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Chapbook Review: Yellow Fringe Dress

Yellow Fringe Dress
Written by Neila Mezynski
Radioactive Moat Press, 2012

Neila Mezynski’s chapbook, Yellow Fringe Dress, was released January 9th, 2012. It’s the latest electronic chapbook from Radioactive Moat Press.

Aesthetically, Radioactive Moat Press’ electronic treatment of Yellow Fringe Dress is fitting.  The chapbook is well-designed with interesting typography and a gorgeous cover.  It fits the fractured fantasy-esque dreamscape vibe of Mezynski’s poetry, and it showcases the potential of electronic publishing.  While I love print media, electronic publication has its own unique place too, and it can be an art form unto itself (when done properly—and Radioactive Moat Press consistently does it properly).  Though Mezynski’s syntax is experimental, the chapbook’s inviting aesthetic makes it easy to read.  The layout compliments the flow rather than hindering it; I wish more e-books featured this attention to presentational quality.

But enough about the design notes for this digital chap; what about Mezynski’s work?  The text is arranged in a hybrid prose poem state.  There is attention to structure, but many of the passages opt for less overt poetic structure in favor of a hybrid prose poem appearance—her work is one of the few examples of a true prose poem: lyricism embedded into prose.  There seems to be an overabundance of books/chapbooks that call anything short prose piece a “poem”–Yellow Fringe Dress is not one of these.  The collection is well-crafted, and it’s subtle arrangement ads minute layers of meaning to poetry that derives most of its purpose from syntactical variance and interesting word choice.

The chapbook’s plot is a postmodern type of anti-bildungsroman, with several instances of twisting plotlines that test the reader’s perception of what a coming of age story really can be and do.  The chapbook only stumbles moderately in its slow beginning.  If you can push through the first few pages, the latter half of Mezynski’s chapbook will surprise you.  Early on, there feels like a lack of movement, where the same themes are repeated.  Mezynski does this for thematic emphasis, yet it bogs down the reader slightly.  Once Yellow Fringe Dress picks up the pace, it hurtles at breakneck speed with vivid imagery and carefully planted sensory details.

Yellow Fringe DressThe experimental style may be hard for some readers to swallow, but the general storyline of Yellow Fringe Dress is beautifully summed up in the ending section.  The breadth of Mezynski’s piece is distilled in a minimalistic recap that can be transposed over all the preceding sections.  If you get bored or annoyed with the chapbook’s other experiments, just flip to part VIII as a cheat sheet.  You’ll miss all the detailed bridges between these fragmented, wispy little descriptors, but it’ll help you understand the central theme easier.  It’s a nice device that provides framing and closure to Mezynski’s well-told story.

At times, the text is wordy and could use some paring down to the bare poetic essentials.  But overall the piece is well-written, and Mezynski’s Yellow Fringe Dress provides a manageable foray into experimentalist syntax and imagery for audiences who might be new to this type of writing.  It is an accessible piece that gets you ready for more work by Neila Mezynski or similar writers—and after you read Yellow Fringe Dress, you’ll definitely want more.

You can find Yellow Fringe Dress at the following URL for free:
http://issuu.com/radioactivemoat/docs/yellow_fringe_dress

Review by James R. Gapinski
© 2012, All Rights Reserved

Introducing Our IndieGoGo.com Pledge Drive

Our first fundraiser didn’t meet its goal, so we just launched a new IndieGoGo.compledge drive.  We factored in pre-orders, looked at the budget, and introduced this new fundraiser to help us expand bookstore distribution for The Conium Review, support more podcast episodes, and host upcoming poetry/fiction readings.

We need your support to help fund the first issue.  At various donor levels, you get a free copy of the issue, recognition in the journal, and more.

Even a $1 donation gets a reward.  Every little bit helps.  To learn more or contribute, please visit: http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Conium-Review-An-Independent-Literary-Journal

And remember, tell other people about The Conium Review and help promote our IndieGoGo.com fundraising campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

“The Conium Review” Spring 2012 Sampler

James Gapinski, The Conium Review’s Managing Editor, recently took Conium Press on the road.  During a visit to the Midwest, James performed at the release party for Burdock Magazine’s 10th issue, live at the Miramar Theatre in Milwaukee, WI.  James also chatted with Keith Gaustad and Cynthia Spencer for upcoming episodes of The Conium Review podcast.  Keith Gaustad is the editor of Burdock, and Cynthia Spencer a poet and founder of the Cloudburst Reading Series.

