Turning talk into art
In his open, active new collection, New Haven-based poet Christian Schlegel explores “what happens if I try not to pour myself into a pen but turn away and talk.” The three pieces in “Ryman” (Ricochet), Schlegel’s second collection, are “talk poems,” transcribed from three separate talks. The pieces are not plainspoken in the way some poetry can be described as, and they are not even exactly chatty, but, in discussing visual artists and films and poetry and pals, one senses a hum below the words, the distinct energy of mind- to-mouth. It is, in large part, a book about thought; about absorption and interruption; about how to see a problem and explore it; about how painful the elimination of waste can feel, the pruning and reducing; about discovering and discovering again. “I’ve learned over the past years or especially three years to forego all discussions of essence.” Friendship and poetry have order in common, he notes, and the texture when he’s discussing his friends is intimate, with subtle tension, too, grappling with their art, writing, and romances; a sense of gratitude and wondering comes through, deepening and complicating a reader’s sense of their own circle. Thoughts ping-pong, ideals ping-pong, gnip-gnopping back and forth across the table of the mind, between, for example, “the pure unrealizable experience of the moving image and the recapitulation in language that tempts me/ the language of others .” The collection, which is strange in the best way, feels not like other books I know; He asks, spoken and unspokenly, how we make each other’s art, each other’s language, each other’s thoughts.
Previously undiscovered fictional world from the 19th century brought to life in the 21st
“Strange things happen in Athalinthia, always.” So opens “Athalinthia: Seven Stories,” an enchanting and recently uncovered new book by 19th-century illustrator, sculptor, printmaker, book designer, typeface designer, marionette maker, and kite flyer WA Dwiggins. When writer and book designer Bruce Kennett was working on a biography of Dwiggins, who lived most of his life in Hingham, he came across a folder in the archives holding a collection of stories Dwiggins had written and illustrated about the fictional land of Athalinthia. Kennett vowed to bring this book into the world, and a successful Kickstarter campaign allowed him to do so. The result is a series of adventures, beautifully illustrated and lushly coloured. “Athalinthia” was a place beyond time and modern geography,” writes Kennett in the afterword, “where [Dwiggins] could set up conflicts and solutions among the inhabitants, give them picturesque vocations, and make fanciful pictures to accompany his narratives.” The book brings together the Athalinthia stories for the first time, and includes much of Dwiggins’s artwork, his lush landscapes, his inked and etched cityscapes, and prints of nautical fantasy. In assembling the book, Kennett thought of himself as “Dwiggins’ agent across the gulf of time.” The work of this singular figure lives on in this lovingly produced volume.
“After Sappho” by Selby Wynn Schwartz (Liveright)
“The Poetics of Wrongness” by Rachel Zucker (Wave)
“Deceit” by Yuri Felsen, translated from the Russian by Bryan Karetnyk (Astra House)
Pick of the week
Beth Reynolds at Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vt., recommends “The Presence of Absence” by Simon Van Booy (Godine): “I am in awe of the magic an author performs when they create a big book in the guise of a smaller one . Van Booy masterfully takes someone else’s words and alchemizes them into this beautiful spare offering — a sculptor carving away stone. Right from the very first page you feel a deep connection and at the end there is a profound sense of loss knowing that your time together is over. But as with a physical absence, this one stays with you like a quiet companion. Possibly shaping the way you move through each day, giving you a chance to see the world around you anew.”
Nina MacLaughlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org