POETRY REVIEW: I’m Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe by Kyle Flak

POETRY REVIEW: I’m Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe by Kyle Flak

Look at that title up there. Should Mr. Flak have included the word “whole” and the word “entire”? The academy, by way of Coleridge, would say no.

Mr. Flak knows how to not give a shit correctly. Poem after poem he deflates the very beach ball he’s trying to sell you. He apologizes again and again, “I’m sorry if this book / turns out to be really terrible.” That’s on page 3. On every other page he gives you an out. He’s practically begging you to leave. It’s sour milk he insists you taste, and you not only taste it, you turn the page for more. He’s a master of using self-deprecation, inane pop culture references, and surface level dalliance to ultimately project a magnetic persona and poetic confidence.

Coleridge said, “Poetry is the best word in the best order.” Half of Mr. Flak’s words are verbal tic. The other half is humble, sometimes disorienting tonal persona. This book’s gender is “Jane Seymour’s character in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.” And I can say, miraculously, like a wild hair up your friend’s brother’s butt, this collection’s a good time.

Flak’s persona is at once aroused by a yellow dress, and taunted by nostalgia for the present moment. The Buddha said to forget the past, while Flak attaches the past to the present. Flak’s persona is like a Holden Caulfield who’s been smoking dope and putting a red bandanna over the lamp and everything’s all loopy and introspective, anaphora and subclause, all building to the final “aha!” Literally the poem about the yellow dress ends with “aha!”

Flak’s speaker says trees are hugging him when he slips on the icy sidewalk and crashes into them. He rambles from one topic to the next, feeling sorry for the dead trees he’s writing on. He jumps from 1040a tax forms to some dude whose dad owns a vinegar, mustard and ketchup business to Zorro. Like J.D. Salinger, Flak enjoys a good digression. Often Flak digresses, in an endearing way, into self deprecation. Once you start, you’ve got to keep reading to keep the bully Kyle Flak from beating up on the poet Kyle Flak.

Flak makes far too much stupid sense to be language poetry, and he talks about too much stupid stuff, in too casual a way, to ever be “literature”, yet here we are. I wonder if Gold Wake Press let this book run around unleashed in its backyard. How long did they shout “literature” before it came? I’d guess several times, over many weeks. I know for sure when they called it “historically relevant”, it dug a hole under the fence and ran away. I commend Gold Wake for the aesthetic success of this collection and for immortalizing such a bizarre persona that goes against academic common sense.

Folk poet Johnny Huerta predicted this collection of poems would soon accrue a cult following. It’s a cult of inane pop culture digressions like name dropping Hanging with Mr. Cooper and then dropping dope lines like, “The midnight grass / Will never know so many soft and splendid footsteps / Again.” Wow, look at this guy, reading grass’s mind!

There are moments in this collection that don’t seem literary at all, or even useful. For example, “warehouse type of buildings”, “frankly at all possible / Is just / Basically /,” “investment deally thing”, or my favorite, “sure make sure”. The academy, as a general rule, frowns upon phrases like “sure make sure”. And that’s one of the things I find remarkable and endearing about this voice.

Flak is not like John Ashbury, dressing inaccessible passages with common language so they’ll look accessible. Flak unpacks himself at every line, it’s just the unpacking involves all this weird stuff spread out on your counter and you’re thinking about Eddie Murphy and chlamydia and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Billy Corgan and like it or not, you’ve just been Flak-ed. He’ll be wasting words left and right, and then he’ll drop something crystal clear yet unlike crystal it doesn’t break when it hits the wall.

Don’t take my advice. And don’t take Flak’s advice, whatever you do. Everybody that talks about this book, and even the book itself, says STAY AWAY. Don’t you dare join the cult of I Am Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe.

Visit Gold Wake Press, buy Flak’s book because you can’t help it and read the grand first poem of his collection.
-Tim Staley
Las Cruces, NM

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POETRY REVIEW: I’m Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe by Kyle Flak

POETRY REVIEW: I’m Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe by Kyle Flak

Look at that title up there. Should Mr. Flak have included the word “whole” and the word “entire”? The academy, by way of Coleridge, would say no.

Mr. Flak knows how to not give a shit correctly. Poem after poem he deflates the very beach ball he’s trying to sell you. He apologizes again and again, “I’m sorry if this book / turns out to be really terrible.” That’s on page 3. On every other page he gives you an out. He’s practically begging you to leave. It’s sour milk he insists you taste, and you not only taste it, you turn the page for more. He’s a master of using self-deprecation, inane pop culture references, and surface level dalliance to ultimately project a magnetic persona and poetic confidence.

Coleridge said, “Poetry is the best word in the best order.” Half of Mr. Flak’s words are verbal tic. The other half is humble, sometimes disorienting tonal persona. This book’s gender is “Jane Seymour’s character in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.” And I can say, miraculously, like a wild hair up your friend’s brother’s butt, this collection’s a good time.

Flak’s persona is at once aroused by a yellow dress, and taunted by nostalgia for the present moment. The Buddha said to forget the past, while Flak attaches the past to the present. Flak’s persona is like a Holden Caulfield who’s been smoking dope and putting a red bandanna over the lamp and everything’s all loopy and introspective, anaphora and subclause, all building to the final “aha!” Literally the poem about the yellow dress ends with “aha!”

