Three new collections hitting the presses this week have us buzzing about their verses.
The Slip Under My Church Dress by J.W. Bella
Description: A little black girl has much to deal with growing up in a family dominated by religion and keeping up appearances in a small town. J. W. Bella takes you through the ups and downs of those experiences through the eyes of a piece of clothing that is never seen: a dress slip. From horrible mother moments to facing silence to recognizing her own strength, Bella reveals her loves, hates, and pain in words congregated into stanzas to reveal and expose her truth.
1919 by Eve Ewing
Description: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, the most intense of the riots that comprised the “Red Summer” of violence across the nation’s cities, is an event that has shaped the last century but is widely unknown. In 1919, award-winning poet Eve L. Ewing explores the story of this event―which lasted eight days and resulted in thirty-eight deaths and almost 500 injuries―through poems recounting the stories of everyday people trying to survive and thrive in the city. Ewing uses speculative and Afrofuturist lenses to recast history, and illuminates the thin line between the past and the present.
Punk Rock is Cool for the End of the World: Poems and Notebooks by Ed Smith, Edited by David Trinidad
Description: In Punk Rock Is Cool for the End of the World, David Trinidad brings together a comprehensive selection of Ed Smith’s work: his published books; unpublished poems; excerpts from his extensive notebooks; photos and ephemera; and his timely “cry for civilization,” “Return to Lesbos”: put down that gun / stop electing Presidents.
Ed Smith blazed onto the Los Angeles poetry scene in the early 1980s from out of the hardcore punk scene. The charismatic, nerdy young man hit home with his funny/scary off-the-cuff-sounding poems, like “Fishing”: This is a good line. / This is a bad line. This is a fishing line.
Ed’s vibrant “gang” of writer and artist friends―among them Amy Gerstler, Dennis Cooper, Bob Flanagan, Mike Kelley, and David Trinidad―congregated at Beyond Baroque in Venice, on LA’s west side. They read and partied and performed together, and shared and published each others’ work.
Ed was more than bright and versatile: he worked as a math tutor, an animator, and a typesetter. In the mid-1990s, he fell in love with Japanese artist Mio Shirai; they married and moved to New York City. Despite productive years and joyful times, Ed was plagued by mood disorders and drug problems, and at the age of forty-eight, he took his own life.
Ed Smith’s poems speak to living in an increasingly dehumanizing consumer society and corrupt political system. This “punk Dorothy Parker” is more relevant than ever for our ADD, technology-distracted times.