Saturday, January 30, 2010


Words to live and die by …or at least paint across your knuckles in blood

            That is what Puma Perl’s latest book sets in front of its readers, and the result is no small offering. Perl’s Knuckle Tattoos is more than just another grouping of autobiographical writing by another New York poet, more than a love letter to senseless emotional geography or some nameless junkie’s horror story, calling it any of those things would be selling the author and the book short.

             What sets the book apart is its honesty, its confidence, and its willingness to admit that we all fuck up from time to time, granted some of us a little more than others. Knuckle Tattoos owns the author’s flaws rather beautifully, while at the same time making them in some way the reader’s own. It doesn’t matter that you may have never suffered from addiction, it doesn’t matter that you may never know what it’s like to deal with self-esteem issues, or look up at the sky and wish you could be someplace else, anywhere else, other than your own skin. It just doesn’t matter, because the book hits on so many things, that we can all say that we’ve been there on some level, we can relate. The book offers us welcome company in our darkest moments.

            I would never claim to be a skilled reviewer, Hell maybe this isn’t much of a review, but I will say that with Knuckle Tattoos, Puma Perl really surprised me, snuck up on my sense of wonder and left it breathless in front of a broken mirror with nothing left to do, but reflect on my own scatted pieces of memory and while I’ve always enjoyed her poetry, for the first time I feel connected to it.

            While owing a debt to the New York School of the 1960’s and 70’s, and to writers such as Joe Brainard and Jim Carroll in particular, Perl’s voice is without question her own and her book is one that I would highly recommend to anyone who is a fan of poetry that doesn’t suck, which is a rare thing in any era. 

Knuckle Tattoos is available now from Erbacce Press for $12 pp.worldwide
For more information, visit / 
reviewed by JD   

Monday, January 18, 2010

TESLA'S GHOST by Darran Anderson

Let me start by saying, this was my favorite collection of 2009. Released just at the close of last year it snuck in on the tail-end of a very strong string of books to come from Blackheath Books. Following releases by Adelle Stripe, Billy Childish, Jenni Fagan, and Joe Ridgwell, Darran Anderson’s book fits nicely within a firmly embedded niche in the “underground” British poetry scene. But, unlike many of the collections just mentioned, Tesla’s Ghost had something for me which added immensely to the overall enjoyment and appreciation for the book: it has imagination. As a writer, especially of poetry, I tend to admire the gritty, the visceral, the honest verse that comes from poets who are writing with need. Feelings and ideas that need to be expressed are often the most captivating and strike deeply to an empathetic nerve within the reader. As a publisher, I like to publish books that follow this vein. But, here, with Darran’s book in front of me, my own mind is opened to a wider spectrum of modern, edgy poetics. Beyond the cathartic and brutal verse of much poetry there lies a finesse and finely-tuned imagination at work; an imagination that uses poetic fiction to create a vivid atmosphere and impart a subtle meaning. My favorite example is “The Ressurectionist” which paints a macabre portrait of what is essentially the confession of a body-snatcher or grave robber. He writes, “I deal in ressurection/ a public service/ for death’s a trade like everything else./ There are those who need a constant supply:” and he goes on to list various body parts, their worth, and ultimately reveals he is standing before a judge pleading his case. In many ways it could be a piece of flash-fiction, a dark little tale. But it is not. To me it is a poem that speaks to living, dying, the things we leave behind, and the profit that comes from life, and for some, death. Clever. Enjoyable. Ultimately, satisfying.

In addition Anderson uses his words to make shrewd social observations. In “When the Clay Grows Tall” he recounts the future excavation of our society which will find waste, indolence, and non-necessity. He writes, “Those who come after us/ when the clay grows tall/ will burnish our skulls/ and exhibit our skeletons in museums/ to scare seven shades of shit/ out of their children on school tours/ and confound creationists./ “The human race is a fabrication,” they’ll insist/ “The stuff of myths, nothing more.”/. Enough said.

I like this collection for its wit, its reflections, and the fact that there is no overly worked gimmickry or strained pretense, it’s just good writing. I would like to criticize some aspect of it, to find the hang-nail that irks me, but I can’t. Even I tire of overly effusive reviews that praise and praise and praise (although I refuse to write reviews for books in which I can’t say at least something nice) but I can’t bring myself to find fault with this collection. It’s solid and well-rounded and has its own voice. Honestly, you can’t ask for much more.

Blackheath Books, 2009

reviewed by DEO