Book Review: BOY WITH THORN by Ricky Laurentiis

9780822963813 Boy with Thorn
Poems by Rickey Laurentiis
Pitt Press, 2015

Reviewed by Dakota Garilli

“There are eyes, glasses even, but still he can’t see / what the world sees seeing him.”

In Rickey Laurentiis’ stunning debut collection, Boy with Thorn (winner of the 2014 Cave Canem Poetry Prize), readers are presented with an America where the questions are always of perception, discovery, and transformation. In these pages, Laurentiis explores what it means to be black and gay in contemporary America, to be a survivor of Hurricane Katrina and a particular American South; and, in doing so, he plumbs the depths of questions many of us ask of our bodies and minds as we develop a sense of being in the world.

This collection begins with a desire for magic, for transformation in all its multiple guises. In “Conditions for a Black Southern Gothic,” the speaker has a wish “to think stranger stuff,” and then becomes a decapitated, singing head in the middle of a field. In “One Country,” he sheds his body like the shell of a hermit crab, its disparate parts becoming doors to new worlds. “Black Iris” dreams the desire of heteronormativity—“And here runs the message in the blood: / This is it—fuck her fag like you’re supposed to”—as the speaker’s voice shakes like a young calf, “out of fear? / out of duty?… Because a voice outside him makes him.”

It seems to be this making that the speaker would like to escape: from the decapitated head wishing to be separate of its body and, as a mind, to understand, to the body shed and so becoming otherworldly. But even in the shedding of a body named and seen by others on their terms, the speaker seems unable to expunge or transcend their overarching ideas of correctness—the “fuck her fag like you’re supposed to.” This futility arises again in “Mood Indigo” when the speaker asks his beloved, during a storm he hopes will change the world, “They are still trees, right, slamming the roof tiles? / They are trees—the world not yet totally remade?” There is a tension between this inability to change the world (and perhaps the way one is perceived by it) and the speaker’s desire in “Carnal Knowledge” to “for once [be] the thing that looks at” and does some naming of its own.

It is, in fact, through the looking at, candidly and without much figurative language, that the speaker is able to bear, even celebrate, embodiment as a gay black man in a hostile society. This mission is taken up in “Do You Feel Me?”—“I need to find myself, I told myself / To live the limits of this body.” Then, the waters of Katrina envelop the city of New Orleans and “each becomes the revelation / of what the other can do.” The boundaries here are more concrete, dictated not by society and its mores but by the literal capacity of our environments, even our bodies, to survive. In this way, Laurentiis engages the full scope of being (especially being on the margins); to exist both in honor and in spite of, to perceive as a mind but also to act as a physical body, to be marked and to leave a mark of one’s own, to “shut the thorn up in [our] foot,” whatever it is, “and [say] / Walk.”



by Z.G. Tomaszewski

The sea carves at sand
a sculpture engrained with salt
and peppered by the pitch
of wind.

Clouds balloon over water
under the mirror
sweeps a tango of fish.

I swim
at the place the plane the point
where water touches air
at the interstice of oxygen
the distance between body and body.

When it comes to the spirit
what is

I suppose sparrow bones
and finch feathers

not the eyes
of an oriole
the one I saw threading
a thatched teardrop-shaped house
an inverted haystack
where lay two more worlds.

The bird-mother’s pupils streak and stain the shells.

That thin membrane
then the storm
the sky’s slate shadow
like a tightly-stitched suit.

How I was no longer
convinced that I wanted

so donning my human hide
I stepped out into the nest of the storm
to see
how elastic of an egg
I am.


