Book Review: Money Money Money Water Water Water

Money Money Money Water Water Water

Written by Jane Mead

Alice James Books, 2014

ISBN 9781938584046

Money Money Money Water Water Water Jane Mead’s assured hand has snipped exquisite holes in her poems, allowing the unsaid to rise, waver and haunt every line. In her fourth collection, the poet has removed every non-essential word, a mastery of distillation, to create a work of pure potency.

In tercets, mostly (three line stanzas), roaming through lean sections of natural shocks, Mead contemplates environmental and existential immensities in a liminal subtext and never puts a foot wrong. On the left, single tercets with monostich gesture to the right hand poems in language as urgent, wistful and primary as   How much how much where going     and you know exactly what she means.

What can’t be said speaks wholly through absence; connections are deepened through asyndeton (no connectors). Gone, most of a sentence; the word going is allowed to remain, to reappear like the repetitions of the title, or ghosts. Going, going, gone.

Questions don’t need question marks, nether states like “the can-be / and the want” “primitive stalks of might-be / and aftermath” tell all. Known by the spirits of deer, and the dead. Ag reports, pesticides. The effect is transfiguring in a transfigured terroir. Something changes into something else in the space between the going and the aftermath, and in us, as Mead asks her last question.

How much can you subtract now 

How much and still get by

Review by Susan Lynch

© 2014, All Rights Reserved

Susan Lynch to read at the Richard Hugo House

Susan Lynch (one of our Associate Editors) will be reading at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, WA on Saturday, April 26th.  She’s reading as part of the Lit.mustest reading series.

The night’s featured reader is Carol Casella.  She is the author of three novels: Oxygen (Simon & Schuster, 2008), Healer (Simon & Schuster, 2010), and Gemini (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

Where: Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, Seattle, Washington 98122

When: 7:00pm to 10:00pm on Saturday, April 26th.

This is an all-ages event open to the public.
There will be a cash bar.
Admission is free.
Parking is available at Hugo House. Street parking is free around Cal Anderson Park after 6pm.

Find this event on Facebook.

Two of our editors will be reading during AWP

Susan Lynch (our Associate Editor) and James R. Gapinski (our Managing Editor) will be reading at an off-site even during the AWP conference in Seattle, WA.

Lit.mustest: “I Saw Them When…”

Third Place Books, 6504 20th Ave NE Seattle, WA 98115

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

7:00pm to 9:30pm

Third Place Books in Ravenna and the Lit.mustest reading series present an evening with award-winning and recently published students and alumni from Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing program.

Other readers include Shelly Weathers, Jeff Eisenbrey, Sarah Kishpaugh, Kim Mayer, Rachel Serrit, Isla McKenna, and Samantha Kolber.

The Conium Review panel at AWP

The Conium Review‘s Managing Editor, James R. Gapinski, will be on a panel at this year’s AWP conference in Seattle, WA.

“Let’s Avoid a Quick Death, Please: Starting and Sustaining a New Literary Publication”

Room 301, Western New England MFA Annex, Level 3

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

3:00pm to 4:15pm

This panel explores the process of starting and sustaining a new literary publication. Countless small presses and journals launch every year only to die after a couple issues. Let’s talk with some people who avoided that fate. This panel will discuss how to choose the right publishing medium, secure funding, attract readers, and deal with unexpected hurdles.

The panelists include Matt Muth (representing Pacifica), Stefanie Torres (representing Beecher’s), Joshua S. Raab (representing theNewerYork) and James R. Gapinski (representing The Conium Review).

Chelsea Werner-Jatzke moderates.



Upcoming Event: Pacifica Issue #3 Release Party

Pacifica is celebrating its third issue at The Pine Box in Seattle, WA on February 17th, 2014.  Chelsea Werner-Jatzke (a former The Conium Review contributor) will be reading some of her fiction at the event.

You can find the full details, including a list of the night’s poetry and fiction readers on Facebook.

Later in February, Chelsea will also moderate an AWP panel that includes Pacifica‘s editor, Matt Muth, James R. Gapinski (our Managing Editor), and representatives from other small press publications.

