November 16, 2012

Issue 08 Contributor List


Kelly Andrews
Michael Boccardo
Kaitlin Bostick
Julia Bouwsma
Christine Butterworth-McDermott
Dolores Castro translated by Toshiya Kamei
Niamh Corcoran
Molly Curtis
Laura Donnelly
Brendan Egan
Heather J. Macpherson
Prairie L. Markussen
Casey McCord
Marigny Michel
Keith Montesano
Sara Lupita Olivares
Leah Sewell
John Oliver Simon
Adam Tavel


Andrea O. Bullard
Carrie Callaghan
Sherrie Flick
Taylor Grieshober
Keith McCleary
Janice Pisello
Nick Sansone



Eleanor Leonne Bennett
Joseph Briggs
Jeff Foster
Suki Goodfellow
Carne Griffiths
Ken Knudsten

August 13, 2012

Frank Izaguirre Reviews Ruth Schwartz’s Miraculum

Ruth Schwartz’s Miraculum is a vivid depiction of living in a world filled with sex and death. Her poems grasp at what brings these companions of our existence together, how they make sense side by side. She finds them in every living corner of our world, but most of all right beside us.

In “Forms of Prayer” there is a salmon “glistening in combat,” its epic and timeless quest to reproduce juxtaposed against the “unyielding hatchery walls” we’ve confined it to. The next moment she marvels at its beauty, “the brilliant pink and iridescent gleam/of the salmon wrapped in paper” just as she acknowledges “how we cook and eat it, knowing what we’re eating.” But even if we know, we ignore or willfully forget. Schwartz’s poetry seeks otherwise.

We meet other creatures who live with the same brutal and beautiful realities as we do, such as the tiny birds in “The Professors,” which through generous description are instantly familiar to us. “Their softly feathered throats/against our palms” and other moments of intimacy have the birds in our own hands, but only long enough so their departure a few lines later is bittersweetly felt. They leave “to marry the stony half of the world/to the half that covers our eyes—/as if they could teach us.”

And then, just as quickly, we are reminded in “Bottom of the World” that “life flattens itself/like a bird crushed in the road:/flat blotch of feathers.” These scenes are the same and they are opposite. There is transient interaction with the living and lingering contemplation of the dead, but both are always teaching, ensuring that we continue to learn from them.

Schwartz wants us to become unafraid of how sex and death can so often be found together, as she has. In “Falling in Love after Forty” she tells how “I don’t want you young again, nor me/I want every sadness we’ve lived to stand here beside us/between the swaying soldiers of dead corn.” Masking the truth is a waste for her, a lessening of the vitality and beauty of her life. She wants “death sitting naked between us/lowering its head to lap at our champagne.” Love and death intermingle, and there is nothing strange in it.

This is a theme in Schwartz’s work. Seemingly opposite ideas and events are brought together for the purpose of revealing them as not opposite at all. In “Music of the World” we hear of “nights when every car alarm/burbles shudders shouts and wails” only to a moment later learn of the mockingbirds “who come to praise, not mock,/that urban song.” If the most prolific avian songsters admire the music of car alarms, then shouldn’t we?

Schwartz’s poems nudge us to examine these questions, or they push us, or they throw at us a full glass of water. At times they even demand a pledge, such as in “What the Day Asks,” when we are so bluntly told “do you know this world is beautiful/will you vow to look.” By reading Miraculum, we already have.

Reviewed by Frank Izaguirre

Miraculum by Ruth Schwartz
Autumn House Press, 2012

July 9, 2012

D. Gilson Reviews Ruben Quesada's Next Extinct Mammal

Ruben Quesada describes the last photograph of his parents by beginning—

Tortillas clap against floured palms,
steaming bowls of avena, frijoles
black as the rumbling sky

Which is also to say, Quesada has taken the advice so many of us have heard time and time again, and too often ignored: begin with the action. After reading Quesada’s first full-length collection, Next Extinct Mammal, I am not surprised D.A. Powell points out that “like Whitman, Quesada is a poet of motion.” And it is apt that I am writing this on May 31, Whitman’s birthday, in the sunny afternoon when I find myself thinking that Quesada is the poet Whitman could have only dreamed of in the most pleasant of dreams.

Next Extinct Mammal is a collection of movement, yes, but one of exquisitely intimate movement. Here we get to know the characters in the world of Quesada, a Los Angeles native and first-generation Costa Rican American. These people, like the forms the poems take as their lacquered shells, vary widely. They are the godmother: “The alcoholic manicurist / with bright pink fingernails / filed into sharp points / was our next-door neighbor, / and my godmother.” Or Margarita, who works in California’s Diamond Creek Vineyards, and wears “a second-hand bra—threadbare, wrinkled like / the corners of her eyes.” Or Quesada’s mother, who stands “on production / line mouthing prayers for prosperity / and health in a room of air / compressors.”

From poem to poem, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the women Quesada first loved (lest we forget that close attention, intimacy again, is, indeed, a form of love; perhaps, in fact, love’s essential poetic representation). These are women beautifully, painstakingly, described. As a fellow member of the tribe, I can safely say that gay men have a unique vantage point within the world of women. And though the poems live more often, perhaps, in this world of écriture féminine, writing of the female body, some of my favorite moments come in the few poems about the love passing between men, whether that between father and son, friend, or lover, poems that cut quick and deep. Such as “Memories Are Made Like This,” which concludes with the stanza—

I’ve searched for the origin
of such intimacy and now
only the thinning smell
of sweat and pomade
makes itself known
to me. Neurons reconstructing
memories which stray
to the heart—that bloody mass
I wish would stop flexing—
just long enough to see
him one last time.