At the Burdock release, James also introduced the first printed materials fromThe Conium Review—a small, saddle-stitched preview edition.  The final issue features over 150 pages of poetry and fiction in a perfect bound book with a full color cover.  The Conium Review “Spring 2012 Sampler” includes five short pieces forthcoming in Vol. 1, No. 1, with a black and white cover.  In the sampler, you’ll find work from Nick Sanford, Jack Granath, Thor Benson, Jeffrey Alfier, and Howie Good.  The cover art is courtesy of Dr. Ernest Williamson III.

The Conium Review sampler chapbook will be coming to our store soon, and you can also find copies of Burdock’s 10th issue on our website.

A pile of sampler booklets from "The Conium Review."

Journal Review: Anobium 1

Anobium
Vol. 1
Anobium Books
ISBN 9780615501062

Origin of Species

Anobium Vol. 1 is the schizophrenic brainchild of Benjamin Van Loon—and the schizophrenia thing is rather literal, seeing as the issue is officially headed by Mary J. Levine, a fictitious product of committee thinking.  Yes, the masthead lists an imagined entity.  Intrigued?  This simple quirk acts as a benchmark for Anobium’s ideology—the volume simultaneously takes itself seriously and has a good laugh. Think about it: a fake editor seems like an off-kilter joke for any self-respecting literary magazine, but in actuality it represents dedication to creativity and literary craft.  The masthead itself is a testament to Anobium’s charm—character development exists across every page, even “boring” credit pages.With Friend, Chimp in Lab CoatAnobium Vol. 1The first volume is wrought with humor, but it’s also enveloped in poignancy, incredibly well-designed, and meticulously edited.  The journal is able to successfully present a wide range of voices without losing the editorial tone, because it artfully shapes its tone as both the class clown and the chess club geek. Anobium reaches out to two extreme ends of the literary spectrum, and it does so brilliantly and without second-guessing itself.

Susan Yount’s “Hyperbolic Umbilic Catastrophe” and “Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking” present narratives as theorems.  Meanwhile, Stephanie Plenner’s “Instructionals” provides advice for literally burning bridges, cutting ties, and other idioms.  Plenner’s piece provides a smart, linguistic look at everyday human experiences through an intentionally flat affect.  It seeks to be staunchly rigid and serious as it deconstructs these idioms, and it does so in such a way that you can’t help but laugh (in a good way) and introspect.  Such experimental pieces abound inAnobium.

A series of pieces from Jonathan Greenhause hint at the contents of Sebastian’s Relativity, the first chapbook by Anobium Books, released this past November.  In these excerpts, Sebastian is tied to a restraint table by chimpanzee surgeons, watches visible syllables land in heaps on the subway floor, and more.  The magic realism of the pieces is intriguing, and each page-long entry has a distinct, microcosmic story arc.  Without having read Sebastian’s Relativity yet, I wonder if Greenhause successfully pulls these micro-fictions into a larger arc—as stand-alone pieces, these work marvelously, but even collections of stand-alone masterpieces need to  have a sense of continual movement through the pages.  I will say this: the teasers in Anobium Vol. 1 are enough to make me want to find out.

Anobium Vol. 1 is full of similarly dissimilar stories and poems, born from a contemporary, gritty version of The Twilight Zone on steroids with a Mensa IQ. Many pieces are remarkable in their uniqueness, yet they coalesce nicely as a collection.  Concerning the aforementioned need for a “larger arc,” Anobium has it in spades.  The selections and arrangements move through Anobium seamlessly, creating an even tenor to Benjamin Van Loon’s madhouse of literature.

With Family, Genetically Abnormal Deviant

However, the Managing Editor (and his Associate Editor cronies) can’t take all the credit.  A big part of what brings these different threads together is the volume’s artwork, designed by Benjamin Van Loon’s brother, Jacob Van Loon.  Think Coen brothers meet [insert more obscure brother duo here].

Anobium’s artwork isn’t just random flare pinned to the pages; it’s part of the main show.  Though Anobium bills itself as primarily a literature rag, it is fundamentally both a lit and art journal.  Each page of Anobium fits seamlessly together.  Big blocks of irreverent text sections off various elements of the issue, while black and white illustrations pop from the inner folds.  Anobium achieves an aesthetic more refined in its B&W pages than I’ve seen in some full-color journals.

And the Brooding Offspring

Anobium achieves excellence in its inaugural issue.  The literature is witty, and a large chunk of the writing pairs this with humor.  The artwork blends well and works as an actual, integrated part of the volume, rather than a tacked on extra. Essentially, it’s damn good.  Copies of Anobium Vol. 1 and Sebastian’s Relativityare still available.  Pre-orders are currently available for Anobium Vol. 2, releasing on January 31st, 2012.


Review by James R. Gapinski
© 2011, All Rights Reserved