Release: After Our Departure

On sale today!

After Our Departure, by Ben Cartwright
winner of the Powder Horn Prize, selected by Nance Van Winckel
featuring original cover and interior art by printmaker Lindsey Merrell

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In her introduction, Nance says

What first struck me as I read Ben Cartwright’s poems was the scintillating language. Even when bravely addressing the ho-hum moments of drudgery in daily living, Cartwright employs a certain muscularity and musicality. In fact, reading these poems I often felt myself teetering between extremes I recognize from actual life: energy/vitality/buoyancy vs. duty/stasis/entropy. The poems pace the long plank of these mental and emotional states, and even as we hover and balance near the fulcrum, we sense what’s on either side, what looms, what awaits.

Washington state poet laureate Tod Marshall:

“Nothing takes flight from me again,” a speaker in one of Cartwright’s poems announces, and the ongoing struggle against Romantic airiness propels this book.  And yet: the poems never fully embrace this declaration, never fully abandon the possibility of flight.  Which is to say:  the poet is smart, funny, and appropriately suspicious of his making.  Which is to say:  the poems in this book challenge, entertain, and compel readers to think and rethink expectations (of the poems, poet, and poetry).  There are sonically snap-chatty moments blisteringly aware of their sonic smirky-ness: “Still, I is shrill. / I flits in this, / pissing blight. / I is birthright.” There are imagistic and tender moments abashedly peeping from the pages.  And oh, did I mention that there are wacky and memorable illustrations, bizzaro voices, and formal dexterity to boot?  There are also no easy solutions to the tensions Cartwright explores; just “because we’re bored down here” and good things “take a little bit of time” should we abandon the possibility of “flight?”  As the title of the collection suggests, these poems resonate after their departure:  what more can one ask of a work of art?

Click here to order your copy today!

Or, if you are in Spokane, come to Auntie’s at 7:00 p.m. tonight to hear Ben read from the book.

Release: After Our Departure

Kill February, by Jeffrey Tucker

This book was selected by poet Kevin Goodan. Here is his introduction to the book, which you can purchase here.

If T.S. Eliot were writing today, he might well feel that his maxim “April is the cruelest month” no longer holds sway in a world increasingly augmented by human-created climate change. He might simply, and emphatically blurt out “Kill February”, as Jeffery Tucker has so poignantly and aptly titled his new book, which I have carried with me in my own engagements with landscape and weather driving from Idaho to Cape Cod in the wake of yet another tragic storm system. More and more we are beginning to mark changes in our lives by the occurrences of significant and tragic weather events. Post-Katrina, Post-Sandy and similar post-event terms are becoming part of our lexicon and indeed part of how we govern ourselves.

And now, as I write this, the drought-stricken West is beginning to experience what will be a monumental wildfire season, given what the primary indicators predict. Just recently, archaeologists have determined that America’s oldest civilization, the Caral, met its demise some 4,000 years ago in part due to climate change, more precisely because of severe, extended droughts. Our situation has a lot of people asking “how do we survive? And “will we survive”? Certainly, in North Idaho, these questions have ushered forth a thriving survivalist mentality. I have neighbors who’ve taken me down into their newly constructed bunkers. I have seen the stockpiles of ammunition and firearms. These people are prepared for the end of times. If Homo Sapiens are to go extinct, these neighbors of mine are going to make sure it is a bloody, brutal, fought out conclusion. If they live that long. What about the rest of us?

What Jeffery Tucker’s book of poems provides us with, in the face of an increasingly volatile environment is a focus on now. How do we best live now (which is truly the only thing we are granted) even while we are observant, and in acknowledgment of the storms, the devastations that happen in seemingly quicker successions, both ecological, and personal? These moments become the locus of memory as in the opening poem “Tropical Storm Frank”:

At eight, my sister’s friend fell in the back yard.

I pulled our fleabag dog off her, and ten years later

She drove off an overpass, but it was an open-casket funeral

Anyway.

The storms often become the backdrop, the canvas, to the storms of our lives, but not always. Tucker integrates the human with the larger primal forces of the world, as in the poem “Priming”:

 

                                                                                        Two Miles

Up Chapman Avenue, the fault line widens its hillside smile

More every year. And that hill, shagged in sage

And awaiting sparks. One burn season, my father says

Flames will find gas lines and we’ll burn to the beach.

Even if it is only a matter of time, we still have now, and now includes the people we hold dear. That is the hope, Tucker assures us, even as the environment severely shapes us (and we it). Take, for instance, the moment of confronting the fear of so common an occurrence in certain parts of the country, in “Early Summer, Hattiesburg”:

An hour later, the tornado past, no trees split, no deaths,

Not a home upended, it was still with me—

Not the reedy wind or the red radar-amoeba on the phone,

But my cry: “My wife.”

Oh, that primal fear of loss echoes through these poems. I am reminded of the plaster casts of a man and woman who died in each other’s arms in the volcanic blast that buried Pompeii at lunch time on the 24th of August 79 AD. These lives have become artifacts of the moment, containing both the personal and ecological. Kill February is one of those lasting testaments to how we lived and how we cared, and how we passed on. Tucker’s voice is one that comes to us beyond the constraints of time as sharp and clear as the details on the man and woman’s plaster faces.

Tonight, as I witness the double-star moment of Venus and Jupiter for the first time in 2000 years, I consider the fleeting auguries that are being derived of it. And yet, given the evidence that Tucker so hauntingly, so bitingly provides, we must embrace our only world, our only possible lives, our now: “Paradise?” he knowingly asks. “Look around. It’s vicious out here.”

 

 

Kill February, by Jeffrey Tucker

Railtown Almanac

Railtown is complete! It will go to the printer on Monday, and we’ll have it in hand soon after. Our first public launch event will be Saturday, November 1 at Auntie’s bookstore, and readings throughout the end of the year at the Downtown Library, Spokane County Library locations, and the Book Parlor.

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Railtown Almanac