Born in 1989 and currently living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Z.G. Tomaszewski is a poet, maintenance man, traveler, and musician, as well as co-founder of Lamp Light Musical Festival and a founding member of Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters. His first book All Things Dusk, was selected by Li-Young Lee as the 2014 International Poetry Prize winner and published by Hong Kong University Press. He often dreams of whales or coyotes, of tides and sagebrush.



by Jeremy Voigt

Awakening from a binge of night,
she holds her head, raw from sleeping
against the rough brick of a school wall,

and finds herself, skirt scrunched high,
legs hanging over the edge
feeling like a stunned fish in the gunwale

and stands and straightens before
she is put in the back of a white car.
Shocked, they said, and alarmed, they said

and kids, but as ice forms in the shape
of the glass, plastic cups, or stone birdbath
as ice has no form of its own she slept

where she sat, the body of its own will
and weight when given over to, when
distance from the reality of the illusory

world is needed and is found for a few hours
one night. When the laws say the body
is offensive, and the men define the women

as metaphor for themselves, her parts
are not her parts, but sheath, scabbard,
the blue windows have failed.

The Romans believed controlling female
sexuality was necessary for the stability
of the state, but still compared the vagina

to a young boy’s anus. My friend charged
with defending the provincially absurd
says, it’s time to dismiss, that vaginas

aren’t gross. I read a passage of Thoreau
to my high school students: “We grow rusty
and antique in our employments and habits

of thought.” My friend, my first real friend,
is working to keep a woman who fell asleep
outside a school without underwear (I know

he says) off a legal lists of pedophiles.
Of conspicuous magnitude a gross
is of national scale. If my students simply

graduate their chance of committing murder
by any degree reduces by thirty percent.
I read that Dickinson’s dress was a litmus

for dust which may have induced seizures
that kept her housebound and free
to write what and when she liked. Open

letters, she called them. Open: unobstructed,
unprotected, unsealed, spread out—full
view. But also, free of prejudice, undecided,

to release. Open shame. A gross now named.
A woman’s accidental flashing turned into sex
offender status. My friend is working, writes

asking for definitions, proof in the language
of the law’s foolish eclipse. But I find
the military commonly calls their garrison caps

cuntcaps, and one looking into the wind
through narrow slits, cunt-eyed, and a joined
line, two pieces making one new, a cuntline.

Cezanne said, a time is coming when a carrot,
freshly observed, will trigger a revolution
What this woman needed was a matriarchal

cover that up dear, not to be cuffed
and carried away by etymological priggishness.
The Romans also believed if a man’s body

temperature changed enough he became
a woman. I’m looking at Cezanne’s The Abduction,
the magnitude of adolescent sorrow in her impossibly

long hair and the bathers in the background
ignoring the naked man carrying off the naked
woman, like his bathers blending in with the trees

and river they emerge from, this is what I want
to think of—the water in a Cezanne, the strokes
of her naked shoulder becoming the strokes of bark

on the white trees, bodies elemental and bright
just bodies; a gross of light and skin, open bodies,
a wave of color and implication until they are gone.

I know the phallic problems with the carrot are many.
My neighbors at last winter’s snowfall made a snowman
with a two foot erection and a bent female, ass-crack

and all, poised to suck him dry. What is palpable,
striking; plain, evident, obvious is plea-bargained
into a minimal sentence, a line snapped as the unnetted

fish swims free. The girls in my high school classes
see rape everywhere, every male lust a violation,
They Flee From Me for them is not about a man

sleeping with women of the high court, but of a hunter
conquering his prey and then lamenting the capture.
Their reasoning is young, passionate, immense

and I cannot tell them the world does not want to hurt
them. The woman fell asleep, an onlooker was shocked
and wants to charge her exposed vagina with assault.

I hope that made you laugh. It made me laugh.
I saw what sort of speck we are in Discover
magazine: the universe shaped like a vagina,

the “you are here” label pinning our insignificance
to the glossy page. A woman’s cunt is the center
of the world
a film I saw once stated, as a story

is the womb of memory, as words the cells
of any story lawful and petulant and a woman
fell asleep, let us not court her embarrassment,

let this plea be a deep breath, an open letter,
we all come from a dark hole, a fluid universe
all slush, loud-hush, and sweet rushing lullaby

made, held and stroked: a skull resting above ripe fruit.