It is not reductive to call something beautiful; but what Quesada’s poetry does here, or one of the many things it does here, is remind us beauty is ever complex, and that an intelligent conversation about beauty is wrapped up in issues of gender, race, sex, class, aesthetics, and form. I would argue Next Extinct Mammal reflects this complexity, flexing the muscles of the lean poem, the prose poem, the narrative, the lyric, and always, the honest.

In “The Last Text,” Quesada explains, “and now I know / why I reread those words before I go to sleep…eyes scanning the distance between each word.” But as I have had the time to sit with Next Extinct Mammal; to travel to Los Angeles, Costa Rica, Texas, and many points in between or beyond; to meet a cast of fascinating characters spun into a impeccably woven narrative; and to learn from poems wrought by the careful hand of a wise craftsman, I can tell you the lines are befitting of Quesada’s Next Extinct Mammal as well, the lines I will reread again and again, my eyes scanning the distance between each word.

Ruben Quesada’s debut collection of poetry, Next Extinct Mammal, was published by Greenhouse Review Press in 2011. He received his M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside in 2007. He is completing a Ph.D. in English at Texas Tech University, where he teaches literature and creative writing. He currently serves as Editor at Codex Journal, Poetry Editor at The Cossack Review, and Contributor at Fringe Magazine. He will begin as Assistant Professor of English at Eastern Illinois University starting fall 2012.

Reviewed by D. Gilson

Next Extinct Mammal by Ruben Quesada
Greenhouse Review Press, 2011

June 15, 2012

Andrew Purcell Reviews Caki Wilkinson's Circles Where the Head Should Be


I first encountered Caki Wilkinson's work in The Atlantic, which awarded her poem “Bower Bird” the first prize in poetry for their 2007 Student Writing Contest. Her insouciant rhymes, deftly jounced meter, and sure but playful command of diction leave the reader craving more of Wilkinson's work, but those left voraciously wanting had to be content to track down poems and online recordings.

That was until the recent release of her first book, Circles Where the Head Should Be, winner of the Vassar Miller prize in poetry out of the University of North Texas, itself a somewhat unexpected font of wonderful poets. Blurbed by MacArthur Fellow A.E. Stallings, who rightly praises Wilkinson's virtuosity, Circles Where the Head Should Be showcases the aesthetics of constraint, favoring constriction over release, poise over flow, the self-correcting over the self-obsessing.

Few living poets, aside from Stallings, possess such undeniable fluency in combining the mind and its sometimes staccato turns of thought with rhyme, meter, and clever turns of phrase. Wilkinson nods toward classical ambition, opening with a poem entitled “Cosmogony,” which, in a cute (if we can set aside any of that word's dismissive connotations) yet remarkably agile way imagines the first cause as a cat setting the world, a ball of yarn, in motion. This is no internet meme cat, however, nor the spinster poet's cat; rather, she evokes the cat's deeper, truer nature, an animal quite at ease with mischief-making gods.

In “Lares and Penates,” Wilkinson demonstrates her familiarity, her comfort with the classical realm, while buffing away any trace of stuffiness normally tarnishing such approaches. Her humor, a universal solvent, leaves behind a brilliant shine, and her double-jointed tropes transcend amusement to showcase something absent in much contemporary poetry – true wit:

     Still, every spring our porches spawn
       insects we can't identify
       and ferns turn freeze-dried octopi.
       They spill into the arid lawn
       with diasporic fliers, clover
           and choirs of woebegone

       house sparrows whose incessant cheeping
       recalls the gloomy Ubi sunt,
       our soundtrack to the nightly hunt
       for whatever is downstairs, beeping.
       (As if the sleepless needed some
           reminder they're not sleeping.)

But the greatest degree of emotional movement, the plushest pathos occurs in “The School By the Zoo,” a sixteen-part poem, rich in genuine self-effacement that drills into the halting action of the mind with an Audenesque precision.

           ––her mind
       racing to keep her place–– works constantly,
       fidgets, deletes, and realigns, resigned
       to making notes for notes she ought to keep;

Somehow, though writing about collegiate life, the alchemy of Wilkinson's masterful end couplets elevates her material above the banal. The extreme compression and the clever overlaying of the lofty and the lowly can perhaps best be seen in the poem's eighth section, “The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead,” where the closing couplet reads:

     So locomotion's neither here nor there:
       the axis mundi is her rolling chair.

The intelligence underlying Wilkinson's poems is as inviting as it is undeniable, compared, for example, to the unapproachable pretense of Ben Lerner's boisterous braininess. It is her restraint, often most obvious in staccato, two-word phrases like punctuation marks, that is most arresting. Reinforced by the strictures of meter and often rhyme, her mind pulls against that “silk-ribbon bondage” as A.E. Stallings refers to it, the tension arising as a palpable and satisfying sensation.

Wilkinson reaches her peak when she addresses the bathetically domestic in the face of a muted but all-enshrouding aether of mortality, similar in this regard to Larkin, Levis, or Hecht if he’d loosen his tie. From the sleight of hand in “Svengali Deck,” where a parlor trick motif disguises brilliant ars poetica, to the more straightforward but no less devastating “Assisted Living,” superb aural composition and readily comprehensible (yet hardly obvious) mental leaps make for a book of poems you'll likely find yourself wanting to read aloud to a friend.

Some may find the poise behind these poems too artificial for their tastes and the degree of construction, along with the plethora of Latin phrases, too intellectually indulgent. But compared to the overabundance of workshop poetry – poems that demonstrate safely competent aesthetics married to flat, predictable, and substance-free material – Wilkinson offers the musings of a vigorous, thoughtful mind captured and displayed through a kind of formalism that is clearly looking forward, not back.

