The theme for this week’s Esoterotica was “You Inspire Me.” Two of my own biggest inspirations are punk rock and weird formal stuff, so this resulted in me creating blackout poetry using the lyrics from Propagandhi’s first three albums. All songs are in order, I just deleted a few completely black lines to make it easier to screenshot.
And if twisting political punk songs into erotica is up your alley, this isn’t the first time I’ve done it.
I don’t know how effective longer reviews on personal blogs really are, so I’m experimenting with shorter ones that’d fit on Goodreads since reviews on there seem to matter to industry people. However, my blog still craves content. So here’s three reviews of books that aren’t related aside from the fact that authors have signed them and I think more people need to know about ’em!
Part of me likes the idea of not really theming the reviews I group together here since a lot of books I’ve enjoyed were just blindly stumbled across while I was trying to find something else, so… here goes an attempt at recreating that.
Stay Crazy, by Erica Satifka
I think a lot of portrayals of mental illness in media lack necessary nuance. In Stay Crazy, Emmeline struggles with the stigma of taking or not taking medication, worries over telling friends and family, and still manages to save the world from malicious interdimensional beings in the midst of all that.
The plot with Escodex and the potential invasion keeps the book moving at a steady pace, and the surreal elements have just enough deniability (at first) to put readers off-balance. Despite the alien provocateurs trying to contact Emmeline through RFID tags at her dead-end retail job, the book stays fairly grounded when dealing with her conditions, never stooping to basic “lol she just cra-ha-haaazy” jabs at her expense. There are plenty of jabs, though! They’re just all punching up.
Marrero, by Kataalyst Alcindor
Being in the audience of a good poetry slam is a better experience than having sex on the moon and I’m not gonna brook any complaints from more academic poets on that subject. Kataalyst is one of the best slam poets I’ve gotten to see here in New Orleans and, while the whole experience can’t be conveyed in print form, the words alone still hit like a pallet of cinderblocks.
There are some excellent indictments of America’s failings featured in Marrero, but the poem I found most interesting was “When Dating a Sexual Assault Survivor.” When it comes to men addressing sexual assault in writing, it feels like the default mode is to speak aggressively about the perpetrators. Kataalyst takes a different route and speaks with eloquent sympathy for the victimized and cautious optimism for those they let in to their lives. It’s fucking potent. Watch it here on Write About Now, then time your next New Orleans vacation to coincide with one of his readings because goddamn.
The Ultra-Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, by A.C. Wise
With a stylized cover like that, I wasn’t really expecting anything more than fun camp with a nod towards representation. How glad I was to have underestimated this book.
Yeah, the Glitter Squadron’s adventures are full of 70s scifi action facing off against gribbly aliens and ancient mummies. But the Squadron members themselves are all well developed outside of their monster-fighting capacity. Before we see Bunny fight a sea monster, for example, we know why she became Bunny. But it shouldn’t be surprising that a confident, self-possessed character with healthy social support fares better against Lovecraftian horror than Lovecraft protagonists do. Wise’s thoughtful characterization even comes through in the themed cocktail recipes interspersed throughout the collection!
As an author whose book was released through a small publisher, at the start, I was worried about what kind of quality my eventual book would have. I don’t mean the words that I put into it, I mean the aesthetics of it. You can’t read small press authors without picking up on the fact that there are some pretty good books out saddled with lazily-designed covers and the same pupil-numbing sans serif font used for everything inside. Adage be damned, a book’s appearance can entice or repulse potential readers, and sometimes a well-designed book can be an art object all its own. Mine isn’t necessarily, but I know somebody who has made several.
Geoff Munsterman, who designed Northern Dandy, made a beautiful book out of what otherwise would have just been “zachb_collection.rtf” sitting on my desktop. He got a gorgeous, thematic image for the cover, designed and arranged the title around it, and even kept its color scheme in line with the other collections Sapiosexual has released.
His artful design touches are all over the thing — inside as well. It’s faint in the picture, but there’s a cursive shadow beneath every title. Classy! I didn’t give him any guidelines for the interior, it didn’t even occur to me, but he put a wonderful amount of thought into it. When I’m at a reading I need to dress up to look as good as this book. Geoff’s book designs are swanky enough to meet the dress code at Commander’s Palace.
Geoff Munsterman, and his chapbook operation Next Left Press, have been severely hit by the recent flooding in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. He’s lost the vast majority of his bookmaking supplies, thread and paper, to say nothing of the numerous books in his personal collection. If any of you are in the market for poetry manuscript critiques, design work, or considering putting out a hand-bound chapbook, I’d urge you to get in touch with him. He has done amazing work for my friends and I, and I would not be nearly as excited about being an author if the book I’m pushing didn’t look as good as he made it.
You can see more examples of his work at http://www.nextleftpress.com/ and get in contact with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was performed last night with fellow local writer Deb Jannerson, whose own book Rabbit Rabbit, was just recently released. Check her out! Just not in the way this guy did.
by Zach Bartlett
Poets don’t need frilled shirts and giant quills,
I now sit with my laptop shining bright.
I only hope the typed-up verse instills
desire to go home with me tonight.
Such women flock this bar that I may woo
them with my rather dull poetic chops.
Show them blank verse confessionals I do,
then watch their little freshmen panties drop.
Don’t mind that I’ve a graduate degree,
and they attend the same school where I teach.
Oh, it’s a leggy blonde one that I see —
She’ll fawn once I start quoting “Dover Beach!”
If my Apple’s not enough to convince,
I’ll make a Greek mythology reference.