On “Learning” by Andrew Choate, a review by Rebecca Ramirez

Andrew Choate’s Learning is unconventional by default. Indeed, by the third page, the author has invoked Henri Michaux, “The Tin Drum” (Günter Grass), and “The Last Novel” (David Markson) – each a vanguard in their own right of definitively genre-blurring, “anti-literary” works. For the entirety of “Learning,” Choate continues this referential gesture, both buoying and defending his own work, which he generates by attaching a wide variety of topics to the book’s only refrain: “Something I learned from…,” for example:

Something I learned from Living with Moths

Don’t clap a moth over your head between your palms
It could fall into your upturned shirt sleeve
and ride down your arm
possibly across your chest
and then tickling will never feel the same” (39)

 

What’s new?

My chapbook, THE DEAD KID POEMS, (KYSO Flash, 2019) published in May. The sequel to my first book of elegies: State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies,(KYSO Flash, 2015), The Dead Kid Poems takes up where State of Grace left off. It chronicles the all-too-familiar stories of youth mowed down by circumstances: School shootings, drive-bys, suicides, overdose, accidents, disease, all are relevant. All are claiming kids before their time.

I’ve hung on to what’s left over –
what you touched, what fed you,

taken stock of the refrigerator’s gelid interior,
sought evidence you were here.

Behind the yellow mustard,
and a half-squeezed tube of disappointment,

that Tiger Sauce you loved.
Best Before: Sept. 2007.

Some things I needed to keep.

 

[The following poems are from Laura Theobald’s forthcoming poetry collection, KOKOMO (Disorder Press), which will be released on September 10th of this year. Preorder your copy here.]

 

 

 

 

I love the word cunt

I said cunt at the bar

and my friend’s mom said

it was a fighting word where she was from

I said I love the word cunt

the mom looked pissed

I think she might have wanted to fight me

I said I call my friends cunts all the time

I didn’t mention

that my friends don’t actually like that

and that actually those friends don’t even talk to me anymore

 

Why did you title your new collection Mary Oliver?

The short answer, what I tell people when approached at events, is that I’m using the name totemically. There’s an essay in the back of the collection, called “On Mary Oliver”, which deals with the title. Here’s a representative chunk:

“There is a gentle gibe here that I’m sure you’re picking up on. That’s definitely a layer of skin. Fame, ego, poetry and the interplay of these, as well as my own attitude surrounding them, are things I grapple with frequently, having to remind myself that I am not the center of the universe, that people deserve to be appreciated for their art, that this will result in hierarchies, and all of it’s okay, even if I disagree with the opinions of others, even if this isn’t what I want the world to look like, because I tried to control the world and many things wound up devastated. Giving the title over to another human’s name, specifically, a famous poet of perceived authority, has become a device through which I can do some of this grappling”.

I created an Instagram account for the book which features a FAQ, specifically around the title, because I foresaw a lot of feeling people could catch over using her name, especially as she passed away once the book was already with the printer. I haven’t caught as much shit as I thought I might, which is probably more a testament to my relative obscurity than anything else.

I

I do not believe in this slice of time, but in the tremor.

Not in the bird, but the shoulder.

Not in the bear, but the honeypot. Not the near future,

but in the constant memorization

of all my mistakes. Not in the thunder, but sneaking out

of the party, but not in the rain.

Not the umbrella, but the cock, the gravel, not the sky

turned black, not the eyes, but in the music

of flies over new rot, the fruit and not the vine. In the swollen

moment of climax I believe in the self,

as a well, as other, as the therapy of being wrong. In being

wronged, but not forever. I believe

in the hand on my throat as evidence of being, but not alone.

Please don’t let me be alone.

Woods and Clouds Interchangeable, Michael Earl Craig

[This is a poem from Michael Earl Craig’s new collection of poems, Woods and Clouds Interchangeable, out now from Wave Books. Order it here.]

 

 

At midnight a blinkered pony clopped up the winter road.

A single toon, weirdly amid twin rows of slippery elm.

I am called Honcho. Irrevocable have been my words.

I flick my fingertips violently, as if sprinkling a crowd.

The demitasse broods. Is alone. Is lonely.

I find I cannot go over to it.

 

The pony looked aggrieved, moved only to bossa nova

(ears perking to “Dumpling”). Flanked with trees

the road was white, and very straight. We stood

at the pie safe wanting in, some of us knocking,

while blue dream-tassels shook gently at the cuffs

of the robe of a well-meaning cad.