Jeremy Voigt‘s chapbook is Neither Rising nor Falling and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Post Road, Poet Lore, Cortland Review, among others. He lives in Bellingham, WA with his wife and three kids.



by Patricia Clark

That it was Earth Day and still the leading
edges of an iceberg fell into the sea with a hiss,
the center showing pocked ice.

And the plane that had flown us home
parked, taxied, and flew again.

From a distance, the remote camera had an eye
in her death room. It was our way
of holding her, can you see it?

That a tree flowered outside her room—
planted for her daughter, blooming pink each year.

That it comes in waves—the crashing rain,
the pains in her head, the grief.
That after speech goes, still breathing, seeing
and listening might stay.

That to mention selling the house caused tears.

And each of us, that we are not the body,
exactly, and yet through the skin, eyes,
hair, we love.

That the clothes are not the person, nor objects,
books. Memory is the fixative.

There she moves. There she stops breathing.


Patricia Clark is Poet-in-Residence and Professor in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University. Author of four volumes of poetry, Patricia’s latest book is Sunday Rising. Her work has been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, also appearing in The Atlantic, Gettysburg Review, Poetry, Slate, and Stand. Recent work appears (or is forthcoming) in Kenyon Review, New England Review, Southern Humanities Review, North American Review, Plume, Prairie Schooner, Superstition Review, and elsewhere. Patricia was poet laureate of Grand Rapids from 2005-2007. Look for a new chapbook in late summer, Wreath for the Red Admiral.



by Beth Spencer

are like unremarkable people everywhere,
only more resigned. You will see them below
the icicles on tall buildings, smoking
or nipping from a jar of pickled herring
as they wait for buses in the rain.
They can be distinguished
from remarkable people by their patience,
their kindness to spiders. They do not list
toward cameras, nor do they fret
about the acclaim they feel they are owed.
In summer they wander the bee-loud glade
without epinephrin, plunging their noses
fearlessly into the blooms.


Beth Spencer edits poetry and short fiction for Bear Star Press ( from her home in rural Northern California, where she lives with her husband and dog.



by Alexandra Regalado

As our car exits the country club gates
on the round-about street that leads
to the children’s tutor, we are forced
to a stop. Two whip cracks of gunfire
and the street vendors duck under
their tables tiled with pirated CDs,
baskets upturned, the day’s bread
spilled across the sidewalk
into the gutter and I scream
and scream at the driver, doors,
are the doors locked? while
trying to blindfold my son
with my palms, but he pries
my fingers apart as the jolt
of the bullet knocks an old man
against the curb.
Our car at a standstill, front row
I see the man with the gun
crossing the street—and by man
I mean a 15-year-old boy, tattooed
skull and face—his mouth curving,
the two hooks that rip the seam
of his lips into a full toothed smile.


Alexandra Lytton Regalado is the winner of the St. Lawrence Book Prize and the Coniston Poetry Prize. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in Narrative, Gulf Coast, The Notre Dame Review, cream city review, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. Her full-length collection of poems, Matria, (Black Lawrence Press) is forthcoming in 2017.


Book Review: WHEN THE MEN GO OFF TO WAR by Victoria Kelly

9781612519043 When the Men Go Off to War
Poems by Victoria Kelly
Naval Institute Press, 2015
Hardcover, $27.95

Reviewed by Alison Taverna

It’s convenient to think wars are distant worlds across the sea. To think of them as containable and separate, only affecting the lives of soldiers and the towns they occupy. It’s convenient to limit the loss. But here, in Victoria Kelly’s poetry collection, When the Men Go off to War, we are witness to the intrusive, residual displacement women experience as their husbands deploy. For brief moments, we learn about the battles that take form inside the bodies of those left at home.

