Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 21

I’ve often said that the small press is a place where you CAN judge a book by its cover. Sometimes the best editors and self-published authors have dead-on aesthetic judgement which includes the visual, too. Caketrain is one of those presses that knows how to make good reads into great-looking books. Three Caketrain titles have already been recommended on this holiday blog this season; today’s small press recommendations come from the Caketrain editors and one Caketrain author. Amanda Raczowski and Joseph Reed began Caketrain journal and press in 2003. Despite being based in Pittsburgh, Amanda and Joseph are too busy publishing their stylish books and issues to paint the town red, so I still haven’t really met them.

Matt Bell came to Pittsburgh to read at the New Yinzer Presents series a few months ago and did an awesome reading of The Collectors, a version of the Collyer Brothers story. (I grew up with a mother who told me that I was “going to end up like the Collyer Brothers” if I didn’t pick up my room, so I always appreciate a good Collyer Brothers yarn.) Matt’s story was published as a chapbook by Caketrain in 2009, and is now part of Matt’s new collection, How They Were Found. (When my boyfriend stops devouring the book, I’ll let you know how it is.)


1. End of the Fire Cult, Angela Woodward (Ravenna)

2. Scary, No Scary, Zachary Schomburg (Black Ocean)

3. The Physics of Imaginary Objects, Tina May Hall (University of Pittsburgh)

Recommended by
Amanda Raczkowski and Joseph Reed, editors of Caketrain Journal and Press


1. The Physics of Imaginary Objects, Tina May Hall (University of Pittsburgh Press)
2. Firework, Eugene Marten (NY Tyrant Press)
3. Asunder, Robert Lopez (Dzanc Books)

Recommended by
Matt Bell, author of How They Were Found (Keyhole Press)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 20

I’m really surprised that only one person on my seasonal blog has recommended INFERNO: A POET’S NOVEL by Eileen Myles (OR Books), because it’s definitely been the most talked about and enthusiastically recommended book among my Facebook friends and acquaintances. Many of these recommendations have just been in the form of: Buy it. NOW. Others have been a bit longer winded, like, “Buy this book for every female artist you know.” Still others have paraphrased ideas from the book in their status line, like “Eileen Myles writes that she knew she was probably a lesbian, but wanted to become a poet first.” I really liked a concept that one writer paraphrased: “Eileen Myles’ Inferno reminds us that for a scene to be COOL, there must be mixing of the classes. There's a cash transaction to support the artists, but the artists come with gifts, fresh from the struggle to live.” (Since Myles often writes about her working class background but most artists I know do everything they can to wish away their dayjobs, I remembered this in my mind as “Artists need to learn how to earn a living, because part of their job is to depict the struggle to live.”)

One of my newest Facebook pals talked to Eileen Myles about writing and publishing the book, here: BombBlog podcast—Eileen Myles and Jackie Wang.

INFERNO is available mainly from the publisher, OR Books, or from select independent bookstores. I just bought my copy from my favorite New York bookstore and am anticipating its arrival on my doorstep. I can't wait.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 19

Today’s recommendations come from two New York poets. Not even “New York-based” poets, but gen-u-ine native New Yorker, born there, stayed there, writers. Jackie Sheeler contacted me a few years ago when I was trying to get my friend, poet and vet Richard Leck, a proper burial. Though we didn’t end up needing to raise money to bury him, Jackie agreed to participate in his memorial reading, so I got to experience her voice on stage first hand. Jackie’s a talented wordsmith, an activist, and a force of nature. Her heart’s always in the right place and when she writes, she also says something worth listening to.

I’m “meeting” Tony Gloeggler for the first time through these small press recommendations but I already feel richer for reading a few of his poems. I’m looking forward to checking out his books and also the small presses they are on: his publication list reminds me to look closer at Ohio’s Pavement Saw Press and introduces me to the existence of Jane Street Press.


1. inheriting craziness is like a soft halo of light, Thomas Fucaloro (Three Rooms Press)

2. The Quick and the Dead, Elizabeth Harrington (Grayson Books chapbook competition winner)

3. The Last Lie, Tony Gloeggler (NYQ Books)

Recommended by
Jackie Sheeler, poet & songwriter, most recently the author of Earthquake Came to Harlem (NYQ Books, 2010)


1. Bones & Jokes, Ted Jonathan (NYQ Books)

2. Girl On A Bridge, Suzanne Frischkorn (Main Street Rag)

3. Earthquake Comes to Harlem, Jackie Sheeler (NYQ Books)

Recommended by
Tony Gloeggler, author most recently of The Last Lie on NYQ Books.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Small Press Books: Steer Gift-Givers to the Nearest Indie Bookstore

Live from Small Business Saturday: With today's post, I'm hoping to steer you to a method of receiving some of your holiday small press book wishes while supporting indie bookstores.