Reviewed by Andrew Purcell

Circles Where the Head Should Be by Caki Wilkinson
University of North Texas Press, 2011

May 24, 2012

Garon Scott Reviews Heidy Steidylmayer's Fowling Piece

In Fowling Piece, Heidy Steidlmayer’s first collection of poems, the poet registers the spiritual aches that feed desire, and often finds their reflections in nature, driving the poems forward with end and cross rhyme, stringing them together by a more traditional (though carefully imperfect) meter. In “Couples,” for example, she too looks to nature and romance’s emptiness:

ask me if my emptiness equals all
your clothes, if the light shows
through your thinnest shirt
to hurt, or if the wind blows
your darks from the line by design

Through poems on protozoa, saints, and hospitals, her idiom is unflaggingly buoyant. A patched-over, palsied eye reveals “the mind in its weedy prominence.” A Chinese mantid wilts “deep in his ester of acetic acid.” The book’s final poem, “Charybdis,” opens “I am the crepe de chine of Paris green, rauwolfia, and atropine.”

The book’s first third is its most pliant. Evidenced by titles like “Heartbreak,” “Couples,” “Taxonomy of Grief,” and “Agonal,” the dominant mood is, well, heartbreak, grief, and agony, especially that of couples. There are, however, portents of matters to come—two poems that struggle with institutional religion, a poem about an orrery (“Sad amplitudes of clocky junk/crank moons and tiny globes of granite”) and an interest in prophecy and the supernatural throughout.

In the book’s second section, Steidlymayer’s voice is less urgent as she considers three routes to the unknown: Christianity, Greek mythology, and science. Her technical play and diction is less surprising here; her themes either buried or too dominant. The Christian poems are split between dissent against religion’s ritualistic, human-controlled side, and impersonal poems of Biblical stories, miracles, and the cults than surround them, like Naple’s thrice-yearly sensation, the liquefying blood of Saint Januarius. Science, it seems, in all its strangeness, catalyzes the poet’s language-impulse in exciting ways. She is determined to present this world in its own argot—Lepidoptera, not butterflies, entomology, not insects, elytra, animalcules, ootheca, cirri. Sometimes, the technical language works, but the twitch of misunderstanding and the impulse to run to a dictionary often deflate the experience of the poems.

Paradoxically, it is with a more distant subject that the poet finds her most personal, moving voice. Her poems of Greek mythology—as she inhabits the voice of Charon and Callisto, Scylla and Charybdis—are so effective because the act of speaking feels imperative. These are voices of impulse, irresistible, vital. Speaking of Zeus, Callisto asks,

Cynosure of all
eyes, did he
rise in a hood of bees

and throw off

his otherness?

The imperative to speak, and the unornamented weight it produces, carries from Steidlmayer’s Greek poems to the book’s final section, in which we discover the reason, or perhaps the culmination, of her restless spiritual searching—a brain tumor. Like another book recently reviewed by Weave—Christian Wiman’s Every Riven ThingFowling Piece confronts the surreal world of the hospital—the ubiquitous white, the masked faces, the screaming stranger in the next bed over—while attempting to make sense of death and self. Here, Steidlmayer is at her most brilliant. Her images are exact and necessary, no longer simply enjoyable flights of language, but the inescapable products of her topics. Where Wiman progresses from horror to spiritual serenity, Steidlmayer, as though under an analgesic haze, registers dreamlike visions in floating, punctuation-free lines:
the anesthesiologist, her faded countenance
as far away as a giant

my husband beside the bed, his face
as if I had just fallen from one of his branches

In a poetic world that, for better or worse, values idea over execution, Fowling Piece is a remarkable testament to the potential of technique, and is all the more so for being a first book. Steidlmayer uses—and is not used by—devices such as meter and rhyme, and though very few poems in the book could be called formal, the influence of formality is felt throughout. She handles line breaks masterfully because she lacks allegiance to form, and yet her most memorable lines are often weighted by their metric regularity. Moreover, the book’s passion for the unknown, for our pains to know and make claim on meaning, is admirably broad and honest, and its resolution—with poems of motherhood, creation, nature, and myth—is one of not certainty but hope. Her imperative in “Poverty,” one of the book’s earlier poems, may as well be to herself:

let the sun beat
down its fat old heart
bring another day to its knees

there is nothing left
to carry but your voice.

Reviewed by Garon Scott

Fowling Piece by Heidy Steidylmayer
TriQuarterly, 2012

May 11, 2012

Gents Who Read Ladies: D. Gilson's Tribute to Adrienne Rich

WEAVE MAGAZINE is committed to celebrating a diversity of voices, including those speaking to, through, or about sex, sexuality, and gender. We also recognize that due praise far too often falls along the separating lines of gender. Thus, we are introducing Gents Who Read Ladies, an occasional series written by one of our male reviewers, offering due praise to one of our favorite women writers. The series begins with D. Gilson’s tribute to Adrienne Rich, a powerful force in both poetry and politics, whose work continues to inspires us both as individuals and as a community. --Weave Reviews Editor, Thom Dawkins

freedom is daily, prose-bound, routine
remembering. Putting together, inch by inch
the starry worlds. From all the lost collections.
—Adrienne Rich, from “For Memory”

The week before I defended my MFA thesis, Adrienne Rich died. The poetry world—and especially the world of poetry-that-can-do-something—lost its matriarch, the woman who, since the early ‘50s, didn’t ride the waves, but made them.

