02 Jul

Book Review – Junkie Wife

Junkie Wife
by Alexis Rhone Fancher

Book Review
by Julianne Carew
Fiction Editor

From the collection’s dedication page, which ominously states, “No names were changed. No one was innocent,” to its last line, Junkie Wife, written by Alexis Rhone Fancher, tactfully illustrates the affects addiction has on an individual, as well as the relationships it inadvertently creates.

In “Flirting with Death—A Love Poem,” Fancher begins with the phrase, “In love with the rush. Not the high,” which establishes a stark, matter-of-fact approach to a life lived on the fringes of society. By using colloquial language laced with blunt, in-your-face imagery, Fancher successfully portrays a set of multifaceted characters that, for the most part, remain anonymous. The one to whom we can only assume is the “junkie wife,” is never directly named, nor is the child prostitute, or the Armenian drug dealer, or the lovers on the beach. Vicki, the main character’s former best friend whose “blood [later] splattered the bone white walls like a Pollack,” and Dr. Tim, who tells the main character she “looks like a million bucks,” even as she fingers a razor blade in her pocket, serve as intrusions to the main character’s drug-induced haze, and remind readers of the blurred reality in which she is living.

Nowhere in Junkie Wife is there an excess of words. Each line is intentional, and takes the reader on a fast-paced downward spiral of self-destruction. Perhaps one of the most symbolic pieces of poetry is “Divorce Court Barbie (Ken Drives Away With All My Things).” In this piece, the main character essentially summarizes the exploits of her marriage, using tongue-in-cheek descriptions for herself such as “Bad Luck Barbie” and “The one Ken swears he wouldn’t love if I were the last Girl on Earth Barbie.” By comparing Mattel’s iconic Barbie with the bleak realities of her character’s shattered life, Fancher makes a statement about the unrealistic narratives women are taught as children, as well as makes reference to her characters inability to ignore these stereotypes with which she compares herself.

Junkie Wife is as addicting as it is honest. Fancher’s minimalistic style and slice-of-life formatting leave readers wanting more, her words a drug, in and of themselves.

04 Jun

Poetry Book Review: “Babbage’s Dream” by Neil Aitken

Babbage’s Dream Book Review
by Julianne Carew, Fiction Editor
The East Jasmine Review

Full of quotations, Bible verses, definitions, and intimate portrayals of the man who can arguably be hailed the founder of the digital age, Babbage’s Dream, written by Neil Aitken, is no ordinary collection of poetry. It is a poetic testament to the interdisciplinary studies of mathematics and humanity, religion and technology, and one man’s revolutionary passion in quantifying a seemingly intangible universe.

In today’s digitized world of instantaneous communication and innumerable social media platforms, it is easy to get lost in the vast coding of data that we have come to know as cyberspace. But before there was Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, there was Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer. It is through the influence of Babbage’s life and work that Aitken draws his poetic inspiration.

Before the collection’s opening poem, “Begin,” Neil Aitken introduces readers to a quote by William Carlos Williams that summarizes his take on the work that follows. “A poem is a large, (or small) machine made out of words.” Beginning with this opening statement, Aitken is already emphasizing a close relationship between artistic expression and technological advances. He is making it clear that throughout his collection of poetry, each word is, in itself, a piece of a greater whole, a small, yet essential part of a literary machine that works to make sense of man’s relationship with that which he has created.  

In his poem, “Binary,” Aitken juxtaposes computer code, a combination of zeros and ones, with language, in a successful attempt to display how seemingly random, inconsequential patterns create the blueprint for the computerized world. “0000,” becomes, “Absence stretched to extremity, nothingness in all quarters.” “0001,” becomes, “at the far reaches of a void, a glimmer.” By personifying data code with descriptive human emotions, Aitken bridges the gap between man and machine, art and technological discovery, and gives precedence to the system on whose back the modern world operates.

In addition to drawing parallels between a wide range of topics, Neil Aitken uses a variety of literary techniques to further solidify his idea that art and science, religion and culture, are each mechanisms through which man creates meaning out of the chaos of the universe. In his poem, “Void,” Aitken utilizes an alteration on the cut-up technique, first introduced by the early 1960’s writer, William S. Burroughs.

“Of those machines  //the mind of gears, the heart, a spring

by which we produce power//ever-winding, a chorus of marionettes…”

By using two different columns that can be read both independently, and as two pieces of a whole, Aitken reiterates the crucial emotional and physical space technology has overtaken in our modern world.

Due to its broad subject matter and harmonious artistic rhythm, Babbage’s Dream can easily be devoured in one sitting. Much like the spark of genius that propelled the centuries’ subsequent scientific breakthroughs, Aitken’s poems are each a blazing testament to the elasticity of the human mind, the seamlessness through which various fields of study attribute within themselves, and an invaluable reminder that all people, thoughts, and ideas are each a crucial piece, solidifying a never-ending whole.  

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09 Jun

Book Review: Clifton Snider’s “The Beatle Bump”

Book: The Beatle Bump by Clifton Snider
Genre: Poetry
Reviewer: K. Andrew Turner
The Beatle Bump, by Clifton Snider (Los Nietos Press), is a work of adoration, contemplation, and emulation. Written mostly after the murder of John Lennon, Snider explores the playful lyrical style of the Beatles in his own songs. He digs into the roots of the Beatles, how they started and who influenced them. But above all, this is an ode from a fan to the musicians themselves.

 

Through exploration, Snider brings up letters that would not be out of place in the here and now. Love letters to Ringo and George, by fans that want nothing more than recognition and that ardor returned. Perhaps looking into our pop culture boy bands of the last few years: One Direction, N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men, etc will yield similar letters. All these bands have their loyal followers, their fans that scream and shout and oftentimes lay bare their feelings freely, and some say excessively. Perhaps the only thing that has changed is our attitude for those women (in particular) that simply throw themselves at these stars. Snider never judges these Beatlemaniacs, as his poetry feels right on the edge of the precipice. He understands why we fawn over such innocent-seeming men and why they pull us in with magnetism.

 

Each poem reflects hours of listening to music, absorbing, jamming along, and feeling in those deep moments spent late at night wondering just how someone so far away, so distant could “get” you. In some of the song forms, he playful enters the arena of lyrics riffing on some of the nonsense but provocative stylistic choices.

 

And Snider reflects on the darkness that follows each Beatle around, from drugs to loss, and death. He explores, throughout the book, how he was affected by each Beatle, by the band as a whole, and by the world-wide impact the band had. In the later poems, when he explores Liverpool, with each snap of the camera and each line of the poem, the reader comes to understand, full-circle, the brilliance and the nostalgic pangs of a young man desperate to connect to something that so powerfully impacted him.

 

This work is phenomenal in and of itself, and any fan of the Beatles, or music history in general, should pick up a copy. Those who have been transfixed by music or any fan of a band will understand the deeper meanings here as well.

 

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K. Andrew Turner
@KAndrewTurner
Publisher, East Jasmine Review
writes literary and speculative fiction, poetry, and dabbles in nonfiction as well. Growing up in the foothills of San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California has influenced his writing style and outlook on life. So far, his writing has appeared in Chiron Review, Carnival Magazine, Creepy Gnome, Lummox, A Few Lines Magazine, and publications by Bank-Heavy Press. K. Andrew Turner is a creative mentor and freelance editor, teaches creative writing, and is the publisher and founder of East Jasmine Review. www.kandrewturner.com