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Pilot Hi-Tec-C Maica 0.4mm Extra Fine Point Ballpoint Pen, 12-Color Set (LHM180C4-12C)
Pilot Hi-Tec-C Maica 0.4mm Extra Fine Point Ballpoint Pen, 12-Color Set (LHM180C4-12C)
Offered by HAPPY MONKEY
Price: $16.49
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A breath of 60s air, June 8, 2015
As an American boy growing up in France, I got used to the French way of doing things very quickly—so quickly that my Dad worried that French ways were taking away some essential kernel of "American-ness" from me. It wasn't overnight, of course, for French ways are so different than those my parents had taught us on Long Island—but after awhile I began to think of every French product as better than the ones I had left behind in Smithtown. The game of Risk, for example, I preferred infinitely to the bourgeois American Monopoly with its sordid focus on Capital. The Risk we played at home, of course, was itself a bastardized version of Albert Lamorisse's French original. Luckily we could play both versions often on one bureau, sweeping our pieces madly in the French style and being more sedate and mannered when we went back to the American board. Anyhow Dad was glad that there was at least one American staple I found superior to its French avatar, and that was the simple ballpoint pen. Though many of my classmates a l'ecole had, of course, beautiful pens that were almost family heirlooms, and many carried the Montblanc pen like it was a badge of cultural superiority, I was always so glad when cousins and merchants back home airmailed me et ma soeur the latest round of Pilot pens—the beautiful Pilot with their jaunty caps and their slim, yet strong, plastic encasements. "Encasements"—is that how you would say it in the US?

They had to be strong, for I was a rough and tumble athletic teen, always ready for s gang fight or a rigorous game of football, and the pens in my back pocket sometimes broke—if they were Montblanc pens—and a sharp collision with turf, or another garcon's foot, might leave mon cul a hideous mess of blue or blank ink. I ordered the 12 pack of Pilot Hu-Tec-C Maica pens recently through Amazon Prime, and as soon as I unwrapped the brown paper of the box, my years in De Gaulle's France came back to me like the madeline that made Marcel swoon back to an earlier, simpler time, in Proust's 7 volume novel Remembrance of Things Past. Of course with today's sleek Japanese influence the pebs themselves are rather different, and kind of clunky, wouldn't you say, their encasements encumbered with useless protrusions—though the glittering jewel cameo laid into each pen top is charming, like a diamond almost in its brightness. Like other owners, I too am perplexed about the color range Pilot is giving us in the Hi-Tec-C 12 pack. There are something like three or four oranges—from gold to apricot to a pale root beer—why so many I wonder? It's not like many people of any age or gender do much writing in orange shades do they? Oh, maybe they do in Japan. I bought out some old French stationery that I kept, a stone blue, and when I tried writing a note to ma soeur with the "Apricot Orange" pen I couldn't even see any marks on it! Looked like invisible ink. Similarly there is a scarlet and two pinks, and I can't tell them apart,

The caps are constantly being mixed up, but maybe that's just me. Each 12 pack should be issued with a separate, extra assortment of tops, just in case they slip onto the carpet while writing. My wife said, why not use the orange and black pens you complain about everyday and every nuit, and make a pen and ink drawing of the San Francisco Giants stadium—our uniforms, you see, and orange and black. I think I will. She is always the one with the best ideas and she knows her colors well, having had them "done" herself by a certified New Age color consultant. Boasting all those orange shades—the Pilot 12 pack is what we in the New Age would call an "Autumn" set. "They write beautifully," my wife says, "and I love them." She keeps stealing them to grade student papers with. We are bringing this pen set to our four-year annual color palette review, and seeing if it makes the grade with our Franco American style. However I will never lose my memories, not so long as these pens stay on my desk like beautiful reminders of the land of my birth.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 22, 2015 11:08 AM PDT