Contributor Update: Brian Baumgart published in Ruminate Magazine

Brian Baumgart (contributor to our Spring 2013 issue) was published in Issue #27 of Ruminate Magazine.

Brain is coordinator of creative writing and English faculty at North Hennepin Community College, and he holds an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. His writing has also appeared or is forthcoming in Tipton Poetry Journal, Blue Earth Review, and elsewhere. You can hear a reading of his poem “Rules for Loving Right” at Sweet.

Book Review: Inferno

Inferno: A Poet’s Novel
Written by Eileen Myles
O/R Books, 2010
ISBN 978193528034

Inferno Cover 1Eileen Myles’ Inferno is a fictionalized memoir, chronicling the author’s life as a poet.  Rather than simply plotting the high points in her poetic career, the novel’s arc tracks existential developments within Myles’ life and interrelated literary work. She begins with the initial hell of her structured, young life, dampening her creative intuitions.  The novel progresses into a purgatory of uncertainty as she first begins writing and sharing her work.  Finally, heaven appears during blips in her life when she comes out as a lesbian, and her poetry is infused with a sense of purpose and love.  These events unfold without regard to chronological order, and the reader quickly realizes that this particular poet’s life is wrought with constant flux.  Myles’ life includes events ranging from reading tours through Europe, to picking apples in rural upstate New York for beer money, and everything in between.  The prose reflects this fragmentary existentialist journey.  Portions of the novel utilize traditional grammatical conventions, but Myles often abandons proper syntax to generate a particular dramatic impact on the reader.  Stylistically, there is a reason she calls this “a poet’s novel.”  The story has a distinctive arc, but the inventive prose itself is sometimes the star of Myles’ book—especially in the purgatory chapters, as there is less forward momentum to push the story along during this section.

Eileen Myles

Throughout some of the novel, the reader is presented with run-on sentences iconic of modernist stream of consciousness writing.  While this style of writing gives a sense of the busy, multi-faceted way the human mind works, Myles augments her long sentences with fragmented chunks.  These chunks are used sparingly, and have tremendous dramatic effect on the reader.  After reading countless pages awash in lengthy digressions, the sudden advent of short fragments offers weighty pauses at key moments in the book.  Instances of this style are indeed the primary points of interest during the purgatory passages, which make up a huge chunk of the book. Purgatory drags, and part of it reads like pages from a bland encyclopedic entry—the sentences become longer and the action is diminished to a few spikes of interest amid diatribes about the struggles of poetry.  Though, this may be by design, since purgatory is supposed to be a bittersweet zone—neither heaven nor hell, endless in its banality.  The effect is interesting, though it becomes frustrating for the reader at times.
Inferno Cover 2This isn’t to say that most of the story is frustrating, or that well-crafted language and interesting syntax are the only reason to grab this book.  Myles’ Inferno delves into a number of deep issues embedded in the playfully poetic prose.  Even if you’re unfamiliar with Myles’ work, the story resonates on deeper levels than mere autobiography.  She discusses situations and emotions universal to the human experience.  Though her own hellish forays, dragging purgatory, and eventual heaven do not highlight events germane to every single reader, the underlying struggle to adapt, learn, and attain bliss are something we all recognize.

I met Myles at a reading in in late 2011, and she explained that the original manuscript didn’t place hell, purgatory, and heaven in linear succession—partially because she wanted to do something different and unexpected.  She later realized that this progression suited the story better and made for more interesting readership.  While the progression through the Divine Comedy is classic and perhaps “expected,” it’s well-worn for a reason.  In its final, edited format, with the parts moving from agony to bliss, the flow is seamless and the final page a relief.  Without spoiling anything, I’ll just note that the happy ending isn’t trite, and a few notes of wonder and grief help the malcontents among us find equal relief in the concluding pages.  A few passages are tough to push through, but most of this novel is a delight.  It’s well-crafted, and the distinctive voice shifts to complement the mood of each section.  Whether you prefer poetry or fiction, you’ll find something good in Eileen Myles’ Inferno: A Poet’s Novel.

Review by James R. Gapinski
© 2012, All Rights Reserved