Friday, June 28, 2019

On Its Edge, Tilted - John Levy (Otata's Bookshelf)

Today's book of poetry:
On Its Edge, Tilted.  John Levy.  Otata's Bookshelf.  2018.

on its edge, tilted

Today's book of poetry is going to apologize right off the top, for the life of our research staff, and believe me, lives were at stake, we could not find out where Otata's Bookshelf originates.  Didn't stop of us from adoring the poetry of John Levy though.

"Let's talk about the weather, the earth
says with flowers."

Today's book of poetry loves his job.  We get to read read read poetry and then write about the books and poets we like.  So many fine poets out there...  but every once in a while Today's book of poetry finds a John Levy type.  Today's book of poetry wants to be able to write poems exactly like John Levy's On Its Edge, Tilted.

This Poem 

This is going to be one of those poems
that goes on and on and calls. . . 
calls itself a poem, looking in 

one of those sets of mirrors 
joined by hinges so that this poem can 
see itself in profile 

or from the ass backwards perspective, 
a poem written on a Sunday afternoon, the sun 

up and my wife walking 
the dogs around the yard, 
the poem is about to say it is going 

along like the trains I saw as a child 
in my mind out in nowhere with flat land 
all around and the train goes through and 

I’m seeing it as a child from a distance. 
The flat 
nowhere with the dried-up stream 

of consciousness and the brief 
bridge over the dried-up stream the poem 
goes over, so fast you miss it if you glance at your wrist-

or at the floor or at the sky or your palm, sore 
finger or old shoe. This poem is going 
to say almost nothing and the almost 

is itself close to nothing in many ways, 
ways no one will bother to count because 
the poem keeps going and there’s 

no time to count much beyond one 
line after another and it would be 
pointless to begin counting anything as the poem, 

say, preens a moment in the mirror, passing 
a stanza over its body in what could be mistaken 
for a caress, but it turns out is just a scratch— 

the itch about the size of the dot above the lower 
case i. This poem circles that dot 
and rejoices in the space around it. 

This poem, in fact, is primarily about that space 
and how the space 
looks in the mirror around it, the legendary 

negative space. This poem is going to say 
almost nothing about what’s positive about 
the negative space, or almost 

positive, or fractionally, though now it finds 
a sliver of positivity and then another, using them 
like rails in a train track. Stand back.


Levy had Today's book of poetry laughing out loud and for the best reasons.  John Levy is all about managing "the negative space."  Ha.  Levy 's autobiographical narratives are joined by utterly fabulous flights of fancy.  In On Its Edge, Tilted John Levy becomes whomever he chooses by whim.  One minutes he's Pablo Picasso and the next he's fulfilling Pablo Neruda's fancy by interviewing his spider.  Marvelous.

Will Today's book of poetry simply sound naive when we try to tell you that John Levy made us think?  Our in-house comedian Pistol suggested Today's book of poetry should "think more often."  Ha ha.

True Story

I was glancing at the man in line 
behind me in this bank when he 
pulled out a flask and took a drink. 
He offered it to me and no one 
watched as I downed whatever it was 
it tasted like grimace with toffee at first 

then orange notes followed by 
caramel and barley. It warmed, no, 
burned, no, increased my mass, but 
then the ceiling sparkled and a mother two people 
behind me told her little girl that everyone 

has been wrong, very very wrong, and the earth 
is flat. The man pried the flask from my grip 
as the teller waved him over even though, as I 
carefully noted earlier, he was behind me. 
At first I thought it was me the teller wanted to 

snub—”snub” is too short a word for how I felt myself 
wobble, massively, at the insult of having the smiling 
teller use all five fingers of a hand to neglect my 
Being. The after-

taste, a touch of dried flower petals, black pepper, tobacco 
leaf and chocolate was no consolation when I viewed the man 
pass the flask to the teller, which she took with the very same 
fingered hand she’d waved in the atmosphere. The view 

was nearly identical to looking through pillars at the Acropolis 
if the Acropolis were a bank and we were all tourists 
so none of us spoke Greek. The girl, inches behind me now, 
guffawed after her mother whispered loudly, “Some men are 

invisible, darling, and to think 
that they can help it 
is very very wrong.”


On Its Edge, Tilted has it all, love stories, instructional video, bad weather and so on.  What attracted Today's book of poetry was that there is hope in here as well.

Our morning read was a vivacious affair.  Any poet who mentions W.H. Auden's "Musee des beaux arts" with serious intent and respect, well, that poet gets our full attention.  Today's book of poetry continues to maintain, respectfully, that Sir W.H. Auden's "Musee des beaux arts" is one of our greatest poems.  It's certainly near the top of the charts.

Milo, our head tech, took the lead with this mornings reading.  Milo's recent reading has included Auden so his poetry eyes opened up big when reading Levy's On Its Edge, Tilted.  This isn't meant to distract you readers, Levy doesn't actually spend much time on Auden or anyone else, Today's book of poetry just appreciated the mention of one of our hero's.  Levy himself is a train, keeps a steady head of steam and arrives on time and fully loaded with every poem.

Postcard to My Wife

Dear Leslie,

As you know, sometimes I blather. What
is her doing in blather, near the nonsense of
blat, like a husband and wife, like us. You're
the dear one, next to a blat, the dear one
who gives birth. You gave birth
to our two children, an act of giving,
to them and to us. You made me
a father and brought them onto
this planet and you love them before you
think of yourself. I send you this postcard
with one word on the other side, LOVE,
hand-painted, seeming to rise above
all else, all upper case because you
keep it up so skillfully, so
carefully, with such kindness.



