Mendi and Keith Obadike, Four Electric Ghosts (1913 Press, 2009, 2011), 189 pp.; Big House/ Disclosure (1913 Press, 2014), 102 pp.—Despite the first, rather interesting, thirty-four pages of storytelling, Four Electric Ghosts is essentially a catalog of what appears to be an Afro-Futurist-inspired opera, at least in terms of its setting and design (disclosure: I’ve not had the opportunity to see any of the Obadikes' theatrical productions).
Stephen Collis and Jordan Scott, Decomp (Coach House Books, 2013), 135 pp. $24.95 CAN, $22.00 USA—Full disclosure: I am quoted toward the end of this book and cited in the notes. The introduction by Jonathan Skinner sets up one of the central issues addressed in this collection of poems, prose and photographs: “How did we get from some bodies to somebody? Decomp takes the text best known for exploring this question, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and subjects it to an experiment to find out how we get from somebody back to some bodies.” The experiment was ostensibly simple: Collis and Scott placed five copies of Species in five distinct ecosystems in British Columbia and left them there for a year before returning to document — via photographs and their own ruminations — what remains.
C.J. Martin, Unused Cover (Portable Press, 2013), 2012 (Supersuperette), Two Books (Compline, 2011)—Full disclosure: Martin cites me in the index of his reading influences and practices. Although I’m going to focus almost exclusively on Martin’s Compline book, the two recent chapbooks are crucial parts of his overall project insofar as the book itself is composed of work largely available in chapbook forms. This history would coincide seamlessly with much contemporary publication practices were it not the case that Martin takes up this bigger-is-better scheme (see my previous review of Donato Mancini’s Buffet World) as the subject of almost all his work.
Donato Mancini, Buffet World (New Star Books, 2011) 119 pp.— Like the asemic-semiotic procedures that drove Mancini’s 2007 book, Æthel, Buffet World, for different reasons, is utterly readable but almost impossible to read. Lurid as the rainbow-brushed, cartoonish, photographs and illustrations of meats, vegetables, and fruits, appetizers, snacks (cookies, potato chips, etc.) and “main” entrees that function like exclamation points, these hypostatized poems on the commodification and industrialism of food deliver devastating, mocking and irreverent right-left (as in boxing) combinations.
Mary Burger, A Partial Handbook for Navigators (Interbirth Books, 2008), 47 pp.—Per the writings of Sigmund Freud and Maurice Blanchot, human desire and human death haunt the five prose and poetry meditations that comprise this chapbook. Burger’s various riffs on the “rift” (starting with a detail from Amy Trachtenberg’s painting, Rift Zone), which opens up the part, the partisan (the section titled “A Series of Water Disasters” is an homage, in part, to guerilla activism) and partiality in general, shuttle back and forth between the narrator’s desire to convert the static noun (signaled here by the Golden Gate Bridge) into a verb. Burger mimics the noun, the name, by permitting almost all of her body, up to her neck, to be buried near Golden Gate Park, but this grave with a view — she observes passing “joggers, dog walkers, early strollers” — cannot replicate death (“It was nothing like being dead”) despite her desire for connection to earth, the noun and name, to, in brief, death: “I went looking for some recognition, on the earth’s part, or my part, that we were together.”