Culture Consumption: March 2021

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

The Octopus Museum by Brenda Shaughnessy

In The Octopus Museum, Brenda Shaughnessy envisions a future in which cephalopods have taken over the world. The museum of note is not a museum of cephalopod history, but of human history, a record of our present moment interpreted by strange new rulers. Each poem in this collection if beautifully, richly contextualized, presenting a vibrant capsule of the human experience, like a carefully curated museum exhibit. This is a powerful and stunning collection, one I highly recommend reading.

“And there will be no other way to be, once this way’s gone. The last song on earth, the last jellybean. Last because nobody wanted it, or everybody sang it, till the end.

Once this day in November’s over never another. Each day nothing like the last except that it’s the last and that’s new too.

Each moment broken glasses, a covered mirror, foxed. The waste stays in place. The rest disappears. The unrest, too.”

— From “No Traveler Returns,” The Octopus Museum

The also read Red Velvet, the sixth issue of The Hellbore, which provides a beautiful collection of poetry, art, and a personal essay. A few of my favorite pieces from the issue are highlighted below.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: March 2021”

New Books in Poetry: Catrachos by Roy G. Guzmán

Catrachos-poems by Roy G Guzman-New Books In Poetry

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up. I had a riveting conversation with Roy G. Guzmán about their new book Catrachos (Graywolf Press).

Guzmán’s Catrachos is a stunning debut collection of poetry that immerses the reader in rich, vibrant language. Described as being “part immigration narrative, part elegy, and part queer coming-of-age story,” this powerful collection blends pop culture, humor, with Guzmán’s cultural experience to explore life, death, and borders both real and imaginary.

“This isn’t supposed to be a history book, and yet it is,” says Guzmán in discussing Catrachos, explaining that the book is not supposed to be anthropology, sociology, or a testimonial either, and yet it is. “Those are the contradictions, especially when you’re a marginalized writer, your words are always operating on so many different frequencies at once.”

Here’s a sample of Guzmán’s writing from the book:

“It is not a fallacy that the pulpería owner who wakes up
dressed in a tunic of warriors’ pelos, or the milkman

pressing his rough hands against the cow’s tectonic body,
remembers the skirted boy with an ovarian lipstick for a tongue,

the boy who offered a tenth of his knees to the teeth
of a country with dentures.”

— from “Finding Logic in a Crushed Head”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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New Books in Poetry: Leave It Raw by Shakira Croce

Leave It Raw by Shakira Croce - New Books in Poetry

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which the fabulous Athena Dixon speaks with Shakira Croce about her book Leave It Raw (Finishing Line Press, 2020).

Athena writes:

Like a storm waiting to break over a plain, Shakira Croce pulls at tensions and heartstrings in a debut collection filled with longing, wit, and intelligence. Through masterful imagery, Croce floats between the rural and urban with ease, pulling back the veil to see what lies beneath. These poems do not shy away from looking at life in all its beauty, violence, or complexities because within those boundaries we can begin to understand what it means to be human. As she writes in Homecoming,  “It’s about finding/the space/to bring out what’s already/inside you.” In Leave It Raw, Croce makes that space and empties out the heart for all to see.

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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New Books in Poetry: Freedom Knows My Name by Kelly Harris-DeBerry

Freedom Knows My Name by Kelly Harris-DeBerry - New Books in Poetry

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which the fabulous Athena Dixon speaks with Kelly Harris-DeBerry about her book Freedom Knows My Name (Xavier Review Press, 2020).

Athena writes:

In Freedom Knows My Name, Kelly Harris-DeBerry creates the world anew from scraps of memories and rhythm. She bounces between the pages, as well as the accompanying audio version of the poems, with confidence. Kalamu Ya Salaam writes in the introduction “The poet’s task is to turn words into song, utter incantations that heal, inspire, be more than ordinary talk” and Harris-DeBerry has a voice that encompasses each other those tasks. It is strong and it is unwavering. Whether she is on the page or in readers’ ears, Harris-DeBerry’s poetry is a bounty of culture, womanhood, home, and possibility. In an age where everything can be, and is, commodified for profit and the cool factor yet the actual Black artists producing the work can be undervalued, Harris-DeBerry’s poetry honors and respects the legacies of Southern migration, the Midwest, and Blackness.

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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Book Love – From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes: Adapted Poems by B.C. Edwards

From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes: Adapted Poems by B.C. Edwards

Medicinal shows once toured Europe and America. So called doctors would drive wagons from town to town, offering miracle elixers and other entertainments. My knowledge of medicine shows come from pop culture, the image of a man more entertainer than doctor purporting to sell cures. The man stands on his box or makeshift stage and with a flourish presents a bottle with some strange liquid inside. Is it medicine, a placebo, or poison?

B.C. Edwards’ From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes has the same feel of such medicinal shows, with the author himself presenting an assemblage of recipes and concoctions. Each of the poems in this book is an adaptation of a recipe found in a collection of household instructions originally published in 1901 by Frederick J. Drake and Company — recipes to make pure spirits, to cure distemper in horses, to restore burnt steel, to destroy the stumps of trees.

“Ask them how much it hurts. Really.
Drive spikes inward. Ask them.
Go on.
Every part until you have a porcupine,
the monster from Hellraiser
and now ask them how much it hurts.”

— From No. 674. Cure for Earache.

What unfolds is poetry as chemistry, words reacting with words to form new strange mixtures. Each time I pull the cork off a new poem, I’m not sure what I’ll get. Maybe it will evoke the ache of love, the sweetness of longing, the pain of lingering hope. Or maybe I’ll enjoy a contemplation on the nature of coffee, the preservation of birds and other animals.

“We are mostly concerned about being left alone.
We send text to each other
passed back and forth like fine sand
sifted charcoal back and forth
like we are archeologists with enormous screens
for sifting relics out of dirt.”

— From No. 757. How to make a Composition for Roofs.

As a fan of alchemy and medicinal shows and other feats of pseudo-miraculous science and a lover of poetry, this book is exactly my aesthetic. The recipes are surprising profound, strange, and compelling. Is it medicine, a placebo, or poison? What am I drinking down when I read these poems? I’m not entirely sure, but I loved the experience.