Tag Archives: Paul Killebrew

Indie Lit Classics: Svalina, Xu, Killebrew

12 Sep

MathiasI Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur

Mathias Svalina

Mud Luscious Press, 2011

Add this book to the list of reasons it’s a shame good ol’ Mud Luscious Press shut the doors, blinds, chimney. I’ve read a major portionhunk of their fine books–go ahead and checkmark them all reasons it’s a shame–and this was the last of the bunch that I scurried inside of (so far; got that newish Kimball collection on my to-read list). That’s a shame, too, that I waited so long. Svalina here talks as this fella who has created many lifetimes worth of businesses—intrusive and surreal, heart-wrenching and ingenious. Fancy stereos installed in people’s heads. Wardrobe swap company where you get the rags and robes of someone who recently kicked the bucket. A tour company that shows Americans around their own neighborhoods. But beyond a list of clever constructions what makes this book a small press classic is how it develops each business, not as a professional entity alone, but as a pulsing, dynamic piece of this fella’s life —a block of the self that can fail and can grow and can loop and can puncture. There’s a flurry of these list/series type books in the small press world, many of them super cool!, but here Svalina has captured the fascinating world of creation, of meaning-making, of not letting failure keep one from failing again. “Productive” has many connotations, and Svalina’s telling of the story over and over captures the momentum as it shifts from creating a useful business to creating a large quantity of businesses, the heap as its own kind of product. And beyond, what is most impressive (and sure to be long-lasting) about this work and the world(s) he’s captured is the book’s ability to elude monotony and crippling disappointment; each one subtly shake us further into the throes of this book’s capitalism and unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit. And I hope the people who want to read this book in the future are successful entrepreneurs because apparently a print copy on Amazon is gonna cost them a hundred (or more!) bucks, though of course, it’s still available in fancy ebook form for us less successful folks.

I started this one business that applied to the eyes of our clients the opposite of blinders, what we called Seeingers.

See everything! Every detail before you in intense exactitude! This was our pitch. Our scientists stumbled upon these Seeingers during an experiment on the bone structures of kaleidoscopes. It was a failed venture, until two of the scientists, depressed at their impending unemployment, got gin-drunk in the lab & ended up half-naked with the bones of kaleidoscopes strapped around their faces. What they saw in that moment they could not describe. Later, during his debriefing, the senior scientist said it was the visual equivalent of when you bite through your tongue & suddenly feel how your teeth are both weapons & exposed bones.

The Seeingers made every detail as important as if you were looking into the face of your child for the first time. No patch of spackle or inflamed pore was ignorable. Each dent in the hood of the car after the hailstorm was unique & therefore astounding. The creases on the pants of the person on the other end of the subway were as vivid as the exclamatory breasts of the woman in the window, removing her shirt in a Greek statuary flourish at the exact moment you happened to look up toward the sky.

Read the rest at Everyday Genius.

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You Are Not DeadWendy

Wendy Xu

Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013

Before someone shrieks against this being a indie press classic, let me explain: Though released on a university press just this year (though hey hey right right a university poetry press is often a smidge of a thing, too), Wendy Xu’s first book deserves to be in this here list because of its origins in the small press magazine scene. Let’s mosey into the acknowledgements list where we find tops small press journals like Dark Sky Magazine, Forklift, Ohio, ILK, Phantom Limb, and many more. This book is a triumph in putting together the pieces—the poems lifted from the indie press world to win a university prize, the wacky and startling pieces of life smushed together, voice melding with passion to create a whole new hum. It’s impossible to fall asleep inside a Wendy Xu poem. What you once think you saw (“Here there is an altar made of sand. It dismantles/no less than itself to please the sea.”) gets quietly disassembled and brought back to new life five poems later (“I put some sand in a jar and wait/for it to mean. Some horses wade into/the dangerous ocean because what else/is more important to see?”). It’s impossible to fall over dead from boredom in a Wendy Xu poem, though of course, she reminds us one day we will die, in her ending sequence, each called “We Are Both Sure to Die” (See below). But ultimately these poems, slapped with that sticker You Are Not Dead, remind us that time is not now, there’s still joyous life and tragic sorrow and paranoid delusion and impossible connections waiting for us, blowing into our faces—“In my past life I was just a math/equation and then I got promoted. Now I have/way more variables.”

Without coffee and only very minor explosions
to spell our names. One will actually just be
a bird meeting a clear pane of glass. Fanfare
and various stems of wine. People circulating
in a slow, meaningful fashion around
other people exchanging gifts. One time you
gave me a gift. One time everything
was rare and dispensed in intricate
packaging. One time it was a real accomplishment
to find someone a coat they could wear
into a mountain and its forgiving silence.

Read the rest (and another from this sequence) at Diagram.

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KillebrewFlowers

Paul Killebrew

Canarium Books, 2010

Mr. Ware brought forth Killebrew’s new book, Ethical Consciousness, in his great style not that long ago. But here I wanna poke back further, into Killebrew’s debut collection, Flowers. Flowers is one of those rare books that gives off a mist of rowdy and loud, yet still bends its knees to talk insightfully into your face, an effusive mix of the emotional and the intellect. Meaning: Killebrew is a pure delight, a fuse lit before the fireworks even begin; each poem in Flowers demands to be read—read aloud, read to someone, read with your heartrate a bunch of notches higher. Killebrew relentlessly searches, asks questions, demands from us and the world (answers okay I guess, but also cooperation, curiosity and enthusiasm). In “For Beth Ward,” Killebrew begins, “One of my basic human dilemmas/goes something like, Does metaphor/contain us, or do we extend ourselves/out into it?” and as he moves from himself, the “my,” to include the “us,” we relearn what contains us, what shapes us, what room we have to wiggle.

