Songs & Ballads
Praise for Lindsay Turner
Lindsay Turner’s ravishing Songs & Ballads takes account of colors, architectures, skies, and the many ways the world is speculatively used and re-used for short-term ends. When to refrain? Refrain now, hold back from harm now, hold on to the world now and now, these elegiac, mysteriously worldy poems sing.
The sunlight was prettier for its uneven distribution,” observes Lindsay Turner, alerting us to the collectivist imperative subtending perception itself. “Oh share it, share it.” Songs & Ballads re-imagines historical poetics—“what’s the ragged quatrain’s job?”—as a critique of our unsustainable political economies. Employing recursive forms from the Medieval ballad to Modernism’s differential repetitions, Turner’s contemporary stanzas in meditation remediate “a range of arrangements / demanding attention” for the continuous present. Whether it be “the pentagons of space in the chainlink” or “what the animals we saw never knew,” we find, in this work, a world on the verge: “all systems go and some places broken.”
Witty, mordant, despairing, yet peculiarly refreshing poems: Lindsay Turner has done the thing few can do—she has made lyric critical; she makes thought sing. “Tuesday and I want an image/of the ecological condition/these raindrops just aren’t normal.” These are incantations of and against a seeping duress—with weird skies, ugly offices, bank holidays, ominous weather, bad feelings and wrong life. Her antennae quiver in this mood of disaster, as her poems become a “keeper of our collective distress.” Songs, ballads, ditties, fractured meditations: these poems offer a countermeasure, a countersong against the modern regime of blighting calculation. With their beguiling and wrong-footing music, these poems keep time and keep our time; they are insistent, seductive, surprising. The ocean, love, a day’s measure: are they “nothing to us”? Are we “good for nothing”? Keenly intelligent poems of dispossession and divestiture, they crack a smart whip in their ludic and paradoxically soulful deadpan. A spiky, neo-Brechtian spirit presides here as Turner puts sensuous form to work and play, her pulses a form of pierced, jagged beauty. “But who will hold and count these pieces?/What’s the ragged quatrain’s job?” “All systems go and what did you think was happening”: Turner holds this question, and the heart, open. Here is “a darker ethics,” and a darker compelling poetics.
—Maureen N. McLane
—Maureen N. McLane
More Than Mere Light
Praise for Jason Koo
No one has written a finer, stranger, more enjoyably various and intelligent long poem than Jason’s Koo’s “No Longer See,” the central poem in his splendid new book, More Than Mere Light. Schuyler and Knausgaard, Proust and Ashbery, to name just a few, meld into a poetic performance that is joyfully bent, and as gloriously funny as it is self-castigating. Underscoring all this is a sorrowing sense of self that can’t shake free of time—time as it drags or stops or flies during romance and sex and the passage from domestic happiness to failure, and as it marks off the progress of a poetry and a life coming into its full, vital strength. With a cool-eyed detachment from his own drama, Koo has written a book that is unforgettable in its candor, its disabused self-knowledge, and its generosity of spirit.
This book is about falling, a lot. There are good falls and uncomfortable falls and quiet falls and in-between falls and falling in and out of love with other people and yourself—as Koo aptly writes, “That was a falling.” Koo is brilliant at mastering the often anxious way we talk to ourselves in our heads, as a way to recall moments and construct memories, justify behavior to oneself, and explore the roles of gender dynamics and sexuality within a world full of distractions in an often strange modern technological landscape. Throughout the collection, Koo is wonderfully narrative, bringing us into the speaker’s world, full of jazz and biking and Brooklyn and girlfriends and students and conversations with both an overload of self-consciousness and a lack of it all at the same time (“What’s okay, okay?”). The speaker’s unabashed ability to be excessive while also having the reader rely on silence, on what isn’t told, creates a captivating world for the reader to explore—and most importantly, see themselves fully immersed in as they navigate their own bizarre lives and landscapes. Read it over and over and over again, so you can, as Koo says, drop back “against the light.”
—Joanna C. Valente
—Joanna C. Valente
There is an incredible musicality and witty humor in Jason Koo’s More Than Mere Light, that of a Brooklyn the poet has made his own, invoking in his lines fellow borough luminaries Hart Crane and Walt Whitman. Romantic love is linked to his love for the city, and often the two test each other, create doubt, and still forge an unlikely bond through conflict. In one of the collection’s earliest poems, “Break of Day, the Great City,” the speaker contemplates “The brown historic signs, the royal walks, the cobblestones, / Now yours, now yours, now simply who you are”—and how he could “throw it all away.” And while Koo questions what it takes to survive his ever-gentrifying landscape as much as being a poet today—”How many more writers could live in these brownstones? / How many more ampersands could live in contemporary poetry?”—he doesn’t “throw it all away.” Rather, Koo creates memorable and often hilarious responses to whatever would destroy us, leaving no stone unturned—indeed, fighting for those very stones of that “great city” and beyond, even “the distance toward the huge / unknown cemetery, / The millions of mysteries, the small, unending graves.”
Here High Note, High Note
Praise for Catherine Blauvelt
“Full of vatic intrigue and exuberance, Catherine Blauvelt’s poems demonstrate again and again how lexical intoxication can lead to clarity and wisdom.”
“Blauvelt makes it all possible.”
“A high-wire linguistic balancing act [that] revels in as-yet-unexplored possibilities of language… An entirely singular voice. . . . I, for one, will be following Blauvelt again and again into the kaleidoscopic delights and depths of her poetry.”
“A record of forms of thinking, feeling and hearing which are new to the universe. These poems are brilliant, fast, committed and strange objects which channel an almost unbearable sympathy for almost everything.”
Armando Jaramillo Garcia
The Portable Man
Praise for Armando Jaramillo Garcia
“[A] much-anticipated debut… this is a stunning and distinctive collection that pushes back against—and thrives under—the threat of homogeneity and oppression.”
“The Portable Man is a pool of life-substance.”
“The Portable Man moves with a kind of forensic exposure of the inner-makings of the world. Guided by a restlessness that projects the possibility of cosmic intervention, these individual poems collide to create something grander, akin to a weather system.”
Double Zero is the second collection of poems from Chris Hosea, whose first book, Put Your Hands In, was selected by John Ashbery as the winner of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. Drawing on popular song, contemporary multimedia art, and the poet’s personal experience, Double Zero presents tuneful, densely meaningful lyrics. Like collaged sheet music, these poems offer a wealth of opportunities for creative interpretation and performance.
Praise for Chris Hosea
“[Hosea] somehow subsumes derision and erotic energy and comes out on top.”
“An inventive approach to language that is as relentlessly provocative as it is approachable.”