Writing for Singapore Poetry, Drunken Boat founding editor Ravi Shankar describes his recent trip to Singapore to read at the American Writers Festival.
Within a complex terrain scattered with both colonial-era statues and high-tech buildings, writers from both the U.S. and Singapore sought to understand the cultural impact of history on free speech and art-making:
“Here were five American writers totally variant in terms of ethnicity and writing genre, with views as radically divergent as only a democracy might produce, speaking to a Singaporean audience who seemed to be grappling with the responsibilities and risks of free speech, who were admiring of the audacious American contributions to the arts, but who were also perplexed by a nation that can’t seem to have a civil discussion on its Senate floor.
I in turn was mesmerized by the efflorescence of this island brought to prominence by 14th century Srivijayan prince Parameswara whose idea to set up a trading port proved prescient as that remains what Singapore seems most adept at doing: assimilating and evolving.”
In the piece, Ravi Shankar also announces that he will co-edit a forthcoming collection of American and Singaporean poetry addressing the theme of “union,” with possible interpretations including mathematics, sex, and political organization.
Shankar will collaborate with poet Alvin Pang on the project, which Math Paper Press will publish in 2014. Interested in submitting? Send no more than three poems to Ravi_AT_Drunkenboat.com.
Read Ravi Shankar’s full article here:
It’s impossible to compass George Albon’s essay Aspiration (Omnidawn, 2013), which moves surprisingly, compellingly through an investigation of poetics. Perhaps one could describe Albon’s query by saying that he puts together complex patternings in which “poetry” or “poetics” are largely metaphors. The larger project seems to be to disclose—or at least briefly illumine—those potentially able to embrace instances “where the momentous and the momentary can exchange signals.” This extraordinary essay (part poetics, part memoir, part anthropology) is one section of a book-length work-in-progress called Café Multiple. I’ve never before encountered anything quite like it, and I want quite urgently to read the whole thing.
Marie Larson’s chapbook Dromeda (Goodmorning Menagerie, 2013) beguiles the reader into a not-quite-recognizable world. There are pronouns, body parts, the suggestion of narrative, but the beings that break the surface of this construction are alternately grotesque and exquisite. The poems are carefully made and tonally restrained, but the shudder between beauty and the monstrous creates a kind of involuntary momentum within the sequence: “fricative uncertainty.” It’s useful to encounter poetry like this, a poetry that calmly frightens you. Beneath the mirage-horizon, the fata morgana, that Larson envisions, the surface bumps and jostles with thoughts that live like creatures: they have minds of their own. To quote the poet, “I say it impossibly.”
Cleaning up my office, I was happy to unearth Julie Ezelle Patton’s chapbook Notes for Some (Nominally) Awake 2 (No’s Knife Productions, 2010). Such exuberance! Such resourceful play! The text works extensively around Amiri Baraka’s name (and Leroi Jones shows up too), and in that way is a tribute. But with its wild punning, use of homonyms, visual play, and etymologizing, the work is also a paean to the living, breathing dynamism of language in all its agility. (I really don’t know how to effectively quote it; the parts all dance with each other inseparably.) Though there is plenty of irreverence in Patton’s play, one can’t finish reading this chapbook without fully appreciating that one definition of “Baraka” is “gracefully bestowed spiritual energy.”
Prageeta Sharma’s Undergloom (Fence, 2013), as multiple reviews have affirmatively noted, presses on issues of difference and systems of exclusion (racial, institutional, cultural). If this sounds like politicized writing, fear not: Sharma’s work jumps right over cliché and is alive. There’s a fierceness and courage to this poetry, but it unfolds responsively, alert to all the world presents. How is it that the poetry of Undergloom can simultaneously indict and nurture? Part of Sharma’s skill has to do with her wonderful, sometimes wicked, sense of humor. Yet her humor is of a piece with the aforementioned responsiveness: even indictment comes across as an undaunted questioning.
“Where are you/going, my complete/accidental body?” asks Rosmarie Waldrop in Love, Like Pronouns (Omnidawn, 2003). I returned to this book after hearing Waldrop give a reading from it and was moved to go back and study the whole book again. What captures me is the way the poems both live embodiment and observe it. The odd little remove between these two states is what brings Waldrop’s poems their unexpected emotional force (“or balance of message and/slow/says the body”). I find myself wondering: how does a poem create itself as so alive with body (and often the erotic) while at the same time so provocatively alive with the self-possession of the mind alive with its idea?
The tables have turned, Shira Dentz.
Today we’re proud to note that our book review editor’s recent poetry collection, door of thin skins, received thoughtful recognition by The Rumpus. Reviewer Nicole Walker writes:
“The book is so collected, so much of a consistent persona and a palpable narrative, it may well be a book of prose except for these metaphorical magic tricks. I picture the speaker on stage, stepping into a hoop, pulling up cloth around herself and turning from a bird into a pocket.”
Read the rest of the book review for Shira Dentz’s door of thin skins: http://therumpus.net/2013/12/door-of-thin-skins-by-shira-dentz/
Read Shira Dentz’s take on Drunken Boat book reviews:
Tom Hazuka (editor of Flash Fiction Funny and co-editor of Sudden Flash Youth and the original Flash Fiction anthology) is soliciting humorous short stories, essays, poems, and audiovisual performances for the spring issue of Drunken Boat magazine. Maximum length of 750 words. If a recorded performance, it also has to hew to the word limit.
Send previously unpublished (or published in a small circulation print journal) literary work in a Microsoft Word attachment or send links to audio/video to [email@example.com
Drunken Boat, international online journal of the arts, announces its six nominees for the 2013 Pushcart Prize: “Tide Pool,” by Beth Malone; “Beans and Seeds,” by Eleanor Stanford; “Natural Selection,” by Lydia Melby; “Maybe Our Bodies Are No More Than Jars,” by Alyson Hagy; “Cartography,” by Courtney Kampa; and “Descent,” by Ocean Vuong. These works represent but a small sample of the fine nonfiction, fiction and poetry published in Drunken Boat in 2013 and if chosen, these selections will appear in the Pushcart Prize XXXIV in Fall 2014. Congratulations to this year’s Drunken Boat nominees, and congratulations to all nominees representing small presses in the Pushcart Prize competition.
• “Tide Pool,” by Beth Malone. http://www.drunkenboat.com/db17/beth-malone
• “Beans and Seeds,” by Eleanor Stanford. http://www.drunkenboat.com/db17/eleanor-
• “Natural Selection,” by Lydia Melby. http://www.drunkenboat.com/db17/lydia-melby
• “Maybe Our Bodies Are No More Than Jars,” by Alyson Hagy. http://
• “Cartography,” by Courtney Kampa. http://www.drunkenboat.com/db17/courtney-kampa
• “Descent,” by Ocean Vuong. http://www.drunkenboat.com/db17/ocean-vuong