I'll admit that I utilize evil Amazon (as a catalog) a lot for their many useful web functions, and their Wish List is one of them. But where I used to tell people to look at my Amazon book-list but please, please, buy the book at a local indie bookstore--today I discovered that IndieBound (formerly BookSense, a coalition of indie bookstores that formed in reaction to the predatory practices of the chain bookstores) has a Wish List function on their website, too. It's quick and easy to make:

1. Go to http://www.indiebound.org/join to create a username and password and register your email (no real names necessary)
2. Go to Wish Lists and start adding desired books by author name, book title, or ISBN
3. Go to the Indie Stores tab and become a "fan" of one or more of your favorite bookstores
3a. You'll find the Become a Fan button when you find a bookstore and go to its profile page
3b. I suggest you fan the obvious bookstores where your friends and relatives might shop, in addition to your own favorite bookstores
4. Send interested friends and relatives the link to your Wish List

While it's true that not all micro-press books will be found in IndieBound's database, there are many small press books that do show up. A quick look just landed me catalog listings for Matt Bell's How They Were Found on Keyhole Books, Michael Kimball's Dear Everybody on Alma Books, Dalkey Archive's Best European Fiction (2010), Felino A. Soriano's In Praise of Absolute Interpretation (Desperanto-Foster), and Shome Dasgupta's new book on Outsider Writers Press.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 17

Today's small press recommendations come from two writers I met via Pittsburgh small press events. I first encountered poet Claire Donato in 2006 when we were tabling near each other at an event that would prove to be the predecessor to what is now an annual Small Press Festival in Pittsburgh. Claire was representing the magazine, the New Yinzer, and we talked about poetry, publishing, public transit, Pittsburgh, and New York. I had recently moved to Steel City from Brooklyn, and now Claire and I have traded places. Brooklyn is lucky to have Claire, and Pittsburgh misses her!

Actually, I met Burning River Press editor Chris Bowen through the New Yinzer, too. Although he tabled at the aforementioned Small Press Festival Expo in 2009, I didn't meet him until he came to read at The New Yinzer Presents series in April 2010. Burning River is a great little press out of Cleveland; Chris read some moving short stories that night and so did Michelle Reale, whose book, Natural Habitat, Burning River had just published.


1. Meddle English, Caroline Bergvall (forthcoming from Nightboat Books)

2. selections from the novel Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner (chapbook published by The Physiocrats, 2010)

3. Best European Fiction 2010 (Dalkey Archive Press)

Recommended by
Claire Donato, author of Someone Else's Body and co-editor of Dewclaw


1. I am here And You are Gone, Shome Dasgupta (Outside Writers Press)
This book is simple and innocent in its growth of the two main characters. It is beautiful.
--Review by Chris Bowen at Book Punch here.

2. Sweetgrass, Micah Ling (Sunnyoutside Press)
I’ve listened to the author of this book read from the text during a reading in Pittsburgh, the event before their Small Press Festival Expo sponsored by Open Thread. Micah Ling makes her stance elegant in a somewhat dangerous, rough and misunderstood setting. The book is a collection of prose poems, short and sweet, like the name.

3. We Were Eternal and Gigantic, Evelyn Hampton (Magic Helicopter Press)
This book, like its cover, roars. The writing is proud, bold and a good mixture of Hampton’s abilities.

Recommended by
Chris Bowen, editor of Burning River Press


Thanks to all who have been following the Small Press Holiday Recommendations! If you're involved with the small press and want to send your three picks or a guest review, write to me at eyescorpion@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guest Review: Felino Soriano reviewed by Lynn Alexander

Felino A. Soriano. In Praise Of Absolute Interpretation. Desperanto-Foster, 2010. Poetry/prose. 90 pages. ISBN: 978-0-615-38013-1.

In Soriano’s latest work, In Praise of Absolute Interpretation, the poet celebrates the experience of allowing one’s self to respond to music viscerally, giving the mind the autonomy to instead tether to the unconscious over the intellectual, to feel music’s more inner motions. He both honors the work and produces inspired words- images coaxed- the mind urging text from this more earnest and primal terrain. He shares what the various pieces inspire on a level beyond what might be called our intentional perceptions, subjective and layered with preconceptions.