Today's book of poetry was delighted to end today's blather with a love poem/postcard.  Like Today's book of poetry, John Levy appears to love poetry, but loves his wife most.  Levy never walks and talk maudlin or saccharine, but he hits the poetry heart square on every time he tries.

Mr. John Levy will be welcome here anytime, Today's book of poetry liked how he handled it all.

John Levy

John Levy was born in Minneapolis. His father, a businessman, went to law school at the age of 45 and then opened his own law firm (and later began a solo practice). Levy's mother is a sculptor and painter.
When Levy was a young boy, his family moved to Phoenix. His first exposure to poetry was in the sixth grade, when his older brother began playing recordings of Dylan Thomas reading his poetry.
Later, Levy began to read e. e. cummings and at age 15, after finding a book of William Carlos Williams poems, began writing poems.
Levy graduated from Oberlin College in 1974. He worked in a factory that summer and earned the money to fly to Kyoto, where he lived for a year and a half. For six months he worked as a waiter and dishwasher with the American poet Cid Corman in a coffee and ice cream shop Corman had started with his wife Shizumi. He briefly returned to Arizona in early 1976, where he was a poet-in-residence at a private school (K - 12) for a month, having been awarded a grant by an arts commission. Levy then moved to Paris where he lived for just over a year, earning his living by babysitting a young Canadian boy and by working as a personal secretary for a retired diplomat.
Levy published his first collection of poetry, Suppose a Man, at the invitation of James L. Weil, publisher of The Elizabeth Press. Weil also published Levy's second collection, Among the Consonants (in 1980), and Weil became a generous and supportive friend until his death in 2006.
In 1980 Levy moved to Tucson and continues to live there. After moving to Tucson, he worked as a carpenter with a high school friend who had started his own construction company. From 1983 to 1985, Levy moved to Meligalas, Greece where he taught English as a second language at private language schools in Kalamata. After returning to the United States, Levy took up the study of law in 1988 at the University of Arizona College of Law. After graduation, he clerked at the Court of Appeals (1991-1992), then undertook a solo practice for three years (doing both criminal and civil work). He then joined a small firm that specialized in plaintiff's securities fraud class action cases. In 1997 Levy joined the Pima County Public Defender's Office, where he has worked in the felony trial division (except for a nine-month stint in the appellate unit).
Levy's poetry has appeared in various poetry magazines in the United States and in England, and has been anthologized in How the Net Is Gripped (Stride Press, 1992) and A Curious Architecture: A Selection of Contemporary Prose Poems (Stride Press, 1996), both anthologies edited by Rupert Loydell & David Miller.



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Friday, June 21, 2019

On the Count of None - Allison Chisholm (A Feed Dog Book/Anvil Press)

Today's book of poetry:
On the Count of None.  Allison Chisholm.  A Feed Dog Book.  Anvil Press.  Vancouver, British Columbia.  2018.

There's more going on in Allison Chisholm's bag of tricks On the Count of None than Today's book of poetry could keep track of.  Just to get started there are a series of horoscope related poems, one for each sign of the zodiac.  These poems were full of laugh out loud moments.  Chisholm's humour is often right under the surface of things.  Once you hit that stride these poems take on a whole new charm.

Aries (March 21-April 19)

If you are not yet moving at top speed, you very soon
will be.

Reach out to a close ally.

Consult an expert at low volume.

The results will be pleasing: an abundance of
greenery in the shadows of Venus.

Be prepared for a strong reaction.


Note of full disclosure:  Anvil Press also publishes my work.  I'd like to think that Today's book of poetry operates without influence and/or favouritism.  Our mission remains to write about books of poetry we like.

Today's book of poetry figured Chisholm's poem "Worldly or Otherwise: is a thinly veiled mission statement so we thought we should take a look.  Today's book of poetry should know more about Allison Chisholm, we've had the pleasure of breaking bread together.  Allison was the emcee for a reading Today's book of poetry did in Kingston last year with Sadiqa de Meijer and Stuart Ross.  And we've shared beer at the Carleton Tavern.

Worldly or Otherwise

On this side of the world we put things in order:
hairpins, asthma inhalers, glasses of milk.
We edit our obituaries and euthanize our old ambitions.
We underwrite our uncertainties and pause to remember a voice.
On this side of the world we believe in suicide the old-fashioned way.

On this side of the world we strike out inscriptions left in books.
We keep your rumours at the edge of our vision.
We cast out broken skeletons and infiltrate audible gasps.
It's another type of sinking—here, on this side of the world.


Sadly, the truth is that Today's book of poetry knows virtually nothing about Chisholm except that we like the way she gets around a page.  Stuart Ross we know like the back of our own hand.  Mr. Ross is the Editor for A Feed Dog Book, his imprint at Anvil Press.

It is hard for Today's book of poetry to pretend that there is no bias when it comes to Ross but in truth we can't wait to get our hands on any book he's had an influence on.  Today's book of poetry knows from personal experience that Ross makes any poem he touches better.  He is a superior editor.

Allison Chisholm benefits from the care Ross puts into his poets work.  On the Count of None is precise, smoothly carved, the sharp edges are within the language, the poems themselves are otter slick.


for nelson








Any poet publishing a poem for the Paris, Ontario poet Nelson Ball is going to curry favour here in our offices.  All of you regular readers will remember Nelson Ball from the several books of his we've gushed over in previous posts.  Nelson Ball is a genuine hero in the poetry/small press scene here in Ontario.  Allison Chisholm manages to capture and compliment Captain Ball in one short breath.  Lovely.

