Tag Archives: Brevity

Another reaction to If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany

31 Oct

If I Falter at the Gallows
Edward Mullany
Publishing Genius Press, 83 pages, $12

Christopher wrote a wonderful personal response to If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany last week, a wonderful book of poems released by Publishing Genius recently. So much has been said around the web recently about this book, I thought I’d sift through my own thoughts on the book as a way to add to the conversation:

1. An entry point? The epigraph. Charles Simic: “Who put canned laughter/into my crucifixion scene?” The pseudo-humor, a mark of ha-ha entertainment, slapped against the tragic, the personal tragedy, someone’s personal tragedy.

2. If I had to tell someone about these poems, I’d say something like “They’re short poems with lots of head space to roam, like a dot-to-dot picture that could be either a horse with flames coming out of his eyes or an old person serving soup to the homeless on the day he/she dies.”

3. We find that sinkhole brevity over and over, a little picture, a bearded man pushing another bearded man down a dune (“Comic Relief”) or retreating soldiers who aren’t supposed to be retreating getting killed anyway (“Either/Or”), and it’s kind of funny like in that AH THAT SUCKS way, but then in all that white space we stumble into questions like “WHY WAR?” or “WHY THE SHOVE?”

4. Why does anyone need to be crucified in the first place?

5. I guess I’m yet another reviewer person responding to what Mullany said about his poems in NANO fiction:

I don’t aim to write funny poems, but neither do I aim to write sad poems. I try to describe reality through the voices of people so stunned by their experience of reality that they see with a kind of insane clarity.

6. Insane clarity! I like that. It reaches out for something that I think the clarity-driven, plain-spoken writing that I encounter sometimes misses: a sincere interest in the craziness around us.

7. I’m taking it way out of context, but I’m reminded of this quote from Ways of Seeing by John Berger:

To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself. A naked body has to be seen as an object to become a nude.

8. A naked poem can be cool I guess, where someone’s like look at this and it’s disturbing or funny, but what Mullany does, maybe a more accurate word is gives, what Mullany gives is an object, a nude object, transformed into this lovely other.

9. “To The Woman Who Jumped In Front Of A Train” is a poem from the book that exemplifies this point:

I am wearing a yellow
dress, and I am walking

with you towards a gate above
which is a sign only

one of us
can read.

10. Is this funny? Maybe, but also it is tragic and these two things slapped together are startling. This is obvious, but a good piece of art is not just the means of dealing with experience, but the place for such dealing.

11. I’m reminded of what Adam Robinson, lead man of Publishing Genius, said about his own poem “I am going to have sex with these people” from his book “Adam Robison and Other Poems” in an interviewer for Issue 1 of Beecher’s Magazine. The interviewer said that “the language of the poem is the language of you trying to figure out what the poem is.” And Adam responded:

Mairead Byrne said a similar thing on her jacket review for the book, that “somewhat skeptically” the book “marks out a testing ground for poetry.” I’m really happy about that. It wasn’t something I was doing intentionally in the language, but it’s always on my mind, more than in a “is this a good poem” way. Because I think Poetry (capital P) has a lot of vitality. Even good poems can be lame, can be who cares? So my objective with the bro-sona language is to move the process right onto the surface of the poem. Rather than have the reader cut through the craftiness, my intention was to start them off with, uh, crappiness and filter through that for the “poem.”

12. Maybe in a little different way than Adam meant for his own poems, but definitely with the same core, Mullany starts and ends with the “crappiness” of life, the peculiarity of living, the tragedy of a bunch of humans being together on this stupid earth.

13. The reader, if patient, can walk around on the surface and slowly sink in, instead of sinking in from the beginning.

14. Like “Either/Or,” “Ode To The Bayoneted Soldier” meanders within one of the suckiest parts of human conflict, war:

In the woods beside the snowy
field, the footprints

15. Christopher, in his response to the book earlier here at Vouched, mentioned that overwhelming feeling of “what does anything matter,” and did a great job of exemplifying how Mullany’s poems connected to him and this question.

16. Looking at “Important,” which was the first poem Christopher singled out, I’d say that Mullany’s poems again and again, for this reader at least, point out that what matters depends on the person, but some things (should?) matter to nearly everyone, like art or war or death.

17. The poems in If I Falter At The Gallows snips the most affecting bits from these BIG THINGS and spreads them out where the reader can roam around.

18. Realization is beautiful.

Brevity 34 is up to good things!

12 Jan

Have you looked at Brevity lately? If you haven’t, you should. There are some gems. Jonathan Starke’s The Wound, here’s an excerpt:

Teddy stepped closer. I could hear his heavy, drunken breathing, almost feel it. He had one fist clenched tight to his side like he was itching to hit me. I was soaking wet and shivering in the middle of the night, but I wasn’t looking for warmth.

As if that’s not enticing enough to get you there, how about Carol Guess’ Evelyn?

For weeks I watched Evelyn water her hanging plant, hung too high by the door. Every morning her routine was the same. She placed a stepstool in front of the plant and set one foot on the stool. It wobbled, she wavered. She went back inside. Came out with a pot of water. Threw the water at the plant, streaking the side of her house with wet.

Stuff your face with stuffing, stuff your brain with these.

24 Nov

There are many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We should all be thankful for stories, these specifically.

Vesuvius by our own Amber Sparks is in Wigleaf, and it is a gem. Every word is volatile.

Also, in Brevity Kim Dana Kupperman unleashed to the world Small Love Letters

Last but not least, in Mud Luscious is A Music Box is Binary

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!



Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “The Soils I Have Eaten”

14 Sep

An excerpt from Aimee Nezhukumatathil‘s “The Soils I Have Eaten” featured in Brevity.

“Each bend of cypress root drinks a soft fen mud. Each beard dangling from a branch says: I am a dirty man who had soup for lunch. The state soil of Florida is Myakka—a fancy way of saying, Sand, sand, sand, and if you dig further still? Watery sand.”

I will never attempt to pronounce her last name, but I will sing her praises.