Soriano’s work brings to mind the experience of musical immersion and the deconstruction of perception in order to make way for the intuitive, and from there build the weave of his jazz-inspired poetics, the raw rendered beautiful.

Reviewed by
Lynn Alexander, co-editor at Full of Crow and Fashion For Collapse, and production assistant at Blink Ink

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 14

Today’s small press recommendations come from two writers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and the privilege of reading with at the Six Gallery Press Showcase readings at ModernFormations Gallery in Pittsburgh. I met Scott McClanahan probably in 2008, and his West Virginia storytelling promptly blew me away. Michael Begnal was someone I’d been introduced to on email and finally got to meet in person when he came to Pittsburgh in 2009. More than just readings, both writers give engaging performances—Scott reads almost directly to the audience, and the last time I saw him read, he had us singing "The Long Black Veil." Michael Begnal has a dynamic, high-energy stage presence, with echoes of the Beats and other 20th Century rock stars.

Six Gallery Press authors John Thomas Menesini & Scott McClanahan, Fall 2008, ModernFormations in Pittsburgh


1. Person, Sam Pink (Lazy Fascist Press)
2. Everything is Quiet, Kendra Grant Malone (The Scrambler)
3. The Insurgent, Noah Cicero (Blatt Books)

Recommended by
Scott McClanahan, author of Stories and Stories II (both on Six Gallery Press) and the in-progress novel called Hillbilly


1. Strasbourg, Alan Jude Moore (Salmon Poetry, 2010)
Alan Jude Moore is one of the best of the newer Irish poets, and he's set to read in Pittsburgh in the New Yinzer series in early February 2011.

2. Optic Verve, Catherine Walsh (Shearsman, 2009)
Her publisher, Shearsman, bills Walsh as "perhaps Ireland's most radical experimental woman poet" -- I would strike the word "perhaps"! This great book, a long poem (132 pp.), shows why.

3. Chain Gang/Blood Songs, Bill Hughes (Six Gallery Press, 2010)
Hughes is a young Pittsburgh-based poet who puts me in mind of the spirit of Rimbaud, a visionary!

Recommended by
Michael Begnal, author of Ancestor Worship (Salmon Poetry, 2007). Begnal's new collection is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2011, titled Future Blues. His other titles are Mercury, the Dime (Six Gallery Press, 2005) and The Lakes of Coma (Six Gallery Press, 2003).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Brief Holiday from Small Press Holiday Blogging

I took both an internet vacation and a real vacation, and went to Detroit. This post is to let you know that I'll resume with Small Press Holiday Recommendations tomorrow, Tuesday November 23rd. Meanwhile, I wanted to share a small press gem I discovered in Motor City.

When I came upon it, Leopold's Books had just closed for the day--so, sadly, I did not get to go inside and browse. But I loved the look of the sign and the tiny, impeccable shop (located on the ground floor of a gorgeous old apartment building), so I looked it up on the world wide web today and I loved everything I read about it. The shop bravely opened a little over a year ago in Midtown Detroit (just across the street from the Detroit Institute of the Arts and Wayne State University). Their philosophy (both of how to survive and how to curate) reminds me of that of Copacetic Comics (Pittsburgh)--both stores run a very tight ship in a modest space, selling only books the owners know, love, and can personally recommend. They know their customer base and they play directly to that, offering a kind of specialized knowledge and personalized selection that chain stores and Amazon can't. Leopold's blog claims, "This is a strategy all small retailers can use to combat their giant, wealthy competitors. We can afford to be specialist experts, whereas they must be conforming generalists."

Leopold's sells a select array of local zines, magazines, graphic novels, art books, fiction and nonfiction. They also hold regular reading events ranging from local poets to out-of-towners on book tours. Recent events have featured Seth Tobocman of World War Three comics, poet Carla Harryman, and graphic novelists Jim Munroe and Shannon Gerald. One blogger raved about a rooftop reading for Counterpoint author Peter Lewis.

