Meg Ronan’s “The Obligatory Garnish Argument”

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the obligatory garnish argument
by Meg Ronan
from Spring Gun Press

Meg Ronan sent this to me months ago, but when it arrived I was moving and it was packed up before I even knew what it was.

What it is is the obligatory garnish argument, which sounds like the best Guns n Roses album ever. Not that, though. Instead it is a book of little tiny word nuggets to rearrange your mindspace, like:

the obligatory garnish argument

this glob drought          requires
liberal sub-global oxygen garden policy
here, take all my cable knits

Which is writing I like a lot, lot, but me personally I cannot read many in one sitting even though they’re not long and the book is not long. (Are there patterns to these pieces? How were they composed?) But Ronan, smart, inserts what I take to be found text that plays with the “are you still reading this” trope of tl;dr patterns. That’s what this book is! It’s a question about reading. “If you’re still reading this you’re pretty serious about your car audio.” It’s a thing about endurance. It’s a question about beauty.

“Don’t read any further.” “Stop suffering.”

the obligatory garnish argument

born for this barging this constant charitable
luxury mirage        more serious shards please
change me for the ragged flora and the boredom

I don’t endure poems like that! I refresh myself with them. Poems like that hand me back the thoughts I had that I didn’t get. I like what Sandra Doller says in her blurb, “What happens when text is filtered through the meaning machine? What will stem the exhausting tide of linguistic proliferation?” This! Henry Miller referred to “the sieve through which my anarchy strains, resolves itself into words.”

Check it out.

From the failed head shot bin

With Chouchou

I had to provide a photo of myself for a thing, which is never fun. Cameras steal souls. I think I get why so many authors have lame head shots; it’s an awful thing to try deliberately to “capture” your identity. I found that the more I tried, the less recognizable I became to myself. This doesn’t seem to be the case for cats.

In other news, I am editing Everyday Genius this month, and yesterday I emailed a bunch of my favorite people and asked for whatever nonsense they wanted to send me, like whatever old thing they don’t work on anymore, or something scrawled off, or whatever, and great stuff is coming in. Got an amazing story by Gene Morgan. It’s making it fun again! The guest editors over the last couple years have been amazing. EG is a fascinating journal, having published 1385 posts (probably that’s like 1200 writers).

I just reread this essay of my own that I wrote in 2011 for Everyday Genius, about trying to remember a poem, and still couldn’t remember the poet.

I used to be a big blogger!

The Harbour Beyond the Movies by Luke Kennard

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The Harbour Beyond the Movies
by Luke Kennard
from Salt Publishing

My brother got me this book for Christmas, off my Amazon wish list. I didn’t even know I had one of those. But when I opened this present at Christmastime I was surprised that he’d gotten me such a deep-cut poetry book, something from 2007. That’s when he explained the wish list.

I put it on the wish list because Mairéad Byrne had Luke Kennard blurb her book, The Best of (What’s Left of) Heavenso I wanted to see what his stuff is like.

I like it a lot, of what I’ve read so far, which is a couple poems. Thanks bro!

Quarry Light by Claudia Smith

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Quarry Light
fiction by Claudia Smith
from Magic Helicopter Press

The mailman just dropped this off. It looks great. The design, inside is out, is excellent. There are six stories in the 120 page book. The cover painting is elegant. I just looked at the copyright page and there is a lot of information on it. On the back, MHP’s helicopter logo has fully grown on me.

A couple Barthelmes blurbed it. Steven said you should reckon with and celebrate her talent. Frederick said the stories are frightening and heartbreaking. Elizabeth Ellen said Claudia Smith is able to make you thirteen and terrified of everything.

I haven’t read it yet but maybe I’ll save it until when the power goes out on some stormy night this winter.

Gigantic Failures by Mark Cronin

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Gigantic Failures
by Mark Anthony Cronin
from Small Victories Press

Doesn’t this book look awesome? It’s a collection of nine stories. The title pages for each story has a really cool drawing on it. One of the stories is called “Daedelus, the Bastard!” It begins, “The neighbors god damn kid shot the swimming pool with his BB gun, Rodney Cafner notices as he’s taking out the trash.”

