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poetry

Book Review

When People Die

by on May 15, 2018

When People Die by Thomas Moore

 

Review by Michael Browne

 

 

Exciting indie imprint Kiddiepunk have long been a purveyor of fringe / esoteric media and literature. Home to Dennis Cooper’s .gif novels, collage-like short films, and a bizarre reverb-drenched remix of Hanson’s debut album, Kiddiepunk’s multi-modal output is as hard to grasp as it is transgressive. The imprint’s latest release, a poetry collection titled When People Die by UK-based poet Thomas Moore, sees Moore retreading all the familiar melancholic beats of his previous works, while flirting with a disquieting brevity.

 

When People Die is a collection of confessional and fractured poems that spans three formal sections. Over these sections we are witness to more of the writer’s Genet-like fascination with the devious and emotionally void underbelly of human sexuality. In Moore’s world, sexual depravity reigns above all else, and his speaker is often left emotionally maimed or disoriented by his experiences. These stark and austere poems see the speaker blurring the lines of comprehension between love, lust, sex, and violence, and often all within the space of a line. Unlike similar writers that seem to take a certain kind of masochistic pleasure in writing from the gutter, one gets the sense that Moore truly writes from a place of sincere pain, emotional distress, and a graphically rendered despair.

 

Many of Moore’s poems find him striving to understand and compartmentalize his nebulous feelings of love, lust, and sexuality. The people that inhabit Moore’s world are often strung out and suicide prone, others float in and out, ambiguous and shadowy—barely existing on the page.

 

Your suicide keeps on getting postponed

Your friends say that it’s because you’re lazy

 

They want to talk about entitlement

 

Your friends are talking like you are not there

The sunglasses at night complement that

 

The inability to find tactile, lasting connections that go beyond a landscape of sadistic sexual rendezvous is something “When People Die”—and much of Moore’s work—seems to be preoccupied with. Lovers nihilistically connect over cruising apps and watch their connection ultimately drift, friends casually contemplate suicide, and regrets run deep.

The sound of the skateboarders
Outside the Palais de Tokyo
Sets my mind on a certain track


It’s these memories of teenage
Lives that I pretended were mine
While I lived one that was much less

 

The second section of the collection is devoted to what Moore has called his “Instagram Haikus.” These pieces work exceptionally hard and do well to convey the bleak nature of the collection—and because of their concision—offer up a heavy dose of claustrophobia. What Moore has done is craft eerily condensed and almost crystallized versions of the despair in the longer form poems, cutting them down to their void-like essence, creating a series of little deaths—Les petites morts.

 

The walls are pulsing

Haunting desires of strangers

Bodies start to merge

 

—-

 

Desperate for rope
I’m swinging from the ceiling
Death is hypnotic

 

Many of the Instagram Haikus appear like notes left behind on a lover’s nightstand, or cryptic DM’s sent in the middle of the night. All tinged with measured doses of ennui, regret, fleeting hope, and captured in a style that is more than apt for the 21st century.

 

The last section features the longest piece within the collection, and contains arguably the most compelling language and imagery. The narrator is woken from a dream to a phone call from an ex-lover or friend—the relationships between people are so vague and hallucinatory within Moore’s poetry that it’s hard to tell—and is recounted a nightmare featuring a dead young boy. What follows is a hazy chronicling of the emotional detritus of their relationship, and coupled with disturbing images of the boy that could easily be from a dream or reality.

 

…And my mouth
For a second looks
Like the fucked up
Mutilated kid’s corpse
And I’m screaming
At you
To put down this book
To stop reading these words…

 

Moore’s use of the dead boy’s mutilated body to describe the emotional turmoil of his relationship with his distressed friend works hauntingly well enough to avoid being heavy-handed or cliche. This falls in line perfectly with what Moore does so well throughout When People Die, which is his ability to describe such acute horror and apply it with such casual nihilistic flair to the unspoken emotions of his characters, rendering them mute and ineffective.

