LETTERS PATTERNS STRUCTURES: 2010 Calendar, Andrew Topel (Fact-Simile) $15
2010 is halfway over, but there’s still time to pick up my favorite calendar of the year: LETTERS PATTERNS STRUCTURES, a numbered, spiral-bound black-and-white beauty featuring the text art of Andrew Topel. His structures, arranged simply with one for each month of the year, remind me of the Brazilian concrete poets on speed, and can easily be enjoyed—or puzzled over—for the month they’re each allotted. Topel’s dictionary-style biography, on the calendar’s last page, is clever and whimsical without reaching McSweeney’s canned irony.
A SH Anthology, ed. JenMarie Davis & Travis MacDonald (Fact-Simile) $15
Its editors call it “a collection of artifacts,” and in that way it is similar to Sara Ranchouse’s Between Clean and other recent book-objects featured on Molossus. A faux-stone box contains ten scrolls, about the length and width of cigarettes, each tightly bound with three small rubberbands. The poetry itself is worthwhile, more than novel in its presentation, with poems like Elizabeth Robinson’s “Holy Fire” and Geoffrey Gatza’s prosaic “from Fantasia Lights, Too,” in which he writes,
To sum up, there is very good evidence don’t truly want good poetry; but rather poetry that confirms our assumptions. We may believe in the clash of opinions; instead we embed ourselves in the reassuring tomb of an echo.
Collected from participants of Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, the poems reflect that aesthetic without being limited by it, refusing to “embed [themselves] in the reassuring tomb of an echo.”
Steppe: A Central Asian Panorama, Issue Seven | Winter 2009/10 $20
Edited by Lucy Kelaart, Steppe is the most exciting region-focused English-language magazines I’ve encountered, featuring noteworthy reportage and excellent photography from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and the rest of Central Asia. This issue is especially literary, as it includes Sian Glaessner’s essay about Anna Akhmatova’s exile in Tashkent, Elaine Feinstein’s essay imagining a day in the great poet’s life, and Bijan Omrani’s essay on the Great Game literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Steppe‘s book reviews are characteristically excellent, covering a wide range of small and large press titles from or about Central Asia, and their reportage is timely (like Alexander Morrison’s essay on Central Asian water) and offers much more complete a picture than most news sources (like Jolyon Leslie and Habib Noori’s survey of Kabul and Herat). The glossy cover and heavy photography is reminiscent of content-void luxury magazines, but Steppe is just the opposite: an insightful glance into an under-represented area, from the exile poetry of Akhmatova to a photo-guide to eagle hunting.