Review: ZYX #63

Various Authors
Poetry | Prose
Arnold Skemer, ed.
Bayside, New York
Free with SASE
Review originally published on 3/26/13


ZYX is an old-school, zine-style literary rag, photocopied and corner stapled, compiled by hand, and featuring editorials, reviews, and poetry from the small press. It comes out every couple of months and showcases some of the best (and some of the most underappreciated) poetic talent in the indie press. Many of the poets are older and not from the digital generation, so this is an outlet to find a lot of awesome, rare work that you can’t find plastered all over the Internet. This little zine is a paper-only, snail-mail publication. And that makes me smile.

The issues always start off with an editorial, journalistic-style rant, or story by editor Arnold Skemer, and they’re usually quite profound (although often laced with tension). Then we segue into reviews of other small-press books, and then into the poetic submissions by others. In this issue, we have: Normal, Alan Catlin, Nathan Whiting, David Stone, J.J. Campbell, B. Z. Niditch, Guy R. Beining, Jean Esteve, Richard Kostelanetz, Simon Perchik, The Poet Spiel, and David Chorlton, with several pieces by each. There is some of the absurd here, as this zine is not afraid to take on experimental work. Excellent outlet to see a sampling of all kinds of work, seriously. And the poem, “softly and tenderly home: a trilogy” by The Poet Spiel is so painfully good that it is worth every red cent this journal costs. (Not that the cost will bleed you, just sayin’.)

My favorite snippets from this issue:

[ … ]
Somewhere the ghost of Johnny Appleseed is being
Sodomized by the ghost of Walt Whitman unnoticed
In the fields of Gettysburg
Somewhere a hummingbird has taught a madman how to
Forget himself
[ … ] (from “The Other Side of Each Hour” by Normal)

[ … ] Wandering leads to quarry’s
edge, derelict chalk mines, earth moved to make
cement, acres of residual dust, empty huts,
communal centers, workers’ itinerant shacks
left empty when work stopped, equipment was
left to rust, the holes filled with a pasty
accumulation of rain, squalid breeding grounds
for insect larvae skimmed by oils, residues,
a legacy left by thieving landlords, robber barons,
for those unable to move on, those cursed to have
contracted a post-industrial disease of seeing;
where a match strikes water, it burns.
(from “D. H. Lawrence and The Man Who Died” by Alan Catlin)

[ … ]
Do you collect injuries?
Gems are easier to inherit,
not that we care if our heirs wear
our injuries or our gems.
(from “Health” by Nathan Whiting)

[ … ]
god’s away on
business and all
the good soldiers
are busy with
virgins
[ … ] (from “the letters to santa” by J. J. Campbell)

[ … ]
how the troops return minus one
sometimes two or more somehow they return
each tour of duty he’s made it back home
respiring through his tongue like a spent dog
he gets smacked with wet cheers and balloons
but he cannot recall those who greet him
and he does not trust hands that grope him
and the blare of the band spooks him
how eyes in the back of his head
weigh each twitch in the ruckus
but he doesn’t know which way is home
[ … ] (from “softly and tenderly home: a trilogy; the homecoming” by The Poet Spiel)

Now, aren’t you convinced? If you want to see what the independent press is all about, this is the real deal. There’s no price listed, but if you send $2, or maybe just $1 and a #10 SASE with a Forever stamp if $2 breaks you, to the address above, I’m sure you can get a copy.