 

When People Die returns us to the literary transgressions of Genet, de Sade, Cooper, et al, but with a heightened sense of 21st century terror and ennui. Sexual nihilism and violence have been condensed into the spaces allotted for an Instagram caption, but the pain and emotional toll still loom large as ever. Moore has created another haunting collection, where suicide is always a viable option, sex is hell, and the void is perpetually gaping wide.

 

When People Die is available now from Kiddiepunk.

Book Review

A Sleepless Man Sits Up in Bed

by on July 18, 2017

A Sleepless Man Sits Up in Bed, by Anthony Seidman

 

I remember getting caught in a riptide off the beach in Rosarito, in Baja California. We’d been told from a young age to swim to the side to get out, but I was eleven and on my own and it’s rather difficult to be mindful of oft-repeated lessons when a column of water is dragging you out further than your pubescent courage has ever dared. I barely made it to the empty shore that afternoon, and I don’t remember much about the precious minutes I actually spent in the water. But I remember lying on the beach after. First on my side, dry heaving for a long time, then on my back, just beyond where the water could touch me. I laid there for a long time, realizing for the first time that almost dying wasn’t as cool as the movies made it seem. I wanted to sleep, but I couldn’t, and in my growing frustration (because how else does a young male mind process fear but through anger?), I sat up. Everything was the same as it had been a few minutes before: beautiful, inexorable, and enormous.

 

And now you have died. And the flow of grace along with you.

It is said God has never permitted what

burns brightly among mortals to sputter, and fade.

Because of that our hope endures.

 

Anthony Seidman’s A Sleepless Man Sits Up in Bed is a poetry collection unlike any I have encountered because of the physical impact and sheer power of the language. We writers should be reluctant to tap into clichés, but I feel no shame in describing this collection as beautifully and transcendently earthen. Reading “Field Trip” is like scraping fingertips against land shattered by drought. Reading “Urge” is like pressing your hands into the loose soil over a fresh grave. Reading “The Trilobite” reminds you of sand unevenly coating half your exhausted body. Most every line layers itself with weight, pressing down into the rest of the poem like sedimentary rock and calcifying its own significance. This is the kind of collection that truly lends itself to being read aloud, as each word and line fills the mouth with the sweetness of chocolate and the grit of long dried meat.

 

I cut all strings never attached, and say

goodbye to your gymnasiums and diners,

I foreclose on this scrap of light,

crumble your cathedral with a pinch of salt.

 

Part of the power at play here is that Seidman accomplishes what seems to be an increasingly difficult feat in contemporary literature – making poignant statements with subtlety, while not sacrificing impact. There is something here for anyone with a modicum of foresight or empathy, be you an environmentalist, a futuristic, a sociologist, or anything else. The poems comment on everything from immigration to religion to relationships to plate tectonics and they do so in ways that feel immediate and relatable. They do so in a manner that reminds you that our attempts to separate these allegedly unrelated ideas are ultimately arbitrary and futile. And yet each is treated with respect. Borders are not being torn down and spit on. They are acknowledged as the mental constructs they are. That said, the act of penetrating those borders is also acknowledged for its frightening power, without condoning or demonizing.

 

I step back & invite him in;

his fingers of vinegar stick thru

my chest, pickle this grisly heart so that

crows will caw at noon.

 

A Sleepless Man is a collection of poetry that you have to allow yourself to experience. I don’t mean that in the basic sense of simply reading. Anyone can do that. To experience this kind of poetry is to allow your mind to live the experience. You have to feel the centripetal force of swinging like a jug of water at the end of a rope so that you do not spill. You have to feel the ground envelope you as the red spider drags you down. This is perhaps the one way in which the collection is not traditionally accessible; it is a work that assumes you can and will wade into the water, that you will pick up the shovel and start to sweat. But to call this a flaw would be to suggest that the collection be something lesser than it is.

 

As a Mexican American, I do have to admit to some bias. Maybe I’m predisposed to enjoy hearing about the Desert Winds or the trees of the Yucatan from a poet who knows the land and knows what he is doing. But it’s hard to imagine a more “objective” perspective drawing a different conclusion. A Sleepless Man Sits Up in Bed is shaman’s invocation of the elements and the ancestors, seeking to commune with them to learn their wisdom and wield their power. It is a song that, despite fitting inside sixty pages, is part funeral dirge and part love ballad and part call to arms. I recommend it for anyone who feels as though the world can be aloof and uncaring. It will help you hear that your heartbeat, thundering after almost drowning, is in rhythm with everything else.

