Alabama Writers' Forum Reviews The Uniform House

Recent Negative Capability Press release The Uniform House by Jim Murphy is featured on the Alabama Writers' Forum website in a review by Jennifer Horne.

The poems of The Uniform House engage on first reading and reward rereading.

"University of Montevallo English professor Jim Murphy’s third collection of poetry takes its title from the first poem in the book, “The Uniform House of Dixie,” which sounds like a Walker Evans photograph and presents images congruent with Evans’ work…" Read the full text here.

Paul Baumann Reviews L. Kiernan's Two Faint Lines In The Violet

Paul Baumann Reviews Lissa Kiernan’s Two Faint Lines in the Violet

Do you happen to know Faulkner's speech, on the occasion of his acceptance of the Nobel Prize? It comes to mind, as he apparently had to work a bit against the perception that his work created a pessimistic attitude.  It’s a horror, to say the least, to look back, with Faulkner, to the Civil War, and to contemplate the current situation, in which his metaphors seem all the more stridently realized, "the only question now is when will I be blown up?". Nothing different has emerged from the ground that Faulkner depicted with a musical vividness.  

Lissa Kiernan's book, Two Faint Lines in the Violet (Negative Capability Press, 2014), has the same fierce determination not to flinch, and the same sense of wonder, the same idea of what a poet's job is:  Not to avoid reality, but to take up the most abject along with the most lulling, and to make something that stays wonderful from the materials of experience. We need to see these images of ourselves blown up, just as we need to have new, beautiful songs.

It’s been some weeks since I read it now, but its rich atmosphere along with its palpable embedments continue to resonate, being mixed now with the amazement of Absalom, Absalom, which I am now reading for the first time.

--Paul Baumann, multimedia artist 



In Sweet Aegis, the latest collection of poems by Melissa Dickson, the poet breathes new life into classical mythic characters; turning carved marble into flesh, and inviting them down from their pedestals, to walk among us and give account of their lives to the amazed reader. Dickson challenges us to gaze, unflinching, into the eyes of one of Greek Mythology's most infamous monsters, and find within them, not the horror we have come to know, but a misunderstood creature twice victimized.

Through Dickson's writing, heroes and villains are drawn into the cold, often unflattering, light of modernity. Here the crime of Poseidon against the young maiden in the temple of his sister Athena is tried in the court of poetic discourse. The maiden, victimized by a deity and cursed by the goddess she cried out to for rescue, is at long last allowed her testimony. The brash youth who slew Medusa, thus securing his fame and his place in the pantheon of heroes, is revealed to be more braggart and opportunist than icon. The estranged father, who left his infant daughter in the keeping of the goddess and Medusa's two sisters, present their victim's impact statement to the jury of readers.

Dickson's poems challenge use to look deeper into the life of one of our deepest cultural myths. To gaze upon the monster whose history we have scarce considered, and in doing so, reverse the spell as the reader's stony heart begins to soften toward this much maligned creature. Gazing into the eyes of Dickson's Medusa, we experience not terror, but sympathy for her as victim rather than dread of her as a villain.

Sweet Aegis is a powerful work, casting a modern light on a classic myth. Heroic tale becomes modern allegory as the famous and infamous walk through the contemporary south. Once you have read Sweet Aegis, you will never look at Medusa and her contemporaries the same again.



Damon Marbut Reviews Lissa Kiernan's Two Faint Lines in the Violet

Lissa Kiernan’s Two Faint Lines In The Violet is one of the more important collections of poems to have been recently published. Important because of what will come after this declaration of her presence in modern poetry. A gorgeous publication from Negative Capability Press, Kiernan’s poems appeal to all palates, which is rare and so very necessary. And it is a complete book, not accidentally written, and naturally generous with impact.

Early on, in Sun-Faint Suggestion, I wrote “Sigh” next to this near-perfect line: “You’re ice-locked in this painting Dad traded for a stuffed owl he’d found molting high in the house—attic where my lissome self unearthed hills of blue hula hoops flecked with paper flowers.” In “Crack” she demonstrates awareness of pause and language so that no devices in poetry are detected. She’s just exploring and offering the reader access to her exploration. And in “Labor Day” it’s arguably impossible to avoid getting lost in her opening:

Cricket buzz pedals over river-
rush. Starfish limbs splay
across the sea-sky. Kindling.

We need kindling.

Over weak coffee, we crumple
page after page of Sunday’s
Times. Poker gray bundles

Under twisted twigs.

The poems are also very personal and observant. You will understand her connection to family, father, womanhood, selfhood. One “wow” piece is Short-Term Memory Loss: Conversation #48. Historically I don’t go into detail about the poems that bowl me over, but this one does it. I would buy the book for this piece alone.

Vigilance and Proxy remind me of Paul Monette’s Love Alone, which are heartbreaking and touching affirmations of human connectivity. Through these poems I learned Kiernan is capable of being many things at once in the governance of her narrative strength. Poems are supposed to have that quality, that characteristic of otherness that blends with the real to tilt readers off balance. It is an art of both nearness and distance, and Lissa Kiernan seems to write poems with this important truth in mind.

Something of power exists in almost every poem. In Anniversary, a standout line is “I confess: in that month of black things, I could not have told you the season.” In The Hollow Clap Of Castanets In Hospital Rooms, I loved the lines “You did not even intend to suggest a desire for your own bed—where you might glimpse earth’s curve through leafless woods, and know you’d hear the songbird soon,”. And the end of Still Life With Irish Dirt, I was wowed again with “You look up to see your face walking towards you.”

Two Faint Lines In The Violet also contains neurosis, fun, vulnerability, and humor. It took me a full week to read because of how much it provides its audience, whereas some books can be sped through due to its tone and pacing. But Kiernan’s debut collection of poems must be carefully considered. And followers of poets and poetry will understand when I restate that this is an important book because of what she gives, as well as what she is sure to offer next, and next. Lissa Kiernan is a spectacular addition to the art form.