 

 

 

 

Bob sucked the golf ball through the garden hose, reluctantly.

Dot said she had toe-danced her entire way through college.

I had my head down, I was thinking. A hand reached casually

into my field of vision—the waiter touched my fries with his

Band-Aid. Baby chicks stepped into the clubhouse. Each one

tripped a bit on the rug’s edge. No one stopped them.

 

Bob sucked a second golf ball through in half the time.

Dot held one of her ankles beside her head like a swan song.

The season unbuttoned itself in little burps of pink and white.

They fed the racehorse pot brownies in his stall. He ate them

thoughtfully. The jockey fondled his heavy snaffle. It rained

only over Roanoke. Which I guess is why I’ve asked you here.

Eggshells

By Bud Smith

Poetry

Good Luck: Episode Nineteen

 

Eggshells

 

walked to the postal box, across

from the liquor store, and the bank.

At the box I saw egg shells

on the concrete, and thought

“I’m no Inspector Clouseau

but it appears that someone

ate a hard boiled egg here

between the hours of 3am

and now, which is precisely 11:18 am”

and a voice, my own, asked

“Inspector, how can you be sure?”

and I answered, “It’s simple,

there are no raindrops within

the cup of those broken egg shells.

The killer must have peeled

and eaten the eggs after

the rain stopped.” “Killer?”

“Well yes, this is certainly

the deranged handiwork of a killer.”

I slipped your letter in the box.

 

This is farther than I think I meant to take us, but that’s okay because in many ways—ways like this way or that way or maybe some way that no one has thought of yet, because everyone knows this way and that way—this was exactly as far as we were supposed to go when we went, and we went and went because going and having went is the way we say it’s us together and no one else is here and we love each other and I love you and you love me and screw the rest of everyone back at the place we left because it was a bad and terrible place with nothing for us.

 

POEM WRITTEN WITH LI CH’ING CHAO

 

Tears streak my rouge

and outside it’s raining

motionless rain the air

will carry me away

or I will become so drunk

I’ll forget all my passwords

and never stop talking

of their beauty.

For reasons unaccountable

I am ill, combing my long

hair exasperates me

in my hair dreams.

In the morning I have

no hair, Spring is late

only 1 or 2 people have viewed

my latest post.

What is your favorite word?

Tangerine

 

How do you describe yourself in two adjectives?

Creative, receptive

 

What is your favorite topic of conversation?

Tell me about your dreams. Learn how to interpret dreams and apply your knowledge in waking life. Dreams are creativity in its purest form. The world of dreams is pure consciousness. Pure thinking. Pure creativity. I imagine that the reality it forms is much like the state of death. Take care to liink reality with other realities and present perception / feeling as an independent reality.

Talk to me about food, recipes, traditional dinners, corn, platanos, beans, tagines & couscous … Talk to me about HUITLACOCHE.

Gone are these camps, smooth-floored
clear of tents and all that filled them.
Desolate the realm of the departed
brimming is the wind that rings of
war cataclysm and buoyant love months.

 

Why did you write Ways of Looking at a Woman?

I was working on a dissertation and I needed another way to procrastinate besides cat videos. I also wanted to explore some pressing questions I had about 1) women looking and being looked at, 2) how film and literary theory could help me answer these questions, and 3) how mothers fit into all of this.

It electrocutes me in the best possible way to watch the thoughts marching from afar like a terrifying army.

What’s this sick compulsion to shatter the celluloid that encases me, write my way out with a lyric essay, pervade, project light through light, wrap my head around what I am: a movie in the shape of a woman, seeing and being seen, writer-mother, a mixed genre, a person with another person growing inside her?

And what will happen if I can’t? Will my skin curl, crack, and harden till I’m mummified, bundled beetle-like in my own ambition? If only someone had told me early on, “You will never get the orange peel off in one clean spiral, but more haunting shapes will come out of it in the end.”

Four Poems

By Nathan Dragon

Poetry

 

And Every

 

He met his friend at the shop where his friend works and his friend asked him if he wanted to meet him at his house after work. After work, he met up with his friend at his friend’s house and at his friend’s house, his friend asked if he’d want to meet up the next day at the shop where he works. So, the next day, he met his friend at the shop where his friend works and his friend asked him if he wanted to meet him at his house after work.

Yeah, see you then. Each time.

He doesn’t mind anything and it’s easy this way.