Today's book of poetry discovered a reoccurring character, she appears in at least seven poems.  Who is this "Ellen?"  What does she want with us?  What does her presence mean?  And why does she have three "Dollhouse (s)?"  It doesn't really matter, Ellen had our full attention every time she popped up with a sage flurry.

Woman Does Backflip Before Slipping
into Shadows

Dear Abby,
How do I measure
Some level of risk
A comfortable silence
And a single sailing season?

How, Abby,
Do I wrestle
This pirate stronghold
An instant foreboding
And a legendary creature?

Dear, dear Abby
Is there a fine line
Between a daylong battle
And a misty morning?

Sun filters through leaves
Snow covers all in sight
I hear popping and crackling
As Mom drops bacon into the pan.

Life is an expenditure
And I need some capital.



Our morning read was a snappy little dance.  The sun is shining and it's almost the weekend, everyone was in summer clothing and a good mood.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, was all over Chisholm and handed out our reading assignments with aplomb.  Allison Chisholm's perky On the Count of None got us all thinking this morning.  These poems never try to pull the wool over your eyes but that doesn't mean that Chisholm won't happily pull the rug out from beneath your feet.   Poetry wise.

Image result for allison chisholm photos

Allison Chisholm

Allison Chisholm lives and writes in Kingston, Ontario. Her poetry has appeared in The Northern Testicle Review, the Puddles of Sky chap-poem The Dollhouse, The Week Shall Inherit The Verse, and the Proper Tales Press chapbook On the Count of One. She played glockenspiel in the Hawaiian-dream-pop band scub. Her photography has been exhibited in the Tiniest Gallery.

“Allison Chisholm’s poems are plain-talking spirals of wit and description. She walks the reader along a path of surprises— a straightforward line steps to another straightforward line, but getting there involves Escher-like angles. What a great first book, full of a persuasive and clear form of surrealism!”
      – Alice Burdick, author of Deportment and Book of Short Sentences

“There are lots of rewards among these lines. I like especially the poems that implicitly and pointedly criticize our culture— and I love Allison’s deadpan humour.”
     – Nelson Ball, author of Certain Details and Walking

“Allison Chisholm introduces us to a world where things are at once placed in careful order and blown delightfully apart. There are surprising pleasures tucked into these succinct poems.”
     – Jaime Forsythe, author of I Heard Something and Sympathy Loophole


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Mechanics of a Gaze — Branka Petrovic (Mansfield Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Mechanics of a Gaze.  Branka Petrovic.  Mansfield Press.  Toronto, Ontario.  2017.

Postcard No. 50

Severely hung over—
but hopefully it will be beneficial


Today's book of poetry has long admired the work of Gustav Klimt, but we've never seen him or his work from quite this delightful perspective.  Branka Petrovic's Mechanics of a Gaze does that improbable thing, she makes her writing about the great man's paintings and life as beautiful and interesting as the real thing.

Petrovic moves beyond inhabiting the gaze to directing it's focus.

Disabled Sex
Egon Schiele, Kneeling Girl in Orange Dress (Gertrude Schiele), 1910.
Black chalk and gouache on paper.

Disabled sex: molluscs attempting
foreplay clogging
their shells. Girls in orange dresses
whose hands coil

into rotten cauliflowers;
squirt citruses
from their vulvas.
A circus of cerise boots

& taboo missionary positions.
It's masturbation
with the help of a sex toy,
pumped, then washed

by special friends;
never talked about
with nurses. Limbs looping
into shame.

Fellatio performed
in a wheelchair. Lift
your thigh higher; put your toe
into my mouth; pull

your depression out. Kiss
social constructs goodbye.
My ankle. Press
the inside of my thumb; rub

my left shoulder a little
harder. Yes oh yes
oh yesssssss.
Make sex furniture for me:

enhance this rail,
tantric clamp. Adjust
the mechanics of masculinity;
my right to fuck.

Anxiety that sterilizes
& distorts my thoughts
about myself: a sexy blob-fish
in a sea of deep disgrace.

Revise your kinked
thoughts about me:
a debilitated brute; enable
orgasmic dust, devotism to sparkle.

Talk dirty to me too.


Mechanics of a Gaze fully examines the pulsating sexuality that most see in Klimt's paintings, she does the same thing with his life.  Petrovic, using actual post cards sent by Klimt to his close friend Emilie FlΓΆge, re-imagines time and place until the reader is transported to a Vienna from long ago.  Staid and vibrant, repressed and ribald, Klimt's Vienna was a complex culture and as much as artists inhabit/create a culture, artists are always the outsiders looking in.

Branka Petrovic has come correct.  She knows the paintings and sketches, the art work of Klimt and his friends and contemporaries.  When Petrovic describes a painting to us it grows in every dimension, we see more than Klimt, more than the model, we see Klimt's city, his time, his vision.

Cardinal and Nun
A painting by Egon Schiele, 1912.
Oil on canvas.

"Just as a horse in full gallop, blinded by the energy of his own speed,
pays no attention to any post or hole or ditch on the path, so two lovers,
blinded by passion, in the friction of sexual battle, are caught up in
their fierce energy and pay no attention to danger."
                                                    —The Kama Sutra (2.7.33)

His red cassock scoffs at the space, unties
like a vulva before us. His cock
knocks against her knee.
The onlooker caught

in a corrupt act.
The pact between God
and man, wrecked in an instant
of scarlet fascia, pectoral crosses,

and a scarlet zucchetto.
Karate hands; punches
we're not sure are him or her, or
the Holy Father. Oops.

