Frank Montesonti

And God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden!

AWP Winners — Ryan Spooner REGRET

Regret

Every year at the AWP bookfair I buy about $500 dollars worth of books and read them over the course of a year. This is my attempt to say a little something about the ones I loved.

REGRET   by Ryan Spooner

If this is the quality of book being put out the newly formed The Lettered Streets Press (Chicago, Seattle), I eagerly await more of their titles. REGRET by Ryan Spooner is a standout debut collection of essays, if you could so easily box them in a genre; for they have the lyricism of poetry, the brutal introspection of the best creative nonfiction, and the razor sharp thinking of criticism. The subject matters are familiar for a first collection of essays – growing up poor in the South, grade school fisticuffs, the mystical quandaries of first relationships; but the book also weaves in transgressive threads. My clothing metaphor is appropriate here for the collection focuses in on the speaker’s love of clothes and identity as a “dandy” and how that complicates the typical male gender roles that the book so incisively maps. Of course, it’s not only the intricate stitching of the subject matter that makes these stories so pleasurable, but also the quality of the thread. Forgive me for stretching out this sweater, but few people in reviews talk much just about the quality of prose in a collection. It’s not just the clean lines of the phrases and how the prose constructs voice and inflection, but it’s also in the collection’s diction. It does not revel in words just for the indulgence, it revels in accuracy, and the pleasure is how often it finds an exact word or phrase that feels like it couldn’t have been articulated any other way. Who but Ryan Spooner can use the word ‘Ozymandian’ and do so in a way that feels both necessary and correct? I can’t give a book any bigger compliment than to say that at many points in this collection I found myself pounding my fist on the table and yelling “Yes,” just for how goddamn accurate an idea was phrased. Note this passage when the speaker reflects on the male gaze:

“There’s an inversion of inside and outside—that safe, soft dichotomy ruptures—and it baffles you a little it. And though the feeling I anticipated in that moment was glee, the actual response was panic, and I suffered a sort of contrapasso: I felt punished by what I’d wanted.”

Again and again, the book describes the necessary paradoxes of feelings and human motivations so accurately that I get that electric jolt in the brain I usually only get from reading good criticism.

For the love of God, buy this book. You won’t REGRET it, like I do this final sentence.

Mini-Review of Vital Pursuits by Evan Glasson

Vital PursuitsVital Pursuits was a book of poems I bought randomly at the last AWP book fair, and it was one of my favorite surprises of the year. What I like so much about it is how it proves that you can have a formally inventive book that also makes you feel something. The poems are enjoyable just on the level of language, but they also don’t shy away from narrative, character, or situation. The book is a long poem, and in choosing the long poem form, Glasson avoids the tiresome conventions of endings. Instead the book reads like a series of interesting middles of poems connected by theme and creating a larger whole. The poems drift from trope to trope, exploring angles briefly, wearing lenses, but then moving restlessly on to other tropes and lenses. But the impulse doesn’t strike one as artifice. Instead it rings of genuineness and emotional vulnerability. The tropes are necessary in coming to terms with experience, not conceptual games played for their own sake.

One of the most pleasurable aspects of the book is on the level of the line. Glasson has a real knack for creating surprise in his line breaks and writing lines that stand alone as poetic units. It is a lovely reminder that the line is the most basic element of poetry and that a good poem has an obligation to surprise us with every line.

I could open to almost any page for an example. Here is pg. 38.

[…] at the wedding, I love
how little the lovers need say.
Sometimes it’s more about being there.
in cases of direct currents, we measure
electrical resistance in ohms.
There, There, says the mother
to the crier. There is a distance
implied. an instruction to leave it
where it is. To leave it alone.
Spanish has one word for faraway
there and another for not so/ far there. […].

Rarely was there a line in the book where I felt something interesting didn’t happen, and in many other books of poetry that I bought randomly this year, I would be hard pressed to find anything interesting that happened at all.

I highly recommend this book as one of my favorite discoveries of 2012.

Stanley Rubric

Stanley Rubric

Hope Tree Has Arived!!!

Image 

Hope Tree has arrived!!! Thanks to everyone that pre-ordered. If you didn’t get a copy yet, just go to http://blacklawrence.homestead.com/montesonti.htm

Hope Tree is a book of poetic erasure that I created from erasing words from an old manual on how to prune fruit trees.

Here is a kind review by Alethea Kehas. http://thedailyerasure.com/2013/03/18/a-review-of-hope-tree/

Hope Tree Now Available for Pre-Order!

My new book of erasure poems, Hope Tree, (How To Prune Fruit Trees) is now available for pre-order through Black Lawrence Press for the amazing price of $9.95! Be first to get it when it comes out this April! Just go to http://blacklawrence.homestead.com/montesonti.html

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