Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Outer Limits (and The Underground)

A cappella Zoo (Issue 7, Fall 2011, 164 pages)

Genre fiction receives an undeservedly rough ride from the Academy, generally dismissed as escapist juvenilia. One would hope, then, that genre would flourish in the underground as a suitable vehicle for subversion. However, it’s pretty tough to find, say, cutting edge speculative fiction in the small press world. That’s why A cappella Zoo is so refreshing.

Ostensibly publishing “magic realism” and “slipstream” (categories which do have some academic caché) fiction and poetry, A cappella Zoo is a ‘little’ magazine that doesn’t explicitly fly the flag for genre. However, the stories inside, such as “Waving on the Moon” (flash scifi) by Tania Hershman, “Painting God at Epcot” (time travel by way of surrealism rather than quantum mechanics) by Alexander Weinstein, and “Fixing a Hole” (just plain weirdness) by Anthony J. Rapino make you think Amazing Stories rather than New Yorker. (At least in terms of subject matter; the prose itself is the work of serious writers well-practiced in their craft.)

Even more surprising is the quality of the poetry. While some of the verse here finds Muse in fantasy – such as “Ginny” (a sea monster-shanty) by Elizabeth O’Brien – rather than more “serious” sources, the work is as technically tight as anything you’d find in The Paris Review and, arguably, more engaging.

A cappella Zoo is a good place for readers who want strong literature that doesn’t sacrifice vibrant imagination (or vice-versa).

Take a trip out to:



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A Read of salier’s wikipedia says it will pass

wikipedia says it will pass by diana salier (poems, 28 pages, The Red Ceilings Press)

wikipedia says it will pass takes a conventional structure for a poetry collection (a series of loosely-related free-verse lyrics about love, loss, relationships, etc.) and gives it a 2.0 dust-off, with a running conceit that places the material in a 21st-century landscape. It makes for an interesting, if not entirely successful, experiment.

diana salier harvests imagery from the technical and cultural ecology of our planned-obsolescence-based culture to represent modern relationships as transient things. Her best poetry comes in short, punchy moments of feeling (like a list of observations about one’s life, as syndicated through an RSS feed). It works sometimes, such as in the self-explanatory “this poem is a chatroom and you have left the chatroom” or “my gmail makes you laugh so hard”. Occasionally, the conceit stretches a bit thin, such as in “i like human as a word but not as a concept” where the Twitter reference (“give it to me in 140 characters or less”) is certainly an up-to-date one, but also obvious and already pretty familiar.

salier’s use of (very) free verse – an almost spontaneous, Beat style – is appropriate for the ephemeral backdrop and stays true to the casual style of most electronic communication. “my computer goes to therapy on mondays” is, stretching things further, built entirely from error messages: “firefox’s connection was reset/ms-dos says abort – retry – fail”. The technique works well when she is brief and focused. It works less well when she carries an idea on too long, such as with “let’s make the world go quiet again” in which she wastes an apt line like “are you stuck in airplane mode” in a poem with too many throw-away ones.

That problem holds the collection back in another way. It could have had more immediacy had it been pared down to a more modest chapbook length. 24 poems, short as most may be, sometimes meander away from the core. And the best poem might even be “a londonparislondon sandwich” which is actually a much more traditional piece of verse, using geography rather than technology (i.e. John Donne 1.0), as a conceit.

Still, the title poem, which presents a quick, rhetorical epigraph with some subtle internal rhyme, caps the collection off nicely. “do you ever wonder how long this is gonna last >?” salier writes, “like when you have the hiccups and logic and wikipedia says/it will pass…”.

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