The nun's manic glance.
The Cardinal's bare, muscular legs.
This rock-solid burst.
Unearthed erogenous zones; yes, oh

yes; oh no. Not now, not ever.
Paraphrase of Klimt's Kiss?
A reworking of everything mystical
into morbid patches,

black sin. Sunk in sexual gloom.


Schiele called the painting Liebkosung,
or The Caress.


It has been noted that self-portraits by Schiele from the same peri-
od, match the nun's face. Her beefy legs tip-off a "double-goer," evil


Marie Antoinette's husband, King Louis XVI's penis is

"no bigger than a straw
always limp and always curved
he has no prick, except in his pocket
instead of fucking, he is fucked."

Les Amours de Charlot et Toinette (1779)

Nymphomaniacal Antoinette sought sexual favours
from her brother-in-law
from various court nobles,
from servants,
even from her own children.

"The Austrian bitch and her Friends in the Royal Orgy" suggests
Antoinette had a string of lovers, including
the Duchess of Polignac and the Count of Artois,
who was also the true father of her children.

The National Enquirer's latest finds:

Catwoman Caged For Clawing at Boy Toy

Carrie Royale's royal insight that Harry's crown jewels
are "average-sized—
but he's a grower, not a shower!"



Margaret Trudeau spent her sixth wedding anniversary
partying with the Rolling Stones
at a Toronto nightclub
and in Mick Jagger's limousine.


Petrovic wants us to see a more complete picture than simply the amour, the scalding of promise in the paintings, Petrovic wants us to understand more about the man. 

There is no greater loss than that of a child.  Today's book of poetry has never had children but we've seen that sort of calamity up close.  There is no amount of glamour that will shield you from the big hurt.  Klimt was voracious in his appetites and fathered many children but Petrovic narrows his gaze and hers to Klimt's sorrow at the death of his son Otto.

Portrait of the Dead Otto
Portrait of the Dead Otto Simmerman, 1902.
Chalk on paper.

When death is your baby boy,
his pouted lips, parted hair;
the rest of him; bleached shawl,
bland face; your backdrop is:

a flat beige. The tiny dash of gold
in his hair a hint of life
you wish you saw when you first heard the news, dropped

everything, came running.
Held his lifeless body
tight for the rest of the night.
Two months is too little

to get to know someone. Starting
to bond, only to hold
transience in your hands. The crib,
a temporary casket, until they come,

take him away. Of all the shades
of death, his
is an especially difficult one
to blend: what colour his tiny cheeks,

minute chin, your blues.
The backdrop,
short-lived as unbleached silk,
desert sand, ecru.


The universe could have been:
astronomer almond, skyivory,
univeige, cosmic khaki, new-
fangled big bang buff or blush.

They voted for cosmic latte in the end.


A study revealed that
the overwhelming majority of stars
formed about 5 billion years ago.
Since these stars would have been

"brighter" in the past
the colour of the universe changes over time,
shifting from blue to red
as more blue stars change to yellow,

becoming eventually
red giants. As light from distant galaxies
reaches the Earth, the average 'colour of the universe'
(as seen from Earth) marginally increases

towards pure white, due to the light
coming from the stars
when they were
much younger and bluer.


Much younger and rosy-cheeked,
your baby boy is now
Navajo white. The stars lit in him,
then out. The universe,

a buildup of extraordinary
matter, then ether.


Grief is an anti-white flash decanted
from antique white. It's
splashed white, peach puff.
A hint of ivory. Eggshell.

Papaya whipped with
white smoke, ghost white.
It's all the shades of white
you never thought you'd see, wish

you could forget.


Today's book of poetry would like to dedicate the last poem to the late Arlen Maxwell Kierkegaard. 

Branka Petrovic wrings every emotion you have out of you before you get to the end of Mechanics of a Gaze.  These poems put you in Vienna, but they also get inside of your internal geography and bang things around.  The cobbled streets and secret societies of Vienna become real and breathing.  The poems start to feel a little like paintings, exact, and starring back at us.

Petrovic has some serious burn.

Image result for branka petrovic photo

Branka Petrovic

Branka Petrovic completed an M.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing at Concordia University. She holds a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from McGill University. She was co-Editor-in-Chief of Headlight Anthology and her poetry has appeared in Branch, Arc Poetry Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, The Antigonish Review, and The New Quarterly, among others. Her work was long-listed for the 2012 and 2015 CBC Poetry Prize and the 2016-2017 Ralph Gustafson Prize for the Best Poem. It was also shortlisted for the 2013 Gwendolyn MacEwen Poetry Competition. In 2016, she won second prize at the Great Blue Heron Poetry Contest. Born in Belgrade, she lives and writes in Montreal.

