Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Amanda Earl reviews chapbooks by Irwin, Lea, Baus, Dean and Kasimor,

beloved above/ground press author Amanda Earl was good enough to provide first reviews for a small handful of above/ground press titles, including Marilyn Irwin's the day the moon went away (2019), N.W. Lea's Five Mothers (2019), Eric Baus' Euphorbia (2020) and Lessa Dean's The Desert of Itabira (2020), as well as a second review (after John C. Goodman discussed such over at Otoliths) of Mary Kasimor's disrobing iris (2019), among some other titles discussed, in her "a few notes on some recent chapbooks" over at her blog. Thank you! You can see her original review here. As she writes:
Marilyn Irwin – the day the moon went away (above/ground press, August, 2019)

I am a fan and a dear friend of Marilyn’s so it comes as no surprise that I enjoyed this chapbook, from the snail on the cover to its reappearance in a poem, to the poems on not having a baby. there’s a sweet sadness to the work, mixed with a practicality about life and a concern for the environment. there’s concern. I have several favourites in the collection, but I’m particularly fond of “hum,” which begins “the first definition/of suicide/begins/with monks/robes/indistinguishable/from/skin cinder”—an unusual and memorable image. I want a book by Marilyn soon please, publishers. and so should you.

N.W. Lea - Five Mothers (above/ground press, October 2019)

I am a big fan of Lea’s writing. It’s contemplative, unusual and minimal. There is humour, playfulness, unique and powerful imagery and a consistency of tone throughout the chapbook.

Mary Kasimor - disrobing iris (above/ground press, November 2019)

I began reading these poems and then got so excited by the incantatory and exquisite imagery and sound play that I had to read them aloud. the poem “dropped stiches” stayed with me long after I read it the first time. This is a symphony of melancholy and grief, rebellion. I loved them.

Eric Baus – Euphorbia (above/ground press, January 2020)

i enjoyed these microscopic observations and musings of/on nature. These are powerful prose poems that delighted and fascinated me. The only thing I didn’t like was the font, which could have been Futura or Arial, I’m guessing but probably wrong, and what appears to be boldface for the entire collection. It is the opposite of the work for me. It is shouty and brash. That’s not what I’m reading. I’m reading softer, more subtle and delicate observations and musings.

Here are two of the poems that resonated greatly with me:

Pattern Anguish

Hawks glide above other hawks to kill escaping sky, a faraway star burning their faces.
Hum, Hurts

So the rosin, as the rain was, flowered its watts, precipitates a leaf, has been one, exhausts the teeth of animal speech, a siren under wool, hums, hurts.

Lessa Dean – the Desert of Itabira (above/ground press, January 2020)

This is an excerpt from a novella in verse entitled Manuelzimbo; a found poetry project based on the work of Elizabeth Bishop. I can’t wait to read the entire novella. The excerpt is mesmerizing. It evokes the desert paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe for me, extremely visual and startling: “We are taken to a red temple/a woman in a cloak of bones/greets us in a language/none of us know”.

I am in love with the dark imagery of this work: “The dynasty of violence threads our sleep/leaves bruises each night we shower ourselves/in superstitious rituals drink snake blood/   leave on the drowned green light”

This work also evokes the haunting imagery of the poetry of Sandra Ridley. I envisage a collaboration between Dean and Ridley. I think it would be wing-swept and haunting.

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