Seven Sweethearts
Seven Sweethearts
DVD ~ Kathryn Grayson
Price: $12.49
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4.0 out of 5 stars Saddled with a Grump, June 3, 2015
This review is from: Seven Sweethearts (DVD)
Seven Sweethearts would have gotten five stars from me if the producers hadn't saddled themselves with grumpy old Van Heflin playing the lead, a veteran reporter. I guess he's young Van Heflin, certainly younger than I've seen him before, but his youth does not help him out in this role, if anything it makes him even more unlikeable, for if a boy so young can already be such a wiseass to everyone in the first half of the picture, is there any hope for America? He is decidedly a cad who sneers at the little Dutch town built into a flat plain of Michigan landscape, and sneers at the crazy hotel he's booked into, and sneers at Cuddles who runs the place, and the seven sisters all with boys' names. We see everything through Van Heflin's eyes, and there are many improbabilities to swallow, and yet under the master hand of the great Frank Borzage, all of this goes down smooth as silk--the romance, the music, the sexy Marsha Hunt as the oldest sister, directed to impersonate a great camp object like Mae West. Borzage knows what to do in every frame of film, though the set designers don't make things easy for him. I can just picture the commotion in the art department when Joe Pasternak sent down this script and they realized they were charged with making a miniature Holland with tultips and wooden shoes and milkmaid outfits and yodeling, and still manage to make it "American" as well. Not a single inch of the old Arts and Crafts style hotel goes unmarked by Netherland hideousness, baroque to the extreme, and fresh tulips everywhere, inside, outside, on the balconies, on the breakfast table, and in case you don't notice, there are songs about them. Little humpbacked bridges, ice skating, Dutch meals with unpronounceable consonants, and those horrid beanie caps placed flat onto Kathryn Grayson's long curly hair. Grayson as "Billie" is directed to constantly snicker or sniffle in close up after she delivers a comeback to Van Heflin, and the camera lingers on her itchy nose and fidgety fingers so many times that I realized, this wasn't some Tourettes blooper left in the movie by mistake, but it is supposed to be an adorable twitch and we see Van Heflin melting for her a little harder every time this sniffle comes into play.

The plot is rather like Kiss Me Kate, isn't it--I wonder if when Grayson landed the role in Kiss Me Kate is she thought to herself, I played this part years ago, except in Kate she is playing the Marsha Hunt part, the oldest, crabby, disagreeable, vain sister who must be married off before her younger sister can get married. It's the oldest story in the world, so the writers must have said, "Let's have six of these suffering sisters, and let's make SZ Sakall the father!" Usually I like Sakall but here, he is a monster, and the back story that's supposed to help his understand him (that Marsha Hunt is supposed to be the spitting image of her late mother, and that's why Cuddles can't bear to see her go or deny her anything, only makes him seem even more sexually perverse than he usually is. My God, he is such a strange actor! Bunuel must have longed to cast him in a movie, but MGM and then Warners had him wrapped up for decades, always officious, always self-centered, always the malaprop, and usually lusting secretly after Doris Day or Jane Wyman or some other comically sexy babe.

There is basically nothing wrong with Seven Sweethearts, and I loved every minute of it, perhaps for its overstuffed décor and its strange political allegory (they are supposed to be in a simulacrum of Holland, at a moment when Holland had been swallowed up by Nazi invasion, and yet MGM did not yet allow the screenwriters to allude to the Nazi party directly). If only Van Heflin had even a soupcon of charm! For really, there hasn't been a picture to match it in seventy years.


The Picture from the Past
The Picture from the Past
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Le Temps retrouvé, May 31, 2015
"Despite the illusion of giving understanding, what seeing through photographs really invites is an acquisitive relation to the world that nourishes aesthetic awareness and promotes emotional detachment." Or so says Susan Sontag in her best-selling tome On Photography. Paul Halter, France's great thriller builder and furnisher, has another take and presents us with a photo seen on the cover of a novel by the hero, who walks away only to obsess about it later, enough so he goes back to the bookstore where he spied the book and buys it, the better to snip the image from the book jacket and stare at it for hours, distracting himself from his work and trying to wonder why this picture is giving him deja vu when, from all appearances, it is a picture of a past so long ago it must have been shot before his birth.

This man, John Braid, is a British husband in a lovely little suburban town who takes the train each day to go to work in London, and what he does few people know or care. Readers get suspicious when an acid bath murderer is introduced. I didn't exactly understand what was going on with the crimes of this acid bath murderer, but it sounded really creepy. It also made me think this murderer, whose identity is unknown, must be a man, and so I began to suspect all the men in the story one by one. It couldn't be John Braid, that's too obvious. He is tormented and horrified by his own past, so much is plain, just like killers in many books from The Lodger through to today's sleek thrillers like Dragon Tattoo. In viewing The Picture from the Past as a Thomas Harris-style "psychological thriller," one comes to sympathize with the wife of Braid, Andrea Braid, even when she breaks the second law of marriage by asking her neighbors what could be the matter with her husband. She is a ravishing vision who would, claim the police, excite any red-blooded male, and at first I was thinking that her alliance with the new owner of the town "bric-a-brac store," as they call it in England, seemed suspicious to me, even quasi-adulterous, but after awhile, John Braid was so strange I found yself thinking that if I were married to him, I would seek kindness and advice elsewhere. This is in 1959 England when divorce was hard to find. We don't ever discover much about Andrea's past, and for a book that has so many layers of "pastness" interweaving with each other, this seems doubly significant. Halter seldom allows his heroines many girlfriends—few of his books would pass the "Bechdel test"—but usually they have the support of their families.