Branka Petrovic gets Klimt—she gets inside the gorgeous horror, the lavish violence of his paintings. That she embodies his work and his era in a poetry as ornate, as startling, as boldly sexual, as his art, impresses. That she does so through interrogation, even judgement—particularly of the male gaze—makes this a remarkable, and remarkably mature, first book. Provocative, elegant, and unsettling, Mechanics of a Gaze will leave no reader untouched.
     —Stephanie Bolster, author of A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth.
Rich in imagery and sound, Branka Petrovic’s Mechanics of a Gaze is a lush, layered, and carefully-curated collection of poems about Gustav Klimt. Animating found material and showing careful attention to the material culture of the Secessionist period in Vienna, Petrovic has written a collection steeped in history and aesthetics, one sharpened by a contemporary, deliciously-ambivalent gaze. Intertwining threads of art, sex, fashion, scandal, and looted works, Branka Petrovic’s Mechanics of a Gaze “blooms / bravura.”
     —Susan Elmslie—author of Museum of Kindness

Branka Petrovic
Why Do I Write
Video: Quebec Writers Federation



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Black Queer Hoe — Britteney Black Rose Kapri (Haymarket Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Black Queer Hoe.  Britteney Black Rose Kapri.  Haymarket Books.  Chicago, Illinois.  2018.

Today's book of poetry put India Arie on the box this morning.  We had her singing Saint Pharoah of Saunders sublime "The Creator Has A Master Plan."  Why?  Because Britteney Black Rose Kapri is in the house and we needed some grace.

Black Queer Hoe explodes as soon as you open the cover.  Kapri turns it all upside down and laughs while she does it.  She does not give two fucks.  Kapri owns everything, her Blackness, her Queerness and her Holy screaming Hoeness.  These poems are an indictment against a society of racist, homophobic puritans at the same time as it is a joyful shout to a future blue sky where tolerance is a forgotten world and acceptance is the norm.


allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is Britteney
Black Rose Kapri aka Bee aka Besus Fights aka Go Go
Gadget Hoe aka That Bitch Your Mother wishes you'd
marry. of House Slytherin. first of her name. Queen of the
Clapback. Patron Saint of Fat Bitches with too much mouth
and even more tiddy. Duchess of Depression. Right
Honorable of Cellulite and Twerk. Professor Pop Off. Elder
Petty. Admiral of Hoe Tendencies and Anxiety. Captain
Can't Save Em, but i keep trying. Siren to last-cause niggas
and light-skin rappers. Master of Self-Deprecation. High
Priestess of the Pen and Mic. Countess of Shut a Nigga
Down. Server of Shade and These Hands. Chairman of the 
Curve. Emperor of Don't Come for Me. Lord of I Didn't
Send for You. Don of the fuck your mixtape, papa john's,
indiana, j. cole, and your misogyny facebook statuses.
Mother of Draggings.

all these poets is my sons. i create space for marginalized
youth to counter the narrative being forced upon them.
i also punt toddlers for crying on airplanes. i drink like a
sailor and fuck like my mother. i ain't got time for your
shit, so come correct boy or don't come at all. i chef like
your southern granny and bougie northern auntie that ran
and never looked back. spent the past twenty-nine years
working on being the best version of myself, which means
loving the worst versions of myself. ain't no shrew to be
tamed, ain't no horse to be broke, ain't no Hoe to be
housewived. i be all this and i ain't gone stop. i got my own
house, my own car, work two jobs, imma bad Bitch. But if
you call me Bitch i'll skin you.


Today's book of poetry isn't sure Britteney Black Rose Kapri wants a sixty-two, almost sixty-three, year-old white man, straight, married and monogamous, to even read Black Queer Hoe much less write about it.  But we should all read Black Queer Hoe.  It is illuminating.

Kapri makes it clear that she doesn't approve of the "fearless" moniker being applied to her or her poetry so Today's book of poetry can't use that.  So, we went back in time and contacted the only woman we know who might rival Kapri for her honest, blunt and omnivorous sexual appetite.  We contacted THE Luba.  THE Luba was fearless.

No one gets more love and respect from Today's book of poetry than THE Luba.  THE Luba said that Kapri sounded like her sort of gal but hadn't read Black Queer Hoe so she could only hold her tongue.  She also insisted we send her a copy immediately.

Britteney Black Rose Kapri does so much Today's book of poetry admires in Black Queer Hoe, she was even kind enough to give us another "list" poem.  All my Today's book of poetry poetry babies know how much we enjoy a good "list" poem.  Kapri nails it to the page — during the morning read our newest intern Maggie got a full standing ovation when she read "to every nigga told me their dick belonged to me."

to every nigga that told me
their dick belonged to me

                                                  for kush thompson

i am building a fort with these dicks.
washing em off and regifting these dicks.
i've run out of shelves for these dicks.
got a crown made of the best dicks.
stack three together
and it's a lightsaber dick.

I even recycle the dicks.
reduce, reuse, resuck these dicks.
fortifying a wall around my bed of these dicks.
put on a puppet show starring these dicks.
if i leave one behind got a whole arsenal of these dicks.
i go on antiques roadshow with these dicks.
most time i don't even want these dicks.


Britteney Black Rose Kapri is up front with everything including telling us about her fight with hidradenitis suppurativa and her girth.  No shame taken or given because Today's book of poetry is always going to champion poetry this honest.  That's another phrase Kapri will most likely disapprove of.  But Today's book of poetry does recognize genuine, strong, fearless and true when we see it.  Kapri won't be found in any kitchen soon but her own but this woman can burn.

Black Queer Hoe made Today's book of poetry laugh his ass off.  Kapri is a poet Today's book of poetry would love to have a drink and a smoke and a conversation with.  