Flak’s speaker says trees are hugging him when he slips on the icy sidewalk and crashes into them. He rambles from one topic to the next, feeling sorry for the dead trees he’s writing on. He jumps from 1040a tax forms to some dude whose dad owns a vinegar, mustard and ketchup business to Zorro. Like J.D. Salinger, Flak enjoys a good digression. Often Flak digresses, in an endearing way, into self deprecation. Once you start, you’ve got to keep reading to keep the bully Kyle Flak from beating up on the poet Kyle Flak.

Flak makes far too much stupid sense to be language poetry, and he talks about too much stupid stuff, in too casual a way, to ever be “literature”, yet here we are. I wonder if Gold Wake Press let this book run around unleashed in its backyard. How long did they shout “literature” before it came? I’d guess several times, over many weeks. I know for sure when they called it “historically relevant”, it dug a hole under the fence and ran away. I commend Gold Wake for the aesthetic success of this collection and for immortalizing such a bizarre persona that goes against academic common sense.

Folk poet Johnny Huerta predicted this collection of poems would soon accrue a cult following. It’s a cult of inane pop culture digressions like name dropping Hanging with Mr. Cooper and then dropping dope lines like, “The midnight grass / Will never know so many soft and splendid footsteps / Again.” Wow, look at this guy, reading grass’s mind!

There are moments in this collection that don’t seem literary at all, or even useful. For example, “warehouse type of buildings”, “frankly at all possible / Is just / Basically /,” “investment deally thing”, or my favorite, “sure make sure”. The academy, as a general rule, frowns upon phrases like “sure make sure”. And that’s one of the things I find remarkable and endearing about this voice.

Flak is not like John Ashbury, dressing inaccessible passages with common language so they’ll look accessible. Flak unpacks himself at every line, it’s just the unpacking involves all this weird stuff spread out on your counter and you’re thinking about Eddie Murphy and chlamydia and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Billy Corgan and like it or not, you’ve just been Flak-ed. He’ll be wasting words left and right, and then he’ll drop something crystal clear yet unlike crystal it doesn’t break when it hits the wall.

Don’t take my advice. And don’t take Flak’s advice, whatever you do. Everybody that talks about this book, and even the book itself, says STAY AWAY. Don’t you dare join the cult of I Am Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe.

Visit Gold Wake Press, buy Flak’s book because you can’t help it and read the grand first poem of his collection.
-Tim Staley
Las Cruces, NM

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REVIEW: ON THE EDGE OF A VERY SMALL TOWN – MARK JACKLEY

ON THE EDGE OF A VERY SMALL TOWN: Poems Old & New

By Mark Jackley (2016)

 

Last night I read Mark Jackley’s new poetry collection ON THE EDGE OF A VERY SMALL TOWN, and this morning I’m anxious to bolster its popularity. I really appreciate Jackley’s pace, brevity, confidence and unassuming style.

I read the book in one sitting and that’s important. It means I didn’t get bored, but instead got held in a friendly way, in an intimacy of distance where anything can be said. The poems are short, seemingly simple and usually expansive. There’s lots of white space and I was flipping pages like a champ which was fun. Remember flying through a book of poems that’s just deep enough to keep your critical mind engaged, but just light enough to be relaxing and palliative? Reading ON THE EDGE OF A VERY SMALL TOWN was like that for me.

The images are clear and uncluttered; for example, his poem “Happiness” starts here: Sometimes it rises quietly / like water in the basement. I like how he draws our attention to the sound of the water that may soften something / you’ve lugged around for years. Also, what a satisfying defamiliarization of happiness that the first two lines provide. Are you happy when your basement floods? Jackley’s speaker is and that’s refreshing.

John Hartford used to say that style is based on limitations. Jackley is confident enough to cut the pretension from these poems. Isn’t this the type of poetry we need now when elitism is under attack? This kind of verse that invites you in and holds you, and bears witness to a poet on the very edge of a small town?

If you would like your own copy of Mark Jackley’s new poetry collection ON THE EDGE OF A VERY SMALL TOWN, all you have to do is email the author at chineseplums@gmail.com and ask for one.

~

Review by Jim Thompson

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REVIEW: On that one-way trip to Mars – Marlena Chertock

On that one-way trip to Mars
by Marlena Chertock

Bottlecap Press, 2016

Marlena Chertock has published a book of poems that is a tour of our solar system. Not a museum tour or a virtual tour, but a mind tour where our imagination gets to find the “thinnest, softest pads to lay its paws on.”

The title of Chertock’s debut collection is On that one-way trip to Mars. When you go to Mars, why can’t you come back to visit Earth? What if you don’t like it? Don’t worry, if Chertock is with you there’ll be a pleasant balance of narrative and science. She’ll tell you the story of teeth chattering themselves right out of a mouth. She’ll steer you through fog, shadows and fire. It’s OK, she knows the way.