I don’t write these platitudes to make her death about me, or even about our community; but in this time of transition, as I leave the comforts of a graduate program in creative writing to hit the streets, I’m thinking about Rich, and how none of this could be possible without her.

During an undergraduate literary theory course, we were assigned Rich’s essay, “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision.” I was beginning to take baby steps out of the closet, manifested by drunken nights at Martha’s Vineyard, the local gay bar, and by a hush-hush tryst with a married professor. And certainly by my reading tastes. What was I reading that semester? I know there was lots of O’Hara and Doty and Virginia Woolf. I was in British Lit, so surely some Wilde. In a theater class, we read The Normal Heart. My poems from this time—atrocious things! but necessary—are filled with men thinly veiled behind gender-neutral pronouns. Looking back a decade later, it was Rich’s “When We Dead Awaken” that was most formative.

“It’s exhilarating,” she writes, “to be alive in a time of awakening consciousness; it can also be confusing, disorienting, and painful.” It seemed Rich had written it just for me! Which is ludicrous, of course, but as a 19-year-old budding homo taking critical theory and women’s studies and poetry workshops, finally, I thought, someone gets it.

Oy vey!

But that part—that someone getting it—is absolutely true. For a generation of others, of women and racial minorities and queers, Rich had opened the door to a valuable new hybridity: that between creative writing and academic discourse. There was so much power there, and Rich was collecting all of us together, making us a part of the conversation, that essential conversation of art and politics and living. “The sleepwalkers are coming awake,” she continued, “and for the first time this awakening has a collective reality; it is no longer such a lonely thing to open one’s eyes.”

It seems dramatic that I would think this, but opening my spiral notebook from that literary theory class, looking at the pages of notes taken while we discussed Rich’s essay, I had written some marginalia in a curlicue, all-caps script: NOBODY CAN FUCK WITH ME NOW. Overstatement, yes. But also some deep truth here. Through conversations with colleagues and presentations at a myriad of academic conferences, I see the thumbprints of Rich everywhere. And thankfully, not only in those other-ed populations, but also in the work of straight white men. They, too, must be a part of the change Rich spent her whole life trying to affect.

Her trying wasn’t in vain, either. We have a lot of work yet to do, but it is work built on the foundation of Adrienne Rich. It seems fitting I would write my first contribution to Weave’s “Gents Who Read Ladies” series with a bit about her. I wouldn’t be a poet or an academic or an agent for change without the words she breathed into the world, a challenge—“Old words: trust fidelity / Nothing new yet to take their place.”

Written by D. Gilson

May 3, 2012

D. Gilson Reviews Useless Landscape, or a Guide for Boys by D.A. Powell

It’s 2012 and we’ve come to trust a voice like D.A. Powell’s. Rightfully so—Powell’s style is one grounded not only in the culturally essential, the nitty gritty of our every city and backwater county highway, but also in his mastery of language, the forging, and we must call it forging, of high art. Consider these lines—an ars poetica?—from “Goodbye, My Fancy”

All the boys of recent memory
have been like this: accomplice,
adjutant, aide-de-camp.

I should just toss you my thesaurus.
There are words for the kind
of love we have,
though none of them quite suffice.

What can this be called if not superlatively versed wisdom? And his most recent collection, aptly titled Useless Landscape, Or A Guide For Boys and available from Graywolf Press, provides such astute, beautiful perception from beginning to end. What makes these poems so brilliant? In short, I’d argue, their reliance on every imaginable artifice, which is also to say: their over-reliance on nothing. Often, the poems function in a blatant, humored camp:

The first knot doesn’t count.
You’re bound to fuck it up.
The rabbit comes out of the hole;
he starts to circle the tree. Halfway home,
he finds another bunny. So they tangle.

These poems reference nursery rhyme and Valley of the Dolls, the Oscars and a porn fluffer, but they are surely as comfortable gliding through classical and Biblical mythology, or through natural history, such as here, in “Transit of Mercury”—

I’ve got a heat-seeking missile for heartbreak.
& so do you. If there’s another side
of the sun, then you must hide there
in less than your underclothes,
emitting every molecule of thermal funk.

Powell’s fifth collection brings us poems comfortable in their own skins, shinning in their brilliant containers and begging to be read aloud once, then again, then again. In “Pupil,” however, Powell appears to confess: “I have never written a true poem, it seems.” Mr. Powell, it is not true. I can only imagine that in the coming eons, when we’ve all turned to the other side, wherever it may be, there will be people (are we still calling them people in these future times?) studying, nay, engulfing your poems, learning of the “intimacy that flourished here, an outlaw, / just as the outlaws themselves had flourished / in the slapstick goldrush days” of our own age.

Rest assured, Weave readers, I endorse Useless Landscape, Or A Guide for Boys, wholeheartedly, and look forward to its nominations for major awards this coming year, which the collection so rightfully deserves.

Reviewed by D. Gilson

Useless Landscapes, or a Guide for Boys by D.A. Powell
Graywolf Press, 2012

April 19, 2012

Chapbook Roundup: Wendel, Mennies, Wiseman, Scarff

Every so often, the Weave Reviews staff will highlight several chapbooks that have caught our collective eye. We believe that some of the best and most interesting poetry is being published by independent presses in non-traditional formats, and while the chapbook is hardly non-traditional, it can also be passed over in favor of the flashier full-length collections.

In our first Chapbook Roundup, Janet Edwards reviews Monica Wendel's Call It a Window, Laura E. Davis reviews Rachel Mennies' No Silence in the Fields, Mindy Kronenberg reviews Laura Madeline Wiseman's Branding Girls, and Thom Dawkins reviews Kelly Scarff's I Fall in Love with Strangers.