Today's book of poetry hates talking about race but that is talking that still needs to be done.  Kapri's poems are way past the talking stage.  These poems are flat out assaulting the status quo.

a reading guide:
for white people reading my book

don't sister girl me or giiiiirl me or sis me or girlfriend me
or hey bitch me, or any other slang you think me and other
Black woman call ourselves when you're not around.
making it to the end of the book does not open some
special key to nigga vernacular. i'm not your Black friend.
not your hero. this book ain't for you. it's a celebration of
my Blackness, my Queerness, my Hoeness, none of which
exists without the other. if you want to celebrate me, buy
me a shot or tell your cousins to stop asking if my wigs are
my real hair. now i know, that you know, not to say nigga.
but sometimes y'all act like you haven't seen the same
viral videos as me. you know, the ones where one of y'all
step outside y'all body to the wrong nigga and get y'all w
hole ancestry knocked outta y'all. this book isn't a rap
song (2).  something to get caught up in and accidentally
forget who you are. or where you are. if i see you reading
along mouthing the word nigga i will stop my whole ass set
to ask you why. embarrassing white folks and fuckboys is
my american past time. this book isn't an invitation. i am
not your therapist or here to validate that one time you
stood up to your grandpa by telling him colored was
outdated. don't applaud yourselves. instead show a Black
woman you appreciate them. all we want is reparations
and to be left the fuck alone.

                                                                          by you.

(2)   don't say nigga when you're rapping either


Even after the last line of that fine poem Today's book of poetry isn't going to leave Britteney Black Rose Kapri alone, we're hoping she won't mind.  Either way we are going to say we have the temerity to like these vibrant poems.  We'll go even further, Today's book of poetry would argue that Kapri's slick hits reminds us how we are all alive and beautiful in this sometimes ugly mess.  But the world is alive and beautiful in each of us.  She says this but wouldn't admit it to me.  Black Queer Hoe kicks ass and takes names while doing it.

Black Queer Hoe is not your typical autobiographical apology or racist rage.  It isn't a binary for homophobic joy seekers.  Black Queer Hoe isn't for the average reader, it is in spite of the average reader.  Nothing average about Britteney Black Rose Kapri.  

Image result for britteney black rose kapri photo

Britteney Black Rose Kapri

Britteney Black Rose Kapri is a Chicago performance poet and playwright. Currently she is an alumna turned Teaching Artist Fellow at Young Chicago Authors. Her work has been featured in Poetry Magazine, Button Poetry, Seven Scribes, and many other outlets, and anthologized in The BreakBeat Poets and The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic. She is a contributor to Black Nerd Problems, a Pink Door Retreat Fellow, and a 2015 Rona Jaffe Writers Award Recipient.

“This brazen debut is good medicine and a needed shout in the world. Black Queer Hoe makes it clear Britteney Black Rose Kapri is a poet we must pay attention to, taking up the reigns of many spoken word and literary ancestors and charging forward into poetics unafraid to be ratchet and bare.”
     —Danez Smith, author of Don’t Call Us Dead

“Britteney Kapri writes with the tenacity of your favorite emcee and the gumption of your most outspoken Auntie. In her first full-length collection, Black Queer Hoe, Kapri opens the entire conversation with the (un)justification of being labeled a Hoe and the womxn reader will find themselves gasping after each line, these poems serve as a re-introduction to our reflections. As profound as Eartha Kitt, as futuristic in her feminism as Grace Jones as positively unabashed about her body as Josephine Baker and as lyrically provocative as Cardi B; Kapri's multi-genre'd poetic offering is a new home for those unafraid of this brave cruel world.”
     —Mahogany L. Browne, author of Black Girl Magic and co-editor of The BreakBeatPoets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic

“Britteney Kapri is a stunningly talented writer whose words reach out from the page and grab you around the throat one minute while pulling you into a hug in the next. This book is incredible.”
    —Samantha Irby, author of Meaty

Britteney Black Rose Kapri

Poetry & Pie Night - Pink Door Edition 2017
Video: Poetry & Pie Night



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Twenty-Five — Emily Izsak (above/ground press)

Today's book of poetry:
Twenty-Five.  Emily Izsak.  above/ground press.  Ottawa, Ontario.  2018.

Image result for above/ground press emily izsak twenty five

Twenty-Five is one interesting little kettle of smart fish.  Emily Izsak currently lives in London, Ontario (where Today's book of poetry was born, just saying), and as such counts Tom Cull and Blair Trewartha among her friends.  Our regular readers will recognize their names as having appeared in Today's book of poetry.  You can see our take on those two gentlemen here:

Tom Cull/What the Badger Saw
Tom Cull/Bad Animals
Blair Trewartha/Easy Fix
Blair Trewartha/Porcupine Burning

The reason Today's book of poetry mentions London's Cull and Trewartha in the same breath is that Izsak has some of the same quick light in Twenty-Five and Today's book of poetry was wondering "what's in the water?"  All of this to clumsily say that just like Cull and Trewartha, Today's book of poetry is hard struck and happy reading Emily Iszak's poetry.  It burns.


Cyclists binge on round                 gimmicks
            mash their crabmeat
            with clawed

The matter of sole or psychomotor
            is off topic

                             better to question               which reflex
                             sits madonna                      sidesaddle

At last
in a liminal       bike lane
the decade's accent
slackens and            be
comes apart


Twenty-Five is one long poem and Today's book of poetry is just offering up snippets for your digestion.  Today's book of poetry believes Twenty-Five is a love poem for Ariel.  Today's book of poetry thinks Twenty-Five is taking the current cultural temperature from ground zero and with the patience of William Carlos Williams.  Today's book of poetry isn't exactly sure what is happening in Twenty-Five but we were constantly jolted, prodded, disassembled, shuffled, intrigued.

