Teaches of Peaches: A Preview

November 21, 2017

Nobody knows how to language grief. It comes to us as a sine curve or a gust, as the smell of fabric softener or when we stretch and open our hips. It is significant that we capture our private pain creatures, which are intent on bloating spaces of absence with the ugly spasming replicants of that absence. It’s a creature that is, ironically, impossible to fully disappear. It finds a home in wreckage the way humans have always done. Diane Exavier’s Teaches of Peaches examines this grief through hybrid exercises, not bothering to train the cycles of grief for her intentions, but rather, by cycling her intentions around her grief. The book sets itself up through the lyric urgency of a poem and the sober reportage of the essay. Combined, we might call it a sober lyric or an urgent report, not daring its leanings toward genre in either direction. The poems spit and cackle, redact and quote; the essays ruminate and investigate, unearth and historicize. Peaches, we learn, is Diane’s cat, who was, as Diane tells us, “not my partner or my child or my companion or some surrogate or even the creature on this planet that understood me the most because we happened to live together.” That Diane has experienced great loss throughout her life meant, ironically for her, that she never quite learned how to grieve. It’s a family affair and then it is done. The entire book culminates not on the death of either of her parents (in fact, we start there), but with the fateful Uber to the animal hospital, Peaches in her carrier, Diane sitting in a makeshift reckoning. It is a chapbook of unbelievable elasticity and control, a freedom carved by way of formal constraints.
Co-editor Emily Raw (also responsible, as always, with the gorgeous chapbook cover) met with Diane to shoot the trailer. In Teaches of Peaches, Diane finds her mother’s mixed tape, a tape to which she has never listened. Emily procured a working tape player, which is no small feat in 2017, and recorded Diane listening to the tape for the first time. It is a special moment. Be sure to listen to it with the sound on. Below you can read a preview from the book, as well as my interview with this brilliant chapbook author. Do yourself a favor and get this book. 
—Natalie Eilbert
Of the two women who birthed me
I moved one of them in,
even though the other wants desperately for us to live together.
It’s not a competition.
The one I stole in the middle of the night
has been saying so much as of late.
And the one I left in Brooklyn
keeps saying the same thing —
except for when she talks about her sister.
I’m getting new old news now
that I’ve reached the year she ceased.
My sister did it four years before me.
Persisting is not rocket science.
I sleep well even though she sits on my coffee table.
I guess it’s not so hard after all
to breathe from behind plastic sheets.
She sits in my phone.
She sits in my feed.
I [...] Continue Reading »

Liv Lansdale: Who’s your favorite pop cultural figure?

Alana Massey: Harry Styles. I write and talk a lot about Harry Styles and One Direction in a way that seems a bit flip and like I’m just some sort of overgrown teen with a crush on a floppy-haired boy but I honestly think that Styles is the kind of charismatic performer and person that we get maybe once in a decade, a generation even. People who have followed his career since the beginning of One Direction know that he’s always been exceptionally funny, self-aware, warm, and constantly learning and absorbing information as it pertains to living in a more just world.

LL: Are there any [pop cultural figures] you feel particularly ambivalent about? You love them but you don’t want to, or you believe you should love them but you don’t? 

AM: Intellectually, I know I am supposed to revere and care about Madonna because it is indisputable that she’s done incredible things for creativity, for women, and for society. She’s incomparable in so many ways and I get that. But I just have a hard time getting worked up about her or excited, even though I’m a huge fan of the music that made her famous.

LL: At what point did you realize this would be a book of women? Was there a draft with any dude-focused essays?

AM: This was always 100% going to be a book about women and the earliest incarnation of the [book] proposal was actually much angrier and more focused on the evils of men than on the merits of women. I used to think that there was quite enough material about men that I’d never write a word about famous men but as I’ve started doing celebrity profiles and have finally had a chance to write about boy bands at the length and depth I want, I am seriously considering shifting my focus to men. There is a lot of written work about men but very little of it is written by women—what if Vogue and Vanity Fair profiles of men were coming from someone with a hetero-female gaze? Or from a more empathetic, less adulating perspective than so many man-on-man profiles are? What if profiles or essays about men could show that they’re vulnerable more than that they’re cool? Angelica Jade Bastién wrote these two incredible pieces on Keanu Reeves and James Marsden that absolutely blew me away in this area and I would love to see more writing like that from women.

LL: Which essay from All the Lives I Want evolved the most? What was the starting point?

