Five things I didn’t expect to find in 2011:
Will Skinker’s Feed My Lambs on Lew Gallery came in the mail. The last poem in the chapbook, “Coronation,” really blew me away. California poem, pace the coastal sun on prison walls and the rusted dent on a 70s station wagon. I might have the details wrong but I remember exactly how I felt when I was there. It’s an incredible poem because it brings you to a mindstate of surrender or bleak acceptance through fierce tender language that never lets up. It’s a real poem!
Looking for Paterson in the Berkeley Public Library at the end of the year I bumped into from the warring factions by Ammiel Alcalay. If you haven’t read this great book (published some years ago) I just returned it to the Main Branch today.
Leonora Carrington was someone I had never heard of until Cedar Sigo bought me a copy of The Oval Lady, stories translated by Rochelle Holt, a rare book with a strange acid-green cover that looks like 3 different artists worked on it in a dungeon. The delicately neurotic drawings are by her son, Pablo Weisz. 1975.
Owen Hill’s detective poet novel The Chandler Apartments would have been my favorite one-sitting read of the year if it hadn’t been for his recently published pamphlet Union Steward, which tells the story of an airline workers’ union firebrand none other than the author as a young man.
I read The End of the West by Michael Dickman and was surprised by how striking some of the images were. (I haven’t read the poet’s second book, which I believe was published last year.) He brags too much about what a soulful hard-ass he is, growing up on the tough side of Portland and all, which makes it all the more fun to read. Here’s the one book of the year that I wanted to hate (and checked out for that reason) but ended up enjoying disliking.