cover image While Standing in Line for Death

While Standing in Line for Death

CAConrad. Wave, $22 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-940696-55-3

Conrad (Ecodeviance) continues down the path he began with 2012’s A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, exploring a ritualistic practice he calls “(Soma)tics”: innovative, often psychosexual, metaphysical exercises from which he generates first notes and then poems. This volume of 18 (soma)tic rituals and their resultant poems begins with one focused upon the 1997 murder of Conrad’s boyfriend, followed by the 27 poems he wrote to grieve and overcome depression: “your murderers were the last/ to touch you in this world/ torpid song on repeat/ pulled down the/ rocky slope.” Readers familiar with Conrad will find a continuation of his concerns here—ecological awareness and a holistic relationship with other life forms—as well as striking images: Conrad reading tarot to animal products in the butcher’s aisle and smoking joints rolled in paper printed with his enemies’ faces (“Find your poem in the notes and utterly relish your day!”). The poems range widely from delightful to gut-wrenching and can move from despair to defiance to exuberance from line to line: “few things tire me more than/ imagining/ reincarnation/ a child/ struggling/ all over again to/ not favor war/ not surrender to greed.” Conrad consistently surprises, and few, if any, American poets are doing more visionary, disorienting, and wonderful work today. (Sept.)