This issue of Phoebe is a thin volume, weighing in at 110 pages, but it more than compensates with a huge variety of genre, style, and subject matter. Charles Bernstein’s poem, “The 100 Most Frequent Words in My Way: Speeches and Poems,” is fairly self-explanatory: simply a column of the most frequently used words in alphabetical order. Many of the words chain together and webs of meaning form and expand so that upon reaching the end, one has a distilled sense of Bernstein’s book. Also included is work by Joe Hall, Miriam Stewart, Brandon Lewis, and more.
More tactile text is found in the section entitled “Visual Poetry” as selected by Jessica Smith. This is where eye poetry lives. Helen White’s poems are embedded in, or affixed to, rugged chunks of glass. Angela Sczcepaniak serves up a recipe for “Stuffed Coeur,” describing how to prepare a heart dinner for two, including a helpful diagram with hints for how to most affectionately present one’s heart for consumption by the “dinner companion.”
The fiction is also strong. Nathan Robison’s “Pieces” follows a man wandering alone in the desert with a ruined, empty pistol, and he may or may not have witnessed something sinister in the night. Shelley Berg’s story “A Little Wisp of Soul” is a humorous tale told by a calloused, foul-mouthed, all-business soul who gets reassigned mistakenly to incarnate a 'copse' instead of a 'corpse' and the fruitless attempt to get the typo corrected.
My favorite piece was Blake Butler’s story “Seabed,” a moving story set in a palpably surreal world where the buzzards overhead have driven everyone in town over a cliff and into a pit – everyone except Gil the narrator, whose head is so huge and thick that the birds could not penetrate into his mind. Gil wanders through the now-ghost town and meets a little girl whom the birds could not control either. They walk together, eventually arriving at the coast and find that the sea has evaporated. Gil and the little girl walk along the sea bed and find a house, “a ranch-style dull orange three bed two and a half bath sitting right there in the stomach of the vanished ocean. It was not apparent from the condition of the house that it had ever been underwater.” Inside they find a brand new fully-furnished home: TV, stocked pantry, fresh linens, everything. They fall asleep after their journey and the fresh rain brings the story to its hypnotic end. Also check out fiction by Aaron Burch, Kim Chinquee, Carl Peterson, Jason Skipper, and more.
I enjoyed the visual art by Dan Hillier as well, especially the piece entitled “Angel.” Phoebe has put together a strong issue that is bound to have something for everyone, which is impressive in itself, but even more so considering they pulled this off in such limited space. I’m looking forward to the next issue.