However, "The Picture from the Past" reveals that family is poison. Two separate storylines, one occurring in 1959, and the other, in the years right before the Second World War, give us families apparently filled with prosperity and devotion, but in reality they are rotten from within, and not merely from the excesses of capitalism. Compare Graham Morris' "bric a brac store" to the vast dump heap that Dickens uses to symbolize modern society in "Our Mutual Friend." Halter is not quite Dickens—for one thing, he seems to get all things English slightly wrong—but in his industry, his prodigious gift of plot and suspense, and the variety of his technique, for no two books are the same—he is the next best thing, and John Pugmire brings his French into English in a thoroughly chivalrous and imaginative way. I was stunned by the multiple revelations of the last fifty pages of the novel, and I never even guessed that one of the characters in the book was none other than—but I mustn't go on, And you got to love his names: "Yvan Highlander," anybody?


Death Comes as the End (Agatha Christie Mysteries Collection)
Death Comes as the End (Agatha Christie Mysteries Collection)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.91
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5.0 out of 5 stars Khay is for Killer?, May 26, 2015
When I first read the book as a teen, I guess, I read it directly after Murder in Mesopotamia, and I thought I had guessed the killer only to be confounded when it turned out to be—well, never mind! My brilliant idea was that, you know how Renisemb is always looking back longingly at her life with sexy fisher king Khay, now lost to her? What if Khay was secretly alive and disguised as one of the other characters or, perhaps, as an old mummy case, and like the Phantom of the Opera, obsessed with destroying those who pose a danger to Renisemb? So many times it seemed Christie was just about to reveal exactly that! But no. I still think it would have been an OK solution, if perhaps overly Gothic and Murder-in-Mesopotamian. I guess Khay must have been some kind of Archie Christie figure, young, virile, cute, athletic, potent, yet too good to stick around?


The Despairs
The Despairs
by Cid Corman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.00
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars West Gone East, March 20, 2015
This review is from: The Despairs (Paperback)
“The Despairs” might be the best of all of Cid Corman’s many books of poetry. (He is said to have written over seventy of them.) In later life, he lived in Kyoto for decades at a time and his poetry became inflected by Japanese syntax and form, so that most of his poems are short. He wrote haikus in the style of the great old 5-7-5 masters of his home country and his adopted land, for example, “The Wanderer Theme” which reads, “Coming back after/ all this time only to have/ to find yourself gone.” He showed us that many of his poems could fit on one page of a then-traditional brand of a Japanese composition book, small enough to fit into a hip pocket, for example. Life wasn’t luxurious for Corman and his long-suffering wife, particularly in Corman’s final years when Japan found itself in a recession and prices rose, for everything had to be imported and the little island, so inventive, began charging for everything, as do we in America at the time. Corman was visited by a continual procession of American and Canadian admirers, maybe as many as five or six a year, the kindest among them bringing treats like cans of Campbells soup, or maybe fresh vegetables like artichokes, things unavailable in Kyoto except among the super-rich. In return, Corman always had a little book he had printed himself and he might give you one on your way home.

The Despairs has a gloomy title, but we come to understand that nothing will get the poet down, not seriously, though he flirts with foul temper and, like other expatriates, sometimes regrets having left his homeland. A host of old American friends are invoked—George Oppen and William Bronk among them, Bronk in filthy, Rabelaisian terms as though there were bad blood between the two. And there’s a note of whining about old age, though not despair as we know it philosophically, but even a bleak poem might wear a sprightly title like “Acme.” Here’s the poem, aired out with blank lines and plenty of blank space all around the page: “Isnt it/ / obvious/ you are as/ / good as dead/ already? And it wont/ get better.” (He abhorred the apostrophe as a form of punctuation, arguing that it detracted from the look of the word and called attention to that which is not there, just as his fellow Black Mountain-influenced poets made a fetish of the word “yr” for “your.”)

