Posts Tagged ‘Sundress Publications

31
Jul
17

On Neil Aitken’s Babbage’s Dream

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in a future issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics.

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Neil Aitken's Babbage's DreamCharles Babbage was a mathematician, inventor, and even philosopher, but he is mostly known as “the father of the computer,” as he designed the first “analytical engine.” He is also the main focus of Neil Aitken’s Babbage’s Dream (Sundress Publications, 2016). However, this is no biography, and it’s not a string of found poems. For Aitken, Babbage becomes not only a lens through which to examine Babbage’s emotions and an artist’s and scientist’s endeavors with creation, but the 56 pages of poems (two of which first appeared in Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) and nine pages of notes also tend toward ontology and explore what it is to be a struggling human.

The bulk of the book consists of long-lined, unrhymed couplets of lyric poems. But where a lyric poem uses the lyrical I to express a voice going through change, Aitken replaces the I with the Babbage persona and a near omniscient voice observing Babbage. Additionally, almost all the lines are marked with a caesura in the middle, sometimes two or three. For instance, the opening of “Babbage at His Desk, Enumerating the Known World” (23):

   From here, you lay bare the world
   table after table, column after column: 

   each thing known and numbered, counted
   like sparrows in their open graves, 

   the heartbeats of pigs, the staggered breathing
   of cattle in low country fields. Each significant. 

   A sign. A signature. The quality of ink
   spread on the printer’s block. Silk threads,

Those these lines are shorter than most, we can see/hear how the couplets move and also act like binaries. The lines move between velocity and pause, which is helpful in the longer lines. The caesura acts as a breathing fulcrum, as well as an experiential fulcrum. As for the binary action, the opening line presents an emotional abstraction that is countered in line two with the need to mathematically express or capture those emotions. Thus, line 1 –emotion / line 2 – math; and line 1 – abstraction / line 2 – categorization. Then, line three successfully quantifies the known, which is then countered in line four with an image, an emotional image of despair. Thus, line 3 – mathematical representation / line 4 – image representation; and line 3 –quantifiable / line 4 – inexpressible. There’s a back-and-forth movement between opposing experiential realms of perception and expression.

Sometimes the back-and-forth occurs in the same line, such as line six, where the period caesura acts as the fulcrum for the experiential shift. The couplets, the movements, mimetically rendering thoughts, feelings, actions a person moves through during moments of struggle, despair, joy, the ineffable, while allegorically paralleling how “binary numbers are stored in a digital computer as either absence or presence (nothing or something)” (“Notes” 71). Perhaps this can be all simplified as movement between conscious and unconscious. Not all the couplets behave this way, but many do.

In fact, there are five poems that experiment with form and structure, and four of those do so using computer programming language, such as C++. For example, “Comment” (46), which first appeared in Redactions, opens:

   At the company town hall meeting,                           // in the movie theater again
   we see the same slide. The financial gurus                // old plots, new faces

   spin the numbers again, a visual rhetoric                   // fake stars painted on the scene
   of gray bars rising adjacent to red. Someone             // dull plastic, factory-made

Here there are two columns. According to the notes, the poem “uses the // line notation from C++ to indicate that what follows is to be read by the human, but not the computer (i.e., everything after those marks is ignored by the compiler”) (72). The left column uses the first-person plural subjective “we” to attempt to objectively render a scene, while the right column has an unidentified speaker providing a judgmental assessment (or “comments”) of what is actually happening. So again, we have this fulcrum, but this time it hinges on the //. The left side is for the computer and is in a fairly objective and narrative language, while the right side is for the human and is in an unknown snarky, lyrical voice.

I think these binaries, these couplets exist because Babbage lives in two worlds: one of the computer or mechanical and one of the human, who experiences love and suffers great despair at the loss of his wife and daughter within a year’s time. In essence, the poems underscore a human’s conflict between mind and heart and the dialectical movements we encounter within ourselves each moment of the day as we endure what is here and what is gone, what is made and what is destroyed, and between maker and the maker’s creation. The language in Neil Aitken’s Babbage’s Dream is concise and specific as computer code and is rhythmically rigid, with the binary of iambs providing a steady backbeat. //

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Aitken, Neil. Babbage’s Dream. Knoxville, TN: Sundress Publications, 2016. Print.

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21
May
16

A Surrealist Response to The System: On Les Kay’s The Bureau

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in a future issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics.