Emphasizing discovery and face-outs, Leopold's hopes you'll come inside because you trust their taste, and leave with a book you didn't know existed when you walked in.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 10

Today's book recommendations hail from the comics side of the small press world. Jim Rugg is a Pittsburgh-based illustrator and comics dude whose books (he's co-creator of the notorious Afrodisiac and Street Angel) I’ve been noticing for a few years now. I finally got to meet him at a great event the other night when film zinester Mike White came to Pittsburgh from Detroit. Mike’s new book Impossibly Funky features Jim Rugg’s excellent cover art, and Jim was part of the book talk and signing. I had fun chatting with Jim afterwards, as we jawed about movies, marketing, video games, format transfers, horror hosts, Austin TX, and the Youghiogheny Valley. I got to meet Cleveland-based Kevin Czapiewski when he came to town recently for PIX, Pittsburgh’s first annual indie comics expo. Kevin does a very cool comic called Spoilers and edits a comics anthology called Puppyteeth.


Jim says: Uncivilized Books is a small publisher based in Minneapolis. It has published a handful of mini-comics and zines. Tom Kaczynski has done a series of mini-comics called Trans Alaska, Trans Siberia, and Trans Atlantis. The site describes them as, "Philosophy, economics and the metaphysical crisis of the capitalist creative... or something like that." They summarize a lot of my feelings, doubts, and ups and downs as a freelance cartoonist/illustrator. And the books themselves are beautifully designed and illustrated. I highly recommend all three! And while you're at Uncivilized Books, you may want to check out the talented Gabrielle Bell's L.A. Diary. I love her diary comics, and this book includes some of her sketchbook pages, which I guess are early drafts for the finished work.
See: http://www.uncivilizedbooks.com/

I'd also like to recommend Robin Bougie's Cinema Sewer. Robin's annually published zine covers a lot of film that other, more "respectable" sources skip like - horror, exploitation, classic porn, and other genre offerings...Bougie hand-letters most of the contents and the results are amazing. Cinema Sewer is perfect for anyone interested in old drive-in and grindhouse fair. Highly recommended (though not for the squeamish).

Individual issues are available, as are two collected volumes:
Cinema Sewer, Volume Two
Cinema Sewer, zine issues

Recommended by
Jim Rugg, co-creator of Afrodisiac (AdHouse Books)


1. Driven by Lemons, Joshu W. Cotter (AdHouse Books, 2009)

2. Gang Bang Bong, various artists, edited by Ines Estrada and Ginette Lapalme (Cafe Con Leche, 2010)

3. Aplomb, Vincent Giard (Collection Colosse, 2009)

Recommended by
Kevin Czapiewski, editor of PUPPYTEETH, Czap Books 2010

Kevin Czap's table at PIX, September 2010.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 9

Today’s book picks come from two of the hardest-working people in Pittsburgh’s small press scene. Fiction author Sherrie Flick is the co-founder (with poet Nancy Krygowski) of an amazing reading series that has brought emerging writers to enchant Pittsburgh audiences once a month for the last ten years. The Gist Street Readings have no equal, and the audience that Sherrie and Nancy have cultivated is a big part of that. Held in an artist’s studio building, augmented with a delicious pot luck dinner, the readings regularly turn people away when they reach capacity: This means 85 people in the winter, and 120 people in the summer--audiences so hungry to listen to writers they often haven’t heard of that they arrive way-early (I always go an hour in advance) and clamor inside. Once a year, the Gist Street Readings* showcase one small press--hosting several readers instead of just two. As if this weren’t enough, Sherrie is also the author of award-winning micro-fiction and a beautiful novel, a teacher of writing, and a writer of articles and book reviews.

Poet Adam Atkinson is one of the driving forces behind Open Thread, a Pittsburgh small press outfit that publishes books, runs a chapbook contest, co-hosts a reading series, and in 2009 started an annual Small Press Festival in Pittsburgh. Adam is also co-founder of a brand new small press, Oh No Books. I’ve had the pleasure of reading with Adam, whose poems are whip-smart and funny.

For the first Small Press Festival in 2009, Adam and Sherrie joined forces and brought IsReads Issue Number 5 to Pittsburgh. IsReads is the outdoor journal founded by Baltimore’s Publishing Genius and co-edited by Nashville’s Keyhole Magazine. Adam and Sherrie took the matter to City Council in Pittsburgh and July 21, 2009 was declared “The Journal Outdoors Day” by the City of Pittsburgh.

