The Conium Review: Volume 3 is available for purchase! Support small press publishing, and get a copy directly through our website. The issue is available as a paperback, and we also have a snazzy collector’s edition box set for sale.
You can also find copies of the paperback at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble’s website, and elsewhere on the Internet.
Copies hit brick-and-mortar bookstore shelves in the next couple days (or weeks, in some cases).Past publications have been stocked at the Big Idea Bookstore Cooperative (Pittsburgh, PA), Broadway Books (Portland, OR), Reading Frenzy (Portland, OR), Housing Works Bookstore Care (New York, NY), Quimby’s Bookstore (Chicago, IL), Open Books (Chicago, IL), and Woodland Pattern Book Center (Milwaukee, WI). This issue will appear at many of our usual bookstore partners, and we hope to expand to other independent bookstore locations very soon.
For cash-strapped lit lovers, Vol. 3 will also be available at several libraries, including the Mellow Pages Library (Brooklyn, NY), the University of Wisconsin Memorial Library (Madison, WI), the Library of Congress (Washington, DC) ,and elsewhere.
This volume of The Conium Review features new fiction from Olivia Ciacci, Tom Howard, D. V. Klenak, Jan LaPerle, Zach Powers, Christine Texeira, and Meeah Williams. In these eight strange and surreal narratives, you’ll find a company that sells night-in-shining-armor-style happy endings, a boy with a second person trapped inside of him, a contemporary fable with a chickadee protagonist, and more. The pieces include flash fiction, short stories, and novella-length fiction.
The Conium Review‘s Associate Editor, Tristan Beach, was recently published in Rawboned. Read his poem, “Grants Pass, OR: 2013,” here.
Congrats on the publication, Tristan!
Our Associate Editor, Tristan Beach, reviewed Natalie’s chapbook in 2012. We also published Natalie’s poem, “Sonora” in our latest issue, and the poem was nominated for a Pushcart Prize last December.
We’re proud to have published Natalie’s work, and congratulate her on this recent award from the Montana Arts Council.
Kirby Wright has been a regular contributor to The Conium Review, with work appearing in our Spring 2012, Fall 2012, and Spring 2013 issues. His latest poetry collection, The Widow from Lake Bled, has just been published by Moon Pie Press.
He has published several other books, including Punahou Blues, Moloka’i Nui Ahina, and Before the City on Lemon Shark Press.
Our Associate Editor, Tristan Beach, had this to say about The Widow from Lake Bled:
Whether it be a Hawaiian beach or an attic in eastern Europe, each locale is rendered in precise and empathic verse. Wright’s poems are wrought with such care and intelligence — testaments to his mastery of craft.
Congratulations on the new book, Kirby!
The Egg Mistress
Written by Jessica Poli
Gold Line Press, 2013
Jessica Poli’s The Egg Mistress
(Gold Line Press, 2013) brims with delight, sensuality, and devastation, muted and estranged in poems and prose poems grappling with the various stages and eventual end of a romantic relationship. The chapbook cycles through a tight economy of symbols, including a barn, eggs, corn, a kitchen, salt, and cotton. These images, through their reappearance and repetition, work to create a pervading, unified rural-domestic sense of place. Much of the emotion of the chapbook—held at arms’ length (at times buckling, allowing it to take over even in the coolest of lines)—passes through this conspicuous frame. Rather than confining, these poems derive a wonderful, quick energy from Poli’s enigmatic, matter-of-fact wit. For example, the prose poem “The Naming of Things Kept Us Busy” notes with dry, bitter, disenchanted wit an exchange of vows:
landlocked / deadbolt / dust bowl / house in the middle. We read the entire list at the ceremony. After all, we were so careful about getting everything right, stuck on the word love for a day—love, like the failure of the word lung, like mineral. A grassy kiss against teeth. Grinning badly by a cactus. The blood dog’s bite against your thigh. Finally we settled: a hand in a room full of hands.
The speaker relates the content of the vows in barren, claustrophobic terms in the first sentence. The poem then proceeds to convey a gentle yet disengaged (grassy) kiss and the obsession with the word “love,” which fails to adequately name what actually passes between the speaker and her addressee, just as “lung” and “mineral” fail. The nature of these words’ shortcomings is unclear; perhaps this is true for the speaker, attempting to articulate and define the intangible. The final sentence simultaneously evokes mundaneness and eroticism.
Another poem, particular in its dryness and absurd humor, is the eponymous “The Egg Mistress,” in which the speaker declares herself as existing as two selves:
In the morning, I fill the counter with crab legs.
Large white pots boil on the stovetop
ready for an afternoon feast.
I keep my hands full.
Pass your name with salt over burners.
In the kitchen, there are two of myself–
one cooking, stirring, sautéing,
one lying dead on the slick tile,
crabs crawling and tangling in her hair.
I step over her and fry an egg.
The image of crabs “crawling and tangling” in the hair of the dead self while the living self moves about, keeping her hands full, expresses a paradox: to balance the numb, assertive, and pragmatic self, there must necessarily be something dead and plain in sight. One cannot have it a single or solitary way. In order to work through grief (to do what must be done in the everyday), there must be a sort of active separation or detachment. In fact, this separation, resonating throughout the chapbook, lays bare pain and regret in a stark clarity. The matter of fact line, “I step over her and fry an egg,” shows the speaker both ignoring and accepting the lying form as part of her environment. There’s triumph in these lines, as well as dejection.
Aside from Poli’s effective use of a consistent system of symbols and place, The Egg Mistress contains multiple examples of deep, vivid imagery. The poem “I Hide the Core Heap Under the Bed” begins by describing traces of apple-flesh and peel: “Balsa hands and / red sugar on hot fingers: / you used to have a hold on me.” The third line reads like a line from a love song, transplanted and equated to the vestiges of the apple. The traces of the hold are still apparent. The speaker recalls making love “under black lights” with a sense of violence and shame; she recalls the tenderness in her lover’s brushing lint away from her mouth—no more. Finally, the poem ends with the speaker recalling an intimate line, “Let me melt, I always said. / You fed me apples in the morning. / You told me not to cry and fed me apples.” The inclusion of these lines, reminiscent of cliché, ring sincere in the face of the speaker’s bereaved state and Poli’s thorough depiction of gestures and images contained within the poem.
The Egg Mistress can be taken as a layered sequence; each poem and prose poem feels a fragment, part of the whole. The speaker’s consistent tone also unifies the chapbook (we assume these poems have a common speaker). Through several rereads, one gains an even clearer sense of Poli’s intent—to tell the complex story of a relationship, or relationships, through several complex poems, able to stand on their own while complementing one another. There’s also a renewing joy of discovery, of surprise, inherent in this collection, despite the despair and strangeness woven into this book. And part of this joy comes from poems that defy easy explanation or expectation—handled with a level of dexterity and intelligence and care, evident of Poli’s poetic maturity.
Review by Tristan Beach
© 2013, All Rights Reserved