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Les Kay – The BureauIn the mail a while back, I received a red file folder with “STRICTLY PRIVATE” printed in black on an angle across the top half for the front cover. In the bottom right corner is a rectangular box with the following printed words inside it: “Corp. Personnel / Research File / No. 42,” where 42 is handwritten in black ink. Opening the file revealed a few things. One is the title page on the recto side of the folder. It is bound at the top by metal spear binding clips threaded through two holes at the top of the pages and folder over to keep the pages in place. On the inner side of the front folder-cover is a sheet of paper with “The bureau loves you” printed all over the page in a deliberate design format with many variants in the typing, such as “THe Bureau Loves you,” “THE BUREAU LOVES YOU,” “The Bureau loves you..” (with two periods), and “THE BUREAU LOVES YOU>THE BUREAU IS COMING” in the last line. These lines, as well as the rest of the “book,” are printed in a typewriter typeface (complete with some letters receiving more ink than others), thus further suggesting that this is some long-lost FBI file from the 1960s, and maybe it’s a file on some subversive poet. I’m not sure what is really going on at this point. This feeling is furthered heightened by an Agfachrome film slide (like one of those film slides for the old Kodak Carousel, with a piece of film bound by cardboard), and this film slide is held to the title page by a paper clip. Holding the slide up to a light source reveals an aerial view of fields, like those square ones you might see flying over Iowa or South Dakota. There are also three linked tree rows that look like a backwards Z or half a swastika. I think I see a building, too. It must be top-secret base holding aliens and alien technology, or in the least the headquarters to a secret service organization. Who knows what’s buried below? What conspiracies and future technology? Who knows what the following pages (including the “Inspected By 23” tag between pages 17 and 18) in Les Kay’s The Bureau (Sundress Publications, 2015) will reveal about all these mysteries. I’ve never been so excited – and scared – to read a book of poems.

In the beginning, it appears the speaker is a prisoner in The Bureau, which seems to be a high-level and top-secret psychiatric ward, as well as a risky production facility for food products, “Ennui” and time, and these poems are seemingly entries in the speaker’s journal. Within The Bureau, the speaker interacts with “a collie [. . .] learning Spanish,” the inhabitants “tast[ing] infinity,” Arthur Rimbaud, Sir Isaac Newton, Smithson, Paul Valéry, Madame Curie, and The Bureau’s CFO, whose name is either “Satan,” “Stan,” or “Satin.” Amid these writings will sometimes appear text in red typeface, as if commentary from an observing psychologist, The Bureau, or another voice in the poet’s head making commentary on the poet’s observations. Eventually, we learn The Bureau, located in South Dakota, is a test facility to “test the market for surgical figurines / that can be transformed easily / into fallen soldiers, thus penetrating into / several markets with removable plastic spleens” (“Movable Parts” 11). The speaker we learn, however, is no ordinary prisoner – he’s an employee with important “impact studies to be filed” (“The Stranger” 13) and a marketer searching “for a musician / Banned from writing her songs” (“Rimbaud’s Prayer” 14). It turns out, he’s a worker within The Bureau, and he misses his lover, whose name he forgot. In other words, because of his work there, he’s forgotten what he loves.

By the time we get to the final pages, which are mostly redacted, especially the last page where everything is redacted except for “The,” “Bureau,” “loves,” and “you” (“xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx The xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx” 27), we realize this semi-surreal book is a commentary on the corporate and capitalist system in which we are conditioned to live. It’s the repressed voice of all us 9-to-5 and 9-to-6 and 9-to-7 and 9-to-8 workers, who feel unable to express or experience our true desires, writing songs or poems, and where “Rimbaud is no longer Rimbaud” (“Integration and Incense” 16). It is the voice the system represses in our trade-off for comfort and the bills that accompany those comforts. It’s the voice every worker knows but silences in order to survive, though we all know survival does not come from The Bureau loving us. The Bureau, the system, is “A strategy of victimization [that] leads to a lack of culpability” (“An Apple That Falls” 20). Les Kay’s The Bureau, however, conjures a voice for the victims in response the oppressor’s culpabilities, and it is not comfortable, as Kay’s speaker makes us aware of our working-class mechanisms to repress our desires and how and why it happens.//

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Kay, Les. The Bureau. Knoxville: Sundress Publications, 2015.

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You can download the text pages as a free PDF here: http://www.sundresspublications.com/TheBureau.pdf

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16
Jun
12

Presses with Open Readings for Full-Length Poetry Manuscripts

In the past, I have created such lists as all the Small, Independent, and University Press Poetry Book Publishers (which was up-to-date as of 3-6-10 with 687 presses) and all the Journals with “Review” in Their Title, Who Accept Poetry, and Who Have a Website (which was up-to-date as of 2-29-12 with 344 journals.) The first lists I made were Poetry Book Contests with Spring & Summer DeadlinesPoetry Book Contests with Fall & Winter Deadlines (scroll down), and Poetry Chapbook Contests (scroll down).

