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Angel City Review

Founded in Los Angeles in Fall 2014, Angel City Review is a literary journal that is committed to bringing the cutting edge in fiction and poetry to a modern audience.

Book Review

Balloon Pop Outlaw Black

by on February 28, 2017

Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, by Patricia Lockwood

Review by T.M. Lawson

 

There are too many (or maybe not enough) words to state my worship of Patricia Lockwood. I forget if it was her infamous “Rape Joke”, or the lesser known but still as psychically-charged “He Marries the Stuffed Owl Exhibit At the Indiana Welcome Center”, that drew me into her orbit as some free-falling fan-cum-satellite, but Lockwood is a young immortal in the literary world. Her art of infusing social critique and commentary with divine poetics is evidence enough; her chapbook (Balloon Pop Outlaw Black released by Octopus Books, 2012) was followed up by Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexual (Penguin, 2014). Her “sext” series on Twitter illustrates that she can take a medium and run away with it, provoking the internet with post-coital spasms (sometimes mistaken as a seizure).

Poetry is often argued as “dead” or “irrelevant” because of the changing of the guard; the clash of new and old generations arguing over how it should be used. In a way, they are right; poetry is dead—the old generation’s conception of poetry. Poetry is a phoenix. The Beat generation endured this transformation, the Confessionals suffered it, the Spoken Word poets ignored it (sometimes preferring to be separate)—and the same for the Lockwood-esque writers who reject convention while warping it to suit their means. Melissa Brody (So Sad Today and Last Sext), Kate Durbin (who claims that ‘they’ don’t pick Poet Laureates who use “cunt” in their poetry) and dozens of other emerging writers who blur the line of poetic form and sensibilities. It was the same for Romantics as it is for these Millennial writers: poetry is dead, long live poetry.

Patricia Lockwood could be seen as an anomaly in the literary world: no M.F.A., no elite connections, straight out of Kansas, completely organic in conception. In a way, I feel that this has given her an advantage over the M.F.A. graduates; not in measures of talent, but it is understandably difficult to create a heterogeneous writing population if most of these writers are graduating from the same universities and programs, taught by the same writers and professors, applying the same angles of theory with minor variations—literary inbreeding. In workshops, writers sometimes feel the pressure to conform and align the content to some “politically [literary-fashionable] correct” view, because in a way the workshop acts as a focus group, a miniature audience. Lockwood circumvented this and went straight for the jugular, a different sort of poetry: pop cultural, passionate, filthy, grotesque (Walt Whitman doing the nursing?), yet dry and critical at the same time. Highbrow meets lowbrow. This type of art resonates with the reasonably educated or at least hip reader.

I had the privilege of reading her second book before reading her first. Popeye is a surprising motif to decorate the cover, some freakish monster right out of an Adult Swim cartoon. In some ways, this book is the prequel to Fatherland Motherland Homelandsexual—pungent sexuality in that book has more in common with fisting than Wordsworth, while Balloon Pop Outlaw Black seems to have been corseted. This is Lockwood easing into poetics, not quite comfortable but on her way to challenging conventions. But everyone has to start somewhere, and it is interesting to map growth from her first book to her latest.

For example, she spends fifteen pages on deconstructing cartoon Popeye and the ideas that prop him up, “He has never worn a mustache, because he is not capable of growing a mustache. This is because he lacks both the letters M and W.” The poem is exactly Lockwoodian: prose stuffed into verse form, with a touch of irony and wit as she questions the everyday.

One of my favorite poems of hers in this book is “The Construction of a Forest for the Stage”:

…If a woman lives in the forest, we build
her a half-log cabin out of only the visible sides
of trees. She is self-sufficient; in her hand, the play
opens out like a hundred-blade jackknife, and
she cuts her name, and then all of us are watching …\

She plays upon the idea that not only are the characters and speaker watching, but we the readers as well. The whole poem is about performance, “construction” of identities and roles and social expectations. Then there is the equitable relationship the woman has with the forest, both as objects in the spotlight (the forest as backdrop, the woman as an actress). Lockwood’s poetry in this chapbook is surprisingly dense with detail, metaphor, and narrative that sometimes it feels like the page is choking with words. In other parts, the content becomes plain weird. Delightfully, isolatingly weird. (There’s a multi-page miniature epic reboot of Jonah; a boy on some sort of philosophical nautical adventure with a female whale, among other bizarre inventions.)

What sets it apart from other poetry collections is how much of a story Lockwood is portraying, really pushing prose poetry and the line between the two genres meet to its limit. Stylistically, more than half of the content is not traditional verse form, making this feel like a hybrid short story/poetry collection than any poetry that the regular reader might be more familiar with. After all of the conventional and traditional poetry I’ve read, even those that defy these stylings somehow repeat them; Lockwood’s gamble on prose-dominant styling works for her topsy-turvy message. The overwhelming depth of strange bedfellows she brings out (the dictionary salesmen whose “teeth are all / black gaps”, two halves of a horse speaking to each other, fathers and mothers of all varieties) creates a horrific symphony, the chorus being Lockwood’s deadpan wry observation of our natural (and unnatural) world.