The Human Condition in Miniature: Monica Wendel’s Call It a Window

Imagine looking through a series of windows, or even looking through the same window, multiple times a day, over the course of a few days or weeks or even years. Imagine how much you would see and learn in your time as voyeur; and how, with each new piece of information, you might change your mind about the people and things at which you’ve been looking—and even change your mind about yourself. Monica Wendel’s chapbook, Call It a Window, embodies this experience, as it inhabits and examines the generally conflicted state of humanity in thoughtfully wrought poems.

Wendel accomplishes this examination without sticking to necessarily “poetic” material, which gives the poems a relatable verisimilitude. She writes beautifully, but she isn’t afraid to get down in the grime of the day-to-day, because isn’t that where we are all, anyway? Wendel knows society’s faults (“Sexual Assault Awareness Week,” a found poem from, is a whip-smart, fantastic piece) as well as her speaker’s, and she calls attention to them. Among so many other things, readers encounter what it means to want to make a difference but be unable to help (“I wanted to be a pioneer woman – scrappy, strong, petite, with a poultice or herb to put on your hand. But I had nothing”); to find a place to call home but sacrifice parts of yourself to exist within it (“Sometimes it’s like/I come from a foreign country/where the only person who speaks the language is myself); to have principles but stray from them (“A question of what we own/and what we are willing to sell”); to develop a sense of self and then realize it might have compromised you somehow (“My problem is that I used to fuck/ like I was in love when I really wasn’t, and now I don’t know how/to fuck at all anymore”); and to be unsure of which version of yourself makes you happiest or most whole, if that’s ever the case at all (“I wish I could be the same in all of these places,/a singular self propelled forward – but I am like a river/that forks around land, becomes smaller or larger or more salty,/and then reunites, on the other side, with itself”).

With these various and illuminating views, the poems echo the title of the collection. One by one, the tiny windows of these poems become mirrors into which readers do not merely look, but become a part. The reader joins with the speaker and her subject matter, as they experience their own juxtaposing ideals and identities from Wendel’s perspective. In the collection’s last poem, “Summer,” for example, Wendel calls herself out explicitly: (“I want you to look at me. I’m a vegan/who sneaks banana bread without asking the ingredients/and who doesn’t stop the waiter who adds baba ghanoush to my falafel./I want to say I’ve already done my part, but that’s never true…Now I’ve sobered up./Now I’m waiting for a phone call from someone who I hurt”). In doing so, Wendel’s readers may feel their own shortcomings and pretenses wash over them, but at least they’ll have the poet’s company.

Reviewed by Janet Edwards

Call It a Window by Monica Wendel
Midwest Writing Center Press, 2012

The Messy Business of Bodies: Rachel Mennies' No Silence in the Fields

Rachel Mennies’ debut e-chapbook collection No Silence in the Fields (Blue Hour Press, 2012) is a heartbreaking narrative of a couple’s love that breaks beneath the cold realities of winter. The scene is set in the first poem, “The Barn,” which wonders, “Whose red shoebox, whose poisoned apple.” This list-poem first catalogues meaningless objects as if anthropologists were excavating them years later. It then turns from the tangible to recall events and emotions contained within the walls of the barn, asking “Whose constant uphill, whose flame from the stove, / whose lost child, whose tired body?”

Bodies are a central topic of No Silence; the fragility and rawness of people and animals: a cluster of cancerous cells, the delicate rib of a dead cat, a calf freezing to death. Loss surrounds the ill-fated story of the books main characters, M and V, a couple who sets up house in the aforementioned barn for the winter. Their story is told in multiple voices that alternate between M, V, and an omniscient speaker. Why they have come to the barn for winter is never addressed directly, but a simple guess is that they have no other place. The details leading up to their circumstances are less important than where they find themselves, however, as Mennies’ vivid images and lyricism weave a desperate tone through each poem, keeping the action in the present.

What we do know is that work is scarce for M, a salt-of-the-earth, hardworking man: “I slough the dusty skin / of horses; I listen to the hearts of dogs.” V is depicted by M in the same poem, “M Introduces Himself,” as, “the woman I love” who “makes coffee from water / and grounds. In the earth, the sleeping perennials / are hers.” An old-fashioned, gendered division of labor exists between them; these partners operate separately, each in their own domain, tending to their own needs. It is soon revealed that V is expecting a child, but she is also sick. The first time V speaks, she says, “Hello, lump—size of a million / curious atoms, soft against my hand,” as she finds a tumor in her upper thigh. Later, the inevitable miscarriage is personified in the haunting title, “Miscarriage is Like a Large, Hungry Gull.” Throughout the narrative, V and M are reminded again and again of their own mortality and the realities of being a human animal.

Mennies fearlessly tackles the messy business of bodies, both living and decaying. When the vitality of spring and summer arrive, they offer only bitter pain for V as she faces her own barrenness. On a trip to the farmer’s market, she is fenced by an “avalanche of blueberries” and other ripened fruits: “Around me, everything reproduces recklessly” and she is left feeling “light / as a bag in the wind, alone.” While this image may seem overwrought, by now Mennies has earned it. The final poem comes full circle, again depicting the things that witnessed V and M’s familiar story of fading love. These objects are heavier now, weighed by the meaning we have now seen hidden inside. Mennies’ beautiful, solemn first collection of carefully crafted poems is filled with the bittersweet evidence of what’s abandoned after love is gone.