Kelly divides her collection into three sections: “Departure,” “Absence,” and “Homecoming.” This division sets the stage for the speaker’s life; her own time is marked by the location of her husband. Already we can imagine the emotions, and thus the themes, this separation awakens: anxiety, wistfulness, and haziness. Simultaneously Kelly balances her speaker between hyperawareness and distraction. She writes, “How merciful to be unaware, for a night, / that one is condemned to dance forever somewhere / between this world and the next…”

The poems are narrative and straightforward, tight stanzas as precise as a gun. But inside the frames of the poem, the mind wanders. Often, after staring at the sky, we shift to the past and learn about the speaker’s grandmother, who “had a small life too, her needlepoint and the tidy compartments / of her mind that would be closed off in widowhood, / one by one, like the rooms of a half-used manor.” The presence of family and the consciousness of age are rooted at the core of these daydreams. In the poem, “Reverie on Leave,” the speaker finds a carousel and is transported back into the edges of her memory, imagines,

[parents] looking
nothing like you last saw them, when they were rigid…
Your grandmother
leans into a lawn chair, because there is
no hurry, you are never too old
to be young here.

As complicated as marriage is, Kelly illuminates the true weight of companionship. There are few moments in When the Men Go off to War that feel complete; this is not to say the poems are unfinished, but to say the taste of longing is always present. We can’t put our feet up; we cannot settle or rest. The full-body consumption of an absent partner is made apparent in “Homecoming.” The speaker is at her brother’s wedding. In the parking lot, she talks with a guest,

“Where have you been,” he asked sleepily,
leaning against a lamppost. “Married,” I said, and he
laughed. “Girl,” he said, “married isn’t a place…”

It would be false to say there were not moments of lightness here. But Kelly is skillful; even in the happiness we know it can’t last. We know there will always be another war, another stage of departure, absence, and homecoming. So we appreciate what we are given as readers, as the speaker too appreciates when her worlds collide and rest, if only for a moment. This appreciation is represented perfectly in “Birth,” as her husband holds their daughter. The three sentence poem ends “She is only / six weeks old and there are no other / pleasures: everything is ageless here, everything / is here.”



by Erin Elkins Radcliffe

The clean lines of the barn and the house betray no hesitation: in the shed, the awl, the hammer, and the wrenches cling neatly to their place

Here is the steady movement of food from root and seed to vein and flower—from dirt to mouth to dirt again

Here are the potatoes planted on Good Friday, their eyes glistening as corn bloats in lye.  Here’s a rind, a remainder, the sacks of summer squash and red-pink Brandywines to gift to a neighbor and not to waste

Here are shards of arrowheads, the gills of fish run cold with polychlor.  The turpentine for the chilblains these children never had, the unseen thing that might clabber the milk, the river and creek overrun with rain—

The ropes our own viscera might make if they were long enough to hang.


Erin Elkins Radcliffe‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Adroit Review, Smartish Pace, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. Originally from Indiana, Erin lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her family. More of Erin’s work can be found at



by Margaret Young

The earth, your mother, says—

you ask her. No, you.
                                        Say we
go to Mexico, Oaxaca for example
where they make chocolate sacred,
bake sweet bread
for the dead, your mother
wants some.

The remembered
ones are fed.


Margaret Young grew up in Oberlin, Ohio and studied at Yale and University of California, Davis. She earned a 2005 Individual Artist Grant from the Ohio Arts Council and has published two poetry collections, Willow from the Willow (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2002) and Almond Town (Bright Hill Press, 2011). She teaches at Endicott College and lives in Beverly, Massachusetts.



by Luisa A. Igloria

an envelope enclosing a letter,
bread spore poised to proliferate upon

clean surfaces of lukewarm milk and water—
Dried sprig of sage or lavender,

evergreen whose scented spikes
forever line my cabinets and drawers—

Garter stitch, you snake through my ragged
hemlines; your name felts my wet lashes. Dark-orbed

iris, your aperture closes and widens. Your smooth
jawline clenches and unclenches.

Keepsake, medal I pin to my underclothes
like an amulet: you are varied as moss,

modular as water; molecular, and more maternal.
No other raft of baggage compares.

Odometer recording my distances, unidentified
perfume on the periphery of a waking dream: often, I

query your mutable nature, your
repetitions, your irrefutable refrains.

Some days are marble, some are parchment:
they lie in a mantle of heat then tear

under the pressure of what’s tender.
Vise-like, your grip pries open, then

welds itself to my nature,
exacting the perfect price.