The stories are great, the book looks great and fits nicely in your hand and I’m not just saying that because Mark let me layout the pages. I can’t wait to finish reading this book and then see what’s next with Cronin and Small Victories.

Amy McDaniel’s Collected Adult Lessons

Collected Adult Lessons
by Amy McDaniel
from 421 Press

Here collected are fourteen poems, three from Amy McDaniel’s original chapbook Selected Adult Lessons (Agnes Fox 2010) and eleven previously uncollected—all great. Presented in oversized size for easy reading, some of the poems are long and some are short. Sometimes the poems make their own jokes and, like in the Guided Meditation, sometimes they ask you to make the joke or for your best facts about animals.

Wait, what are your best facts about animals? Somehow I know that dogs are six times faster than I am.

I’m proud of this book because Amy let me help with the design, and all the elements of what makes a book a book were called into question and dealt with accordingly. For instance, since there are only fourteen poems we numbered the poems instead of the pages.

Check it out for $5 here.

Edward Mullany’s Figures for an Apocalypse

Figures for an Apocalypse
by Edward Mullany
from Publishing Genius

This book blows my mind. It is 200 pages of vsf, in which every story is essential. I have read it cover to cover many times in the last year, starting in August 2012 while camping with my family. It hasn’t changed much since then, but it still feels new every time.

I just flipped around in the book, pretending I’d just bought a copy and wanted to see what it was all about. I used the contents page (the TOC is 6 pages long) and just went to the stories that I thought would be the most interesting. I dabbled around that way.

Sometimes I’d come upon a story and think, like, Well, that story just seems whatever. For instance, the story on page 39 goes:

There was a telephone on a table in a hall.

It started ringing.
“Can you get that?” a woman called.

You know? I certainly think those are good sentences and the last word “called” in this context is interesting, but over the course of a 200 page book, the so-called “story” is not really all that compelling, right?

Then I looked at the title again, which is, “The Police” and I came to realize how much is being offered. Are the police calling? Is the woman and whoever she’s speaking to a cop? The police suggest a crisis. Like, my first thought was, maybe the police are there interviewing the woman about something, and she calls out to her husband, who is getting everyone coffee, to answer the phone. Maybe their child is missing and it’s the ransom guy. I don’t know! Don’t look at me! Look at the book!

Even Though I Don’t Miss You by Chelsea Martin

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Even Though I Don’t Miss You
by Chelsea Martin
from Short Flight/Long Drive

This book came with perfect timing, right as I’m about to get on the bus for a semi-long drive to NYC. It takes 3.5 hours. I figure I can read Chelsea’s book four times.

I think it will be kind of sad but also really funny.

The first time I ever saw anything about Chelsea Martin, she was putting condoms on her legs in a video. It was 2008. I have all her books. Her website is www.jerkethics.com.

We Were Giants by Christopher Bowen

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We Were Giants
by Christopher Bowen
from Sunnyoutside

This is a chapbook of microfiction. Like all Sunnyoutside books it is very beautiful. The author Christopher Bowen runs a chapbook press called Burning River and reading WWG I realized his own writing is similar to the writing he publishes. That makes sense. His writing, like Lydia Davis’s, is exacting and looks for profundity in the small quirks of language. This is from “The Knocking,” p11:

Bob was away like an instant message alert, online but nowhere near talking, selling things statewide, out of state and in general for the state of things at her mother’s house and because of Chelsea, the birth of Chelsea, and the unexpected cost of things.

But God is knocking at the door begging forgiveness for asking if she could spare a bill’s payment here or there to donate to the local church and the welfare shelter they have.

[This is the first post in my new series, BookFace, in which I write briefly about whatever book I happen to be holding in front of my face. Thanks to Caryn Lazzuri for pointing out this idea.]