Little House, Big House
(Now How I Am An American)
Here travelogue divides into dirge, into etymology of pop icononography, then multiplies into an other America, one against (the pre-packaged) and for a construction of stories lying ahead of a self, made in an unknown home “where I grew to be me.” About Waldner’s earlier volume Etym(bi)ology, the late great Leslie Scalapino writes that the subject is made “incandescent by placing it simultaneously beside its erasure.” In Little House, Big House, erasure (and re-creation) of persona is itself the subject. Expansive, homeless, riddled with illness and extreme sport health: this is the big American expanse we and Waldner live within, inside of ourselves and out.
Wild and serious, so direct she can be awkward, so elegant she can sweep me off my figurative feet, Waldner’s wiry poems can make her sound like a visitor from another world inside our own, a world whose inhabitants have read everything, have felt as we have felt only more so, and then came here looking for home, “repository of pleasure and passion/ Made up out of time place and words.” Compare her to Dickinson, Berryman, Bernadette Mayer, or just conclude that she’s incomparable as she wields the language of medieval scholars or the language of kids: In Iowa, in New England, on Vancouver Island, even in childhood (“the time I led my fellow Brownies into the wrong car in the parking lot”) she’s a lodestar, an art-punk key to every mystery, a heartbreaker, a tearjerker, an escape artist, someone to emulate. Read her and discover yourself.
Little House, Big House inhabits uprooting in the most unexpected ways. Waldner herself is the errant site of diaspora: “I have my diagnosis. I begin to colonize the not.” The ways home is and was and isn’t, the ways home and heart coincide, are rent apart, become unrentable. “Service economy” meets gated paradise; is denied, then recreates paradise—out of “the not:” what is discarded, unwanted.
The poems move at cellular and visceral levels of language, the teeming roots of words, memory, immediacy: “to leave a scar on skin it hits. A Welt”. Wound as world as word. This is not theoretical, nor treatise. It is fierce, bewildered, enraged, engaged, funny as hell, aching. It is brilliant and sad and alive in the risk of unmapped places.
Let’s meet there.
Read Liz Waldner’s poetry and witness a multiplicity of transformations: time becomes compressed and finessed, words reveal and defy their definitions, and prose passes the baton to lineation and back. In “The Wants” Waldner states, “Sometimes / of course you know / this is one it seems / impossible to get to the next moment.” Little House, Big House hooks interior sentiments then catapults them into the universe, gripping our hearts along the way. This collection is simultaneously subtle and unsubtle, and astonishingly brave.
Liz Waldner grew up in rural Mississippi and earned a BA in mathematics and philosophy at St. John’s College and an MFA at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her first book of poetry, Homing Devices (O Books, 1998), came after an 18-year silence; since then, Waldner has published prolifically. Her recent books include A Point Is That Which Has No Part (2000), which won both the Iowa Poetry Prize and the James Laughlin Award, Self and Simulacra (2001), Dark Would (the missing person) (2002), Trust (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2009), Play (Lightful Press, 2009), Her Faithfulness (Miami University Press, 2016), and Little House, Big House (Noemi Press, 2016).
Reviews and News
The editors of Noemi Press are excited to announce the winners and finalists for the 2017 Noemi Press Book Award in Poetry.
Winner: UNMANNED by Jessica Rae Bergamino
We will be also publishing Inland Empire by Leah Huizar
Orient by Nicholas Gulig
Ochre/Orpheus by Meredith Stricker
Bodega by Su Hwang
STET by Dora Malech
We Are Too Big for This House by Sara Borias
The editors of Noemi Press are excited to announce the winners, finalists, and semi finalists for the 2016 Noemi Press Book Award in Poetry.
Winner: Indictus by Natalie Eilbert
Finalist: Careen by Grace Shuyi Liew
We will be also publishing Gentry!fication: or the scene of the crime by Chaun Webster and A Problem and Some Space by Hannah Ensor
The Devil’s Workshop by Xavier Cavazos
Hagia Animalia by Sara Biggs Chaney
Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Leaving Impulse by Rachel Martin
Manipur by Robin McLachlen
The Historians of Redundant Moments: Novel in Poems by Nandini Dhar
Northern Ledger by Kate Partridge
Probable Garden by Bronwen Tate
Saints and Cannibals by Robert Lunday
Winter Swimmers by Carolyn DeCarlo
Woman, Yielding by Andrea Blancas Beltran
un/documented—kentucky—songs by Steven Alvarez
The editors of Noemi Press are excited to announce the winners, finalists, and semi finalists for the 2015 Noemi Press Book Award in Poetry. We received about 400 poetry submissions this year and thank all the writers who submitted for trusting us with their work.
Bone Confetti by Muriel Leung
Natality by E. G. Means
MOUTHS by Claire Marie Stancek
We will also be publishing finalist Vanessa Villarreal’s manuscript Beast Meridian in the Akrilica series.
They Go In Pairs by Samuel Ace
Arcadia, Indiana (a tragedy) by Toby Altman
You Can Take It Out by Cheryl Clark Vermeulen
Red of Split Water-A Burial Rite by Lisa Donovan
Century Worm by Todd Fredson
Actual Echo by Matthew Mahaney
A Turkish Dictionary by Andrew Wessels
Vogel describes her early experiences of reading and writing as “a bridging between [her] voice and [her] body,” as a kind of communion. “Language slowed the world for me,” she recalls, “it gave me a sense of tactility, a skin to encase my thinking.” Vogel’s visceral experience of language is palpable in Between Grammars; there is a sense of tactility ever-present. Beyond the philosophical exploration, reading this book is as much a sensory experience as an intellectual one, the text shot through with light, sound, and touch.
Armendinger is a master at using fragmented language with precise purpose. His poems experiment with language and form—this collection includes a poem delivered in the form of an instant messenger conversation, and a poem placed as a footnote within another poem—but never read as mere avant-garde posturing. Instead, Armendinger again and again finds new ways to use defamiliarized language to access the unsayable.
It’s a rare and wonderful thing to find a poet who can so powerfully, vividly, and gracefully engage with the problems of language and the world. The Ghost In Us Was Multiplying is a vital book: experimental, substantial, fragmented, unified, unsettled, and unsettling, Armendinger’s work is key reading for all those who care about what our broken words can do.
Danielle Vogel’s book BETWEEN GRAMMARS is forthcoming in 2015, and in this profile she shares her “holy books” including Whitman, Plath, and Woolf, among others!
At Bloom Literary Journal, you can read the poem “Casual Sex” by Brent Armendinger, whose book The Ghost In Us Was Multiplying is forthcoming in January, 2015.
J. G. McClure reviewed Bruce Covey’s Change Machine for Cleaver Magazine:
Think about the change machine outside your car wash: you put in a dollar, the machine spits out coins. Not a neat bundle, but a jangling tray-full. Now think of William Carlos Williams: “A poem is a machine made of words.”Now give William Carlos Williams superpowers and have him beat the hell out of the car wash while musing on Pokémon, Barthes, and metapoetics, and you’ve got a sense of Bruce Covey’s Change Machine.
$15 Paperback | Published 2016