You know me best by now: my vessel and pearl,
zeitgeist, world I inhabit that inhabits me.


Luisa A. Igloria was selected by a panel of judges (former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott) as the 2015 (inaugural) winner of the Resurgence Poetry Prize, the world’s first major ecopoetry award. Luisa is the author of the eChapbook Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press, spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005) and 8 other books. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, hand-binds books, knits, listens to tango music, and keeps her radar tuned for cool lizard sightings.


Book Review: EMMETT TILL IN DIFFERENT STATES by Dr. Philip C. Kolin

emmit Emmett Till in Different States
Poems by Dr. Philip C. Kolin
Third World Press, 2015

Reviewed by CL Bledsoe

A friend asked me the other day if I thought the world was ending. She was drowning in the constant-seeming reports of violence in the news, on college campuses, in the streets of major cities, violence so often targeting minorities and the poor. My first thought was to consider America in the ’60s. After centuries of slavery, the oppression of Night Riders and lynching meant to stifle dissent, the hidden slavery of forced labor in prison systems in the South, change seemed to be coming. People were marching in the streets in protest of this barbarity and making national headlines. But so many Civil Rights leaders were murdered for their troubles—Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers—in addition to Freedom Riders beaten and murdered, church bombings, race riots; countless people of color were attacked, threatened, and silenced. In my own home state of Arkansas, the Little Rock Nine integrated Central High School, telling the story that they had to wring their clothes out after they got inside the school because they’d been so soaked in spit from the jeering mob outside. It must’ve seemed like the end of the world then, too. Out of the horrors of the ’60s, which were just an extension of the horrors many African Americans and minorities faced since the beginnings of this country, one crime has stood out as particularly brutal. The murder of Emmett Till made national headlines not because a young black man was murdered in the South. Nor was the fact that Till’s murderers went free a particularly uncommon event. Till may have been forgotten, as countless victims before and after him, were it not for the courage of his mother, who held an open casket service, and the newspapers and magazines that covered the tragedy and expressed the outrage many in the nation felt. Now, this centuries-long culture of subjugation and violence was, at least, being exposed in tones too pervasive to ignore.

On the 60th anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder, Dr. Kolin has released a collection of poems chronicling the events surrounding Till’s death and the reverberations it created. The book begins with excerpts from articles in Southern newspapers of the time, which mostly distort the situation to make Till seem at fault. Similarly, in an interview with Look Magazine, Till’s murderers claimed that the 14-year old was unrepentant and didn’t show them the proper respect, forcing them to kill him, something novelist William Faulkner responds to in his Harper’s essay, “On Fear,” saying,

If the facts as stated in the Look Magazine account of the Till affair are correct, this remains: two adults, armed, in the dark, kidnap a fourteen-year-old boy and take him away to frighten him. Instead of which, the fourteen-year-old boy not only refuses to be frightened, but, unarmed, alone, in the dark, so frightens the two armed adults that they must destroy him…. What are we Mississippians afraid of?

In the end, Till has been cast as something not quite human in many ways, first by his murderers, and later by those who consider him a martyr, a symbol more than a 14-year-old teen. Dr. Kolin tries to humanize Till. “Facts about Me” lists basic details one might not think of with Till, such as his bout with polio:

I was born breeched.
They had to tie a red string
around my wrist to pull me out.
Mama said breech babies would have
more danger in their lives.

Kolin focuses on much of the minutia of Till’s life, finding meaning in his wallet, with its pre-packaged photos, his hat, his father’s ring, his spelling ability. These things serve to show that Till had human reactions.

The environment of Money, Mississippi, where Till was murdered, lends much to the feel of the book. The Tallahatchie River, in which Till’s body was found, appears many times, and the culture of the place is explored in several poems. “Mamie Till’s Warning,” imagines what Till’s mother might have told him about Mississippi:

She lectured me about lynching trees
with their bitter fruit hanging

A few feet from the ground—
all the space a black person really needed.

I heard her cry about the night riders
who stole black men and boys away

And drug them home
as pulp-faced ghosts.