Maybe this is one long autobiographical confession delivered by a modern day hipster scat singer.  All Today's book of poetry knows is that "heaven's breadbox is empty."  Izsak has some wicked chops.


             A semi-  modest defense
                           for inaccessible          manpower

outlasts the downdraft if  push come to   push harder

                          A volunteer cocktease
                                                                     tells him    please
                                                                                                    the people
                                                                                             braid famine into updos

                          for a spot
                                      in the anthology


Our morning read started with a question that Today's book of poetry will share with you readers.  Does anyone know how to contact Robert Jutras, author of Looncalls?  Today's book of poetry returned home a few days ago to find a copy of Mr. Jutras's lovely book between our doors but nary a note or card.  Today's book of poetry wants to thank either Mr. Jutras himself (or whomever else was kind enough to leave us Looncalls between the doors.

Emily Izsak's Twenty-Five continues the long running tradition of Ottawa's rob mclennan and his proliferate above/ground press - of finding the very best poetry available in Canada and beyond.  

Izsak has a Fran Lebowitz smart to her swagger and a Sue Goyette eye.  Our actual morning read was a bit like over stuffing a pinball machine and it lighting up and spitting us around the room with haste.  Twenty-Five doesn't waste one second of time, it shouts itself out in Tommy-gun bursts.


By the ruins of contemporary themes
under the cheek of  a limp
pioneer gowned in
faith-based weather    Beyond WCW's
use of prepositions    standing and fallen

Now the offer         tomorrow
the in-laws flense our history


And Emily Izsak sent Today's book of poetry to our living dictionary, in our case it is Max, our Senior Editor.  Knocked on Max's door and heard grumbling from within.  I don't think I've actually seen Max for several months, when the door opened a funky green slumber of smoke pushed into the rest of the office.  Of course Max knew what "flense" meant.  He was insulted that the rest of us didn't.

So when I went back to reread Izsaks line:

      "                                tomorrow
        the in-laws flense our history"

I did the poetry glee dance.  Today's book of poetry loves to be amused and we love to learn.  Emily Izsak did both, at least Twenty-Five times.

Twenty Five is yet another above/ground press chapbook that you really should read.

Image result for emil izsak photo

Emily Izsak

Emily Izsak’s poetry has been published in Arc Poetry Magazine, The Puritan, House Organ, Cough, The Steel Chisel, The Doris, and The Hart House Review. In 2014 she was selected as PEN Canada’s New Voices Award nominee. Her chapbook, Stickup, was published in 2015, and her first full-length collection, Whistle Stops: A Locomotive Serial Poem, was published by Signature Editions in April 2017.

Emily Izsak
Augur Magazine - Preview Issue
Video - Augur Magazine



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Queen Kong — Amanda J. Bradley (NYQ Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Queen Kong.  Amanda J. Bradley.  NYQ Books.  New York, New York.  2017.


Amanda J. Bradley's Queen Kong starts off with a long autobiographical poem that tells the story of the growth of a young woman in a loving family that is both frequently transplanted somewhere new on the globe and fiercely loyal.  Bradley's young woman starts us off with bubble-gum and Barbies.  By the time we're done we've finished graduate school only to graduate via the mail.  Oh yes, and a taxing but brief stay in a mental-health facility as a result of drug induced breakdown.

Bradley knows how to make us care, the details and detritus that make up her life brings us closer to empathy.  When you've finished "Belonging," (title of Bradley's autobiographical introduction), a narrative she-tale of her coming of age you do feel like you might know this young woman.  Bradley lets us in on some of the mortar needed to hold all the building blocks together.

III.  Fourteen

Long, blonde curls fly behind as I careen through Plano, Texas
neighborhoods, past red brick ranch houses on my blue ten speed,
limbs strong and lithe from years of ballet. I begin to taste freedom.
My poems begin to flutter into existence. I write them in my rainbow-
hearted bedroom, newly discovered Plath my inspiration. I sprawl
across my twin bed, swallowing books, soon to be released from braces.

We pack too much luggage for Paris and London. We have to take
two taxis to the hotel. I have a suitcase of shoes. We see the Mona Lisa
and Monet's Water Lilies. I am transformed by Rembrandt, by moving
among people I can barely understand. We eat escargot in the hotel bar.
I am fascinated by Montmarte, the stories of the artists, the histories
of romance. My mother tells me not to swing my hips. I see the men watching.
I wonder what champagne is like, wine, gin and tonic. My brother
and I climb the lions in Trafalgar Square. I admire the poets buried
at Westminister. We trudge to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral.
I cry at a production of Cats, knowing nothing of T.S. Eliot.

At school, I am a nerd and don't mind much except the guys are less
likely to notice me this way. Between dolls and dalliance, I begin
to realize my body can be a weapon, can be violated, can be impregnated,
can make me strong or weak. I start high school. My English teacher says
I write well. She says Justin writes well, too. We begin to talk on the phone.
I lie on my parents' bed and wind the phone cord through my fingers.
I catch myself in the mirror. I can see he makes me feel happy. I feel pretty
and smart all at once. This is important to me. "May I have this dance?"
he wants to know. We dance to Bryan Adams' "Heaven." He asks for more,
but there are rebellious boys who have moved a lot like me, who will take me
to OMD concerts and teach me about clove cigarettes. I say no. Instead, I go out
with the one who will soon have a mohawk. When I am told we are moving,
I grab matches from the kitchen and ride far to a distant park. I strike them
one by one, attempting to put them out on my wet, pink tongue, terrifying
myself, waiting for cars to pass, till I am alone, before trying again. At last,
I succeed. I settle fire in my mouth. I swing upside down from a bar on the
playground. I am a fire-eating acrobat with no fear. I can do, I can be anything.