A good instance of this is her frequent mention of forest as not just a subject and setting, but as a character, like a background character slowly being fleshed out into a supporting role. Another peculiarity is within the form of the poetry, particularly “Killed With an Apple Corer, She Asks What Does That Make Me”, which ends on a comma, leaving the entire piece hanging on the pause, experiencing the waiting. It brought to mind the old cellophane reels and a strip stilling, images slowly burning – that’s what her poem evoked. If you enjoyed her latest book Motherland, Fatherland, Homelandsexuals, you’ll adore this early look into Patricia Lockwood’s brain and the poetic tentacles testing out a sea of words.

 

Balloon Pop Outlaw Black is available through Octopus Books.

News

Submissions for Issue 5 now open

by on January 12, 2017

Hello All, thank you for everyone who has read, submitted, and otherwise contributed to Angel City Review thus far. Over the past two years we have worked hard to build a journal that is inclusive, open, and representative of the actual community that we live in.

There is always more work to be done and we hope that everyone will help us in this process. We definitely would love more submissions from women, people of color, queer or non gender identifying individuals, writers with disabilities, and everyone in between.

We want writing that delves into the depths and gets extremely personal. Work that pushes boundaries or tries something interesting and new.

While we are primarily focused on writers in the Los Angeles County and surrounding regions, we publish work from writers across the west coast of the United States.

We accept poetry, fiction, non-fiction works.

Submissions can be sent to submissions @ angelcityreview.com  and will close April 30th- Please check submission guidelines for more info.

News

Entropy’s Best of 2016 list

by on December 6, 2016

We are excited to share that Entropy has listed us on their best journals and presses list of 2016. It is an honor to be included with such amazing company. We hope to continue to do more of the same work in the foreseeable future. Thank you to everyone who has been around for the ride so far. Check out the list below.

 

2016presses

Issues

Issue Three

by on July 1, 2016

issue 2 cover

Issue 3 is now available.

Featuring the work of:

  • Frank Mundo
  • Janice Lee
  • Michael du Plessis
  • Emily Fernandez
  • Nelson Alburquenque
  • James Cushing
  • Alyssa Crow
  • Oktavi Allison
  • Mike (the poet) Sonksen
  • Marcus Clayton
  • Sarah Thursday
  • Luivette Resto
  • AJ Urquidi
  • Kirk Sever
  • Jesse Bliss
  • Maja Trochimczyk
  • Rebecca Gonzales
  • Hugo Cesar Garcia
  • Saba Waheed
  • Marie Scampini
  • Christian Cardenas
  • Julia Ingalls
  • Nicelle Davis

Art by Benjamin Harmon

iBook/epub Interactive PDF
News

Issue 3

by on June 3, 2016

Issue three will be released on July 8th 2016. We will also be having a release reading on this date. Information will be announced shortly.

News

Issue 2 Now Available and Other News

by on December 29, 2015

Hello everyone out there on the interwebs. Issue 2 of Angel City Review is now available for your consumption. As always it is free, but if you enjoy the issue and so choose you can donate funds via paypal through submissions@angelcityreview.com

Our release party is happening today December 29th at Ave 50 Studios in Highland Park at 7pm. 131 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, California 90042

Featured Readers:
Chiwan Choi
Teka-Lark Fleming
Art Currim
Estella Ramirez
Trista Hurley-Waxali
Billy Burgos

The Alex Santos Quintet will also be playing a set of Jazz afterwards for your enjoyment.

 

In addition to issue two, we are excited to announce that we will be posting book reviews on our website starting in about a week. We will post contemporary book reviews and some not some recent books that you may have missed. If you have a book you would like us to review you can send us the info at our submissions email. If you would like to contribute book reviews you can also email us there as well.

Issues

Issue Two

by on December 1, 2015

issue 2 cover

Issue 2:

Featuring work by:

  • Art Currim
  • Danielle Grilli
  • Karen An-Hwei Lee
  • Adrian Cepeda
  • Jackie Chou, Sara Khayat
  • Mark Jackley
  • Marie Lecrivain
  • Khadija Anderson
  • Chiwan Choi
  • Estella Ramirez
  • Reynaldo Macias
  • Billy Burgos
  • Terry Wright
  • Jessica Ceballos
  • Terri Niccum
  • Alex Simand
  • Brian Dunlap
  • Alexandra Hohmann
  • Teka Lark Fleming
  • Luke Silver
  • Trista Hurley-Waxali
  • David Vieux
  • Jeff Nazzaro
  • James Bezerra

Art by Gagandeep Singh

iBook/epub Interactive PDF
News

Final Days for issue two submissions

by on September 6, 2015

Hello everyone. I hope you have been enjoying issue one thus far. We are tirelessly at work on issue two and would like to remind you that  there are less than 10 days to submit. This issue is looking to be a very exciting one. We will also be sending out responses to all those who have already submitted shortly.

News

Update

by on August 22, 2015

Thank you to everyone who has downloaded and been enjoying the first issue thus far. We are in the process of working on issue two and we are very excited for what we will be sharing with you all in the next few months. While this project is a labor of love and we will never charge anything for the issues, we will gladly accept donations of any amount if you appreciate the work. Donations can be sent to our paypal account through the email submissions@angelcityreview.com Thanks again for all the support you all have shown thus far.

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