Alana Massey: The Winona/Gwyneth essay started as something of a rant that I ended up reading aloud at the first reading I was ever invited to. It read far cattier, far angrier, and far more self-indulgent than the essay that ended up in the book. The first published incarnation of it was on Buzzfeed and even after it was toned down for that, there was still this dichotomy set up that there really are Winonas and Gwyneths, which I [...] Continue Reading »

al youm: a preview

April 19, 2017

Poetry is capable of willing language into new utility. It can be a political engine, transforming discourse into a line, a fume of impulses. George Abraham is a poet of exact fury, channeling language as he also interferes with its oppressive transmissions. Few writers are able, the way George Abraham is able, to convey the bareness of violence without falling back on traditional poetic instincts. But for George, tradition requires splintering. Encountering George on the page and on the stage, it becomes clear that George is busy casting another net entirely, one in which mastery bows to mutuality, one in which power dissolves away from the absolute and into the terrible space of inhabitance. With George, we must obliterate the language of the Zionist by showing us the language of the Zionist. We must see the Queer Palestinian by seeing the Queer Palestinian present amid their enemies. We see grammar as a kind of ramshackle as the voice of the poems rise up, rise forward, break apart its captors. Working with George has taught me so much about patience and celebration, that we might elect a better community despite what we think we deserve from community. al youm is so much power and grace and beauty. I hope you’ll purchase your copy of it today and celebrate this singular, phenomenal poet. Much thanks, as always, to the ever-talented and brilliant co-editor Emily Raw for creating a gorgeous and compelling cover, and for conceiving George’s book trailer, seen above.
ode to my swollen, mono-infected Spleen
There’s a weight in you that screams at
Unholy hours & this is the first time you
Were led to believe your body is not a chasm;
When your gut becomes an ocean in love
With its tempests & the invisible islands
Swallowed whole in the wake of you —
You’ve got the colonizers shaking in their
Boots; every white thing trembles at
The sight of the expansive planet you’ve become;
There are parts you never knew existed
Until they occupied too much space.
Until your own weight fills your
Hollowed frame & everything inside
You bursts & swells into
A cacophony of organs & white blood
Cells — how could you expect to house
All this fluid & turbulence & history without
Imploding? Don’t they know you have a
Whole country in you? How can
You expect completeness when home is
A borderless entity; when you fit the
Infinite into a single body — how do
They look at you & not see God in that
Swell & undertow? In the Goliath
They made of that fist-sized organ, or the
Holy ghost your immune system has become;
They look at you & see a defenseless thing; a city
In love with the carpet bomb’s embrace;
You ever look at a body on fire & see
God in the burning? You ever sing hallelujah
To an infected thing because it did not
Kill you? Because the battle makes you feel
So alive you’ve forgotten the martyr your
Body has become? You’re still unlearning
The parts of you that shrivel & shrink beneath
The confines of gravity & you’ve begun teaching them
To swell. To crash.
To flood.
—Originally published by Brooklyn Poets

An Interview with George Abraham
Natalie Eilbert: The experience of reading al youm is a forceful [...] Continue Reading »

Grievances: A Preview

March 8, 2017

Grievances by Roberto Montes from Emily Raw on Vimeo.
Roberto Montes is a poet of many things. The experience of reading his work in Grievances is singular—the lines let white space in like a panicked gulp of air, but the text itself is a sober ballast against that anxiety. Acute in its telling, Roberto is in thrall to nobody as he enlists his political doctrine through personal grievances. One hears in that last sentence, The personal is political, but it is more that language is a violence that should, to borrow from Hannah Arendt, reveal rather than conceal its larger function. And Grievances certainly reveals. From the eponymous poem that starts off the entire chapbook, where Roberto very memorably first utters, “My name is Roberto Montes / I am BACK” to the final poem “Against Eternity,” which closes the chapbook with a fantastic counterweight to the opener, “We do as the gods will not / We die,” the poems push against the invisible frameworks that command and compromise self. Roberto avows himself of a voice fit to dismantle power structures as it is also fit to protect those for whom Poetry does not historically served. There is also a bonus piece after “Against Eternity,” an Acknowledgments page like you’ve never seen before, which acts as a kind of po’biz soliloquy. Designed to read apart from the book, the acknowledgments performs more like the original etymology of acknowledgment: a token of due recognition. In this case, it is a token of due witness, and this level of witness and recognition (for better or for worse) permeates the collection. Roberto is a very capable poet and his form is full of brilliant intention and cognition. Grievances is an important chapbook, not just in how it sees the Poetry Community, but in how it also addresses mental health, family, and the institutions that have only recently been articulated. Roberto is like no other poetic mind out there—exasperation and the ineffable clash and merge in equal, poignant measure. Above, you’ll find a small chapbook trailer conceived of and created by Emily Raw, with Roberto Montes on audio, reading from “Shame Is Revolutionary Feeling.” Below you’ll find a poem from his chapbook, “CAN YOU GIVE EVEN ONE EXAMPLE” (originally published in Sixth Finch), as well as a great interview with Roberto, conducted by Natalie Eilbert, publisher and founder of TAR, who may or may not be author of this very copy. Be sure to buy Grievances immediately.
This morning on the train someone
Wanted to know my problem
I am a soft surrealist    I said crying
The moment you realize it is not
Your reflection in the window
But a borough that could be walked to
True inspiration
Resettling the deserters of your body
True inspiration
Gerrymandering the lines of your face
So that a history becomes laughter
The way laughter becomes an excuse
To get closer to you
It’s too easy to be beautiful on this planet
And the struggle against
Is the most beautiful of all
So when the pointing gatekeepers
Left love completely
Unguarded I took it
Don’t worry
I left them more 
Than they leave themselves
—Originally published in Sixth Finch
An [...] Continue Reading »