Loren Kleinman’s third poetry collection, Breakable Things, is a brave reaction to the harsh realities that often lead us down the dark path of loneliness in our search for authentic love. From abusive relationships to relationships that we do not want to lose or do not want to accept, this collection reveals that our hearts can break just as easily as a wine glass or a cupboard full of dishes. The perspective is often in the first person, a tribute to Kleinman’s bravery as well, for there is no braver writer than one willing to expose themselves to the world, a literary nakedness if you will, and Kleinman does this beautifully, neither with malice nor grievances, but with compassion and understanding.
In the opening poem, “Breakable Things,” from which Kleinman’s new collection takes its title, pushes us head first into the harsh world of loneliness. She writes:
Day after day,
I sit in the kitchen,
eating, smoking, drinking
I’m the only girl in the world,
hiding in cabinets
next to the breakable things.
Loneliness can be a symptom of depression. We often try to escape the pain it delivers by resorting to drugs and alcohol. In the poem, “Stuck on Atlantic between 3rd and Bond,” Kleinman writes, “I am horny now/and want a man to fill me.” Instead, it is only “a sip” (of what I assume to be wine, since it is referenced throughout the collection) and “a dusting of coke” that fills her. She is so distraught not finding true love, that she wants “…to forget about love/all 220 pounds of it.” It is as if, “You’re on the hunt/for something unknown/You want it,” as her poem, “Play of the Duede,” discloses, but you have to “travel to another world” to find it.
But we often find ourselves in dangerous or even deadly situations. We might, out of desperation, accept an abusive partner or, in extreme cases, take our own life. In the poem, “He Throws the Hot Kettle at Me from Across the Table,” Kleinman writes, “It burns/Skin is a hot bed.” And then, “His hands come/and choke my neck/cuts off my breath.” And finally, “Air, I want air/Breathe, breathe. And in the poem, “Past Love,” Kleinman reveals a destructive result of a friend’s unfortunate decision to commit suicide: “And I couldn’t get there in time/to cover your eyes and the head/from the gun.”
But all is not lost. Loneliness can be conquered. For Kleinman, dialogue is the starting point on our journey to escape the cabinets of loneliness. In her poem, “The Past is a Full Room,” Kleinman writes, “talking about love/and you fall into it head first.” Kleinman assures us that our hearts are resilient and strong and, with the right attitude, we can crawl out of the darkness into the light of authentic love. She admits that the journey is a tough one. We will, all of us, experience hardships, whether it is the death of a friend or the cruel and surprising actions of someone we trust. However, if we forgive those that have hurt us, if we persevere and overcome our own weaknesses, the darkness will fade away. We might have to sleep in many beds to know true love, as the poem, “The Beds I Slept In” suggests, but our battered hearts, one day, will be rectified. In fact, the poem, “Keep Smiling,” guarantees it:
You look through the night
towards something you see,
and you recognize it
in front of you…
Breakable Things is an honest assessment of the hardships of a lonely life. Blunt yet sensitive, they penetrate the heart and guarantee that, if we continue bravely on our journey to discover authentic love, we will find it. This is an impressive achievement.
Matthew Hamilton holds a Master of Fine Arts from Fairfield University and is a three time Pushcart Prize nominee His chapbook, The Land of the Four Rivers, published by Cervena Barva Press, won the 2013 Best Poetry Book from Peace Corps Writers. He lives in Richmond, VA. You can contact him here: http://matthewahamilton.com/.
Some useless rain falls overnight. It sounds unfamiliar, the way you remember it, sounds beautiful.
In the feed this morning, cats. Selfies, shining like a fiery beacon, live stream of the Mission police station shutdown, the science of why stepping on legos makes you want to die, FUCK credit reportz, the woman who fell in love with a tree, a baby’s guide to sleep-training your parents, lotta feminista, Los Tigres del Norte are making gay norteno history, here comes the whole foods-ification of marijuana, more snow, fellowships, fire, new poems in new journals, new poems in old journals, new books, penpals and John Keene’s post on Thinking Its Presence: The Racial Imaginary Conference, UMT, Missoula.
I just wanna throw my voice over there, I wanna send you.