I had to learn fast that the rules
of white etiquette in Mississippi

Were written on the inside of
black eyelids.


Reading and thinking about what happened to Till is troubling, but one of the most devastating poems in the collection is “Slop Jars,” which tells the story of donations gathered to fund the murderers’ defense.

They put them out all over
Tallahatchie County—from Charleston
to Sumner to Webb to Whitehead—
in stores, gas stations, fire stations,
police stations, schools, hospitals,
banks, restaurants, morgues,
post offices, any public place
unafraid of shame

The callousness reverberates far beyond the page. Without this perspective, it might be easy to dismiss Till’s murder as a singular act, an anomaly. Dr. Kolin makes sure to list businesses from all walks of life, professional and private, to demonstrate that this hatred crossed economic classes. It’s not completely hopeless, though, as Dr. Kolin points out:

They found mostly loose change and talk,
IOU’s, congratulations, even a pair of jokers
from a deck of cards. But not enough.
they never got half of what was promised.
Legal fees were costly and they had a roof
and sheets to put over their heads.

He goes on to describe their ruined finances, as the store owned by Bryant went out of business, not that financial troubles in any way balance the evil done by these men.

Dr. Kolin eventually shifts the narrative from Till to the broader reverberations Till’s murder caused throughout American culture, from Eisenhower’s silence on the murder, to other, similar, murders such as Trayvon Martin’s.

So is the world ending? For Till and Martin and so many others, it has, and for many African Americans and minorities, the fear is that their worlds, their lives, will end, similarly, in violence and oppression. Many people would like to think that the world that allowed—encouraged—these murders to happen is ending, that these most recent vile acts are the death throes of racist hegemony. Maybe they’re right, but it smacks of laurel-resting and wishful thinking. The real lesson to take from Till’s murder, finally, is one of vigilance.



by Brad Modlin

When, unfortunately, I tell my date
I know some Spanish, she says,
“I’m a native speaker.”
I hide my big mouth
with a glass of water. She says,
“Say something.”
“¿Es una examen?” I ask. “Yes,
it is a test, basically,” she answers.
I say, “It’s only our first date—
are we ready to speak a romance
language?” She stares, and her black
eyes are so gorgeous I think
I could swim in them for a year.
“It’s just that I want to construir
una buena impresion,” I say.
It’s possible that this woman
is my last chance. My next birthday
is a scary one, and no one
has whispered my name
for a very long time.
Today’s horoscope suggested
I learn to live happily alone.
“I don’t know where you heard
‘build a good impression,’
but it should be quiero impresarte.
Because I often use self-deprecation
as permission to fail, I say,
“Estoy horrible con la gramática.”
“It should be Soy,
she says, “Estoy would mean
‘I’m only currently horrible.’
Soy is correct.
It means
‘horrible for always.’”


Brad Modlin is the author of the book of poems Everyone at This Party Has Two Names from Southeast Missouri State University Press. (Fall 2016) His poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Denver Quarterly, RHINO, Indiana Review, DIAGRAM, and others. To contact him or schedule a reading, visit


CAMP, 1978

by Erica Bodwell

She sits on the splintered wooden steps, alone. The smell of wet canvas
Mixes with a breeze off the lake. Behind her, six cots,

Striped mattresses cottony and thick. She lays out her plaid sleeping bag,
Dislodges a scab and brings it to her mouth, watches them retreat:

Mother, stepfather, stray younger siblings.  Her little sister’s hair
Flies up and a tiny butterfly barrette drops to the dirt.  Flat on her back

On the slatted platform she stares at the cobwebs lacing the peaked frame,
The seeping beads of dew, dark speckles of mold. A daddy longlegs

Walks across her thighs. She considers pinching him up by one leg
And chucking him out the back as she will hundreds of times that month

At the request of squealing tent-mates. Soon the lunch gong will ring and
She will stand, grind the barrette into the ground with her heel, take her seat

In the dining hall, wake at midnight for a starry swim.
She lets him move along.


