Tag Archives: Edward Mullany

Best Thing I’ve Read Today: Bluets series at Big Other by Edward Mullany

8 Aug

I stepped away from Big Other (post-giving up on Reader) for a few months, and look what happens! I missed this great bitty series by Edward Mullany, “bluets,” twelve number sketches + micro dab of story, linked and lovely. Like that story you know of the dude on the train who encounters weird and baffling and exciting people on the train and in a bar on the way home to his girlfriend. Except totally not, okay. Pieced together like this, it burns REALITY into the space between us (you and me, Mullany and you, guy and me, weird people on the train and other weird people on the train, etc.) more than anything I’ve read in awhile. Toggle here and feel.

They Are On My Side, or Books For My Summer

1 Jun

I am not a superstitious person.  I say that knowing that no one is entirely reasonable, that like anyone sometimes I think about objects as though just by having them around they can keep me safe, that they are on my side.

Last Saturday I drove 13-ish hours to live in North Carolina by the beach for two months.  The couple weeks beforehand were a slow emptying of closets and furniture, edging up to leaving.  I am so thrilled to be to living in this beautiful place with beautiful people for the summer, but I’d dreaded saying goodbyes – guh, see-you-laters – so much that I didn’t look at the fact of departure directly, not until I took my leave.  Even this one that’s only a couple of months. I left to live by the beach for a summer a few years ago, but then I didn’t dread going at all; there weren’t as many people it hurt to leave.

When I first thought about what books I would take, these I immediately knew I wanted to pack were ones I’ve already read, all multiple times.  If I’m honest about how I think of them, they are little guardians, voices of conscience, talismans warding against forgetting who I am/want to be and how important books have been to that personal trajectory.  When so much else gets uprooted their steadiness moors me to some wispy feeling of safety.  If there can be such a thing as holy books for an individual life then these I knew I would come with me are part of an ever-expanding gospel:

Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless by Matt Hart:  The music of Matt’s poems is totally wild but still steady, intentional, an ocean always coming back to where you can walk up to meet it.  Leaving this behind would’ve been like not having favorite albums to sing me the way here.

If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany:  Reading these poems feels like hearing prophecies of a strange god you know will be fulfilled.   Mullany breathes a quiet but swelling kind of truth, thunder or bells tolling to more bells.

Come On All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder:  I’ve never read a book of poems and experienced as much gentleness and mercy and glimmer as from this marvelous thing.  It was given to me by someone who says I’ve called from them their ghosts.  I don’t know if that’s a thing I can do, but these poems help me remember how to inhabit haunted and fearful places with light.  They reassure me that a trembling heart is better than none at all.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman:  This is not the sort of book usually written about on here but yeah, okay, whatever.  I first read this just over ten years ago and my attachment to it still grows.  When I became an atheist after ten years of devout faith it took on special significance, this story of a ragged twelve-year-old girl pitted against a cruel, powerful god and his army of angels.

Several months ago I took the copy I first read from the public library in my hometown. I took it from the shelf in the young adult section I virtually lived in through adolescence and walked out.  There are some things that never leave you, and I had to go back for this one.

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.

If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany

25 Oct

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

The first book I ever read from Publishing Genius Press was Easter Rabbit by Joseph Young, a book of sparse, tight microfiction. I read the book in a single sitting. It wasn’t just for the contest. I remember distinctly the feeling of language bending. One of my favorite things about Publishing Genius is how often their books force me to reimagine and rearrange my ideas of what language can and should be, what language can and should do.

I sat down to read Edward Mullany’s If I Falter at the Gallows at 11:15 last night. At 12:04, I finished. My cat was asleep against my leg. The house was quiet and dim. A feeling of futility wrestled at my arms and chest. I wanted to read Ecclesiastes, but I didn’t want to wake my cat. I wanted to do a lot of things, but didn’t want to wake my cat. Against all the futility I felt, there was something purposeful in its slow, plodding breath.

I keep saying futility. Let me explain.

Mullany’s poems are as equally sparse as Young’s Easter Rabbit, but there is a futility in Mullany’s lines that brought to my chest a feeling I’ve been wrestling with the past few months, a “what does anything matter” question that is perhaps as cliche’ as it is historic, that’s perhaps best exemplified in the poem “Important”:

The newspaper said a painter who is dead and whose
paintings are exhibited in museums in the country
he spent most of his life in, as well as in museums in
other countries, would have been one hundred today.

I read that poem over at least 5 times last night, I thought of the painter’s life, I thought of my life. I laughed. My cat stirred. I laughed more quietly.

I went back and reread previous poems, the dark and quiet irony of “Important” coloring everything now.

I read “A Suicide in the Family,” and understood the how useless words can be:

The doorbell rings. Or a mountain
speaks to a mountain

in a language only
mountains understand.

I read “The Birthday Present Analogy”, and finally got the joke:

Inside the box, you
find another

box. And so
on. It is only

a joke if
there is a first

and a final

After I stopped laughing, I sent an email. I picked up my cat, cradled her in my arms. I carried her in to bed and rested her next to my wife. I took off my glasses, plugged my phone in to charge, set my alarm for the morning.

I have plenty to do before I find the final box. And so do you. You have this book to read at least. Whatever you do after that, do it well, and take care.