Wow.  It's a good thing Amanda J. Bradley gave us some idea of what was happening in her poetry kitchen.  By the time Today's book of poetry got to "Queen Kong," the title poem of this absolutely marvelous assault on power of the patriarchy, Bradley has the pot smoking.  Make no mistake, as Today's book of poetry likes to say of our very favourite poets, Bradley can burn.

          "Somewhere between a virgin
            and a whore, a holy mother
            and a temptress, I learned
            that my worth was tied
            to the raging pulse
            between my thighs."
                   from My God, My God, Why Has Thou Forsaken Me?

Bradley's autobiographical introduction is a frank and vivid feminist roar, Queen Kong expands her universe and ours with each intake of oxygen.  Bradley's volume increases as she takes on her mature voice.  Today's book of poetry hasn't heard a howl like this in longer than ago, but now that we've heard Amanda J. Bradley Today's book of poetry will never forget.  Bradley's got precision.

Queen Kong

          Where is the ebullient, infinite woman who...hasn't been ashamed of her
          strength? Who, surprised and horrified by the fantastic tumult of her drives...
          hasn't accused herself of being a monster?

                                       -Helene Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa"
                                         (translated by Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen)

I've been shimmying up skyscrapers all my life,
swatting at airplanes that buzz my massive head.
I have been holding tiny men in my palm, careful
not to squish life from their fragile bodies.
I have spent my rage on the bars of this cage. Ripped
from my native habitat, I can barely remember
I am not a monster. My drives are ancient and furious.
I peer into the tiny windows of your offices
and see you skitter about in monkey suits.
You think you are making the world go round,
mastering complex transactions, but the world
is simpler than that. It is the stench of my breath
roaring at you through fangs clenched in a wide,
diabolical smile, showering shattered glass at your feet.


Take that!  

Our morning read here in the Today's book of poetry offices was a robust sunshine affair.  Good weather has finally hit Ottawa and the resulting displays of pasty snow white skin are both hopeful and a little frightening.  Today's book of poetry was the only person in this mornings office not in shorts.

Maggie, our new intern, took the reins on Amanda J. Bradley's Queen Kong.  She said that Bradley's nomadic childhood pushed so many of her buttons that it sounded like music.

Bradley reminds Today's book of poetry of the great Canadian singer/songwriter Feist.  Strong and clear with an original voice that sounds instantly familiar.  That is no easy feat.  This is what happens when experience meets intelligence and the strong woman in charge turns it into art.

Meditation on a Cutlet

          A blind agitation is manly and uttermost.

                               -Gertrude Stein, "A Cutlet"

Reduce the manly to a diminutive.
Let the cut seep blood, slice deep.
Reference Sophocles and Freud.
Mother of us all, we modern women,
help us see the chicken with its head
cut off that is war. In seven words,
reduce patriarchy to the joke it is.

You said you were not a feminist,
but you were sly and funny.
Many of us have said it before
we were radicalized by circumstance.

I was not a feminist until I found myself
mentally composing essays and poems
while scrubbing frying pans and bathtubs,
not until I noticed women in suits lugging
little ones down grocery aisles late in evenings,
scouring for cutlets, not until I saw my own
mother blossom into a badass boss,
her great brain finally actualized in work.

What would you say to your beloved
America today with its terrible
hints at persecuted rich white men?
You would balk like an ironic chicken
and repeat with great dignity
"A blind agitation is manly and uttermost."


Manifesto, call to arms, Today's book of poetry can't exactly track Queen Kong's ambitions.  Today's book of poetry is a tiny man and looking up with awe.  This giant means serious business and SHE shouldn't be ignored.  

When powerful women get real the sky begins to rumble.

Can you hear that?  Bradley just burnt this place up.

Amanda J. Bradley

Amanda J. Bradley

Amanda J. Bradley has released three books of poems from NYQ Books: Queen Kong in 2017, Oz at Night in 2011, and Hints and Allegations in 2009. She has published poetry, essays, and interviews in many journals including Kin Poetry Journal, The Nervous Breakdown, Skidrow Penthouse, Ragazine, Paterson Literary Review, Gargoyle, Best American Poetry Blog, Paddlefish, Lips, Rattle, The New York Quarterly, Poetry Bay, and Barefoot Muse. Amanda is a graduate of the MFA program in poetry writing at The New School, and she holds a PhD in English and American Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Amanda teaches literature and creative writing at Keystone College in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Amanda J. Bradley's latest book, Queen Kong, is a courageous and audacious book. Starting with the long poetic sequence rooted in narrative, it is specific, heartfelt, energetic, honest, and we are drawn into the world of this poet. Throughout the rest of the book, the poet confronts all that is broken and lost in the world. She grieves over the damage we have caused to the environment, and gives us feminist manifestoes. This is a tour de force performance that leaps from lyrical narrative to the surreal and back. It's unforgettable.
    —Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Queen Kong is a mesmerizing book of poems. The first two sections contain candid and emotionally powerful pieces which act as a perfect preface for the rest of the book. Bradley's willingness to be vulnerable on the page, especially in her original, feminist poems is daring. In Queen Kong, she proves what an exquisite poet she is. This book has the power not only to impact the New York City on its cover but also the rest of our country and beyond.
     —Laura Boss



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.