IsReads Pittsburgh


1. Big Bend: Stories, L.E. Leone (Sparkle Street Books, 2008)
2. How Some People Like Their Eggs, Sean Lovelace (Rosemetal Press, 2009)
3. Wouldn't You Like to Know: Very Short Stories, Pamela Painter (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2010)

Recommended by
Sherrie Flick, author of Reconsidering Happiness: A Novel, University of Nebraska Press


1. With Deer, Aase Berg [translated by Johannes Goransson] (Black Ocean)
2. There is another poem in which the news is erased and rewritten, Zachary Harris (New Michigan Press)
3. Open Thread Tri-State Chapbooks, Matt Anserello, Noah Falck, and Colin C. Post (Encyclopedia Destructica and Open Thread)

Recommended by
Adam Atkinson, Literary Editor of Open Thread and Co-Editor of OH NO Books


*The Gist Street Readings are actually set to end at the close of 2010. Perhaps I will ask Sherrie and Nancy to do an interview. I would love to know what they learned about running such a great reading series for 10 years. When I was moving to Pittsburgh, a few poets told me, "Well, The Gist Street Readings are there, but there's nothing else." If this were ever true, this is no longer true, but good for Gist Street for starting to put Pittsburgh on the map of literary America. So, what can the small press do for your city?

Stay tuned for more small press picks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 8

Today’s small press picks come from two awe-inspiring librarians. Jenna Freedman is the first small press librarian I ever met. She came to Pittsburgh in 2007 with the greatest public librarian (and small press advocate) you’ve never heard of, Sandy Berman, for a Progressive Library Skillshare, which I was lucky enough to attend during my first semester of library school. Jenna has built a zine collection at the library at Barnard College and gives enthusiastic and infectious talks about how to start a zine library. She’s also involved with Radical Reference, a group of progressive librarians who began in 2004 as information support for activists and journalists around the Republican Convention in Manhattan. Her recommendations today come in the form of three reviews she's written over the last year. Renée Alberts is a librarian at the main Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh where she runs the Sunday Poetry and Reading Series. As both a librarian and a poet, she kicks ass and doesn’t take names. I’ve had the good fortune to see her read at many Pittsburgh venues, and her performances continue to give me goosebumps. Renée was kind enough to add mini-reviews to her small press picks.


1. Golden State: a 24 Hour Zine, A.J. Michel
Reviewed by Jenna: http://jenna.openflows.com/reviews/michel/goldenstate

2. The Wandora Unit, Jessy Randall (Ghost Road Press, 2009)
Reviewed by Jenna: http://jenna.openflows.com/reviews/randall/wandoraunit

3. The Real Cost of Prisons comix, Lois Ahrens (PM Press, 2008)
Reviewed by Jenna: http://jenna.openflows.com/reviews/ahrens/realcostofprisonscomix

Recommended by
Jenna Freedman, radical zine librarian


1. Inferno: A Poet's Novel, Eileen Myles (OR Books, 2010)
Myles' wickedly honest delivery of her misadvenures as a young queer poet in New York will resonate with any writer who has ever weathered the awkward process of establishing her voice in a community. Her honesty reveals the pangs and thrills of self discovery in resonating passages that are by turns hilarious, inspiring and poignant.

2. Barefoot and Listening, Margaret Bashaar (Tilt Press, 2009)
Bashaar crafts a world of feminine strength and ethereal musing. Her poems are an alchemical blend of the mythological with the natural and ordinary worlds that lends your vision a deeper hue when you look away from the page.

2. afterpastures, Claire Hero (Caketrain, 2008)
Hero's vocabulary evokes a strange, feral narrator welling with desire. Brief lines crackle with surprising choices. Her language enchants you even as her imagery prowls towards the eerie imagery of gristle and cracking bones. The poems approach the dark mystery of fairy tales as they might sound from a character long isolated in a forest, dreaming of the person they so intimately address.

Recommended by
Renée Alberts, author of the poetry book No Water (Speed and Briscoe Press, 2009) and editor of the anthology Natural Language: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Sunday Poetry and Reading Series Anthology (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, 2010). Renée listens to rivers and shortwave and transcribes her discoveries at www.animalprayer.com.


I'll be blogging more small press picks now through the end of the year. Email me at eyescorpion@gmail.com if you are involved with the small press and wish to contribute.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 7

Today’s small press recommendations come from Baltimore. I met Charm City author Jen Michalski when she came to Pittsburgh in August 2008 to read at The New Yinzer Presents series. Jen’s an impressive fiction writer, a small press mover and shaker, and a total mensch. Soon after I met her I read her stunning story collection, Close Encounters, and not long after that, she and Michael Kimball asked me to read at the 510 Reading Series they host in Baltimore.