Now, it’s time to start a new list, and I’ll keep it here and I’ll update it as I can. Currently, these are the only ones I remember or that other kind people have reminded me of. The list will grow, and if you know of any open readings, please note them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list. I’m trying to limit this list to free readings, but I’ve listed a few that charge a reading fee.

Presses with Open Readings for Full-Length Poetry Manuscripts

All the Time Open Readings (last checked and updated 7-16-17)

January Open Readings
February Open Readings
March Open Readings
April Open Readings
May Open Readings
  • Airlie Press (They “seek manuscripts from Pacific Northwest poets who are willing and able to commit to a three-year term of doing the shared work of running a collective press.”)
  • Able Muse Press
  • Ahsahta Press (“There will be no open submission period in 2014. Open submissions will resume in May 2015.” . . .  Still closed. Checked 5-15-17.)
  • Augury Books (Temporarily closed. Checked 5-15-17.)
  • BkMk Press (Process begins with a sample of 10 pages of poetry. See guidelines.)
  • Graywolf Press (Only for poets who have previously published a book of poems.) (Graywolf Press has decided to stop accepting unsolicited submissions until further notice. 5-20-13. . . “Currently, we are not open to poetry submissions.” 5-15-17.)
  • Mason Jar Press ($4 submission fee)
  • McSweeney’s Books
  • New Rivers Press
  • Ninebark Press (“[O]ur next open reading period will be May 1-31, 2018. If you have a completed book manuscript you believe fits our mission, please submit a query letter and sample (15-30 pages).) Checked 6-1-17.
  • Orison Books (Only open for poetry in translation. . . . Checked 5-15-17.)
  • Sibling Rivalry Press (“In lieu of a reading charge or entry fee, purchase one of our titles from our official online store.”)
  • Sundress Publications ($13 reading fee.)
  • Unicorn Press
  • University Press of Kentucky: New Poetry and Prose Series. (Begin with query.) (March 15 – May 1.)
  • The Waywiser Press (“Authors who have published two or more previous collections of poems”)
  • Willow Books (2017. $25.)
  • YesYes Books (April 1 – May 15. $22.)
June Open Readings (last checked and updated 6-22-17)
July Open Readings (last checked and updated 7-16-17)
August Open Reading (last checked and updated 8-1-17)
September Open Readings (Last checked 9-1-17)
  • Arktoi Books (lesbian poets) (At the moment, Arktoi is not accepting submissions.)
  • Bat Cat Press (“We welcome the submission of complete manuscripts throughout the year. We read in the fall (September-December) and typically send out accept/decline letters in December and January.”)
  • Cherry Castle Publishing (“Our submission period is currently closed.”)
  • McSweeney’s Books (“The McSweeney’s Poetry Series is taking a temporary hiatus from accepting submissions. We hope to open things up again before too long.”) Checked 9-1-17.
  • Sidebrow Books (Through October 31, 2017. “In lieu of a reading fee, we are asking each of you to kindly support our press and authors by buying the book of your choice from our catalog in conjunction with this reading period.”)
  • Tarpaulin Sky Press (“Will we open for unsolicited submissions again, anytime soon? Most likely. But we’re not sure when.”)
  • Unicorn Press
  • University of Pittsburgh Press (Pitt Poetry Series. For poets who have previously published a poetry book.)
  • Willow Books (2017. $25.)
October Open Readings
November Open Readings
December Open Readings
More to come.
Ultimate update: 9-18-17 added Sidebrow Books to September and October.
Penultimate update:  9-1-17:
  • Removed Sarabande Books from September.
  • Moved Steel Toe Books from September to January and February.
Antepenultimate update: 8-3-17 Moved Brain Mill Press: Mineral Point Poetry Series from All the Time Open Readings to August.
Preantepenultimate update: 8-1-17
  • Removed Sarabande open reading from August, but added an open reading for Kentuckians to July.
  • Removed Cedar Creek Publishing from August.
  • Added Spork Press to August.
  • Added boost house to All the Time Open Readings.
  • Added Disorder Press to All the Time Open Readings.
140 presses that print paperback and/or hardcover poetry books.//



The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

Poems for an Empty Church

Poems for an Empty Church

The Oldest Stone in the World

The Oldest Stone in the Wolrd

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Pre-Dew Poems

Pre-Dew Poems

Negative Time

Negative Time

After Malagueña

After Malagueña

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