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Down Spooky: Poems Paperback – September 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Vigorous, winningly smart and consistently hip, Compton's debut follows a horde of quick-witted alter egos through a decidedly American, youth-oriented landscape whose sites include high schools, zoos, the football fields of Texas, the kudzu-damaged forests of the rural South, the skyscrapers of post-9/11 Manhattan and the rock and roll lounges of innermost Brooklyn. Compton, who just ended a long stint as associate editor at Soft Skull Press, portrays the pleasures and fears of her generation with "that hookymaking/convincibility of mine," deploying a quick-change lingo of "Slashy Speakers, Nervy Endings" in poems that veer in and out of narrative sense: she shows off a language equal parts angst and speed, with a soft spot for "the longing of the never-ringing telephones" and repeated returns to runaway teens. Compton shows a particular talent for love poems à la C.D. Wright and D.A. Powell: "Your mouth is its own environment a canyon/ with trees and snow," an augmented sonnet proclaims; "lips that have smiled are as limitless as leaves." If some work toward the end of the collection seems too short for its own good, other poems may rocket into anthologies. The whole, meanwhile, reveals great energy and a promise beyond its parts. (Dec.)
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From the Publisher

"Shanna Compton's Down Spooky is a little bit Texas and a whomping dose of New York School. Ms. Compton has a great ear and a good eye for the telling detail, and this gifted poet doesn't mince words. I like that. I like these poems a lot. There is something quotable, something memorable on every page of Down Spooky." --Tom Beckett

"Shanna Compton steps up to the plate as a new breed of adventure-seeking wordsmith. Check in here for daring flares of language, jocular and dancing, with a direct address to the populous of peoples and their props. Get refreshed, and get Down Spooky." --Lisa Jarnot

"A sound freak and a sight freak, Shanna Compton has 'hookymaking conviviality.' Note the predilection for nutty dialogue: 'I believe her married name was Smith-Corona'; 'We are fronded tickers'; and this satisfying nature etude, from 'Mouth Made out of Trees' (and out of Stevens): 'the snow your mouth a new environment mouth/inhalation rapid breathing environmental plantsign.' What a racket. But this poet is also affectingly elegant with the visuals: a cat is 'a shroud of a pet'; in an instant, 'the Oreo dims the milk'--glimpses that haunt the reader." --Caroline Knox

"'Lips that have smiled are as limitless as leaves,' Shanna Compton writes in her poem 'Mouth Made Out of Trees.' Her poems are 'limitless' in this and other senses; her work radiates an exuberant joy in the life of words. Down Spooky is a remarkable debut collection by a poet of wit, whimsy, intelligence, and charm." --David Lehman

"Down Spooky is as enchanting as a blue lake on a hot summer day that you never want to get out of once you've plunged in. The book brims with liveliness, and love, and wit. Shanna Compton has an uncanny gift of seizing moments and situations with sure aplomb, and even when she is reveling in word play--in purely verbal speculation--her words lead to insight. Readers can only be grateful for such beneficent interventions." --Harry Mathews

"As Shanna Compton writes, 'Hooray for the Differently Sane.' Down Spooky is a marvel of deep play and deeper knowingness. Read it and take joy!" --Susan Wheeler


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 51 pages
  • Publisher: Winnow Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976472643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976472643
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,842,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Shanna Compton's books include Brink (Bloof, 2013), For Girls & Others (Bloof, 2007), Down Spooky (Winnow, 2005), Gamers (Soft Skull, 2004), and several chapbooks. A book-length speculative poem called The Seam is forthcoming next year.

Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poem-A-Day/PoemFlow by the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Daily, Verse Dail, the Awl, Black Warrior Review, Court Green, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the New School, where she also served as the editor-in-chief of LIT.

Her poems and essays have appeared in dozens of publications and several anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2005, Poet's Bookshelf II, The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel, Bowery Women, Digerati, and the Poetry Foundation website.

For more information, please visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Shanna Compton is a writer of rich imagination, acerbic humor, raucous laughter, and inordinately stunning insights. She plays with ludicrous ideas, ideas that bounce back and forth across the country like one of those old 'slinkys'. A suggestion of the type of poems contained in this slim but well deigned volume can be found in her titles: 'Elegy of a Fictional Strongman', 'We the Blind Need Pushing', 'Hooray of the Differently Sane', and 'Thank Y'all for Appreciating My Animals'. Other reviewers have quoted form her poems on this page. Suffice it to say that here is a spunky, witty, wry, and very gifted new poet on the scene! Grady Harp, May 06
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary F on December 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
First, I'll confess I don't read much poetry usually. But I saw this author read recently at a book fair and enjoyed it. I ordered a copy of her book when I got home because they'd already sold out. I'm glad I did. While the poems she performed tended to be the more amusing ones (none are laugh-outloud or stand-up-like?) there are a dozen or so more serious, musical pieces that deal with things like love, relationships, feminism, and one poem I think is supposed to be about 9-11, but in a vague way. She makes up her own vocabulary sometimes or lets go of standard grammar, and that can be a little confusing at first, but all in all I like the book very much and recommend it.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Felicia Sullivan on December 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Reviewed by Joanna Pearson for Small Spiral Notebook

Poet Shanna Compton is the queen of quirk- and yet within her bright slashes of language lies real pathos, real insight. David Lehman has said of Compton's debut collection, Down Spooky, that it "radiates an exuberant joy in the life of words." I can think of no better description myself. Compton recaptures the vibrancy of sound and wordplay that is too often forgotten by modern poets-a delight in sound and lyric playfulness that is rarely seen now outside the realm of hip-hop and spoken word. Compton possesses the ability to transmute this sense of sound, along with its inherent meanings, into written forms that would please both Christian Wiman and Andre 3000. As the winner of the Winnow Press Open Book Award in Poetry, Down Spooky provides an exciting introduction to a talented poet.

Every poet works with words, but Compton is truly a word poet-one who doesn't fight with language, but coaxes from it all its magic. She milks from every word choice not merely a literal or even connotative meaning, but also a complementary and intuitive sense of sound. Take for instance the poem "Good-Cooking Kitchen":

Oh double shovel of

love your laugh splashy

desirable and that hookymaking

convincibility of mine-

we're the perfect pair.

Though comfort offers us

jeweled cylinders of juice

the calendar notes no

change for our domestic

mutterings darling. Let's be

content to be contrary,

take ourselves with pepper

in smallish bites, cautious

teeth. Oh the weekly

box! Here abounds missed

astringent, your little caper

ears studded with salt.
Read more ›
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