In the feed last week, in the wake of the disaster of Kenneth Goldsmith’s reading of Michael Brown’s autopsy report with a photo of Michael Brown projected behind him, at a conference based on the idea of interruption at which Goldsmith insisted on not being interrupted while he read the autopsy report he’d edited so as to end his reading with comments on Brown’s “unremarkable” genitalia,
in the wake of that particular, familiar north american avant-garde disaster, and in the wake of the quiet aftermath at the conference of not interrupting, of not making it stop, in the wake of the interruption that did come afterwards with people calling Goldsmith out on twitter and in essays and blog posts and status updates,
some arguments started showing up fairly quickly, arguments about how talking about this disaster just fed into the Goldsmith machine, the internet fame, the way Goldsmith initially re-posted critique of his personal avant-garde disaster hashtag “lovingthehate” until he stopped doing that,
and some arguments started showing up saying that “white supremacy” was the wrong or even irresponsible term to use for this familiar sort of north american avant-garde disaster,
some arguments that Goldsmith’s reading was important because it provoked conversation, made people think, kept Brown’s murder by police at the front of people’s minds, even though the reading was a mess and a failure, this too is what art is about, making mistakes, so the arguments went, on and on,
that talking about this disaster or continuing to call it out was to somehow obscure the conference in Montana happening the same time as Goldsmith’s reading,
some arguments that lamented the amount of time spent on Goldsmith instead, and wouldn’t it be better if poets focused on what was good and right in the world of poetry, what they loved or even just liked, wouldn’t it be better if poets focused on what felt useful and productive, ok so nobody said productive but that’s how those arguments felt somehow, like, keep producing, move forward, get past it, stop calling out the particular, familiar north American avant-garde disaster.
But what if it feels important to keep calling it out, what if what you love is that people won’t stop keeping it at the top of the feed.
When the rain first started falling last night I was trying to write this another way, it went like this:
It’s never been more clear never been more clarified that at the level of the anthology, of the institution, the ones with money and interest in building or maintaining schools or movements or strains of U.S. literatures, unless the framework has been or is explicitly culturally nationalist or emerging from social movements or anti-racist or feminist or queer or anti-capitalist, it’s always been a white supremacist capitalist patriarchal venture.
It’s a fucked up relief to say so after years of bumbling around in my dumb white female body talking about it with others, with great nuance! and complication! counting things or getting dressed and undressed in the middle of a conference paper, a befuddled jab somehow at this problem I think now, the whole tangled thing.
Just bashing one’s head against it, the thing that reared you.
I was trying to hold race and gender together there, when I started writing this last night. Even though I know that at the level of the anthology, the institution, the reading series, the magazine, that unless the feminist framework has been or is explicitly anti-racist it’s also often been a white supremacist venture.
And other knots in the tangle of domination.
But I also notice I was having a hard time just saying it, writing through the unfamiliar rain.
John Keene describes the “emotional discomfort, sometimes expressed in body language, as caution, or hesitation, or carefulness, in speaking and acting” of some white people at the conference in Missoula.
John Keene names with far greater clarity what I was trying to when he writes that the conference in Missoula “directly grappled, in discussions that took place both inside and outside the various classrooms and auditoriums, with the discourses and ideology of whiteness as normativity, and the systems and structures that have made it so, institutionalized racism, and, in particular, the unnameable thing in our society, the ideology of white supremacy.”
JT names with far greater clarity what I was trying to when she posts in the feed: OHHH & IF YOUR “POETRY” IS NOT ACTIVELY WORKING TO DISMANTLE WHITE SUPREMACY, IT IS PROBABLY SUPPORTING IT.
The unnameable thing.
In the unfamiliar rain that sounds like you remember it, that sounds beautiful, it’s important to pause there and listen. Something’s getting clarified. There is a lot to learn. Or stay with. Come alongside.
It’s because the work of so many.
Because Cathy Park Hong and Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde.
Because the Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo.
Because Amy King and Why Are People so Invested in Kenneth Goldsmith or is Colonialist Poetry Easy.
Because Heriberto Yepez and El escándalo del sujeto-concepto: Kenneth Goldsmith.
Because Timothy Yu and Engagement, Race, and Public Poetry in America.
Because Morgan Parker’s White People Love Me: Dispatches from the Token.
Because Aaron Apps’ The (Dis)embodied Voice: A Response to Kenneth Goldsmith.