When he returned to the US for a brief fundraising visit I saw him in the second floor gallery of a Market Street emporium on an engagement for the San Francisco Poets Theater. He was going to fill the bill solo, he announced, for in the years since he was away he had written over five thousand poems. That night, as the fog rappelled down Market Street as if in the pathetic fallacy of parkour, and as the hours of the Western clock told us it was seven p.m, then seven fifteen, then seven twenty, and finally midnight, he read them all, none smoother nor truer nor more packed with old man defiance than the magnificent poems of “The Despairs.”
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 30, 2015 1:47 PM PDT


The Artaud Variations
The Artaud Variations
by Peter Valente
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.40
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5.0 out of 5 stars Scraped red and raw, mad with energy, February 26, 2015
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This review is from: The Artaud Variations (Paperback)
In recent months, whenever I feel low, or in a funk because of the depressed, gray state of the world today (not excluding the poetry community from my strictures either!), I have been fueled by the raw energy of Peter Valente's Artaud Variations, surely the best book on the subject,. Though the Italian born, New Jersey educated poet employs a very unusual method of "translation," I feel he has come as close as it is possible today to read that rich vein of madness in his life and work.


Dear Alain
Dear Alain
by Katy Bohinc
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $30.00
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Plus One, January 3, 2015
This review is from: Dear Alain (Hardcover)
We are presented with an audacious epistolary: a young American poet, based in New York, writes in English to the eminent French theorist Alain Badiou (born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1937), and writes him love letters of astonishing honesty and passion. Echoes of Max Ophuls fill my mind as I read through the first fifty pages, letter after letter from Katy, no response from le philosophe--you've seen Joan Fontaine write pages and pages to Louis Jourdan, filling the screen with impassioned hand, in Letters from an Unknown Woman, right? It's the saddest picture in movie history, so my first instinct is to say that young Bohinc has set her sights too high, and that he, "dear Alain," won't even remember her if shown a picture of her after her death. But then finally I get it, that what she is proposing is no ordinary love affair, but rather a test of love, a test to be played out according to her understanding of his writing, and the main action of the book turns into an interrogation, then a subversion, of his tenets, of the monstrances in which his words are displayed: his books and articles and public statements. As she writes, she changes his writing, at least its import, perhaps its meaning.

Tender Buttons has published many books that demonstrate this sort of twisty, suspense-driven turnabout, so I expect that whenever I pick up one of their books it is not going to be what I expect. Into this tradition Bohinc fits beautifully, but even so, the surprises are earned. The reader must bring a lot of attention and empathy to meet her on the page, and to be wise enough to distinguish lover from writer from artist, melancholic from joker. I'm sure I stumbled a couple of times across this lengthy book, but there was always something beckoning, a pennant faintly flapping upon Mont Blanc, to keep me murmuring "Excelsior" and going forward. Well, for one thing she's witty as hell, and for another, she has a gift for extravagant metaphor, perhaps from hip-hop roots, that delights in transforming itself into every variant of itself imaginable. Maybe that's what love does--love with a capital L, as she insists you spell it--creates a hall of mirrors around the loved one that produces infinite lights and angles.

The lovers live parallel lives on either side of fame; they experience the same events, like the resignation of Egypt's Mubarak, and she reads his reaction to Egypt int he papers and he reads hers in these letters. They are either end of the spectrum of age, and of gender, but ungodly connections bring them together. And she can sometimes boast that she knows more than he about this or that--not only matters of the heart, but cold facts, like math. "I suppose you've mapped sociality like a chessboard. But I'm mercurial, at best." In the next life, she recalls, the philosopher is going to reincarnate as a dancer; but as the poet will turn into a janitor, will he still want her? Cocteau or Demy sort of transformation turns old Ophuls plot into something more like a sun-warmed fairy tale, but Dear Alain convinces me, and will you too, that miracles can happen even in the most blighted of social circumstances and broken civic systems. I enjoyed it very much, and it spurred me to direct action, and to going back to the basic arithmetic I abandoned as a teen, and one can ask no more of a book or a friend.


Wild West Hero: An Erotic Novella
Wild West Hero: An Erotic Novella
Price: $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rocking of the Trailer, the Burning Sun of Spain, November 28, 2014
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Thom Wolf takes pen in hand to bring us the thrilling story of what actually happens on the set of the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s and 70s. A film scholar as well as one of today most acclaimed erotic novelists and short story writers, Wolf combines the critical acumen of the reviewer with the raw passion of one who fell in love with the good looking stars of these "westerns all'italiana" as much as with their violence, suspense, and revolutionary underpinnings. The (fictional) movie he chronicles is called Dollars in the Dust (1969) and his protagonist and narrator, young Eddie Drake, is new to film, though hardly to the casting couch, when he arrives in the remote Spanish location used for so many of the Italian coproductions of the period. He knows little Spanish or Italian, so he's lonely, but buoyed by knowing that the great Hollywood western star Hank Kinney is due on set for the last two weeks of shooting.

