review: AN ARRANGEMENT OF SKIN by anna journey

Sometimes being a poet means something inside you snaps, but not like a balloon too close to the ceiling. It bends and begs and burrows, and you, flailing like a sad firefly, break all the things you’re not supposed to break, trying to find it. You start with the things that keep you sane, and move outward, until the most feral version of yourself is alone on the phone with a stranger.

You call a stranger because of the shame, or because other lines have been cut. You’ve cut them, with the breaking. Except the phone call isn’t really about the things you’ve done—it’s not about the recitation. It’s asking someone, anyone, if you can still exist apart from your mistakes. Can you see me? Can you hear me?

For Anna Journey, it starts at the University of Houston, during the last year of her PhD program.

full review here

4/2/17, JMN

This poem was originally published at bloof books on 4/2/17

i was ready to sit any porch
any overstuffed couch damp with rain
headlights in the mist like a patterning of mold
in my own life
i wrote my outfits on the calendar
like a protection spell
the days went by like Mikasa plates
plus the tasteless touch of a too-smart woman
i shot Goldschläger in art class
i got kicked out of the cotillion
for sneaking mint Schnapps in the coatroom
remember the trailer
in his parents’ backyard
pulling on my baby-t and jeans
to run inside and use his parents’ bathroom
i never wanted to be rich or poor
just trouble        some trouble
all those painstaking poems i wrote in the diner
at 4am
in an aesthetic of middle class failure
i had no where to put my middle finger
remember the apartment where 299
hit the mountain
that summer drinking 40s
with the girls from the Blue Moon
i was happy to listen
she told me she could only come now
when she was dancing
skinny like a child i thought
she could never make my body
or
i could never make my body
jenn marie nunes

review: TELL ME HOW IT ENDS by valeria luiselli

This review was originally published at Ploughshares on 3/9/17

Here’s a challenge: tell me a story, without knowing the beginning, middle, or the end. Now, tell it in your second language, or one where the handful of words you know transforms you back into a child. No, let’s say you are a child. Let’s say this conversation will be recorded, and what you say—and how you say it—will determine where you are allowed to live. Let’s say you came alone.

This situation happens every day at the immigration courts in New York City, where novelist and essayist Valeria Luiselli volunteers as an interpreter. In her expanded essay Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, Luiselli outlines the intake form for undocumented minors. The procedure, on paper, is simple: Luiselli presents the questions, the children speak, and Luiselli transcribes their answers in English for the lawyers who will fight to secure their legal status.

full review here | order thru coffee house press here

o-word

I learn the difference between Oriental and Asian in middle school. No one in my family teaches me. The people in my family don’t care about political correctness or preferred nomenclatures. Watching The Real World on MTV, Pam explains that things are Oriental—e.g. vases and rugs, food—whereas people are Asian. To say a person is Oriental makes them into an object.
lily hoang