There is a collection of art pieces by Tyler Ingram within the most recent issue of KNOCK that perhaps captures the journal’s idiosyncratic and smart aesthetic better than any words written here can. Working with acrylic, canvas, paper, and Smith & Wesson – not to mention a Winchester Model 25 .12 gauge shotgun and Remington .22 caliber rifle – Ingram quite literally blasts ordinary images and plain paper with paint, creating a wild paroxysm of colorful abstractions and unorthodox configurations. This sensibility – color! zeal! nonconformity! – is at the gonzo heart of KNOCK, and if you’re willing to move with its freaky beat, then you’re going to like what you find between its garish covers.
Look past the fact that this is the “Ex Issue,” for there’s much beyond broken hearts and jilted dreams here, though, to be sure, there’s plenty of that. In fact, there’s some serious stuff simmering just below the surface of many of these selections. Christopher Thomas’s poem “The Sweetest Taboos,” for example, finds the author reveling in a playful exploration of pushing boundaries while subtly exploring a sexual awakening. Similarly, D.E. Steward’s impish use of alliteration and assonance in “Mayot” masks a damning portrait of cultural diversions (“monkey see, monkey do / intrusive simian need to pick at one other, and groom and squat, and screw / Picture of me, picture of you / Snapfish, Flickr.com / Youtube / Me too, you two, we two too”).
Other authors are more forward in depicting the detachment and cynicism that pervaded in Bush’s America. Poems such as Joseph Wood’s “War” (“When did we become our own collapsing centers?”) and Erin Bealmear’s “Silence as Thick as Canned Frosting” (“It’s too much work, fighting against emptiness.”), as well as Patrick Dacey’s fictional “Last Days in America” (“Could the rest of my life be spent in a country where I already knew I didn’t belong? . . . Who the hell belongs anywhere?) explore a sense of alienation and disenchantment from a culture that has left them, as Dacey writes, “flying above the world, looking down on everyone and hoping to find at least one person to rise up and join [them].”
Also of note are works of fiction by Hesh Keston, Jessica Hollander, and Nate Warren. Keston’s piece, a selection from his book The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats, offers a tempting taste of the whole work, which finds a shlemiel in a curious association with a famed Jewish gangster in 1960s New York City. Hollander’s short, yet hilariously poignant “Porch Furniture” explores how people value their possessions through the story of two kleptomaniacs who fill their front porch with the disregarded lawn furniture of apathetic neighbors. Warren’s “Get Tight, Get Loose,” explores cubicle culture’s ennui through the Manhattan-soaked, smoke-filled musings of Eric, an account exec playing hooky at “Conference Room L,” a bar where he and his fellow office drones escape from corporate malaise.
Aside from Ingram’s art spread, pieces by Lynn Brofsky, Spencer Sussman, Hera, and Jack Johnston beautifully augment the fiction, poetry, and plays in this journal. Johnston’s art is particularly interesting, for he uses business reply cards as canvases for collages that bitingly comment on corporations and culture. Like Ingram’s art, Johnston’s work messes with expectations. If that sounds cool to you, then KNOCK is worth your attention.