Wolf writes well of Eddie's loneliness and self-doubt, and about he has to negotiate his hidden sexuality in the mazes of Hollywood and international film production. There were then no "out" stars, or even "out" extras for that matter, but among those in the know there have been, for twenty years or more, whispers about the great superstar Hank Kinney, now down on his luck and reduced to playing in the sort of films he hopes will never reach America. Eddie is all excited to meet his co-star, but when the famous actor arrives he disappears into his trailer and won't respond to the director's entreaties. In despair, director Benito (sort of a Sergio Leone character, trying to make a masterpiece out of hackneyed materials and a tiny budget) send Eddie in to lure out Hank Kinney. In the heat of the Spanish noon, all of Eddie's dreams come true, but first, pure pain.

Not only the pain of fearing that your dreams of stardom will evaporate like dollars in the dust, but the pain of being invaded by the titanic male members first of insatiable Italian bit player Sandro, and then another one for whom the huge encroachment of Sandro will have only been a loosening up. Like many of Wolf's most memorable characters, Eddie experiences life through the sensitive membranes that make up his hot, molten, stretchable core, and between these two guys he's often left too sore to sit comfortably on his palomino. That feeling, and the endless plains of Pamplona, and the unforgiving sun of Spain, are the things I will take away from Wild West Hero long after I stop reading it with one hand, longing for Eddie to find the happiness he deserves. It is a book to treasure, to inflame, and you will never look at Django or Once Upon a Time in America in quite the same way after reading about the secret lives of their Wild West Heroes.


Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II
Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II
by Farah Jasmine Griffin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.09
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Triptych for the Double V, November 26, 2014
Reading Harlem Nocturne, I was constantly reproving myself for how little I knew about the Double V campaign that took place during World War II here in America. Indeed I had never heard of it before. Double V stands for "Double Victory" and it was an initiative pioneered by leftist and progressive groups trying to convince black American workers to put their backs into the War against Fascists overseas, while pursuing the nascent civil rights struggle at home. As Farah Jasmine Griffin explains, this double campaign was something new; in World War I we learn that black leaders were known to downplay their own political causes in times of national warfare, presumably to show white folks that black men and woman could magnanimously put being "good citizens" ahead of their own basic human rights. Well, no more of that in WWII, at least in Harlem, but Griffin shows how the struggle to keep two separate victory campaigns alive simultaneously was not always easy, perhaps especially for the women artists of the community during the War and in the troubled years immediately afterwards.

Only incidentally is this a biography, but I did ménage to learn far more than I had already learned about the three whom she selects as her principals. Pearl Primus based her modern dance choreography of what she could observe as ordinary black life both in the US and in Africa, insisting on the unbroken chain that linked the two continents. Herself an accomplished dancer, though with a body sometimes dismissed as clunky and short, she could jump straight up into the air five feet or more, from a standing position, a feat that left onlookers amazed.

In contrast, novelist Ann Petry hailed from the black bourgeoisie of Connecticut; Griffin describes her initial descent into Harlem almost as an act of "slumming," but she was assuredly drawn to working class life and the hardships endured by women in the Harlem homefront. Was she a communist? It's hard to say, though all three of the subjects of Griffin's book found that, if you ignored or shunned the leftist arts and political organizations, literally no one else supported you at this time. Frustratingly, many of the most interesting parts of her subjects' lives occurs after Griffin leaves them (roughly around 1950), and we learn only in an epilogue that Petry basically abandoned her role as America's greatest female black novelist in 1953, writing only stories and children's books until her death, and we never really find out why. I for one would love to read THAT HILL GIRL, a vehicle for the white star Kim Novak, that brought Petry to Hollywood in 1957, but Griffin supplies just enough material on that project to tantalize, not enough to please.