 

A Sleepless Man Sits Up in Bed is available through Eyewear Publishing

Book Review

Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages & Uncollected Poems

by on August 23, 2016

diseno-de-tapa-kyn-taniya-print1Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages & Uncollected Poems by Kyn Taniya

There is something to be said about the importance of translation in regards to literature. I would not have been able to experience the work of so many writers that I love and admire if it were not for the endeavor of translators. Sometimes, the translation is coupled with a work being re-issued after many years, shining light on authors that may not have had much exposure outside their language. Allowing the work to breathe new life and hopefully widen the reach of their powerful words. When I am handed a book of translation it is quite frequently an exciting moment. The gravity of the process that it took in order for the book to reach my hands does not fall lightly on me. This was especially true with the book Radio: Wireless Poem In Thirteen Messages & Uncollected Poems by Kyn Tania.

 

Originally published in Mexico in 1924, where it now considered a cult classic of the estridentista avant-garde movement, Radio has now been translated after 92 years for a new audience to experience. The first thing that strikes about this bi-lingual collection is the sheer modernity of the work. The poems in this short collection feel like they could have easily been composed today as they were in the early 1920’s.

 

Poems discussing wireless technology and celestial objects, making reference to radio waves, could be seamlessly interchanged to discussions of cell phones and Wi-Fi signals. An example of this is in the poem “Midnight Frolic”:

 

           Silence

Listen to the conversation of words

in the atmosphere.

 

There is an insupportable confusion of terrestrial voices

and of strange voices

faraway

 

The feeling of connection in these poems – that is hopeful in many ways – still bleed so beautifully into the feelings of unease that has only grown exponentially as technology has grown. Today the voices we hear are schizophrenic and never ending (unless you are lucky enough to pass through a data dead zone which is becoming more and more infrequent). The idea of broadcasting yourself out in the world is still such a novel idea today, one that I grapple with on frequent occasion. Because it is still so new, the rules and etiquette are ever changing, what may be socially acceptable one day may be strange another day. You just have to listen to the right voices.

 

The concepts and feelings in regards to technology are coupled with social unrest, political instability on a global level, and loss of loved ones to make poems whose words are cutting, sincere, and contemplative. In the poem “… IU IIIUUU IU …” (of which there is a great recording online of the poet reading it) we are presented with broadcasts of problems and occurrences around the world: Deaths in Chicago, unrest in Bagdad, sports heroes, and more all for sale to consumers at low prices. So quick and accessible it would be a shame not to take it all in.

 

When I read these poems I was given the realization of how much the world has really not changed. There have been advancements in technology that have pushed us closer together, closer to the stars, yet closer to oblivion; however the sentiment, the soul of what concerns us as human beings is still very much the same. The poems that live within this collection are fresh, and vibrant. Just as alive as when they were written.

 

Radio by Kyn Tania is available through Cardboard House Press

News

Issue One Preview: Poem by Keith Niles

by on February 26, 2015

All The Crap You Keep Inside Grows Sunflowers
By Keith Niles

All the crap you keep inside grows sunflowers and
bell peppers and opium poppies that brood in the
richest darkest loam for weeks and months in the
suppression of the sadness of your unfulfilled visions
before something gives way to the sun and the
heart blooms black and bursts forth with awful
truths. I’m afraid I may have a nervous breakdown
before long, the seeds are too strong and these
flowers are those no one wants to see, they bring
death to things and sadness to the land. I’m sad, I’m
sad, and I just really can’t say right now, you know,
the garden needs all the quiet it can get, the
garden has a need, it needs to grow.

News

by on January 31, 2015

There are many great literary events going on in and around LA if you know where to look. Our good friend D.M. Collins is hosting his literary salon “A Rrose in a Prose” at Stories bookstore in Echo Park on February 8th at 2pm. See the flyer below for more information and we hope to see you there.

Rose