Moving Day

Ish Klein. Canarium (SPD, dist.), $14 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-9822376-6-3
Provocative deadpan comedy dominates this second volume from Klein (Union!), whose scraps of cartoonish first-person storytelling, flights of deliberately awkward English, and disarming asides create effects sometimes politically charged, often entertaining, always bizarre. In "Fairy Tales from the Web," "The liftoff from awful to tolerable/ to positive and then finally to bright new beautiful/ has been my most difficult task to swing." The mysterious speaker of "Personal Ad" declares: "I am of a feminine form but my main goal is honesty...I try to be nice to people and often am because life is hard." Such passages recall K. Silem Mohammad and other apostles of Flarf, the often sarcastic poetic style based on search-engine results. Yet the desperate impersonations and disturbing voices of other poems look back to an older line of absurd quasi-narratives, from Lydia Davis to James Tate. A teen dreams of playing Hamlet ("I'm not gay for guys my mother likes...DIRTY GERTY,/ what does that mean?"); people pretend to be violent animals ("In Wolfland there are always exciting conflicts"), or soldiers stuck in 1915-style trench warfare. Actors in several poems wait around on film sets, while a child survives a modernized fairy tale, "my dad in the cage,/ my mother made a slave." The Amherst-based Klein (also a filmmaker) will not let her readers conclude either that she is kidding, or that she is not kidding; instead, her disturbing poems whir and buzz around the giddy, damaged personalities they describe. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/18/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
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