This first tiny gem from Tree Light Books is one of the best chapbooks (maybe the best) I’ve encountered all year. Honest.

The thing is filled with dry death: with bones, ghosts, dirt. It’s stark and self-aware, acutely focused on delivering these dark images thick with brilliant and quick language — something like speaking with sweet top soil in your mouth and on your teeth. Picture it.

Lists are also present, molding this darkness into an organized chaos (I’ll admit I’m a sucker for such things). Here’s a selection from one of my favorites, called “Characteristics of the Murdered Object,” which sheds light too on the incredible textured language this thing has to offer:

next door, pistols laboring to fire.

a muffled hour, a rotted footstool.

a woman cast into dark mirrors, fretwork and filigree.

dreaming of nightgowns, of calving moons.

I’d go longer but I hate spoiling. This tiny, gorgeous thing is available over at Ghost Ocean Magazine‘s brand new Tree Light Books.

Keeping alive her often-focus on Saginaw, a Michigan city ranked among the most dangerous in the country, Gina Myers‘s False Spring is a sort of diary in the life of a Saginaw resident. This simple and beautiful little chapbook from Spooky Girlfriend Press chronicles a daily exhaustion of life, of work, of a significant other halfway across the country, all while the bang-bangs of gunshots ring from beyond the window.

Each page contains a stanza of a day, maybe a week, flowing with frustration and confinement and a subdued urgency cloaked in static. I suppose you could call each staza/page/piece/fragment a list of activities, of problems, of possible temporary solutions to the ailment of an existence in a violent city like Saginaw. But what keeps this chapbook from stepping foot in the dead-grass-dog-shit-backyard of sappiness and darkness is the underlying powerful love for Saginaw which Myers keeps in this book’s engine.

As with all of Juan Sweeney’s work Chad gets his hands on, this collection of Juan’s lost notebooks delivers a whole range of qualities: surprising imagery, mythic visions and descriptions, and some knowing and excited tone that screams calmly and consistently.

Wolf’s Milk just fucking delivers. Here’s a bit from my favorite poem in the collection, the 23rd piece:

“My autobiography: / The womb was my first house. / Its garden was the world. / Its rose / was emptiness and music. / You know the rest. / Every so often hell sends up / a white balloon.”

This cohesive tone ties all these insane images together. Later there are elephants, blue wolves, granite wolves, lighthouses and knives. And bones. So many bones. Together, they help paint these colorful, thick-brushstroked poems that keep the stylistic tonalities Juan intended and which Chad keeps so alive, so glowing. These notebooks glow.

MLP‘s anthology First Year, which takes a piece from each pocket-sized chapbook published between 2008 and 2009 and throws them together, is a thick, beautiful, energetic thing. I say thing because I don’t like to think of it as a bunch of samplings of work. Rather, as a book-thing, it’s wonderful.

My fondness for this book-thing stems largely, I think, from the grayness it creates in itself. That is, it is composed of both stories and poems, but never introduces a piece as belonging to either genre. It just is. That’s the brilliance of the read-through. Working my way through the book, I found myself caring less about genre and more about effect. Many of the pieces here operate on sort of an organization — lists, alphabetizing, etc. I love that. I get excited by that.

That isn’t to say, of course, that the “more traditional” stuff isn’t fantastic (it is), but the number and variance of those organizing pieces is quite large and absolutely delightful. Get this book-thing into your hands and enjoy its organized grayness. The cover is very colorful, though. So no complaining.

In this debut novella (coming out May 21), Robert James Russell weaves together two distinct narratives into one tightly constructed work of fiction. This is a story of searching and finding what is lost. It’s also a story of being lost. And not just the characters — here, the reader is forced to participate in the struggle in a unique way, colored with the beauty of Asian culture throughout. As in, words and phrases, scenery. As in, the beauty of it all. Sometimes this forced struggle (being a part of this searching while piecing together the two narratives) can get a little dicey or confusing, but as an experience while reading, it’s interesting enough to work.

Here the length serves to tease the reader instead of making an easy exit, and the intertwining stories/narratives/voices add to this teasing and result in a different type of tenstion/propulsion. It’s not quite like anything I’ve read before; It’s quick, unique, and definitely worth checking out.


Rob is also an editor of Midwestern Gothic, and was interviewed right here.