Summer is here, and so is my son, the history teacher. Here’s our review of Severance.
Thanks to David L O’Nan, editor of Fevers of the Mind, for posting my review of Matt Duggan’s Everyone is Waiting for Tomorrow on the Fevers site. It is my Wolfpack contribution for June. I have written very few reviews. Generally, I feel that literary criticism, though an honorable pursuit and a crucial aspect of literature’s power to speak to people, does not give me the thrill of immediate connection I get from producing or directly experiencing literary discourse.
I wanted to put in the effort for Everyone is Waiting for Tomorrow, though, because it is good and should be read widely, and because I believed I would learn from the process of reviewing and achieve a deeper understanding of the work, and because, while I don’t know Matt well, I believe he is a kind person, and I deeply respect his talent—so I wanted to show support for his collection.
Everyone is Waiting for Tomorrow grew out of Matt’s experience in the pandemic, during which time his father grew ill and died. The collection also hits many of the notes of Matt’s earlier work–themes of decay, the corruptions of imperialism, capitalism, and bureaucratic institutions, the magic of travel, the beauty of nature, and our need of it–and the pieces in it contain the rich imagery and variety of inventive formal approaches readers of his work will have come to expect.
It seems to me, though, that the breadth and depth of subject matter combine with a sense of urgency and extreme emotion to give this collection an epic feel. You can read the review for the details, but Matt is telling an important story about where we are and where we are going, one we can all find ourselves in, and, perhaps, learn from. I’m proud to know him.
Speaking of wonderful artists . . .
Even though I can only dimly remember the last time I went to a “really cool PARTY,” I was excited to get this invitation in my email. First of all, as I intimated in the “update” at the end of this post, my fellow artists are impressive. Here is a video by Ha Vay to illustrate. Second, the concept behind 2% Milk is to combine an eclectic but edgy and experimental collection of artworks in various media with discussions about art and the artist in society. These were conducted live with the San Francisco-area artists, and will be presented with bits from interviews with the rest of us edited in. There will be an interval when just the artworks will be up on the site, and then the discussions will be added, generating a new conceptual angle on the art.
This is my understanding of the project from what Nic, of the editing trio of “Nic + Lilly + Reed” has shared with me. The site is due to go live on June 1st, and I look forward to seeing how everything is integrated. In the meantime, I am grateful to be included in such a sophisticated and well-thought-out presentation.
These positive feelings, together with the opportunities to read, sell my books, and support my fellow artists, made me decide to go to the party. If you are going to be in the area, please stop by and say hello.
P.S. Now that the academic year is all but over, my son has made our reviews accessible again. So search the “reviews” category, and enjoy.
Plus, A Review!
I am pleased and thankful that Editors Shi Yang Su and Jia Ning Ran have accepted two poems, “Where the Machine Can’t Go” and “Mother and Child,” for the second issue of their new poetry journal, Poetic Sun. From the little I have read in Issue 1, the editors favor dramatic language and emotional story-telling. The poems they accepted share that aesthetic.
“Where the Machine Can’t Go” is a piece of imaginative ekphrasis inspired by a trip to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Many of van Gogh’s self-portraits were on display there, though not the one above, which I selected for the expression in the face. There was also a lot of information about van Gogh’s sad life, including a letter to his brother Theo contrasting painted portraits with photographs. The title of my poem derives from this letter, which led me to reflect on how much humanity there is in these portraits and the ways in which van Gogh seems to be trying to get at that humanity, which I take to be the place “where the machine can’t go” in van Gogh’s view of painting.
The second poem the editors of Poetic Sun accepted, “Mother and Child,” is based on a portrait of a mother cat and her kitten by Robert Sijka, who specializes in portraits of Maine Coon cats. Call me a crazy cat lady if you must, but I think these portraits are striking, so I wrote this poem. I do have doubts about the language being a little more over-the-top than I would like, but I couldn’t think of a better way to express what I was saying, and I think the poem says some things about the bond between mothers and children and the difficulties of being a single mom that are interesting. So I look forward to both these poems appearing sometime soon.