Erica Bodwell is a poet and attorney from Concord, New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Fem, Litbreak, PANK, HeART, Barnstorm, Hot Metal Bridge, The Tishman Review and other fine journals. Her chapbook, Up Liberty Street, was a finalist for the 2015 Coal Hill Review Chapbook Contest, the 2015 Blast Furnace Chapbook Contest and the 2015 Minerva Rising Chapbook Contest.



by Megan Merchant

I try a bleached bird-bone,

a rutted nail,

my grandmother’s spoon ring uncurled in fire,

a sharp pine-needle waxed in resin,

the slim spine of his favorite book,

until he cries.


I ask the wimpled ghosts

if the key is a word

to place it on my tongue,

please, place it here.


Megan Merchant is the author of three chapbooks: Translucent, sealed. (Dancing Girl Press, 2015),  In the Rooms of a Tiny House (ELJ Publications, forthcoming 2016), and Unspeakable Light (Throwback Books, Summer 2016).  Her debut full-length poetry collection, Gravel Ghosts, was recently released from Glass Lyre Press.  Her second full-length collection, The Dark’s Humming, won the 2015 Lyrebird Prize through Glass Lyre Press and will be published in 2017.  She also has a forthcoming children’s book through Philomel Books.


Book Review: PROSTHESIS by Ian Hatcher

prosthesis-682x1024 Prosthesis
by Ian Hatcher
Poor Claudia, 2016

Reviewed by Heather McAdams

In The Question Concerning Technology German philosopher Martin Heidegger explains that technology is a framework through which man can access a higher plane of truth and understanding. However, the creation of this framework inherently conceals truth in its attempt to provide a comprehensible platform. It’s a paradoxical relationship, and Heidegger argues that only an artist or poet will be able to navigate the disorientating relationship between man and machine. Ian Hatcher’s 2016 collection of poetry entitled Prosthesis is perhaps the best answer yet to Heidegger’s Question.

A binary in and of itself, the word prosthesis has two distinct uses. First, a prosthesis is a device, whether external or implanted, that supplements or supplants another part. Second, prosthesis is the attachment of a sound or syllable to the beginning of a word or verse, often seen as a result of translation. Hatcher draws on both definitions of the word, breaking away from any traditional, or perhaps programmed, form of poetry. Studded with computer code and Boolean symbols, Prosthesis verges on falling into the multilingual category and functions itself as a hybrid of man and machine.

The text covers an array of topics relating to the interdependence of humanity and technology—from the breakdown of individuality in this copy and paste culture to the binary quality of our true/false society. Hatcher is smart and mindful with his word choice, delivering sharp lines, like “how i i sees itself seeing itself in time” and “time is only measurable in instants of structural interruption.”

The image of the mirror crops up more than once. In the case of the following passage, Hatcher uses the mirror to reflect on self-image, the battle between self and image, and the inevitable breakdown of one at the expense the other:

folding (another) / into (another) / yourself (another) / with that (another) / self in (another) / breathing (another) / it’s not (another) / me it’s (another) / this that (another) / holds me (another) / mirror (another) / me that (another) / i put (another) / in me (another) / u are (anothe) / nothing (anoth) / u are (anot) / just an (ano) / image (an) / deferred (a) / waking () / to find / this just / ticking / down time / steady / from this / til when / we’re no / longer / ticking / down time / into / fusion / into / numbers / what more / than this / could be / going / on

As in this segment Hatcher often uses the repetition of sound throughout his poetry, perhaps to mimic a mechanical feedback echo or maybe the fading beat of a human heart.

One of Hatcher’s most memorable pieces is an observation on the absurd interdependence of our world. His poem “Attachments” spans over three pages with strange associations:


Like most everything else in Prosthesis, these attachments could refer to something intensely human, such as an erratic thought process as synapses fire spastically across the brain, or something intensely machine like a search engine’s browsing history.

With an infinite number of messages to decode within the pages of Prosthesis, New York-based text / sound / code artist Ian Hatcher challenges readers to open their minds to a new era of poetry.