Tag Archives: Magic Helicopter Press

Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: Range of Motion by Meagan Cass

10 Oct

rangeofmotion_cover

Meagan Cass’ chapbook, Range of Motion, is filled with quiet moments of indecision, small pains, and good but misguided intentions. The characters peopling her stories are trying, really trying to do right by the other people in their families—indeed, Lindsey Hauck’s review on The Collagist says as much—but there remains an undercurrent of fate. The world is working against these people.

Rooted in realism with a touch of the fantastic, Cass invites you into a small world but one full of high stakes: one where kids advancing into an upper-level soccer league can lead their parents astray, one where a family dog only pushes a mother deeper into depression, one where a new hot tub drives a wedge further between a husband and wife. Cass’ attention to detail throughout magnifies the depth of these everyday sadnesses. A father works away at his exercise machine, eschewing almost everything else: “My running shoes are un-scuffed by the craggy world outside the portholes.” He’s developed such tunnel vision, such devotion, that nothing else matters but mindlessly working out in the basement.

Many of Cass’ stories happen in basements, making me think of the many origin stories of the world, where humans emerge either from the sea or from the earth. It also reminds you of Hell, or Purgatory. Characters stuck in cycles of motions until someone from above calls them up, breaks the pattern: “It was summer…when our mother stood at the top of the stairs and told us to come on up, it was time to quit playing [ping-pong], time to pack our things, I was going to college and she was selling the house, buying a smaller one without a basement, without room for a ping-pong table.” Leaving the basement means facing the world and taking on responsibility, things many of Cass’ characters actively avoid. In “Greyhound,” the husband buys a greyhound under the mistaken assumption that the dog will pull his wife out of her depression. Rather than face facts and help her treat her illness head-on, he prefers to live in a fantasy world: “He imagined woman and dog coursing the trails of FDR Park in the blue-black mornings, her coming home flushed, downing a glass of orange juice, making them bacon and eggs. She’d laugh at his jokes. They’d make love. She’d finally get better.”

Each of Cass’ stories echo the title of the collection in that her characters have exhausted their abilities and have atrophied, are impeded, or fail to recognize their capabilities and take responsibility accordingly. They’re trying, Cass shows us, but is it enough? Nowhere else is this better illustrated than in the collection’s final story, “Portrait of My Father as a Foosball Man, 1972-2012.” Cass focuses on one figure on a foosball table, gets inside his imagined brain and his past, ultimately coming to rest when the foosball table is left abandoned in a basement: “It’s just that it’s been so long since anyone turned his metal spoke heart with purpose, so long since he’s shone his twitchy, hummingbird grace, so long since he’s listened to human players laugh and talk smack and howl in victory and defeat…” Life is passing this foosball figure by, a fear shared by many of the other characters in the collection, a fear we all share.

If there’s any drawback to Cass’ collection, it’s only a similarity of tone among the stories, but her economical and deft prose keeps the reader hooked, turning pages, wishing to delve deeper and deeper into this family, despite their problems and doubts. Cass’ chapbook is a funhouse mirror maze, flashes of yourself and other wanderers blurring together as you debate which way to turn. You try your best, but you’ll always get lost along the way.

A Single Sentence Review(?)

20 May

Oh No Everything Is Wet Now
by Ana C. and Richard Chiem
Magic Helicopter
SEE/READ IT HERE FOR FREE

You’ve seen this thing maybe, but went WUZZ?, no no, be like WOAH, it’s an achievement in the Internet, haha lame way to put it, but I mean it’s real cool stuff, combining two cool writers, their sweet words, and neat videos, all linked by this magical red/gray line to form this startlingly enjoyable “electronic telenovela in verse,” really I mean really it’s interesting and not in the IDON’TKNOWWHATTOSAYSOOHYEAHIT’SINTERESTING way, but rather this thing is gonna rattle you and your (mis)conceptions about e-books and telenovelas and collaborative writing, and I’m thinking GOOD THING.

HOW I WISH MY DREAMS WERE MADE OF THESE POEMS!

30 Apr


Smiles of the Unstoppable
by Jason Bredle
Magic Helicopter Press
Perfect-bound–76 pgs.
$11.95

Tutoring struggling writers, I hear “I just don’t know how to start.” Me neither. See, I read Smiles of the Unstoppable by Jason Bredle and thought it was pretty coolinterestingtalkaboutable, but how do I start this review? The cover! No, not the cover. J.A. Tyler started this way. Sean Lovelace also covered that. How’s this? Sean and I, along with some other sweet writers, are cruising down the highway to the Slash Pine Festival in Alabama and I ask my question: WHAT IN THE WORLD IS EVERYONE READING? Sean goes, I’m about to review Smiles of the Unstoppable by Jason Bredle. I’m not kidding: I was holding this book. He goes, I thought the kid was puking, but I guess he’s bobbing for apples. I guess that above story does the trick is a thought I just had to start this review of Jason Bredle’s Smiles of the Unstoppable.

