Howls From The Underground

Reviewed by New Pop Lit

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IS the literary underground on the rebound? The new anthology from Screamin’ Skull Press suggests the answer to that question is YES!

Screamin’ Skull is a very cool literary project run by one of the coolest couples in all the lit world, Tony and Nicole Nesca (both whom we’ve reviewed previously). Their wonderful words bookend this collection and are in themselves highlights.

HOWEVER, the big surprise is a host of other indie word talents included as well.
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Talents such as Ali Kinteh, who contributes two superb essays.

The world is filled with whippets laden by pubertal and piteous interests and I can ill afford to fritter away my time when I have so little of it left. I am only interested in what is equitable and authentic.

-from “The Agony and Ecstasy of Penmanship”
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Or Laura Kerr, an artist-poet who’s able to turn words into a type of visual artistic display.

I am split screen greens and
scarlet line rockets
upright on my reinforced skyscraper legs
lifting my battery-box torso arched against
election guns and a phosphorescent socket

-from “In The End”
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C.S. Fuqua has 14 poems in the collection, and also designed the cover.

eyes avoiding eyes,
smiles fleeting, dismissing,
attention centered on phones connected
to the disconnected media of society,
platforms from which platitudes and concern
suicide dive into oblivion.

-from “At the MRI”
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Definitely among the highlights are three slice-of-life short stories by Chrissi Sepe overflowing with gritty reality combined with wistful melancholy and a dab of cynicism– with humor in the last one about a strange European couple, and cockroaches, and. . . .

sepe two - Edited(Chrissi Sepe.)

They’re stories which give the same feeling as listening to New York City-style punk rock songs. They show the reader life.
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With his poetry, Scott Laudati gives some of the same feeling.

the city is finally yours.
just a faraway hum of an ambulance.
no taxi horns.

-from “Leave Me Alone”
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Stephen Moran offers two striking short stories.

“Transitory” is a written-out nightmare. The kind of paranoid dream each of us has on occasion. A sense of disconnectedness and alienation.

“A Parable” has a double theme.

First, the toxicity of males in this society which must be restrained.

Second, a subconscious unspoken unheard complaint at the restraint.

It’s another example of words becoming a painting in which the viewer sees various things– depending on the viewer, of course.
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G.H. Neale is a fiction writer who pushes at the outside envelope of what can be done with language.

“Carlo, don’t cuss, you should think of your body, hun. You should treasure your body,” hypocritically interjected the beefy American’s double-fatted wife, whose spaghetti-strapped crop top was salami-slicing deeply into her own fleshy chorizo heftiness of unctuous and glutenous lard.”

-from “En La Plaza Mayor”

(Reading this story started me thinking how close writers are to breaking through a literary sound barrier– using words in newly-creative ways, as G.H. Neale uses them, one part of that.)
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I wish I had the space to quote more from this collection. From Ted Prokash, Thom Young, and the Nescas themselves.

I wish I had the words to convey the experience of opening the book and finding all these variegated pieces together, reflecting on one another like a many-sided cubist three-dimensional painting.

I wish I could more fully express the importance of underground writers creating outside the mental conformity of boxes of one-size-fits-all programs and artistic-dictatorship conglomerates.

These are stimulating reads from a variety of authentically underground talents– in spirit and fact. They present literary punk– literary jazz– with all manner of heartfelt-and-honest notes in between. Literary music. Present and future writing.
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Check out Screamin’ Skull Press here.

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(Photos of Tony and Nicole Nesca.)

 

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Last Stop to Saskatoon by Tony Nesca

UNDERGROUND RIFFS PART ONE
A Review by New Pop Lit

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“my radio playing 1970’s rock and roll on
rain-soaked afternoon
with my bottle of Rye
ice rattling in the glass
blue smoke thick in the room
and the airwaves carrying thoughts of
death and internet madness”

OCCASIONALLY we receive DIY zines or books and are pulled against our will back to our underground roots.

Bonfire

LAST STOP TO SASKATOON is a 2018 “Howl” at a time with reasons for howling. Maybe the only response to the crazy chaotic age, when we’re bombarded with crisis 24/7 by media, is to find, as Tony Nesca does, an outlet in art. A time for crafting fiery words and making combustible art. Many are doing it outside the gaze of the “Big 5” New York-centered conglomerate publishing scene. Outside, beneath, and behind the machine.

“in the name of freedom hunting all that
speak slurred thoughts of
nothing voices in the
barroom living-space and
in Italy they drink espresso at night
and dance the morning till noon skip
dreary workday on the sand
spread-eagled happy”

It’s in such writings that you find today’s reality. Where you find true voices full of pain and outcry, of naked humanity.

