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(Omnidawn titles are distributed by Independent Publishers Group)
The Plot Genie
136 pages (5.5″ x 8.5″ Paper)
Gillian Conoley’s exhilarating new book, The Plot Genie, is a multi-storied, imaginary archaeology of contingency, eventfulness, and truth. She has created a complex confabulation, a comedy of realities–realities circulated by chance. The Plot Genie is simultaneously a speculative exploration of this reality–circulation and an assemblage of story elements produced at the intersections of its competing centripetal and centrifugal forces. Near the middle of this brilliant book’s title poem, Conoley writes that “Destiny is a world apart.” True. And reality is after it.
The myriad magical possibilities! This is what drives Gillian Conoley’s brilliant, always inventive, new collection. Inspired by a 1930’s device, The Plot Genie offers up options: enigmatic characters who refuse coherent narrative, graphic action that refracts innuendo, a Handsome Dead Man laughing in the sun, Artaud, Tom Sawyer, a tiger–all tightly carved, with crackling phraseology and a flagrant zeal that’s captured perfectly in her epigram from Rimbaud: “Quick! More lives!” They’re all here.
Publishers Weekly Review:
Conoley’s sixth collection-which takes its title from a plot-generating system devised in the 1930s by silent screenwriter Wycliffe A. Hill-is a book of many sources (ancient and contemporary, cerebral and tabloid) that all point toward cinema. Archie, Betty and Veronica appear in one poem, while another features the less likely trio of Walt Whitman, Paul Bunyan and Aristotle, all of them eerily imprisoned by an elaborately illusive studio system. There’s an atmosphere of decay throughout, replete with “chambers dim with histories,” and “locusts/ without end.” At its best, the book reads like an exceptional film noir projected onto the mind’s eye. “The world is a weird luminescence,” writes Conoley. “A greenish glow, unhinged,” Experimental poetry fans and cinephiles will find much that haunts and stimulates. (Reviewed 8/17/09)
Theory of Mind: New & Selected Poems
200 pages (6 x 9 paper )
Once again Bin Ramke gathers the sudden hope that poetry provides in lines reaching, by turns, our necessary histories, and a tense present we cannot afford to overlook. Ramke’s work is preturnaturally awake to the difficult music of this fraught century. He is a poet worth listening to and listening for.
This wonderful book of poems sings the exuberance of number and of love; it whispers nostalgia, it breathes the mountain air as birds do. Bin Ramke’s poems are at the same time delicate, and wild; they are grandly roaming, and close to home; they encompass the love-poems-posing-as-mathematical-problems in the writings of Bhaskara, as well as the satisfying clatter of a small stone bouncing on concrete; and they remind us how grand it is to wrestle with language as Jacob wrestled with the angel.
A compelling leitmotif that runs through Bin Ramke’s recent poems comes from Wittgenstein’s On Certainty: “Where there is no doubt there is no judgment.” Doubt, pressed to its limits and hence break-through, is at the heart of the gorgeously sounded metaphysical poems Ramke has been writing for thirty years-poems that recall Henry Vaughan in their lyric intensity, their profound understanding of scientific theorem and the natural world-wind, cloud, water, light-and especially their fidelity to the truth of the human heart. When balloons burst in these poetic spaces (see “The Twelve Symmetries”), the sound is deafening, releasing paroxysms of rage; then again “after the party,” they become “little deflated splashes of color on the floor.” But the cycle continues: the balloon may “release / the secret I had whispered too loudly blowing it up, someone listening.” Ramke’s poems are truly “prologues to what is possible.”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review:
Since winning the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1978, Ramke has steadily released strong and strange books of poetry. He is the rare poet who seems to become more himself with each new book, rather than more like an imitation of himself. Nonetheless, perhaps due to the difficulty of much of his work, Ramke has remained a poet’s poet. This much-needed and compact selection from his nine previous books serves as a helpful introduction to this poet, whose work straddles aesthetic camps one never knew shared borders-this is language poetry with a Southern twang, or experimental writing with clear, dire subject matter. From the stark clarity of his first poems (“the only horse/ we owned died on Christmas Eve”), Ramke has journeyed toward wholly original aesthetic ground on which his own often fragmentary words share the page, even the line, with passages from obscure texts, definitions, even mathematics. Yet even Ramke’s oddest poems always keep a few subjects-fatherhood, knowledge of the self and the other, love, desire-at the forefront, wishing, at times, “To kiss. To move/ mouth against mouth.” And the new poems here are among Ramke’s best.
Barn Burned, Then
Selected by Marjorie Welish as the winner of the 2008 Omnidawn Poetry Prize
80 pages, (6″ x 9″ Paper)
Imagine this: sentences broken into phrases at fault lines of testimony, where the words “barn” and “bank” animate the economies and concerns of our lives. Barn, Burned, Then implicates Objectivism in this imagining, to create poems of the conglomerate of bank and barn–words shown to be made of contingent cultural forces.
From “Building the Bank, Asking”:
Who called the bank
The bank of
Grave the bank
You asked for praying
When she handed us the bill her hands were
Hands of a farmhand.
It’s good to have the image in mind
At the bank
By chance-that is to say, by the happenstance that changes lives irrevocably-are these poems wrought. (What legitimizes happenstance remains in the background.) With Barn Burned, Then Michelle Taransky becomes the worthy winner of Omnidawn’s initial publication of emerging talent.
—Marjorie Welish, Judge of the 2008 Omnidawn Poetry Prize
Michelle Taransky takes her title from Masahide’s 17th century haiku: “Barn’s burnt down – / now / I can see the moon.” There, physical loss is a gateway to an ecstatic gain of focus. Here, barns still burn, but the haze that hovers over the disappeared structures is more fiscal than physical: banks, not lightning or arson, would seem to be the (in)efficient causes. In two interlocked series, “Burn Book” and “Bank Book,” Taransky uses her fluency in frame-scanning, collage, and abstraction to alert readers to the depth of tinder we live amid.
Michelle Taransky’s Barn Burned, Then explores the hidden economies of a derelict American dream. In this ingeniously unified and mercilessly fractured collection of poems, the barn and the bank – those fundamental repositories of value – become sites for an elegiac meditation on signification itself. What is a barn? “A windowless address / put up to the shadow-maker.” What is a bank? “A way to get more for less.” With uncanny foresight, this postmodern Cassandra’s lyrical utterance warn us about the Ponzi scheme of modernity, while simultaneously “taking care // Of our ailing want / To piece back together // All that has parted.”