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Hotel Amerika - Spring 2009

  • Issue Number: Volume 7 Number 2
  • Published Date: Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

Wow! The only thing that would do this astoundingly exciting issue justice is to write a transgenre review. What would that look or sound like? It could be structured as dictionary entries like Jim Elledge’s “Mercy,” “Quarantine,” and “Xyloid.” Or perhaps an eight-page piece broken into segments of single phrases and sentences of no more than three text-lines each, alternating between font styles (regular and bold, serif and sans serif, different point sizes) like Lance Olsen’s “Head of Flames,” which begins: “Look: I am standing inside the color yellow.” (If only my review could have an opening this simultaneously luxurious and spare.)

It might look and sound like an “amneoir” (say it aloud!), in the style of Joseph Harrington’s “Your Mother was a Perfect Southern Lady,” an excerpt from Things Come On (an amneoir) with photos, and fragments of self interrogation, and medical notes (on his mother’s cancer), and a small lyric, and illustrations, and boxes containing the transcript of conversations, and religious imagery and references. Or perhaps it would be a photo essay (with odd and stupendous black and white photos) or an essay with photos (depending on your perspective) like Jeff Porter’s “Greetings from Roswell,” telling the strange stories of the people who visit Roswell’s UFO Museum in New Mexico, in which the prose and pictures take on a UFO-ish quality.

A transgenre review might take the shape of “a widely distributed nonfiction” like Cassie Keller Cole’s “Kuna Phonebook,” which sprawls – columns of text in rows and blocks with, words and phrases on the left margins separated linked to their rejoinders or conclusions by long dotted lines – across pages open horizontally, part history of phone books, part personal rumination on what is private and what is public information, part family story, part regional history, part poem about the meaning of home. Or it might imitate like Jalal Toufic’s “Beirut’s Unwritten Laws and Graffiti,” a dense narrative (which begins: “If the assignation of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Haríri can be described as an earthquake at all – it was so described first by a Syrian construction worker at the site of the massive blast”), interrupted by slogans in large, bold uppercase letters, and followed by 16 textual notes.

A transgenre review might look like Miriam Mërsel Nathan’s “Zdena,” ink, oilstick, chalk pastel and collage on paper, images of a woman, script, and a landscape (“in the town where my mother once lived”) turning to liquid before our eyes. Or like the painting of a waterscape by Phillip Kobylarz, under which appears a poetic reflection: “What pigeons do at night, still a mystery. On the roof, there’s a pile of threat and key chains. View of the ocean is the same: blue plains. A puddle of sky with waves.”

It could take the form of an essay in 56 blocks of text like “Blur” by David Shields, which begins: “I think of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, and all forms of storytelling as existing on a rather wide continuum” and ends with “I could go on like this forever.”

Me, too!

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Review Posted on August 18, 2009

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