Monthly Archives: February 2014

All That Woe Out There: Rob Fitterman’s ‘No, Wait. Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself.’

“I am a genius of sadness,” reads a line from Robert Fitterman’s book-length poem, No, Wait. Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself. (Ugly Duckling Presse, 80 pages). “I am a prism / through which sadness could be / Divided into its infinite spectrums.” It’s as good a description as any of the book’s central premise: the appropriation of public articulations of loneliness and angst from blog posts, song lyrics, and ads, and the collaging of these excerpts, without context, in a relentless, eighty-page masterwork of Weltschmerz. Invariably first-person and homogenously histrionic, quotations give rise to an emergent “I” that is at …Continue reading

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What It Means to Be Alive and Dying at the Same Time: Jack Mueller’s ‘Amor Fati’

Amor Fati, a thick volume of new and selected poems from Beat affiliate and once San Francisco fixture Jack Mueller, truly lives up to its name (Lithic Press; 177 pages). “Love of fate,” as the title translates, appears in these pages in many forms: as contemplative acceptance, surly fatalism, awed joy. One moment pondering the nature of death, the next exuberantly describing a bird, Mueller vacillates between optimism and resignation as he moves between the registers of philosophical abstraction and concrete observation. Distinctly the work of an older writer, Amor Fati tackles almost exclusively cosmic questions—about mortality, love, and our …Continue reading

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The Need to Keep Maintaining Balance in Whom We Publish: ZYZZYVA’s VIDA Count

This week, VIDA, Women in Literary Arts, released its 2013 count results. Since 2010, the annual count compares the number of women to men published in major and respected national publications; importantly, the count also looks at the distribution of books by female and male authors that are reviewed, as well as the number of female versus male book reviewers. Equality is ideal, not only for its own sake, but also for the sake of publishing the best journal possible. In every sense, it serves ZYZZYVA as much as any other journal to maintain a balance between male and female …Continue reading

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Translating Horror: Hassan Blasim’s ‘The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq’

To translate may be “to turn from one language into another.” But there is another meaning—to “remove from one place to another”—the underlying current being that the felicitous translation is not merely one of technical and semantic moves. Translation, as Borges’ “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” purports as much as lampoons, is an act of rewriting for a culture with a wholly different epistemic, lexical, and historical foundation. Those things that revolve around and jut forth through the translated text— from editorial interjections and the frameworks of the material book to a culture’s sensibilities and history—render the text as a protean …Continue reading

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Troubled & Young, But That’s O.K.: Adam Wilson’s ‘What’s Important Is Feeling’

What’s Important Is Feeling (Harper Perennial, 198 pages), the new collection of short stories by Adam Wilson, begins with a few lines from Denis Johnson’s poem “Enough”: “as if we held in the heavens of our arms/not cherishable things, but only the strength/ it takes to leave home and then go back again.” The push and pull of home—the fear of arriving unchanged, still incomplete—is an ever-present theme throughout Wilson’s fiction. His first novel, Flatscreen, told the story of Eli Schwartz, a stoner in his early 20s who lives at his parents’ house in a ritzy Massachusetts suburb, a young …Continue reading

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An ‘Almanac’ of Family, Legacy, and the Rural World: Q&A with Austin Smith

Almanac (96 pages; Princeton University Press) is the first full-length book of poems by Austin Smith, a Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford University. His poetry has been published in ZYZZYVA (Issue No. 83 and forthcoming in Issue No. 100), The New Yorker, The Sewanee Review and other places. Recently, his fiction has appeared in The Kenyon Review and Glimmer Train. In his collection, which was selected by Paul Muldoon for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets, Smith explores Midwesten scenes—of bait shops, county fairs, abandoned silos and barns where cows are giving birth—in narrative poems which are as …Continue reading

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The Lone Survivor Bears Witness to Atrocity: Jessica Bozek’s ‘The Tales’

The Tales by Jessica Bozek (Les Figues Press, 78 pages) consists mostly of prose poems from a variety of first-person narrators, all on the subject of a fictional genocide known as “Operation Sleep.” Inspired largely by the literature of witness, on which she based a seminar at Boston University called Reading Disaster, Bozek tells the grim story of a land whose citizens die en masse upon a visitation from a soldier who hails from a powerful nation and is fluent in the local tongue. When the soldier speaks, the people of the land sink into the earth—except one, known as …Continue reading

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The Rewards (and Risks) of the Difficult: Ben Marcus’s ‘Leaving the Sea’

Ben Marcus is a man who prefers not to put things too easily. Since his first book was published almost twenty years ago—The Age of Wire and String, a collection of stories that could have also been prose poems or even guides to some other plane—Marcus has carved a career out of writing complex, formally inventive fictions that seem to confuse just as many readers as they impress. In 2005, after Harper’s published an essay in which Marcus defended difficult and experimental fiction from the likes of Jonathan Franzen and the Atlantic Monthly’s B.R. Myers, Marcus became an unofficial spokesperson—some …Continue reading

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We Want What Language Won’t Do: Dean Rader’s ‘Landscape Portrait Figure Form’

There’s a little room adjacent to the Djerassi Gallery of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in which, during the Paul Klee at SFMOMA exhibit in 2011, several of Klee’s small drawings and sketches hung. While the main gallery—spread with bright, prismatic paintings on large canvases—was overwhelming, the little annex was quieter and still, its pictures more thoughtful and muted. It was a place to ponder and absorb the dazzling content and heady theory of Klee’s works, a place for the emergent patterns of thought and art to coalesce and make themselves known. Dean Rader’s new chapbook, Landscape Portrait …Continue reading

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Putting to Verse a Childhood Spent with Barnabas Collins: Q&A with Tony Trigilio

The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood): Book 1 (BlazeVOX; 104 pages) is a batty new book-length poem from Chicago poet Tony Trigilio that takes as its inspiration the ’60s Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. Since he watched the series as a child with his mother, Trigilio has been haunted by the series’ vampiric hero, Barnabas Collins, whose compulsive bloodlust fostered a host of neuroses in the young poet. In an effort to face his demons, compose his memoirs, and keep alive the memory of his mother—all the while combining elements of kitsch, ekphrasis, and new formalism—Trigilio writes one sentence …Continue reading

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Pushing Against the Constraints of Circumstance: Q&A with Kate Milliken

Kate Milliken is a graduate of the Bennington College Writing Seminars and recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Tin House summer writing workshops. She has recently published her first collection of short fiction, If I’d Known You Were Coming (University of Iowa Press, 134 pages), for which she was awarded the 2013 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Stories from this collection have appeared in a variety of publications, including Fiction, New Orleans Review, and Santa Monica Review. Her story, “A Matter of Time,” was published in ZYZZYVA’s Fall 2013 issue. Told in the intimate details of …Continue reading

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