Reviewed by Laura E. Davis

No Silence in the Fields by Rachel Mennies
Blue Hour Press, 2012

The Doll-Like Beauty of the Brand: Laura Madeline Wiseman's Branding Girls

How apt that in the early part of an election year where women are being branded (and pushed to brand each other) to further polarize their population and serve political agenda, Branding Girls has landed on our cultural radar. For those of us Boomers who were drawn to the feminist sensibilities of Germaine Greer and Simone de Beauvoir (yet succumbed to the 1960s Carnaby Street aesthetic of Twiggy and Go-Go boots), Laura Madeline Wiseman’s chapbook reminds us of the continual conflict and exploitation girls and women face in an aggressively consumer-driven society.

Using photographic essays by women photographers that capture the disturbing elements of “girl culture” for inspiration, Wiseman presents the reader with a series of evocative and sardonic female images—the “Elevator Girls” of Japan, whose doll-like beauty defies true identity:

Not geisha. Not madams.
Not hotel operators. Not
Mannequins. Not call girls
Or masseuses. Not school girls
In pleated skirts. Not angels
Or gods. Not accomplished
Grandmothers. Not stepford wives.

With their tailored and accessorized dress, they are posed and demurely poised, ready to “open doors to paradise, stories, worlds, dreams...”

In these fifteen poems we are introduced a variety of female “brands,” presented in language that is brutally beautiful, indignant and witty. There is the “Las Vegas Brand,” the show girl who adorns a stage or bomber planes, with “bottle blond locks” whose face is “a ruby ember at a cruising altitude/ of 35,000 feet…” The “Bridal Hand Brand,” where a severed appendage is both crime scene evidence and ceremonial artifact, and whose fingernails are “varnished red as tongues.” The “Good Wife Brand” echoes the discomfort of Sylvia Plath and Ann Sexton (who has her own homage in this collection, “Dead Poet Brand”), lamenting the absorption of the self that women experience under the brand of marriage:

I introduce myself as Ms., but most hear Mrs.
The Wife sits matronly on my chest,

a large shelf of expired ointments,
skin pasty, veined, and sore.

It’s not that I’m not happy with Wife
as I once was with Date, Lover, Girl,

with arrows of silk stockings to late nights,
of sex in theaters, stairwells, interstate rest stops.

Branding Girls amuses, alarms, and ultimately affirms in its eloquent confrontation of female stereotypes.

Reviewed by Mindy Kronenberg

Branding Girls by Laura Madeline Wiseman
Finishing Line Press, 2011

Strange Empathies: Kelly Scarff’s I Fall in Love with Strangers

Kelly Scarff’s debut collection, I Fall in Love with Strangers, is pierced by loss: former partners and present loves are kept at a distance, family gatherings are vaguely remembered by those left behind, and characters appear only as shadows of who they wish to be.

To say that these poems are pierced by loss, though, is also to say they are built with a different material entirely – an earnest, admiring love for the Strangers, whether they began strange or became that way.

I Fall in Love with Strangers is clear, declarative, and anecdotal. While each of the poems seem to be in the stark, honest voice of the poet herself, each story still seems to be spoken with the haunting, haunted breath of their subjects. One of the speaker’s neighbors wants to visit Christ in Medjugorje, for example, though he has seemingly killed his family in a drunken car crash, and Medjugorje is known for the appearances of the Virgin Mary, not Christ.

Despite the simplicity and earnestness of this collection and its characters, or perhaps because of it, these poems still have the ability to surprise: a gunshot victim finds love at H&R Block, a pomegranate becomes “prolific” at mothering, a game of Yahtzee with a father accomplishes more than Dylan Thomas’s desperate pleading could ever do.

Scarff’s litany of strangers never grows tiresome. In fact, readers may find themselves harboring some small seed of desire for the characters, perhaps that is the single greatest accomplishment of this collection - Even as we know that a lover or a loved one will be lost, we stick around to see how they will be loved and remembered.

Reviewed by Thom Dawkins

I Fall in Love with Strangers by Kelly Scarff
Liquid Paper Press, 2012

April 13, 2012

Weave's Growth Spurt

Open Letter to Weave Readers, Subscribers & Contributors,

Weave has been growing steadily since we began four years ago this month. What started as a two-person project has flourished into a team of more than a dozen, publishing hundreds of writers and artists. Yet, with a team consisting entirely of volunteers who all have jobs (including myself), it has become difficult to find the time to make any changes that will encourage further progress.

In order to keep up with this growth, we have decided to move the publication of issue 08 to winter, most likely early 2013. Therefore no issue will be released in June this year. We will, of course, fulfill any current or future subscriptions affected by this change; those that are owed issue 08 will receive it in early 2013. As a thank you gift, all subscribes to issue's 07 & 08 by June 31st will receive a back issue of Weave for free! So SUBSCRIBE today!

Some of the upcoming changes include bringing on new staff, experimenting with the design of our print issues, and developing more online content. Weave's online book reviews are already expanding under the leadership of our new Reviews Editor, Thom Dawkins.

Additionally, we are announcing a new reading period. As of today Weave is open to submissions September 1st through May 31st. We will remain open year-round for current subscribers. 

We appreciate your patience during our growth spurt over the next six months. We're excited about these changes and hope you are too.


Laura E. Davis
Founding Editor
Weave Magazine

March 21, 2012

Fragmented Elegy: Rebecca Lindenberg’s Love, an Index

In 2009, the poet Craig Arnold disappeared on Kuchino-erabu, a remote Japanese island, while climbing a volcano for research on his next book. Arnold had published two books of poems: Made Flesh (2008) and Shells (1999), which won the Yale Younger Poets Prize. The poet was a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, had been a Fulbright Scholar at Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, and his poems were included in Best American Poetry. Though a search party found his footsteps ascending the volcano, his body was never recovered and Craig Arnold was presumed dead.