Nesca is part of Screamin’ Skull Press, a two-person indie publishing project cranking out slim books of such words. Check out their website here, order a few of their books, find out what’s happening. (We’ll be reviewing another of theirs next week.)

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(Photo of Tony Nesca.)

Temporium by Kelly Cherry

A Review by New Pop Lit

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“First on the agenda today is the topic of mystery.”

This is how award-winning writer Kelly Cherry opens her collection of Fictions, Temporium: Before the Beginning to After the End.

The theme of the book is the mystery of time. Cherry takes on a subject more appropriate for a physicist or philosopher than a literary writer, but it works. She makes real to our imagination a philosopher’s questions and wonders. They’re parables, of a kind.

An early piece, “Eternity Dies,” ponders the loneliness of God, and posits the notion that God created the universe to end his loneliness.

“His thinking that thought was the First Cause. Thus even the First Cause was caused, but it was also uncaused, because it was not caused by anything that existed. It was caused before existence existed, by his thinking of his loneliness.”

This is written with a sense of humor. Kelly Cherry is playing with physics and philosophy, with God, and with us.

In “A Maiden and Her Swain” a young couple lives in the Dark Ages as if there were no time, yet time moves forward and they find they’ve aged. The tale is a reflection on the swiftness of aging– of ourselves and our civilization– but it’s also a dream. It carries the timelessness of a dream.

These are all dreams– the kind of afternoon nap dream one has beyond plot and time; a temporary plunge into eternity. You awake with a sense of melancholy, of existential loneliness. Panic. The realization that our lives are impossibly brief– we’d like to live forever in this world but forever can happen only in our dreams. Or beyond this world of matter and onrushing time. A feeling of monumental sadness. This is the feeling Kelly Cherry captures in these fictions; these stories.

Though Kelly Cherry writes in no way like Ernest Hemingway, the book is structured like his early collection, In Our Time, with short interpolations between the longer pieces.

“SIX WORDS
Dead husband taught wife to shoot.”

Wry inserts like that one.

None of the few-score pieces is longer than a few pages. Nearly all are thought-provoking or amusing. A few stand above the rest.

“Aegea,” about a space ark; “Murray the Short Order Cook”; “He Wasn’t There Again Today”; and “Reunion” are my favorites.

One striking thing about the stories is the more surreal they are, the more real they seem. They’re speculations– amid them is an awful lot of truth and life.

They’re experimental pieces, experimental not just in style, but in ideas and theme. Part essay, part poetry, part story. Or: no review can adequately capture the feeling and meaning conveyed by this book. Plunge into it yourself and read it.

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Temporium is available at Press 53.

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(Photo of Kelly Cherry.)

Whores Are Always Melancholy by Jess Mize

A Review by New Pop Lit

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“She looked forward to the day of her funeral
As if it were her wedding,
And she was Grace Kelly.
But really she was the bride of death”

WHORES ARE ALWAYS MELANCHOLY is a chapbook of poetry/prose which is both rhythmic and visual. Jess Mize has incandescent talent, of a kind which comes by once a generation. This is not an exaggeration. Think Fitzgerald or Plath. Words and lines jump off the page with emotion and meaning.

Anais Nin once wrote:

“–the writer dares to dig into hidden worlds, dares perilous explorations in which he might lose, first of all, his contact with human life and possibly his sanity. But he is looking for treasures of another kind.”

This is what Jess Mize does in her writing.

“Gilded sculptures and horrible romantic novels of the 19th century echo from the shallow depths of my past imagination.”

“She loved the bright vermillion flushings of the fresh blood.”

Her words connect our inner selves to the world.

“The love you crave cannot be purchased. To satisfy your desires you need an annotated trucker’s atlas and a serious deficiency of remorse.”

The question is what to do with the overflowing talent. Limiting it to poetry is too easy. She writes her explosions of emotion as if they come easy. But among the rush of words there is pain and despair, so it can’t be easy.

Her fiction, unfeatured here, bursts with a deluge of words. The chapbook gives a strong taste of it. Good writing– no, great writing– but can the flow be directed? Channeled? Should it be?

The chapbook may be all that’s needed. Receive it in short blasts full of compacted energy.

Whores Are Always Melancholy is Hurricane Harvey put onto the page. If you survive the encounter, it’s a thrilling experience.

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Whores Are Always Melancholy is available at Finishing Line Press.

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(Photo of Jess Mize.)