If you haven't checked into the Baltimore literary scene yet, you should. They've got Atomic Books; The Book Thing; Eight Stone Press and Smile, Hon', You're in Baltimore; Publishing Genius; Pat King and Last Rites Baltimore; Narrow House Press; and the wonderful, aforementioned, fiction-only 510 Readings. I can't say enough about the 510: The neighborhood is charming, the venue, Minas Gallery, is both hip and heartwarming, the hosts are gracious, and the literary audience is all a writer could ask for. And afterwards, they wine and dine you at the nearby, cavernous neighborhood pub called Frazier's.

It was at Frazier's that night that I almost met Adam Robinson. He was there, and I was there, and we exchanged words and probably a handshake and apparently a pamphlet. But to be honest, my entire family had come to see me read after none of them had ever come to see me read, and I was totally sober but deeply out of it that night. I wish I had met Adam Robinson, because everytime I read one of his poems, I think it blows away most of the poems I've read before. I think Adam Robinson might be hilarious.


1. Rattlesnakes and the Moon, Darlin' Neal (Press 53, 2010)
2. Further Adventures in the Restless Universe, Dawn Raffel (Dzanc Books, 2010)
3. Stories II, Scott McClanahan (Six Gallery Press, 2010)

Recommended by
Jen Michalski, author of May-September (novella; from the Press 53 2010 Open Anthology Awards, Press 53 2010), Close Encounters (So New Media, 2007), and TK (Dzanc 2013), and editor of City Sages: Baltimore (CityLit Press, 2010)


1. Black Life, Dorothea Lasky (Wave Books)
2. When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother, Melissa Broder (Ampersand Books)
3. How They Were Found, Matt Bell (Keyhole Books)

Recommended by
Adam Robinson, author of Adam Robison and Other Poems (Narrow House)


Please stay tuned for more book recommendations for your holiday gift lists. And for God's sake, support your local indie bookstore.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 6

Today's book recommendations start with Kevin Sampsell, a powerhouse of the small press. When I first "met" Kevin ten years ago (I think I wrote him a letter), it was because I was trying to get my first novel placed on consignment at Powell's Books, where Kevin earns his living. It was much later that I started recognizing Kevin's name as a byline on edgy, sexy fiction; as the publisher of the innovative Future Tense Books; and as editor of eye-catching anthologies like The Insomniac Reader: Stories of the Night, and Portland Noir from Akashic's noir series. (Savannah Schroll Guz and I recently asked Kevin to read in Pittsburgh, but alas, we didn't have any airplane money to back up our invitation.) I had the pleasure of meeting the charming Kari Larsen (another writer/bookseller) when she was at the recent Small Press Festival Expo in Pittsburgh. She was tabling with Pennsylvania's Seven Kitchens Press, where she's the production designer of gorgeous chapbooks of poetry and short prose. Robert Rosen wrote a small press book I loved, Nowhere Man (originally published on Soft Skull), about John Lennon. The back story of the book, which is part of the book, fascinated me: Robert was commissioned to transcribe Lennon's late diaries. But after feverish months of doing so, he was told to go on vacation, only to return to the diaries and their transcriptions having been stolen from his ransacked apartment. That part of the story is shrouded in mystery, but the rest of the book is the equally compelling tale of John Lennon's last years--paraphrased from Robert's memory of his intense months spent with Lennon's diaries. I recently "met" Robert Rosen online, after I wrote about reading Nowhere Man behind the register when I was a bookseller.


1. Ghost Machine, Ben Mirov (Caketrain Press)
2. Blink and the World Goes Blind, Filbert Conroy (On Lives Press)
3. We Were Eternal and Gigantic, Evelyn Hampton (Magic Helicopter)

Recommended by
Kevin Sampsell, publisher of Future Tense Books


1. O Fallen Angel, Kate Zambreno (Chiasmus Press)
2. The Mothering Coven, Joanna Ruocco (Ellipses Press)
3. Cure All, Kim Parko (Caketrain Press)

Recommended by
Kari Larsen, Production Designer at Seven Kitchens Press


It's All Good: A John Sinclair Reader, John Sinclair (Headpress)
I met John Sinclair when I was in London last year, and saw him perform with his blues band. He gave me a copy of "It's All Good," a collection of his prose, poetry, and interviews going back to his days in Detroit as manager of MC5. The title of the book refers to the quality of marijuana available in Amsterdam, where he now lives. My favorite poem is called "ain't nobody's bizness." It begins: “we have a right to our bad habits/& if we want to blow our minds/or fuck up our lives, shoot dope/or smoke cocaine,... “ Well worth checking out this anthology of a 60s legend who's the subject of a song by John Lennon.