Rebecca Lindenberg, Arnold’s longtime partner, published her first collection of poetry earlier this month. It is also the first book in McSweeney’s emerging poetry series. At its crux, Love, an Index is an echo. It is a continued conversation between the speaker and the subject, whose voice has been cut out. Lindenberg’s poetry is composed in quiet moments of remembrance and grief. It is not, thank goodness, a tour de force. It is too human for that. Rather, the speaker lingers on images of the body – a breath on the ear, a poppy colored birthmark under the eye – as well as meals shared, and trips taken. It is an attempt to reconstruct or offer documentation of a man who ceased to be. It provides evidence of Arnold in “fragments,” which the titular poem defines as “Parts suggesting the whole/they long to be gathered into.” Arnold is the book, and the book is a body sewn together from memories.

Love, an Index, is divided into three segments, with the first section detailing the evidence of love. “Catalogue of Ephemera” provides a list of all the gifts Lindenberg’s lover gave her, and can be interpreted as an exercise in putting memories into order. One recalls Joan Didion combing over closets full of her deceased husband’s clothes in The Year of Magical Thinking. After is the fall. The second section, and the spinal cord of the collection, is the alphabetical directory for which the book is named. In the third and final section, Lindenberg’s broken animal emerges, a haunted search without recovery, for her lover’s body and her peace. Her “Obsessional” is written in a villanelle, itself a compulsive poetic form. The central repetition evolves into a cyclical point of madness: “What makes a man impossible to find/on such a chip of land it’s hardly there?” But by the book’s end, there is grace: as a scrap of paper on its descent, the poet is saved on an updraft. The lingering image in the final poem, “Marblehead,” is the image of green, of all good, of all newness, an abstract concept anchored in the minutiae that compose the book’s pulse. “But now lobster steam billows/up the window, you gulp/purple wine, your pinky sticking out,/and the round olives are the green/all green things aspire to be.”

At times, the speaker seems to struggle with her multi-faceted relationship with the man who was both her lover and fellow poet. In "Love, N1," a long poem composed of footnotes and references to love poems by Sappho, Plato, Frank O’Hara, and other major names, she includes quotes from Arnold, gleaned from conversation and his poems. The effect is twofold: she writes about her love in the context of a vast poetic dialogue, while also including Arnold as a source to be considered among the classics. The writer appears divided on this, his greater fame, and her success in light of his disappearance. In “The Girl with the Ink-Stained Teeth,” she writes she “knows she’s famous/ in a tiny, tragic way and condemns the man who disappeared, leaving her nothing/not even/her name.” That Rebecca Lindenberg will forever be seen in the context of her partner is unlikely. Love, an Index works through an issue, an obsession, but in it, Lindenberg executes her grief in measured, clean lines that speak of more to come. Turn by turn, her grief breaks down language into utterances. It comes to the point where a single word reaches out and takes the reader by the heart. Through her grieving she becomes an empowered voice. Her sorrow becomes a measureless depth.

While Lindenberg asks for empathy, she never wants pity. One would never read this book and feel an urge to apologize. It is notable that words such as pity, sorrow, and tragedy are words she left out of her central "Index." There is anger, and ache, and harbinger. There is divorce. Each dark image becomes coupled with elements of light, or physical matter to ground them in: interstate, lemon, and lyric. Mimosa. Like Anne Carson in Nox, Lindenberg is concerned with the echoes her lover left behind. Unlike Carson, who attempts to discover her estranged and deceased brother through lingering scraps of evidence, Lindenberg uses the echoes to explore the spaces in which the dead continue to exist.

And so, her collection is worth reading for the same reason that all good literature is worth reading: it preserves a man’s soul, long after his death. Or, in this very special case, the book preserves two souls, in the physical and emotional spaces they occupied together. This is a love story, for all affairs that have begun and ended, on various scales of magnitude. This is a mausoleum for an end that left no body behind.

Caitlyn Christensen

February 29, 2012

Congrat's to Contributor Anthony Varallo, Micro Award Finalist

Congratulations to Weave Magazine's issue 07 contributor Anthony Varallo, whose story "All Very Surprising" has been chosen as a finalist for the 2012 Micro Awards.

Founded in 2008, the Micro Award honors "outstanding flash fiction from both print and electronic media." This is Mr. Varallo's second straight year as a Micro Award finalist, placing him in a small group of writers to be recognized multiple times.

Don't have a copy of issue seven yet? Order yours online today. If you're attending AWP, stop by our table to pick up a copy in person.

February 27, 2012

Weave reviews Christian Wiman, Every Riven Thing

Poetry arises out of absence, a deep internal sense of wrongness, out of a mind that feels itself to be in some way cracked. An original poem is a descent into and expression of this insufficiency… You spend years sealing up the gaps in your uncertainty, shoring fragments of fact and reason against your ruins, all the while praying that in rare moments some ghost of that good unknowingness – call it spirit, call it the unconscious, call it God – will slip back in to save you from your best efforts.
–Christian Wiman, “A Piece of Prose”

Christian Wiman is hardly the type of as-yet-unlauded, needs-to-be-heard poet I would normally review for Weave, and having already mentioned him in a previous post, I feel a little ashamed to be covering a book that has already gotten its share of attention. And yet, there are times when a book feels so massively important, so necessary in terms of both poetic weight and cultural commentary, that it would be equally irresponsible to let the opportunity pass.

