The Zombie-Slayer School of Poetry

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tor-johnson

The internet wants to turn us into zombies.

I behold the transformation, as one by one my fellow commuters whip out their smartphones — the eyes go dead, the jaw goes slack, drool glistening at the corners of the mouth. They are reading, yes, but what are they reading? A mish-mash of “messaging” designed to provoke consumer behaviour.

Like a zombie, the internet wants to consume your brain. It’s how zombies spread. But poetry wants the opposite — it wants to give, not take. It wants to give you back your brains.

In a new review for Huffington Post, I take a close look at two poets who are taking on the zombie-like drone of mass media with their own fresh language. Equally adroit in high and low registers — as comfortable undoing the undead with a high-powered rifle as with a cricket bat — these two associate as freely as search engine results, tackling big questions with humour, pathos, and self-conscious aplomb.

This poetry will give you back your brains — and perhaps even a bit of your heart.

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False Lark, Real Heat

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“What a lark! What a plunge!”

-Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

The False Lark by Tim KrcmarikFor England, it has been hot, and nobody has air conditioning. While waiting for it to cool down enough to sleep, Val and I have been taking turns reading poems to each other in the evenings, and none more enjoyable than those from Tim Krcmarik’s new collection The False Lark. So when Andrew Philip asked what was topping my Summer reading list, I had this to say.

I reviewed Tim’s first short book, The Heights, several years ago. His work has only improved, like a mature extra terrestrial, becoming more fully and strangely itself. Rarely is poetry un-put-down-able, but here is some. Aptly, it is due out soon from Houston’s Diabolical Genius Press. 

You have been warned.

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10 Transcontinental Poets for 2013

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Transcontinental 2013The Internet gives us the illusion that the best a culture has to offer will invariably find its way to us. But when it comes to art, I find that so much still comes down to local knowledge. Americans and Brits alike have long maintained a fascination with the literary work of their overseas cousins, but usually only the biggest names make the trip across the pond.

Hoping in some small way to remedy this, I have written an article for the US edition of The Huffington Post on “5 British Poets to Watch in 2013” and, for sake of symmetry, an article in the UK edition of The Huffington Post on “Five American Poets to Watch in 2013“.

How closely you watch is, of course, up to you. My hope is that you will seek out the work of these ten fine poets out for your own sake, to bring a little transcontinental mischief and mirth to your poetry reading in the year ahead.

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The Heights by Tim Krcmarik

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The Heights is the first short book in the second volume of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series. Chicago-born Krcmarik, now a Texas fire fighter, mixes a cocktail of bravado and tenderness, literature and low-brow dialog. The speaker in the opening poem, “Soulmobile” tells us, “I like my Shakespeare mixed up with my Dante / the same way I like hot sauce dumped over my fried / ham steaks and scrambled eggs.” Later:

[…] I see this dog carstruck and bowled
into the roadside briars. His world begins to gray,
Light leaks out from the busted gaskets around
his eyes. Blood runs from his ears and his rectum.
I sit and hold him. The ants start eating us. Start
fattening up. They’re smart, but I have a truck,
so I run him over and burn their colony with
siphoned gasoline. […]

God and fire recur throughout this collection, sometimes colliding as in the poem “Beloved,” a street-tough retelling of Adam and Eve with the surrealism of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Continue reading…

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