Michaela Mullin

Objects from a Borrowed Confession by Julie Carr

Objects from a Borrowed Confession by Julie Carr

The intimacy of reading a book can be likened to the experience of a confessional, be it in a church, at the bar with friends, or in bed with a lover. The telling is directed, often hushed, shared in implied confidence. The act of confessing creates a feeling of being chosen. And in essence, it is. In the moment you are reading them, the words in a book create this same sense—though hundreds, thousands, millions of people may be reading it, or have read it, or will read it. With reading, however, it is you who have done the choosing, of whose confession to receive.

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Staying Alive by Laura Sims

Staying Alive by Laura Sims

At an Adamic level, humans have always, it seems, been destined to destruct or self-destruct. On an atomic level, the world once seemed scientifically determined to remain in certain composite, certain constitution, certain form or energy. Today, however, we know that to be untrue. Staying Alive, the most recent collection of bare(ing) poems by Laura Sims, is a documentation of sorts, a reckoning with the end as we may think it, predict it, and already begin to feel it.

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Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer

Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer

Anne Boyer’s new book of poems, Garments Against Women, is a subtle feat of poetic mise en abyme. She conceptualizes the daily into the philosophical and, thankfully, collapses the philosophical into the quotidian. With her lyric prose, she does not spare words—there is no fear of that sort of economy here; and her language patterning is reflective of the template one might use for sewing: This is two-dimensional so that you may make of it something three-dimensional, something to walk away with, to cover you. These poems collapse her world perfectly onto the page, and in reading them, they become again the uncollapsed world—like a three-dimensional rendering of a mise en abyme painting, each frame falling into the next like an accordion: in and out, in and out (until it slips, beautifully); the music produced may not be perfectly in tune, but it is amazingly attuned.  

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Think Tank by Julie Carr

Think Tank by Julie Carr

“What black butterfly, voiceless with its fourth-person narration / is the real world?” Julie Carr’s poem asks, in Think Tank, just out by Solid Objects. This is poetry of the temporal, witnessed through the spatiality offered by the window of the quotidian and domestic (“… Morning’s not / measured nor meant / just assured and rude in its lack of regard …” (10)), of parenthood and chairs, and “all, all” (“Windows blaze, all, all—the train jumps its tracks” (1)). Carr brings “all, all” by way of fragmentation, because there is no other way, and she knows this; poetry is this. As Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe writes, “Poetry occurs where language, contrary to all expectations, gives way.” By way of amazing observation and diction of capture and release, along with her use of the empty space of the page, Carr’s poems, allow for what Jean-Luc Nancy calls the “syncope of language.” Caesurae reign supreme—at least as supreme as her words.

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Do Everything in the Dark by Gary Indiana

Do Everything in the Dark by Gary Indiana

It is not just that Gary Indiana’s novel, Do Everything in the Dark, is about, or fictively triggered by, old photos (and letters), but that the form the book takes captures this random recall in its ability to fit its pieces together, almost. Is a roman à clef a story told on its head? Or is it merely standing upright, a little off center from the “real” story it simultaneously cloaks and exposes? Indiana ends this novel with an epigraph (with this placement, is it an epitaph for a generation or epoch?) by Guy Debord: “In a world that really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood” (from Society of the Spectacle). To this end, Indiana has posited that the former question I pose is true, perhaps; and so, false, as well. The sidestepping question, however, is also one that must be answered in the affirmative, as any retelling, of story or character, in these pages, offers a recognizability of the real world’s textual twins, and in that Indiana has created a story that works almost all the way around, literally, and even moves these characters (for which there are real-life (and deceased) referents) forward a little bit, into the now, not unlike ghosts for which substance has never been an issue.

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Short Talks by Anne Carson

Short Talks by Anne Carson

Almost everything about Anne Carson’s collection of prose poems, Short Talks (originally published in 1992), is, as its title suggests, short: the poems themselves, the length of the collection, the new afterword by the author (with textual brevity to rival that of her beautiful book-object Nox (New Directions, 2010). This book is even short on illustrations, of which there is only one. Thankfully, however, the gorgeously written and elucidating introduction by poet Margaret Christakos takes almost ten pages—it deserves all ten; and the poetry itself is long on knowledge, art, history, mastery, and is pregnant with crystal-clear insight (along with its refractions). As an homage to these small, brick-shaped poems, I will keep these words to a minimum: a short talk on Short Talks.

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Belleza y Felicidad: Selected Writings by Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavón

Belleza y Felicidad: Selected Writings by Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavón

Chris Kraus writes that Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavón “understand everything,” and she might just be right. The poetry found in Belleza y Felicidad: Selected Writings is a dialogue of friends, candid storytelling about being women in love, dialectic on being alive; it is also an exploration of what it means to create and practice art and writing outside the confines of a group of poets who write for other poets primarily (read: academic careers). Fernanda and Cecilia may not write for themselves, as some poets often weakly argue, but they very well may write for each other—and somehow this doesn’t feel exclusive at all. I am thankful to Stuart Krimko for offering the English-speaking world an invitation to this ongoing project of conversation.