Recommended by
Robert Rosen, author of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon (Soft Skull Press)


Stay tuned for more small press recommendations, from now until Xmas.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guest Review: Caleb J. Ross reviewed by Kristin Fouquet

Caleb J. Ross. Charactered Pieces. Outsider Writers Press, 2009. Fiction. 63 pages. ISBN: 978-1-59948-228-6

This collection of stories is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. The short form has always been my preference. I admire when a writer can take us immediately in and then release us in short duration. When it works, it is exhilarating. Caleb J. Ross delivers this.

The stories in Charactered Pieces are dark, sometimes disturbing, and anxious. I found a theme of parental angst stream through many of them. It was enjoyable to spend some time in the mind of Ross, but in the end, it was more personal. I believe a story is successful when you discover something about yourself after reading it. I highly recommend this collection.

Kristin Fouquet, author of Twenty Stories (Rank Stranger Press, 2009)
Kristin's website is Le Salon

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Guest Review: Juliet Cook reviewed by Margaret Bashaar

Juliet Cook, Soft Foam. Columbus, OH: Blood Pudding Press, 2010. Poetry. 16 poems. No ISBN.

Before you read this review, I need you to go purchase this chapbook. Immediately. I'll wait. Okay. I am going to go ahead and assume you did as you were instructed, and now I'll tell you why. From the very first poem, "Semi-Extraneous Consort," I knew I was going to adore this chapbook. I think, sometimes, that Juliet (or at least the persona Juliet writes in) and I have some of the same neurosis. I feel like she gets me and all the fucked up little things that go through my head. Much of this chapbook is a meditation on life and death - particularly that of the speaker's husband's previous wife, who, it is revealed in the chapbook, has died. I, too, am my husband's second wife, and while his previous wife is not dead (and is a lovely person - I don't wish such things upon her in the least), when we first got together it felt different from him just having ex girlfriends. I feel like Juliet has an acute understanding of this and paints this relationship that her speaker has with her husband's dead first wife in such a painfully beautiful way that I couldn't put the chapbook down. I had some serious "goddamn! I want to write like this!" moments while reading Soft Foam. All the poems were, as I've now come to expect from Juliet, a treat to read aloud as well. Add in some creepy/lovely sea creatures, and you have my favorite chapbook I've read so far this year, hands down.

Review by Margaret Bashaar, co-host of The TypewriterGirls, editor of the anthology Make It So, and most recently the author of Barefoot and Listening (Tilt Press, 2009)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 3

Today’s recommender is author David Hoenigman. I had the pleasure of reading with Dave when he came to visit his folks in Cleveland (on a visit from Japan, his current home) in 2007. Dave’s novel was due to come out on Six Gallery Press at the time, and he graciously offered to set up a Six Gallery Press reading at Mac’s Backs in Cleveland Heights. He invited about seven of us from Pittsburgh, and we caravanned West in a few cars for a very cool reading. It was my first road trip since I'd moved to Pittsburgh, and it didn't disappoint: Cleveland Heights has an awesome vibe, Mac’s Backs is one of the great indie bookstores of America, and the audience was alive and attentive. Dave’s excerpt from Burn Your Belongings was one of the most memorable performances of the night: a super-charged reading of his dense, electric prose. His novel has since been reprinted on Jaded Ibis Press.

Six Gallery Press Reading, Mac's Backs, Cleveland, May 2007

David sent his small press recommendations in the form of three online book reviews he published in 2010.

1. Lost Poet: Four Plays by Jesse Glass, Jesse Glass (BlazeVOX Books)
--Review in Word Riot, September 15, 2010

2. Protest!, Steve Finbow, Melissa Mann, Joseph Ridgwell (Beat the Dust Press)
--Review in Word Riot, February 15, 2010

3. Theoretical Animals, Gary J. Shipley (BlazeVOX Books)
--Review in 3:AM Magazine, February 11, 2010

Recommended by
David Hoenigman, author of Burn Your Belongings (Jaded Ibis Press)


Stay tuned for more small press recommendation lists, plus some guest reviews.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 2