In the meantime, here is A Review.
I am pleased that the editors of the new magazine, Angel Rust, have accepted my can poem, “BEST,” for their first issue. I have written about my can poems so many times that they have their own category on the blog, so you can just hit that for more information. Basically, I select text from top to bottom, front to back, of a can. The words coalesce around a theme. To give myself a slightly broader vocabulary, I sometimes put parts of two words together to make another.
I find that composing these pushes me to think outside the box because words I would not have thought of get worked into the poem and help it say something I did not expect. The corporate and commercial language also tends to produce an activist slant, because, divorced from its original context, this language highlights systemic depersonalization and inhumanity in our society, although at times it can also get positively lyrical. I hope to find enough new can text to produce four more poems, and then I plan to stop, though you never know.
“BEST” fits the can-poem theme of corporate depersonalization since its subject is an anonymous, perhaps collective, speaker’s demand for subservient mediocrity. According to their About page, Angel Rust “is a place for under-represented voices to be messy, to speak their truth no matter how shocking, and to die on a hill no one else cares about.” As such, it seems a fitting place for “BEST,” and I look forward to seeing the kind of company my poem will keep there.
And now, a review. This is the end of the Oscars reviews. Before my son and partner called a halt to them, I had already seen this movie and thought it was very good, so I strongly encouraged him to see it and do a review with me. I’m still his mother–what choice did he have? So after we finished seeing It’s a Sin, we saw Crip Camp. Here’s our review.
My son, who is in charge of this project, wants to move on from Oscar fodder and back to Davies’s work.
Today I received the welcome news that out of thousands of submissions to the new magazine, Coastal Shelf, my poem, “Dreaming to Updated Mountain Songs” was selected for the first issue. Moreover, because one of the editors made a strong case for its inclusion, Editor Zebulon Huset plans to publish my poem together with a “mini-essay” by the editor who especially appreciated it.
I am very happy about this because I like this poem a lot. It was inspired by a recital you can listen to here, and specifically by Robert Beazer’s “Mountain Songs for Violin and Guitar.” I highly recommend the whole recital, but the “Songs” begin at 45:36.
I liked the combination of traditional idioms with a new sensibility and new techniques in the piece, and later I liked how imagery came together in the poem in a way that was dreamlike but at the same time made a forceful statement about my feelings regarding what has happened to my country, not only recently, but repeatedly over the years in different places and in different ways, as ignorance, greed, and violence tragically put their stamp on the land and its inhabitants. It is good to know that someone else appreciated my statement, and I look forward to seeing precisely what that editor took away from the poem.
I’ve had a couple of nice comments on Twitter about my work, some gratifying mentions in reviews of Owl Hollow Press‘ Dark Magic, and some good reviews of my novella, Family Values, on Kindle, but I’ve just garnered my most prominent notice yet. On my daily visit to New Pages to check out the calls for submissions, I found a December 15, 2016, review of the latest issue of shufPoetry with an entire favorable paragraph devoted to my Can Poems! Here it is:
Lorna Wood’s three pieces are all strong on their own but become even stronger as a cohesive collection, using descriptions of food products as the bulk of her text. In “Can 4,” an audio piece, she mixes a description of canned chicken brisket with repeated snippets from a porn video, an overload on the auditory senses until a reader is not sure if Wood is reading about chicken or women’s bodies. In “Can 6,” a current, relevant concrete poem in the form of an American flag, Wood combines Trump’s infamous “make america great again” with Pet Pride dogfood complete with choice ingredients of acid and artificiality, “Guaranteed pride” promised.
Actually, both the canned chicken and the Pet Pride are cat food, and I used my voice acting skills to simulate a porn clip, but the substance of the literary analysis is spot on here, and I am incredibly grateful to reviewer Katy Haas. The rest of her review is good, too. I agree with her that L.A. Riquez’s Wanderlust and A.J. Rocca and Micah Tuhy’s “Hope Measured in Inches” are both especially rich works, each in its own way.
Thanks again, Katy Haas. You made my day.