Lidia Yuknavitch has said, “I believe in art the way other people believe in god.” Her devotion to art as both solitary practice and collective communication is gorgeously evidenced in her new novel, The Small Backs of Children (HarperCollins, 2015). The novel is a love letter to the power and pulse of art that can destroy us, unmake our world, and reassemble us as something we could not have imagined.

Philip Larkin’s noted poem This Be the Verse harpoons familial sanctity.

 

“Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf
Get out early as you can
And don’t have any kids yourself.”

 

Not solely an angry poem, This Be the Verse is a recalcitrant force. In reality, Larkin’s fucked up benefaction is as much a sly smirk as it is contemptuous memorial. Along the lines of that anonymous dictum, it takes one to know one.

What Larkin has been to the anti-familial, John Tottenham strives to be for the anti-marriage set. Tottenham’s second poetic issue is Antiepithalamia and other Poems of Regret and Resentment, from Penny-Ante Editions. The epithalamia the title sets itself against is an obscurity and so is defined on the back- epi-tha-la-mium n., pl. –miums or mia: A song or poem in honor of a bride and bridegroom. Right from the start, the book winks at its reader, for it is a screwed up invention about what it perceives as a screwed up invention. As the first line of the book’s first Antiepithalmium stresses “At last their smugness is united.” Quite.

In Samuel Beckett’s 1957 play entitled “Endgame” four characters are placed within a triple-walled, minimalist stage. Although the characters seem to be the last remaining people on earth (with the exception of the young boy who briefly appears outside of the walled interior), they each seem to resist any and all physical, human contact with each other. Each potential touch and interaction between the characters is mediated by a prop, so that each point of contact only takes place when two characters touch the same object (barrier) that lies between them. It is my contention that Beckett deliberately eliminates any bodily contact in order to further emphasize and solidify the sterility present within this environment.

It’s a piece of history that was neglected, I suspect, diminished by a daily barrage of war news, economic up and down turns and celebrities acting poorly. It would be a footnote, obscure as some inscription in a Pharaoh’s tomb or the answer to a thousand dollar question on Jeopardy! Even I barely heard the rumors. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them. I ask them to look it up.

There is no point to this. The point is that I’m getting sick. I just noticed it an hour ago. Suddenly I am blowing my nose. Out of nowhere. And now feeling a little wonky. So I took some vitamin C and ate about 14 pounds of sautéed spinach and now I am sitting here waiting to die. If the pig flu gets me tell them I was an okay guy. Kind of quiet and not very good at tennis, but basically decent.