Stephanie Young lives and works in Oakland. Her most recent book is URSULA or UNIVERSITY. Other poetry includes Picture Palace and Telling the Future Off. With Juliana Spahr, she edited A Megaphone: Some Enactments, Some Numbers, and Some Essays about the Continued Usefulness of Crotchless-pants-and-a- machine-gun Feminism. She edited the anthology Bay Poetics, and is managing editor of Deep Oakland (www.deepoakland.org).
From May 31 to June 9 the poet Sharon Dolin (author of five books of poetry and winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry) will be running a poetry workshop exploring the visual art and culture of Barcelona.
Based in the Jiwar residence, a heritage house in the Garcia district of Barcelona, a group of 8-10 participants will have the opportunity to discover the city’s historic and contemporary art scene while creating poetry in reaction. The group will visit must-see attractions such as Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and the Picasso Museum as well as take part in cultural activities that aren’t plastered in any guidebooks. The group will gather everyday for 2 ½ hours to discuss and revise their poems while building a sense of artistic community with the city and with each other.
The total cost of the writing workshop and admission to museums and cultural events rounds out to $1000 while housing preference in the Jiwar residence is decided separately. There are also discount opportunities: bring a friend and receive 15% off on workshop fees; Romemu Members receive a 10% discount; AWP Emerging Writers Grant of $500 (apply through March 31st); one scholarship based on need (25% tuition break).
One of the best ways to figure out Barcelona, or any city, is through the art it produces. Engaging with these works through the medium of poetry will give students a solid appreciation of the Catalan culture as well as inspire new ideas in their craft.
This is an opportunity not to be missed!
For more information visit Sharon Dolin’s website: http://www.sharondolin.com/barcelona-workshops/
To check out the Jiwar residence click here: http://jiwarbarcelona.com/
“The myriad conflicting desires, impulses, drives, and fantasies that propelled me day to day led me places I wasn’t sure I wanted to be.”
Shelly Hubman’s short autobiographical piece, ‘Adrift’, has been nominated by the Board of Contributing Editors for the 40th edition of the Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses. Congratulations, Shelly!
‘Adrift’ features in the latest issue of Drunken Boat (Issue 20) and details Shelly’s experience as a twenty-two year old intern at DC’s National Rehabilitation Hospital. The piece is lucid, unflinching and explores the explicit minutiae of patient/carer relations. Shelly focuses on Chuck, an elderly patient who caught TB from his father when he returned from the Second World War, causing his spine to curl. After surgery, he becomes paralyzed from the armpits down.
Struggling to find a place to stay for her internship, Shelly agrees to look after Chuck so she can stay at his home, yet his paralysis is deeply debilitating, slowly corroding his dignity and her patience to nothing. Who is the hostage here? For all her irritation and disgust, Shelly writes with humour and pathos, never quite departing from a singular vein of compassion toward her patient.
Reflecting on her Pushcart nomination, Shelly says,
“I wrote ‘Adrift’ because I wanted tell Chuck’s story (what I know of it) and also to explore what helping means. I have spent the bulk of my life exploring the human condition, which is why I have always been drawn to reading personal essays, memoirs, and profiles. I like peeking into people, to see who we are, what drives us, why we do what we do, how we do it, and how each of us responds to the circumstances we find ourselves in. I’m curious about what informs the decisions we make and what drives our actions. ‘Adrift’ was the first in a series of essays that comprise a sort of combination Bildungsroman and portraits of people who had a significant impact on my life, whom I didn’t want to be forgotten.”
Shelly is a translator and has previously written ‘Home of the Ancients’, which was published in Crab Orchard Review and nominated for an Illinois Arts Council Award. She is currently translating a book on meditation, The Mind Illuminated, by Upasaka Culadasa (John Yates) from English into Spanish. Once she has finished her book, she would like to return to writing essays.
Let your thoughts drift away as you allow yourself to be absorbed into today’s mesmerizing vintage piece. The psychedelic pink bursts of David Hirmes’s “5 Meditations on a Pink Sun” were published previously under the “Web Art” category of DB 5, Winter 2002-2003. Get your zen on as you take another look at this intriguing collection and let your worries fade into the background.
David Hirmes has been exploring the many possibilities for web-based artwork and other projects since 1993. He is also talented in the areas of book-making, 3-D printed sculptures, erasure poetry, flash and java, and musical experimentation. For more of what he’s been working on, visit his website at hirmes.com.