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.”
Phil Metres, Abu Ghraib Arias (FGP, 2011), unpaginated—On alternating verso (American soldiers) and recto (Iraqi prisoners of war) pages of this chapbook, Metres ventriloquizes the voices (though some of this work is drawn from published texts) of the culprits and victims of our most recent military adventures. Interspersed with the “confessions” and “blues” of the American soldiers (including Lyndie England) are several “Standard Operating Procedures” texts regarding the “handling” of Muslim bodies, the Koran and military documents.
A.L. Nielsen, A Brand New Beggar (Steerage Press, 2013), 99 pp—Among the academics he circulates as a peripatetic conference participant, Aldon Nielsen is probably best known for his literary criticism and cultural studies work. He is, after all, the author of one of the most significant books on African American poetry, Black Chant. However, he has been writing and publishing poetry all along, and it seems that in recent years he has ratcheted up the production. His most recent collection is his most fully realized book yet.