Today's small press recommendations come from three comrades from the Pittsburgh literary scene, and one brand new acquaintance. Writer Jesús Ángel García of San Francisco was sent to me by this year's First Responder, Michael Kimball, and I'm already excited to learn more about Jesús' forthcoming book, badbadbad. Savannah Schroll Guz is a woman full of energy. She's not only a great fiction writer and lit blogger, but a co-conspirator of mine in the Pittsburgh reading scene. (We like to devise ways to get you to come to our city and read to us.) Savannah was kind enough to add one-line reviews to her small press picks. I met Bob Ziller recently when he and artist Laura Jean McLaughlin opened a great used bookstore (called Awesome Books) in an emerging arts district of Pittsburgh. He also writes, translates, and publishes poetry. Since Bob is a big contrarian sells used books and has access to so many decades of small press titles, he decided to forgo the "published in the last two years" stipulation of the Holiday Recommendations. And Margaret Bashaar is co-founder of the awesome Pittsburgh poetry cabaret, The TypewriterGirls. She's also a wonderful poet; stay tuned for a poetry book review from Margaret.


1. Daddy's, Lindsay Hunter (Featherproof)
2. Museum of the Weird, Amelia Gray (FC2)
3. From Old Notebooks, Evan Lavender-Smith (BlazeVOX)

Recommended by
Jesús Ángel García, author of badbadbad (forthcoming in May 2011 on New Pulp Press)


1. Three Islands (poetry), Micah Ling (Sunnyoutside)
This was an Indiana Author's Award Finalist and depicts, in beautifully crafted language that has a strong narrative thread, the lives of three completely unrelated historical figures whose lives conceptually intersect by way of their eventual physical and/or metaphorical isolation.

2. The Jack Daniels Sessions EP: A Collection of Fantasies, Elwin Michael Cotman (Six Gallery Press)
Cotman has an amazing voice, and his fabulist descriptions are so vividly communicated, they almost lift from the page and become three-dimensional beings that are impossible images to forget.

3. Crossing the Trestle, Jim Meirose (Burning River Press)
These are haunting stories about characters who seem to resonate with depth and complexity.

Recommended by
Savannah Schroll Guz, author of American Soma (So New, 2009), www.savannahschrollguz.com


1. Rhythm Science, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid (Mediawork/MIT Press)
2. Brush Mind, Kazuaki Tanahashi (Parallax Press)
3. The Art Spirit, Robert Henri (Icon Editions/Westview Press)

Recommended by
Bob Ziller, poet, translator, co-owner of Awesome Books, and editor of Lascaux Editions
Awesome Books on Facebook


1. Soft Foam, Juliet Cook (Blood Pudding Press, 2010)
2. The Spare Room, Dana Guthrie Martin (Blood Pudding Press, 2009)
3. Cyborgia, Susan Slaviero (Mayapple Press, 2010)

Recommended by
Margaret Bashaar, co-host of The TypewriterGirls and editor of the anthology Make It So, most recently the author of Barefoot and Listening from Tilt Press (2009)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations

It's that time of year when I try to blog a list of "small press favorites" by small press authors, editors, and booksellers as a holiday suggestion list. I'm doing a slightly different format this year--instead of one long-ish list, I'm going to take rolling submissions and blog them a few at a time as they come in. I'm also hoping to post some guest reviews along the way.

Hanukkah is early this year (starts December 1st), so it's none too soon for our first contribution to the 2010 Small Press Holiday Recommendations, from one of my favorite contemporary writers:

1. The Orange Eats Creeps, Grace Krilanovich (Two Dollar Radio)
2. From Old Notebooks, Evan Lavender-Smith (BlazeVOX)
3. Big World, Mary Miller (Hobart)

Recommended by
Michael Kimball, author of Dear Everybody (Alma Books)

Email me at eyescorpion@gmail.com if you are involved with the small press (or are a small-press minded librarian) and would like to contribute.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Book Review: THE LOVE BOOK by Ken Wohlrob

K. Wohlrob, The Love Book. New York: Bully Press, 2007. Fiction. 216 pages. ISBN: 978-0615171425.

These stories of sex and death, attraction and repulsion, men and women, start out in a gritty mode, exposing the less pretty realities of some of life's unfortunates. One triumph of The Love Book is the tenderness Wohlrob reveals in the course of writing each relationship, a raw and recognizable humanity he brings to the surface in places the reader least expects: Compassion for just the characters with whom I was most uncomfortable crept over me in absorbing Wohlrob's deft and distilled prose. The stories in The Love Book are never veiled autobiography, but add up to an original vision all Wohlrob's own, one that has been piercingly and wisely lived, felt, and imagined. Recommended for collections of contemporary fiction, short fiction, suburban fiction, small press fiction, New Jersey authors, Italian-American authors.