Mary Lou Williams was my favorite story, perhaps because Williams was the least "diva-like" of the personalities Griffin treats. (Although who doesn't love a great diva?) I remember seeing her when I was a boy, at the Smith Haven Mall in my hometown of Smithtown, Long Island, playing jazz piano in public and entertaining a whole shopping mall's worth of shoppers. My mother told me to remember this moment forever, for Mary Lou Williams was a genius. I wanted to hang out with my gang, but she said, hush, just be still, take this moment and listen to the gods with both your ears. I stood there and eventually I could understand what my mother was talking about. God bless them both, my mother and Mary Lou Williams, and thanks to Dr. Griffin for producing such a readable, if much too brief, book on a stimulating time and place.


The God of Longing
The God of Longing
by Brent Calderwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.64
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Man of Tomorrow, September 12, 2014
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This review is from: The God of Longing (Paperback)
I saw this young man read a few years back, and I made a mental note of his name, and then I went to an open reading at the San Francisco Museum of Performance + Design when I heard he was going to be what they call the feature. He’s got a lot of charm as a performer, he’s tall, good-looking, and he can even bring out a guitar and sing like Glen Campbell, so what’s not to like? But sometimes all that charm can fool a poet’s audience into thinking there’s more there than there is there, as Gertrude Stein once wrote about Hemingway or somebody. I vowed I would wait until a press put out Brent Calderwood’s first book, so I could read the words without the distraction of that personality, just to make up my mind. Now The God of Longing is here, and I can report, even if he was a troll his poetry could still deliver.

I start with the title, trying to remember my ancient Greek and asking myself, who was the god of longing on Mount Olympus? Calderwood’s writing veers sharply between the high romantic mode and the slangy, quotidian I did this I did that of O’Hara, only he’s more explicit about sexual matters than even the old horndog Frank O’Hara allowed himself to be. The first poems in the book all reach back to various bygone eras of romance, from the pre-Raphaelite “The Golden Hour,” to the Rodgers & Hart Tin Pan Alley minor key “Stay Little Valentine Stay,” to the postwar homosexual irony of “Ballad of the Kind Young Men.” Later the poems pass through the region of great geological unrest—the days of the quake. But not everything is loud, nor cataclysmic, in this collection. Thematically there’s the tension of gods versus men, the tension between boys and men, the passages of time that turn a sweet love sour, that turn a boy into a man, and how these passages sometimes run, like a subterranean creek, deep underneath the surface of life so that you don’t really know they’re occurring. In every case, both loud and quiet, Calderwood finds a vehicle appropriate for what he wants his poem to do. (In that sense I wasn’t wrong, in thinking of him as a performative poet, but it’s the poems themselves that are performing themselves on every page.)

Turns out the god of longing is from Augustine, and his name was Himeros, and in the name of this god we detect the words for “him” and for “Eros.” Calderwood’s characters speak of a broken home, a brother fatally ill, an absent father; we get the picture of a boy isolated by his fears and by the pressures of his peers to be studly and straight; a fat boy who, slim as he makes himself in gay adult life, can never get over the shame of being a freak. These are strong issues and Calderwood creates tension wisely by reining in the emotion with a variety of formal devices. In “Abecedarius,” one of the most striking poems, each line of free verse begins with a successive letter of the alphabet, from A to Z: “So he goes to the room marked BOYS at/ Twelve each day, pretends to/ Urinate, then stays in a stall till the bell rings at one.” Elsewhere, in a more comic mood—though one equally resentful of the marks of beauty each man must carry like armor, Calderwood writes a poem about anal bleaching, and he makes it a villanelle—again, I suppose to ward off the bad magic of his subject matter.

I actually hate such forms but it’s a mark of my respect for this young poet that I’m giving him the thumbs up despite his attraction to the formal. Elsewhere, in “Swim,” we find the three-line stanza beloved of William Carlos Williams, the triadic measure he called the “variable foot,” supposedly one that could contain the raw power of America; and next to “Swim” the astonishing intimacy of “Intermission,” in which a speaker examines his boyfriend’s frenulum, in prose, to the point of no return, or so I read it, whereupon the poem erupts into the broken line of verse. If you don’t know what a frenulum is, don’t worry, he spells it out in a delightful allegory of him and Eros. In The God of Longing, Calderwood’s most striking poems resolve and revolve around an ever-shifting display, a pageant on the age-old conflict between Apollo and Dionysus, between the ecstatic experience and the quieter moments of remembering it, or wanting it so bad, so bad that sometimes it’s good, real good, exquisite in fact.

Expect to see this book on many of the “best of 2014” lists, and Brent Calderwood, get ready, a lot of young men will be picking up this book and wanting to write just like you, and to get there, they’re gonna start by first investigating your frenulum.


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