THE REAL CHAOS ASTROLOGY HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: Poetry Edition
In case you’ve overlooked these four noteworthy poetry books from 2017, here they are with astrological recommendations. Use at your own risk.
ARIES, LEO, SAGITTARIUS: Fire signs are notoriously full of themselves in all the best possible ways, burning through the days like little comets that single-mindedly pursue what they want or say what they feel while other signs hide pursed mouths behind handkerchiefs and look askance. For the person whose fire burns strong, or who wants it to flame up, I give you YOU DA ONE. Jennif(f)er Tamayo runs through these pages with a lighter and a series of Carnaval masks, flicking the flame on gleefully in bursts of color and gaping eye sockets, daring you to get closer and singe your skin. Make no mistake, this is an unfettered j’accuse, and Tamayo pulls no punches and makes no apologies: “No to being a man who just wants to move on / No to not dealing with the mess after.”
YOU DA ONE reads like manifesto, autobiography, message thread, lament, and that’s part of what makes it so punchy, both like a staggering drunk and a prize fighter; Tamayo’s indefatigable voice bounds and soars through this work, from nasty quips (“you are a full grown abortion, I fell asleep thinking”) to confidential laments (“Darling imagination, I don’t want to put you to the grave but here come the real bodies”) as grandmotherly tenderness melts into monetization melts into protest melds into confession:“I’VE GOTTEN SO FAT ON THE INTERNET / I CANNOT PUT MY DRESS ON.”
Your inner fire sign needs this flavor of braggadocious. Live large.
CANCER, SCORPIO, PISCES: Water signs operate most often from the subterranean streams of the psyche, pushed and carried by strong currents of emotion and intuition. Water signs are the spooky empaths who know what you’re thinking and why, and who invite you to immerse yourself in their wisdom, the only elements strong enough to envelop and embrace what might otherwise kill them, to coexist with both horror and happiness. This is the rhetorical strategy of kathryn l. pringle’s Obscenity for the Advancement of Poetry, passion and compassion rivuleting round the merciless eye of intelligence turned on itself like a critic, turned to another like a lover.
pringle alternates prose narratives that fill the imagination with image with quiet lyric utterances that seem simultaneously to examine and to celebrate the impossibility of reconciling every facet of being: “(no one breaks sail when endurance is water)” she writes, and yet “waves little truth happens dialectics.” As your water sign friends can accept conflicting realities and individual truths without throwing up their hands, seeming to exist in paradox, Obscenity for the Advancement of Poetry flows through and around the complex pluralities of being, a dialectic between the you and the i, toward “us’s inevitable.” This book resists everything: categorization, classification, summary (“:i’m trying to give up utterance:” pringle whispers) and contains everything, like an advanced course in critical feeling, reminding us that “ — water will always choose water over air — ” and sparking a thirst for this richer medium and the scales of understanding that make its shimmering layers. It is “not a drowning/an erosion.”
TAURUS, VIRGO, CAPRICORN: Earth signs are the most constant and the most reliable of the zodiac. They are the ones you count on for homespun homilies and unadorned pragmatism. They are the Ming soldiers steadily compiling the Great Wall of China of earth, wood, stone, and finally their own bones. Sturdy, loyal, and not easily swayed by fear or fashion, earth signs give the rest of us a solid world to live in. But even the most loyal soldier can turn if she becomes aware that her leader is corrupt, and no one is more relentless, more steadfast, or more systematically cutthroat than Earth scorned.
In Gospel of Regicide, Eunsong Kim kills the king, and he deserves it. More, Kim bares the Judas heart of the assassin and makes you bleed for him, as bleed you should for the hypocrisy and the deceit of our love of the king: “either conspiracy / or you have loved him through lies.” Kim’s genius is in the layers of ugly truth she holds up to the light and her complete refusal to gloss over their various discomforts: “i smile a lot so you don’t believe i am really planning to kill you. i do not say this i just smile and nod. … please remember this whenever someone who looks like me smiles and nods.”
Some of the purpose is clear: we are tired of majoritarian myths and the havoc they wreak, and Kim is not shy about specifying why: “deliver us from whiteness / from its benevolent privatization,” she writes. Gospel of Regicide could be read as a call-out, but it is more than that, a narrative that centers on the betrayer, which in this case is all of us who do not participate in the comfortable and oppressive norm. “Traitors come prepared,” she warns, and muses, “how long does it take to become a monster”? And again “how long does it take and / Why is this the only name you can find for me”? Why, indeed?
Gospel of Regicide is a book of fury, and in its fury it is righteous; it is the cri de coeur of the soldier whose leader has forsaken him or, worse, who has realized that the protection she believed she enjoyed was always a lie. “All of my dreams involve a murder/an eating of tongues,” Kim notes, but make no mistake: it is not hatred that motivates this Gospel but “…treachery. the love it requires.” The best love is the fiercest.
GEMINI, LIBRA, AQUARIUS: Air signs. The winds of change, so the story goes, and it’s not wrong. If you want the most sincere appreciation for abstract thought, the most dispassionate altruism, and the most impersonal love, air is the element for you. If you want the cobwebs blown out of your brain, talk to your air sign friend who knows how to cut through all the muddy subjectivities to the essential principle beneath. More intangible than intractable, air signs often don’t realize that their constant movement and inconsistency can be infuriating to the more earthbound; they are too busy trying to perform the alchemy of finding pure truth.
For the airy spirit, Ana Božičević’s Joy of Missing Out is both balm and inspiration. For everyone else, it’s pure scary beauty, chock full of terrifying truths: “Get on the payroll / Or die,” “I lied that it was fun / That I’d do it again,” “Am I tired or in love,” “Maybe when I’m dead / You’ll love me the most.” In a voice by turns bratty and incantantory, Božičević takes us on a grand tour through the vagaries of modern existence, maturity, love, and loneliness, lamenting the various ways the speaker is “missing out” but never wavering in her refusal to compromise the dry-eyed, clear-sighted, and merciless view of modern life with all its futilities and stupidities, all its promises and false hopes: “I was on a broken ship/caught in the orbit of a long / dead star,” and we are on the ship too, circling that beautiful ellipse.
Dreams are the stuff this book is made on, the wishes and fears that flit round the edges of our consciousness, so fear not, ye faithful: “I’m writing you a / Dreamer-for-hire ad: Too scared / To dream? I’ll dream your dreams / For you, cheap nightly rates!” We sigh a collective sigh of relief. There’s an app for that, and there’s a pill for it too. But in case you should lose hope at the fearsome accuracy of Božičević’s lens, bouncing as it does from Neruda and William Carlos Williams to ad copy and rubber whores, remember this: “The pain is how / I know / That love will win.”