Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl - Diane Seuss

Staff Pick

Seuss’s magnificent fourth collection is a many-roomed gallery of portraits, self-portraits, and landscapes of paradises lost, found, and redefined. While many poems include the iconic apple or snake (if disguised as “the black sky wriggling free of the stars”), Seuss’s true primal symbol is the red Mylar balloon which reflects things in an unforgettably strange and brash way. In the guise of other reds—fruits and, especially, blood—it floats through the book. You can trace many images and themes throughout these masterful poems (which range from orderly couplets to solid blocks of prose to questionnaires): gold and rust battle for primacy, perhaps coming to an understanding in “the blue of a bruise and its gold aura”; frames are as porous as they are isolating; art is as much a trompe l’oeil as it is concrete and real; and a rabbit hops in and out of several scenes. Seuss’s paradise is both a museum and a Walmart parking lot, her heroes are the Great Masters as well as the impetuous, brilliant, and forever-young Sylvia Plath, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, and Freddie Mercury. But Seuss doesn’t make a fetish of tragic artistry. Her elegies are celebrations of spirit and defiance and she confronts loss with excess, identifying not one but eight different shades of brown in Dürer’s hare, seeing a turkey as not merely angelic but “archangelic,” and looking so intently at Rothko’s colors that she hears “the clanging orange.” Seuss writes with an irrepressible “virtuosic madness” and her still lifes are anything but, showing us new worlds in the successive “glints as a band of light moves across the window.”

Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl: Poems By Diane Seuss Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555978068
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Graywolf Press - May 1st, 2018

Junk - Tommy Pico

Staff Pick

Pico’s book-length poem is composed in flexible, impeccably crafted couplets—but look closer and the orderliness dissolves. Sentences start and start and don’t come to a full stop. There are opening capitals but no periods (with one exception:  “Refresh.//Refresh. Refresh.”). The lines roll into and out of each other with the regularity and wildness of waves. This brilliant structure allows the poet to interweave myriad themes and literary strategies. At one level, the poem is a deft stand-up rant. Telling himself to “turn everything into a punchline—the grief is loud but/the laffs are louder,” Pico lets loose with powerful zingers that qualify the laughs and hone the grief. As an earthy glimpse of “Love in the time of/ climate change,” the poem hits any number of gay nightspots, karaoke bars, and bedrooms and the lovers’ banter is a tour de force of voices and tones. These strands of the poem are largely the work of “Teebs the bratty Diva, my alter ego.” Pico uses Teebs’s “piss & vinegar & libido & punchlines” to defer the more difficult confrontation with what angers and frightens him about America: that ”slavery,/theft, and genocide are its founding institutions.” That America is “all action no memory.” Growing up on “the rez America’s first POW camps,” Pico realized his “Junk situation It’s how I’m seen, felt,/ and fought.” Something not quite discarded, not quite kept (like the clichéd image of the Native warrior, “weary, slumped/over the broken horse, spear sliding into the dry grass”), junk “isn’t//garbage It’s not outlived its purpose Junk awaits its next life.” How to reach that next life? “Resisting death for// generations, I want to make the opposite of death,” Pico says. He’s passionate and spirited and brave. But he does not seem optimistic.

Junk By Tommy Pico Cover Image
ISBN: 9781941040973
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Tin House Books - May 8th, 2018

Eye Level - Jenny Xie

Staff Pick

Early on, Xie “developed an appetite for elsewhere,” and her restless, probing first book of poems starts somewhere “between Hanoi and Sapa,” before traveling on to Phnom Penh, Corfu, and Chinatown. As quickly becomes apparent, Xie’s journeys are also spiritual, headed to “the borderless empire of the interior.” Her graceful lines—both short and fragmented as well as long and spacious—are full of Zen-like questions and the insight of koans. “Where is my oblivion?” she wonders, and “why not wait until I’ve waited why out?” With the charged, compressed imagery of haiku, these poems are also rich in worldly sensations, from the “smell of shadows” to the flash of “noon, white hour.” While Xie’s search for truth embraces both the physical and metaphysical, the way “a walk through the garden/ sets off the mind’s tripwires,” her quest for her truest self requires choices. She imagines spitting out old selves “like pits,” but also worries how any chosen self can be sure she’s “the gardener” with a right to prune away outgrown selves. The answer to this, like other answers, will come with perseverance: “clarity is just questioning having eaten its fill.” Whether for the immediacy of its descriptions, its wisdom, or its supple and gripping “plain speech,” this is a book to come back to again and again.

Eye Level: Poems By Jenny Xie Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555978020
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - April 3rd, 2018