What most impresses me with this collection is the crafty ordering of the poems. For example, there will be several poems about illness, and then a seemingly unrelated one. When I linger between the pages, I see the seemingly unrelated poems merge into satisfying allegories.

Other times the connections between the poems are more obvious, but no less enjoyable. In the title poem a person can’t go to Mars because of a bone disorder, in another poem a person can’t go to a funeral because of a period. The red planet + the menstrual cycle = bosom buddies. I hadn’t known.

This book is a mix of detail, dream, David Bowie, confession, resolution and healing. It will take you from the periods of Mars to the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, to a man stabbed for an iPhone, his blood “staining the Metro carpet.” It’s a trip, and I don’t mind never coming back.

Order Marlena Chertock’s book here.

~

Review by Jim Thompson of Cacti Fur.

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REVIEW: LOST ON MY OWN STREET – TIM STALEY

Review of Lost on My Own Street by Tim Staley (Pski’s Porch, 2016)

Review by Kyle Flak

The exciting thing about small press poetry is that anything is possible.  There are no strict rules.  The artist is completely free to do as he or she likes without worrying about what the big mainstream institutions will think.

Tim Staley has for years been the editor of Grandma Moses Press in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  For five dollars, a customer can receive by mail a tiny delightful chapbook of unique and wild poetry accompanied by weird and wonderful drawings by the editor.  The chapbooks, of course, never hit the New York Times bestseller list or get the attention of major superstars, but they always contain good honest poetry–poetry written by people who honestly love poetry for its own sake.

Now Tim Staley has his own full length collection of poems out from an equally exciting small press publisher, Pski’s Porch.  As someone who loves all aspects of books, I will say that Lost on My Own Street by Tim Staley is a beautiful book in every way.

First of all, the cover art was done by the author himself and it is a whimsical sea blue dream of a cover, clearly illustrating the true joy of being a small press poet.  The image is of a jolly dandy of a man strolling down the street with a marvelous cloud of daydreams floating above his head.

Of course this book reminds me of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, a volume of poems that Walt Whitman self published and aggressively self promoted all because he believed in the dream, the dream of saying what he really needed to say, the dream of sharing his most important messages to the world.  It seems that no matter what anyone personally thinks of Walt Whitman, he will always be The Original Small Press Poet.

Staley’s poems are sincere, funny, friendly, unique, and diverse.  He does not stick to a single formula, scheme, or gimmick.  He writes what he wants to write.  He has no ulterior motives.  He is not thinking about what the authorities will say about him.  He is someone I am happy to place on my list of New Walt Whitmans to Definitely Pay Attention to Who Boldly Go Wherever They Want to Go.

In a poem called “The Waiting Game” Staley writes, “Vikings never ask are we there yet, / they just scan the horizon, armored hips against the railing.”  I think that sums up his poetry and the joy of being a small press poet pretty well.  In the world of small press poetry, one writes purely for the joy of writing without asking for approval or money or fame.  One writes for the thrill of it, the exploration of it, the pure adventure of it.

It is in this spirit that I highly recommend Lost on My Own Street by Tim Staley.  It reminds us all of what’s truly important–that original “carpe diem” thrill of just reading and writing poems for the fun of it.

Kyle Flak’s debut poetry collection I’M SORRY FOR EVERYTHING IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE UNIVERSE is forthcoming from Gold Wake Press.

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REVIEW: ONCE IN A LIFETIME – F. Richard Thomas

Review of Once In a Lifetime, a poetry collection by F. Richard Thomas

ISBN: 978-0-9608802-0-1

published by Years Press

6×9   97 pages

cover design: Helen Stork

 

Beginning with the cover I felt the personality and humanity of Dick Thomas. Standing by his young wife, a baby slung on his hip, her arms wrapped around a second child, we see them young, burly and confident standing in front of a log cabin they have built themselves. In the poem Brown County, Indiana, Thomas makes his most poignant point considering how unfamiliar these shining young people would be with the frailties and complications of aging that the poet and his wife, Sherry, now face well into the second half-century of their lives and marriage. And we learn what these optimistic youth managed to hold on to all these years later as they shore up the autumn of their existence. It is mature writing, a mature subject, told with poignancy, humor and self-awareness – a good example of how we all can face our futures.

I Walked the Dog Today

but this time

we took a new route

and met a new dog

 

It was a

once in a lifetime

experience.

 

Dick Thomas calls himself a student of the alchemy of words and I see it so clearly with a Beatlick Joe enjoyment in the poem Logophilia: My callipygian septuagenarian. And elsewhere such enjoyable words as beef-witted, gargonized, slubberdegullion.

The reader learns who the poet is as an individual in personal poems: Chemistry, Naming the Trees in New Mexico, My Desk, in clever ways, with a knack. You can’t accuse the writer of being hackneyed.

This is a great book to read in the bed, on the deck, someplace quiet, because these poems will elicit your own memories and truths, struggles. It is told as the author says in his own final poem:

A Language

that falls in a lovely curve

from the lip of creation.

Review by Beatlick Pamela Hirst who can be reached at publishingpamela@yahoo.com. Pamela Hirst runs the  Beatlick Press at beatlick.com.

 

 

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