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Afterletters by R. Kolewe

Afterletters by R. Kolewe

R. Kolewe’s Afterletters is a beautiful appropriative collection of poems. Working with the threads of letters and creative works from Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan, and inspired by their correspondence—which lasted over two decades, from the late 1940s into the 1960—Kolewe creates anew the hope that one encounters in hopelessness, the knowing which one maintains through unknowing, and all the erasable and dissolvable things of language and the world: snow, chalk, breath, words themselves.

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Playing the Whore by Melissa Gira Grant

Playing the Whore by Melissa Gira Grant

Melissa Gira Grant’s Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work is a slender, not narrow, book, though Gira Grant admits that her scope of investigation is, in fact, limited. Purposely. An admission, lest anyone think she attempts to speak beyond her purview. Grant is quite clear on this point: She will not make the singular plural, or make sweeping statements in order to “make clearer” or simpler some argument that is neither clear nor simple.

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Disposable Epics by Thibault Raoult

Disposable Epics by Thibault Raoult

In his new book of poetry, Disposable Epics, Thibault Raoult gives us language at its most supple and strange, and therefore, moving. He manages, with each section, of which there are five, to offer some small instruction—I cannot say it is wrapped (or even rapt) in poetry, because that would be to insult Raoult’s near-impeccability (I like to believe he would prefer the “near-“ hyphenate), but—Raoult does somehow accomplish what every poet strives for: to give the appearance of finding words which seem to instruct themselves to make a poem, rather than of an author who knows the poem which certain words will make. And if a small collection of poems isn’t intended as a vade mecum, we might want to keep this one on hand, just in case.

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Thrown by Kerry Howley

Thrown by Kerry Howley

A few years ago when I watched Darren Aronofsky’s haunting film, The Wrestler, I found myself in a strange state as the credits rolled—one of un-containment. Once I re-contained my self, I ran to my laptop and typed in some notes, yelling to my husband in the next room that I wanted to write my thesis on this film, which, sadly, I didn’t. I had only experienced this feeling two other times at the end of films (if it happened with more three-dimensional moments, I cannot recall them, which in itself intrigues me): the first after the long and beautiful Jacque Rivette film, La belle noiseuse (where no hand-to-hand fighting took place, that I remember), and the second after David Fincher’s Fight Club. After watching Michel Piccoli, Jane Birkin, and Emmanuel Béart in a ring shaped like a triangle, I left the student union theater running, and I didn’t stop until I’d run out of breath on a dark, wet sidewalk in Minneapolis. After watching Brad Pitt and Edward Norton fight “each other” in Fight Club, I hopped into my ‘77 Chevy Scottsdale, revved the engine, peeled out of the parking lot, and drove as fast as I could through West Des Moines, and almost drove straight into a Krispy Kreme for a truck full of glazed doughnuts just to keep my then-named “rush” going. Years later, I came to understand this rare surge/escape as an experience of the ecstatic: an experience that feels unrepeatable, unpredictable, and ever leaves the residue of wanting to understand that which culminates in such experiential overflow. The transcendent moment of losing self became something I came to identify with watching others on screen live fully, unbounded, focused, without striking “balance” in their lives.

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Edgewise: A Picture of Cookie Mueller by Chloé Griffin

Edgewise: A Picture of Cookie Mueller by Chloé Griffin

Chloé Griffin’s Edgewise: A Picture of Cooke Mueller does surprising justice to an extraordinary life force and life. Griffin did her work. It is not easy to write a biography. It may be even more difficult to facilitate and edit an oral history of one person’s life, while somehow capturing all the cultural peaks and shifts of the times. But Griffin has done this to amazing effect. She spent seven years of her life examining and respecting Cookie’s 40 years on this earth. No small feat.

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M x T by Sina Queyras

M x T by Sina Queyras

If anyone can write a Cindy Sherman still, Sina Queyras can (Teethmarks). If anyone can write water, Sina can. If anyone can invoke Peter Frampton in one room and Virginia Woolf on the opposite page, Sina can (Lemon Hound). Childhood in her hand becomes the bird that knows how to fly away, and the bird that knows how to circle, and the bird who knows where to land. And when (Autobiography of Childhood).

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Bowie by Simon Critchley

Bowie by Simon Critchley

Simon Critchley’s Bowie is not a biography. It is not a memoir (“The unity of one’s life consists in the coherence of the story one can tell about oneself … It’s the lie that stands behind the idea of the memoir” (15)). No, Bowie is a book about Simon Critchley via Bowie’s music and personae; Bowie is a book about David Bowie and his music via Simon Critchley’s child- and adulthood minds (and hearts). Yes, plural. For identity, as Critchley writes, is not some “grand narrative unity.” Rather, paraphrasing Hume, it ”is made up of disconnected bundles of perceptions that lie around like so much dirty laundry in the rooms of our memory” (16). I am thrilled Critchley decided to pick up some of his own and move it around, re-curate (recreate) the amassed piles, and allow us to walk through those pungent rooms with him.

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Nevers: Fictions by Megan Martin

Nevers: Fictions by Megan Martin

Megan Martin operates as a deft Daedalus in the pages of her new book Nevers. Filled with short fictions, Nevers is narrated by a clever and questioning I, where I is an astute observer and sometimes-perpetrator of Icarus-like behavior, which seems to plague her contemporary society. The noted hubris is so great and the sun so bright in these works that it burns the skin: “The fire-tornado burns off our clothes and our eyeballs and fries my wig and whirls off across the country.” (80)

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