Poems all over this book start like “something something something/is a thought I keep having/is a sentence I hope to use/some other distanced connector.” Or maybe he does this thing in the middle. He starts somewhere else and pulls it back to the page with this device and pow, good stuff. Here’s the first poem’s, “Red Soda,” beginning:

Cómo se dice please don’t kill me
is a question I hope to never ask someone while vacationing
is a thought many people have before falling asleep each night
is something I once read in a guidebook
to a place
I may never visit
is something you once wrote on a piece of paper
and tore into smaller pieces
and threw from the observation deck of a tall building
which I thought gorgeous

I think I know why people (ME INCLUDED) like these kinds of poems and devices. They knock you off balance to move forward, to get going, enough standing around. Bredle also, as evidenced later in this poem (read the rest at H_NGM_N) is a big fan of repetition. These two devices together tangle the reader into a spinning, off-balanced place. When the twirling stops, it’s a catch your breath, breath of fresh air, air guitar, guitar hero kind of thing. We just sigh and go hmmmm, what happened, but killer riff.

Here’s what has happened: Bredle takes the emotional and slaps it around playfully, using his honed techniques to pop readers in the heartskull to end in a beautiful BOOYEAH:

I’d driven to work like always,
but on this day I thought
there are people who think about what they’re doing
and there are people who feel what they’re doing
and of those two categories I fall into the latter,
which I wrote on a piece of paper when I arrived at work
and tore into smaller pieces
and threw from the observation deck of a tall building.
I hope you find them, because if you do I think it might mean
we’re supposed to be together.

Moments like this, I raise the roof at the amazingness of the stacking and flipping Bredle does.

Sometimes, all the motion has me wondering what’s up. Like the first time I read “The Song Banana.” It follows this similar tactic, but stays hidden in its humor and absurdity. Never gets to the HELLO THIS IS ME moment that “Red Soda” and a lot of the other poems do. I’ve re-read this poem again and again and I’m still torn. There are some killer ideas here, like when Bredle wonders if a cashier could solve the equation of his relationships or asks “What if I told you I was en route to having an affair?” My fear is that bisecting these references, like he does here with a Wesley Snipes reference, creates a pinball effect that steals the shake from the emotional impact.

Still, this book exists in a wacky space Bredle has created. Though in a few poems of this collection I start slapping around and I’m not sure if it’s tilting me in a good direction or not, spending more and more time with these poems, I’m getting the sense of how these techniques Bredle’s mastered often knock me out. Bredle’s thoughtfulness and discursiveness are a lethal combo that have the energy and breadth to take a poem a great distance, a great speed, even if it ends up right back where it started. Or some place entirely new.

I just read “Clouds” for probably the 25th time. Okay okay okay. This poem grabs me by the shoulder with its repetition, humor, and plain-spoken openness and shakes me like WAKE UP KNUCKLEHEAD. Along the way, Bredle touches on some major questions, like “Is it true you slept with him/because you didn’t know how to say goodbye?/Do you regret it?/I always wonder about people who say/they have no regrets./I regret things I did twenty minutes ago.” YES, Jason, YES. I’m digging where this is going, And when we get here to this “you,” WOAH JUST WOAH:

and you said something about clouds
and we had this brilliant conversation about clouds
but I missed the turn and had to make a u-turn
and someone honked
and you reached over me, honked back, and yelled out the window
hey asshole, maybe you wouldn’t be so upset
if you thought about clouds sometimes!

But when poems end, when books end, when reviews end, what’s next? How do things even end, especially good things? They do and it’s sad. But sometimes, there are backcovers, like with this book. Bredle’s author picture is a cartoon portrait and his mouth is open like a guillotine or wicked piano keys. When Mark Halliday says in his blurb that Bredle “roams like a cartoon jaguar,” I get it: it’s playful and biting.

Single-Sentence Review: We Were Eternal And Gigantic by Evelyn Hampton

18 Nov

In the beginning, there was a disconnect for me, like I couldn’t grab onto much, but then these pieces, especially the prose, tangled imagination and emotion down deep and coughed it at me and it was nice, oh yes I ended up super pleased.

Buy it at Magic Helicopter Press.

The Drunk Sonnets By Daniel Bailey

13 Oct

You know this book right? Come on. Good stuff there, like all twisting touching and funny. Get this book/read this book/reread this book/loan this book to your lonely friend. THIS IS A VOUCHED BOOK EVEN SO YOU KNOW ITS GOODFUNCOOLAWESOME.

But this post isn’t really about the book, it’s about the videos. See, people like to drink booze and read these poems into cameras and put those videos online. GREAT.

Daniel Bailey, the drunk sonneteer himself, has archived these videos on his blog. See them now and here and cool.

FANTASTIC

Actually, here is the first half of Drunk Sonnet 14, from the Drunk Blog:

IF ANYONE KNOWS WHAT IS GOING ON EVER THEN HEY
I AM HERE IT WOULD BE NICE TO TALK SOMETIME
INFOMERCIALS HAVE STARTED AND I KIND OF WANT TO DIE
I’M PRETTY SURE THIS ONE IS ACTUALLY FOR A MORGUE

OK SO ACTUALLY ITS FOR THE BIBLE OR SOMETHING
SO ITS A COMMERCIAL FOR TRYING TO BE HAPPY OR SOMETHING
BUT I AM NOT HAPPY TONIGHT NO I AM NOT JUST HERE
IF HAPPINESS EVER WORKED THEN HOW – I DON’T KNOW

Now, let’s all go watch a video, like we are watching it together, because watching/hearing people read poems is way better than reading and way less lonely, yes?