Jennifer Scappettone, from Dame Quickly (Litmus Press, 2009), 101 pp., 15.00 —Superficially, Scappettone’s first book of poetry and art resembles Stephanie Young’s Picture Palace enough—texts abutted by images near the end of each book—that I once had them paired for a course that, unfortunately, never materialized. I wanted to explore and exploit the formal, and thus significant, differences between them.
The alternative space Ballroom Projects is located in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, near where I live. Once a third floor ballroom that would have hosted family banquets in this working class area, it was later colonized by punks who put on hardcore shows. You have to walk up three flights of steep steps to reach its tall, cavernous space, which is surrounded on three sides by a mezzanine built out with bedrooms. Lovely banks of tall windows face south. It’s on Archer Street, backed up against Interstate 55, which one never ceases to hear through the cold, brown brick walls. It’s now informally linked to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; students and graduates of SAIC, where I teach, run it as a live-in project space. Robert Fitterman read there this spring, with Josef Kaplan, Holly Melgard, and Joey Yearous-Algozin. I read there one night in 2012. But it wasn’t a poetry reading. I was at one of many fascinating exhibits the space has hosted over recent years. And I was reading silently to myself, page by page from a stack of 8 ½ x 11 sheets set on the floor, one stack among several, something about or repeatedly extolling “true exposure.”
Eleni Sikelianos, Body Clock (Coffeehouse Press, 2008), 149 pp., $18.00—As a project that began out of the trauma of temporary agraphia and aphasia, Body Clock is the eight-part “record” of Sikelianos’ “return” to language, a journey marked here by the coming to “human” of her newborn.
The deep relationship between baseball and language has been remarked many times, but rarely if ever has it been enacted in the writing itself. Kevin Varrone’s Box Score is that enactment. Moment by moment, innings (as it were) of prose poems throw the ultimate linguistic eephus. Play by play wordplay struck by bits of ash verbal industry. No open-field poem can find the strike zone. It must go awry and in doing so presents a perfect game—rare but imaginable, and worth staying ‘til the end.