Previous reviews of Wiman’s Every Riven Thing seem to have been written with the large strokes of a fat-bristled brush. They make much of the poet’s job as Poetry Magazine editor, the diagnosis of his rare and dangerous cancer, and of his (early distance from, then later returning to) Christian identifications. All of this is a large part of the work, granted, but I have always been more interested in the craft of the work, not its origins.

The first thing I noticed about this book is how wide-reaching the subjects can be: Salvation and moral purpose play against American identity and the dangers of nationalism; disease and health are here too, but so are a searching for masculine identities and the long look back at a troubled family history. Almost unnervingly, Wiman keeps the collection from seeming too schizophrenic by giving each poem its due attention and its own identity. Eschewing a “style,” Wiman instead seems to be taking his direction from the gospel of paying close attention.

A poem like “The Mole,” for example, refuses to speak its subject, but rather reveals it almost unconsciously – the short lines and terse images, though bring forth the affect and the limited senses feared by the hospital-bound. The poem moves from the discovery of disease to the “diviners, machines / reading his billion / cells” to the nostalgia for “mountain / aster and ice / wine, Michigan / football, Canes / Venatici and / the Four North / Fracture Zone,” and so on, combining and coalescing images large as constellations and simple as pedestrian memories. In the poem, too, Wiman describes a machine of “glass and chrome / so infinites- / imally facet- / ed it seems / he lives inside / a diamond,” several lines that not only point to the poet’s ability to see the fine details of the sublime but also to his willingness to probe a terror to find them. Of course, there is also the intended effect of having the signified meaning literally broken away from its signifier, while at the same time, the breaking itself becomes its own sort of sign. Better said, these poems not only speak to brokenness, they demonstrate and display it.

It would not be unfair to say that each of Wiman’s poems represents a struggle at the interstices of darkness and light, and I do not think it is inaccurate to say that he does so with varying degrees of success. Regardless, the overall effect is masterful, and the technique, even when it feels familiar, is always thoughtfully enacted. This is true in two poems that could very well have come from Bishop’s Geography III – in “Five Houses Down,” the poet finds identity and masculinity in an older man’s scrap heap, while “Sitting Down to Breakfast” is a tender portrait of an old aunt who stands as a symbol for everything that is disappeared or disappearing from both life and memory. Both of these poems are working hard to mean something, but, like Bishop, we never seem to mind when they end up doing just that.

In a recent piece in Poetry’s 100 year anniversary, the poet V. Penelope Pelizzon muses whether she, or any poet writing today, will become the rubble of our era. We do have to wonder which of our poets will be disregarded in favor of the Few Big Names, and of course I want to say that a few of us will escape. I also want to say that Christian Wiman’s Every Riven Thing is a book that could define our age. It certainly has a voice and a presence that feels like it speaks for all human time. And yet, the honest answer is that even the greatest poems will not save us, even the greatest poems cannot define us. Then again, the poems in this collection still recognize that limitation, and yet they still seek some divinity or salvation.

Every Riven Thing may just be the book that represents this era’s cautious optimism. In Wiman’s words, “To believe is to believe you have been torn / from the abyss, yet stand unwaveringly on its rim.”

Thom Dawkins
Weave Reviews Editor

February 6, 2012

Issue Seven Arrives

Weave is proud to announce the release of our seventh issue this December.  With each issue, I am still giddy when Weave arrives from the printer on my doorstep. This new object I can hold, that I can place in someone else's hands. Before printing, the stories and poems and art were tangible through the vivid imagery of their creators, but now these pieces are a collective "thing" that marks another successful collaboration between editors, writers, and now finally, readers.

Issue 07 features incredible stories, including those selected for our first flash fiction contest, winner Kelly Baron's "White Bread" and honorable mention Andra Hibbert's "Blighted." You'll also find poems from our first poetry contest; winner Caleb Curtiss' "Dream" and honorable mentions from Noel Sloboda, Jada Ach, and Meg Cowan.

2011 is the first year Weave nominated poems and prose for the Pushcart Prize and issue seven includes three nominees: Lawrence Wray's poem "Alicante," and in nonfiction, Orman Day's "A Whimsical Current" and Eric Tran's "Lipstick Jungle."

Saturday, January 28th Weave celebrated the release of issue 07, along with issue 06, with a reading at Remedy in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania. The event included readings from contributors along with musical performances. Enjoy the photos of the event below.

This issue is also our largest ever, packed with poems from Carol Berg, Nicelle Davis, Noelle Kocot, and Nicholas YB Wong, fiction from Ellen McGrath Smith, Brooks Rexroat, and Anthony Varallo, nonfiction from Hannah Karena Jones and Julie Marie Wade, and art by Shoshana Kertesz, Jeannie Lynn Paske, Lindsey Peck Scherloum, among others.

Still haven't gotten your copy of Weave issue 07? Subscribe.

January 14, 2012

Announcing the Weave Magazine Winter Reading

Come out from the cold to join fellow writers, readers, and musicians in celebration of Weave Magazine, featuring contributors from issue six and our brand-new issue seven! The event will take place on Saturday, January 28th, at Remedy Restaurant and Lounge in Lawrenceville. $5 gets you in to the funkiest literary party in town, as well as a copy of issue seven. Performances include readings from Sarah Leavens, Lindsey Peck Scherloum, Lawrence Wray, Alicia Salvadeo, Rose Huber, and Sarah Machinak, with music from Erika June Christiana Lang on the singing saw and the one-man band Marlin and the Snails. Come early to grab a drink and a bite to eat before the readings start at 7, and stick around so you can shake your fanny to Remedy’s DJ. RSVP on Facebook!