HOW TO SURVIVE A HOTEL FIRE, ANGELA VERONICA WONG

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Happy Thanksgiving, friends! This week, I’ve been thankful for poetry. More specifically, I’ve been spending time with Angela Veronica Wong’s collection How to Survive a Hotel Fire. This collection is delightfully littered with holey socks, witty titles, unicorns, and unsolicited advice (“Never send naked pictures”). The speaker in How to Survive a Hotel Fire is funny, imaginative, sometimes impulsive, and always surprising. I love the collections that make me feel like I never know what to expect, and this collection did just that.

Split into six sections, the poems in How to Survive a Hotel Fire take up many forms. In the second section, titled “If You’re Hoping Something Interesting Comes From This I Would Hold Your Breath” the poems do not have a title, and they appear on different spots on each page. They are also broken up into short stanzagraphs. Lots of white space is used, which is unlike the poems in the third section of the book, which are written in the middle of the page, and utilize bold titles.

Something I really enjoyed about How to Survive a Hotel Fire is its use of humor. In one poem, titled “In Which Our Heroine Attempts An Alternate Ending” the speaker says, “We stopped / making plans. Because / allergies happen” (lines 4-6). Each line in this collection is unpredictable, making it charming and accessible to all readers. Similarly, on page 69,  Wong does a great job of disarming readers yet again with the line “I would kiss you right now but I can’t stop eating peaches.” This whimsicality feels honest and daring, making the collection a fun and emotionally compelling read.

The series title poems utilize the same elements, but many of the poems are written as instruction manuals. In my favorite, the speaker begins the poem by saying “first stop the fucking tears because it’s pathetic, really” and then later ” i / need a boyfriend because carrying my own stuff / is boring” (page 77). How to Survive a Hotel Fire is a wonderful collection. I’d recommend it to anyone who is just starting to read poetry, or anyone who is looking for a light read.

Buy the collection here.

Visit Wong’s website here to check out her other work.

 

FLOWER POEMS, KATIE MERTZ

487847_c4eed622a0fa4c7fb255e2f36de71ce1-mv2_d_3866_2577_s_4_2Exploding with dazzling images and fierce humor is Katie Mertz’s chapbook Flower Poems. Readers will fall in love with this collection because it’s quirky and emotionally compelling. Mertz’s voice is honest and funny, and I want to carry so many of these poems in my pocket for the rainy days. Although this chapbook only houses 12 poems, some of my favorites, including “Rebuilding the Titanic” and “Lives” are in Flower Poems. 

In “Rebuilding the Titanic,” the speaker muses about the irony of naming the titanic unsinkable, and the futility of rebuilding the ship: “That building a boat or a horse / or a lover and naming it UNSINKABLE is not // a guarantee” (lines 9-11). I love the wittiness of this poem, and the play on irony. It also speaks to the chapbooks’ tendency to gather inspiration from unlikely sources, such as the Trembling Giant in the poem “Pando” and the moon in the poem “Blood Moon.”

I think Flower Poems also does an excellent job at exposing the tension between hope and despair. There’s an underlying sadness threaded throughout the chapbook that is balanced with a brave reflection on the nature of mankind. The speaker feels very human because she is admittedly flawed: “maybe I am part of the problem” (“Pando,” line 32). The last poem in the chapbook, titled “Lives,” dwells on the importance of pain for existence. Even as the speaker says, “some days I am // dripping so much human sadness” (lines 18-19) she admits that “the pain / is welcome because I understand // it is fleeting” (lines 14-16). It is this raw emotional honesty that makes me love Flower Poems.

Also, on a side note, I really like the cover of Flower Poems, as well as the feel of the book.

Head on over to Frontier Slumber’s website to purchase Flower Poems. Also, check out this interview I did with Katie Mertz.

P.S: Be sure to read about Frontier Slumber below. It’s an awesome new press!

*As part of my goal to promote small presses, here is some information about Frontier Slumber: “Frontier Slumber is a miniature mansion built by hand in Bloomington, Indiana using paper, thread, and cassette tape imported from across the Midwest. Its builders and caretakers are Joshua Johnston, Paul Asta, and Kaylin Goodman. FS houses poems and stories either brave enough or dumb enough to remain graceful in the event of a collapsed roof or electrical fire. All impassioned missives and drunken screeds can be directed at frontierslumber (at) gmail (dot) com.”*

(cover of Flower Poems courtesy of Frontier Slumber)

Election Thoughts

Poetry friends, with news of Donald Trump winning the presidential election, I hope you’ve been able to find some time this week to care for yourself and find peace. It is even more important right now for us to stand by each other and continue making art. Poetry can be used to spread social awareness and protest injustice, so we must continue making our voices heard through poetry. Below is a small list of collections that I have featured on NPP that have impacted me in powerful ways. It is in no particular order. Also, be sure to check out this Atlantic article on Why Poetry is Viral in the Aftermath of Trump’s Election.

  1. Cannibal, Safiya Sinclair
  2. Bringing the Shovel Down, Ross Gay
  3. Why God is a Woman, Nin Andrews
  4. Citizen, Claudia Rankine
  5. Seam, Tarfia Faizullah
  6. Dothead, Amit Majmudar
  7. Play Dead, Francine J. Harris
  8. The Sonnets, Sandra Simonds
  9. [Insert] Boy, Danez Smith
  10. Thief in the Interior, Phillip B. Williams

9781631491412_198Although this week’s post is a bit different, I do still want to briefly feature the poetry collection Rome, by Dorothea Lasky. I’ve really appreciated her weird and sarcastic voice because these poems have gotten me through a tough week. While reading Rome, I never knew what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised at the wild language. One of my favorite poems in Rome is “Complainers” because of the following lines: “Some people don’t want to die / Because you can’t complain when you’re dead” (lines 1-2). I would recommend this collection to anyone who needs a break from the angry rhetoric surrounding us this week. If you need a laugh, click on this link to order Rome.

As always, let’s continue to advocate for peace, and love one another.

 

Event Coverage: Jamaal May

20161102_202819On Wednesday, November 2nd, the Akron-Summit County Public Library hosted poet Jamaal May. Y’all have probably noticed my love for May’s work from my post a few months ago about his newest collection, The Big Book of Exit Strategies. Needless to say, I was really, really excited to meet May, and so fortunate for our library for bringing him.

At the event, May did a beautiful job reading his work. I was glad to hear the phobia poems in Hum out loud, as well as the poems “Shift,” and “The Gun Joke,” among others. During the Q&A, I loved hearing May’s thoughts about the use of humor in poetry, how to edit poems, and how to slow down and make time for your work during a busy schedule. The event was super inspiring, and May even signed a test I had laying in my purse because I’d forgotten my copy of Hum at home.

Huge thank you to the ASCPL, as well as May for spending time with Akron!

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