity of ritual, & whatever heaven a religion imagines might exist will not fit us.
He measures his life by expiration
Dates / Milk in the fridge has two
weeks til death / bananas grow
black as the inside of a coffin
(Death Rides a Pale Horse)
I have mentioned titles, & the next excerpt is from a classic:
… He wakes alone
the next morning, his back
rough from ropes. Lilies
spread across the bed – petals
of who he will become
(At Night, Temperance Works as a Dominatrix
Landscapes are supposed to be desolate, & the imagery of these poems invites the reader to conceptualize themselves more creatively. The most pivotal poem seems to be this one:
the air streams
stillness as if someone
died while making
He has never made
Instead he cuts up
to orgasm. …
Someone could stop;
instead chose to be
(The Hierophant Builds the Bridge Between Deity and Humanity)
Again this book by Valente is an excellent read, & heartily to be recommended. You don’t need to know or care about the Tarot, the poems create their own symbolism & the archetypes are more universal. The book is on sale here: http://www.deadlychaps.com/joanna-valente/
Joanna C. Valente
Marys of the Sea
review by David McLean
Obviously with a religious reference in the title, this book is full of powerful poems that create an alternative mythology for the female body in the face of abuse & the exigencies of motherhood together with the obvious alternative, abortion. This is important, since conceptualization and categorization of items within a reality influence how one feels able to interact with and/or challenge that reality. I shall refrain from discussing any feminist message since i am rather old-school & consider that a man does not have a feminist consciousness since he cannot, & feminism involves conscious awareness, with an epistemological privilege that a person possesses qua oppressed. Were I to do so, then Empire would speak, not really me. But the dispossession, & lack of rootedness & reality, is a general theme, it speaks of the lack of autochthonousness that marks the deconstructed self, as bodies scramble in the dirt for identities worth having,.
We are only human, says Valente, when someone is looking. The self is not something we have, just like problems aren’t something we have outside of a social context. The main problem with the late-capitalist socius is that nobody gives a flying fuck who you are: everything, everybody, every body is an object to be used & exploited; it is a resource. & again the oppressed oppress best. It is “some of the women in town” who want Mary punished, just as it is women who very often insist on FGM.
The book is full of perfect references to other poetry. I want to quote in full one short poem that like one that I myself did more verbosely is a tribute “Lullaby” by Auden. Valente’s sampling is much better, though:
Humans, yr sleeping head lies
on arms with no bones.
burn beauty away
with time. Children prove it true.
For now, lie here in my arms
our guilt entirely beautiful.
(Lullaby on the Half Shell)
I don’t read much poetry anymore. This might sound exaggerated but Valente’s poems are a sort of belated consolation for the death of Sylvia Plath. I think they’re that good, & you would be a fool not to read them.
Michael Mc Aloran
at vacuum’s edge
Black Editions Press
review/blurb by David McLean
this chapbook concerns what we have as if to say. when faced by the other than. it is no alienation exactly but the necessary incongruity of the being human with the actual instantiation of all that within the brute meat we sort of want to torture even if the other may conceivably be rather like us
it is also of collisions – a collidescope, as he puts it, mirroring where the worlds minds drag around to imprison them bump into the other cunt.
again/ upon/ sodden crimson red recollect of
bounty’s trace of unforgiven/ dries the eyes what
depth till following lack abort what sung as if to
drift matter of forgotten as before once said
eradicated/ engulfed once more/ yet mocking the
reek/ (tread from this life disease what will stake
claims upon the ocean’s filtering lights)/ and the
bitten song/ a neck snapped in a gild of apathy/
nothing of the tears that demarcate the surface/
bore holes into the surface quadrant/ nothing
the problem of epistemology is not that nothing is known but that maybe what is mostly worthy of knowing is just the nothing/ that which one should designate almost imperceptibly by the via negativa.
whatever is in some sense given is not the significant. we cannot signify what matters which is not that nothing does. this chapbook is as far from nihilism as it is possible to be & whoever says it s just that is as ignorant as those who attribute the same alleged perversity to me.
As promised, three poems posted now at Unlikely Mark V.
Pleased to say that three new things by me are coming in Unlikely Stories, Mark 5, probably next week.
I have had quite a few things there before but, as noted, am remiss about submitting nowadays, unless asked.
I take this opportunity of again mentioning the review for of desire & the desert here by Dom Gabrielli. The book is linked at this blog, feel free to buy one 🙂