…Dark blue clouds approach
from the west like a future from California
full of the natural tragedies of living there:
mudslides, earthquakes, house sinking into the ocean,
B-movie actors in positions of public authority.
I hope it’s not all happening on my account.

The coasts shape our boundaries
and in this way define us, though sometimes
you forget all about them, forget that you’ve got ears
on either side of your head, that a lake
in Carlisle, Illinois isn’t, in fact, the ocean,
but just a place out in the corn
where people in shorts circle arbitrary triangles
under the fact of dark blue clouds arriving without thunder.
The clouds just sit there, a quiet, heavy metaphor
we share like a giant backyard.

Wow, no, don’t be thinking Killebrew is searching for meaning, is trying to convey meaning, but rather, he exports ideas to bend this world backwards into a new light. It’s impossible to know where our next step will land us, where Killebrew’s next breath will guide us, but two books into this dude’s career, I’m invested and committed and will hop in the buggy for the wild ride every time, all along the way asking the question I ask all my pals who haven’t read this fella, “Why aren’t we throwing parades for Paul Killebrew?”

Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: Ethical Consciousness

31 Jul

ethicalIn “On a Finger,” which appears near the beginning of Paul Killebrew’s second full-length collection of poems Ethical Consciousness (Canarium Books, 2013), the author writes:

You moved closer
and for the first time
I could see the pattern.
Certainties form,
disband, and
cyclically realign
under different colors,
but each prayer
from the angle of blunt attraction
had a sender,
and every afternoon
its silhouette. (18)

And in the title poem, which immediately follows “On a Finger,” Killebrew writes:

It’s as if the self
were a series of
statements
occasionally arranged
in dizzying
complexity but
mostly repeating
ten or eleven sentences
from the brief oeuvre
of a personality
that grows only
like a balloon—
never more surface,
just more tension
as the surface
spreads. (22)

These two passages provide a fairly accurate account of both the aesthetic tendencies and thematic concerns found within Ethical Consciousness. For starters, Killebrew primarily composes poems that contain lines only a few words in length, thus cutting syntactical (and conceptual) units into discrete elements; yet due to the enjambment that pervades the poems, he maintains a fluid movement and coherent rhetoric.

To this extent, small “Certainties form” within a line, then “disband” as the poem progresses to the next line. But simultaneously with this formation and deformation, an overall rhythm and logic accrue as the poem proceeds, thus “cyclically realign[ing]” the poem with different words and patterns of thought. In other words, one could say that the poet composes the selections within this book as a “series of / statements,” which he “arranges” and re-arranges into a “dizzying / complexity” of “repeating / …sentences” and concepts.

Similarly in “Muted Flags,” the book’s final thirty-three paged poem, the speaker recounts a dream wherein:

I was surrounded
by a choir
of hundreds, all
of them speaking
the question
in unison, with
exactly the same
inflections, inflections
that cycled through
a full range of
emotions—calm
sobriety, anger,
resignation, ecstasy,
and so on—
never hitting
any particular
emotional register
more than once
the entire night. (83)

As the dream progresses, the speaker walks among the choir of voices, listening to each one of them in order to hear how:

his or her voice
was both enmeshed
with and distinct
from the whole,
and then I moved
back to the center
of the ring
they had formed,
their sound intensifying
into a physical
pressure on all
sides of my body (84)

Just as the lines in each of Killebrew’s poems are both distinct units and parts of a whole, so too are the voices of the “choir / of hundreds” both “enmeshed / …and distinct” while cycling through a variety of “emotional registers.”

One could argue, then, that the aesthetic of these poems and the ethical consciousness they promote rely on the interplay between micro-level and macro-level poetics, as well as a negotiation between the individual and community. In other words, Killebrew fosters a type of speech that acts as a “vessel / for transporting thought across dim borders” wherein he addresses “an exact person,” but also the “relationships among” persons as they form in “words / in a conversation” (52): a poetry that, both in content and form, seeks to reconcile the differences between part and whole, the singular and the many.

Canarium Books Preview at The Collagist

18 Apr

The Collagist, as they do in April, have bulked up their poetry allotment for National Poetry Month. Most vouch-worthy of this month’s features are the three previews of poetry collections, all with three poems representing them here, all from Canarium Books, all set to drop this month, here this month as a replacement for the magazine’s typical Novel Excerpt features. The three books are Ethical Consciousness by Paul Killebrew, Great Guns by Farnoosh Fathi, and Pink Reef by Robert Fernandez. If these features are any indication, these books can go on your GOTTA GET THEM ASAP list.

from “Middle Name” by Paul Killebrew

I sit here sometimes and try to remember what the phone sounds like, and then the thermostat will click or there’ll be a creak or something, and I just about die.

I had worse jobs.

When I was still practicing law I remember this guy asked me if he cut a hole in his roof if he could sue the city.

I said for what?

He said I don’t know you’re the lawyer.

from “Brazil” by Farnoosh Fathi

Left a hole on fire agony or was it the sun
and love of both—
On the banks and near duets,
eagles with the white wine of the sun
clink and spill tall grass over head and heels
…Space of hell: shy, inscribed already
But alone, I think I can be that
again—a new hole in the flute
that doesn’t end.

from “[I chose…]” by Robert Fernandez

I wanted to understand
this ethos of cameras
strung through juniper leaves,

juniper lenses seeing
at the tops of the trees:

a bread
of violets
baked in

a bread
of mussels
glutting the

a cache of
roe in the
stomach

Check out the rest of these selections, as well as the whole April issue of The Collagist. I promise you’ll feel better.