John has been a bookseller at Elliott Bay since 2012. Raised in Central New York, he has led an itinerant life of switchbacks and false summits, and now lives outside Seattle. His heart is in the backcountry.
Reviews & Recommendations
"All of this is magic against death / all of this ends with to be continued," - Frank Stanford. At once an epic poem narrated by a preternaturally streetwise twelve-year-old boy who hops a Freedom bus en route to a civil rights rally in the rural south, while at the same time a surreal incantatory feast of lyric bravado. It reads, as critic Benjamin Kunkel said, as if "Huckleberry Finn had been written by Andre Breton."
An exquisitely observed tale of friendship, jealousy, betrayal and loss—each electrified by a palpable current of lust. Told in four distinct narrative styles, this is a portrait in silhouette of a darkly charismatic poet and land surveyor from the sweaty, rural South. The writing is exceptional—Gander has a pitch-perfect lyric feel for evoking landscapes and unlocking human psychology with a distilled, potent image. As A Friend is a dark jewel of a book, to be read and re-read, by one of our country's most skilled writers.
Whether you are brand new to CD Wright or a long time devotee, Shallcross (which she had just completed at the time of her unexpected passing in January 2016) is essential reading. It showcases a broad range of stylistic approaches; short, subtle poems and long, caustic ones are interspersed with CD's signature journalistic docu-poetry. Wright writes with an authentic command of Southern vernacular, ever-unpretentious in her linguistic sophistication. By turns angry, defiant, self-reliant, self-recriminating, enchanting, vulnerable, intimate, and full of hard won earthy wisdom, this one-of-a-kind poet deeply understands the beauty of the perfectly placed 'odd' note.
Suttree is a deep cut from an American treasure! This is Cormac McCarthy's least violent novel, as well as his most autobiographical. From the bruised humor and tender heartbreak of the story, to the rich (nearly Shakespearian) gritty poetry of it's language, Suttree is as sad and as beautiful a work of art as any I've encountered. Set in and around Knoxville, Tennessee in the early 1950's, featuring a funky cast of three-dimensional characters—give it five pages to hook you, you won't regret it.
The Body is composed entirely of footnotes to an absent text. Most of Boully's books are hung on formal concepts but they are brought to life by the personal lyricism of her writing. So while there are heady ideas in play, I tend to focus on the sensual rhythms, and the variety of registers of her language. Boully is one of the leading voices of the new creative non-fiction movement—check it out!
Is there still more to be said about the original enfant terrible? Yes, if one says it in the way that Michon does in this passionate, poetic, and sly rumination on the creative spirit in general, and the dark angel (Arthur Rimbaud) in particular.
Will Alexander is light years ahead of us all. This gorgeous volume from Essay Press invites us on to his wavelength. Read it with your third eye open.
I find there is something very interesting and unique at work in all of Fred Moten's writing. He is obviously deeply versed in political theory and philosophy, but his intelligence manifests in a loose, even funky, way. He uses repetition and overlapping, stutter-steps and deep slang, to get a groove going. There are delicate moments of tenderness and anger, resistance and community, resonating throughout his work. I believe he is one of the most exciting poet's writing today.
"Like most primitive cultures, New York has no feeling for nonsense. Wit is as far as they can go. That is what I miss the most, other than you, and what is slowly pulling my identity apart. No one speaks Martian, no one insults people arbitrarily, there is, to put it simply and leave it, no violence of the mind and of the heart, no one screams in the elevator." - Jack Spicer, in a letter to Allen Joyce, regarding New York City in 1955.