The Coil
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The Coil

The Nerdy & Random Bookshelf: Vol. 3

Coil Editor Leah Angstman dishes up some short reads to squeeze in between those busy moments.

I’ve been swamped with the weight of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference and the concurrent Smol Fair and then my own debut novel edits coming up at the same time, BUT! there’s always time to read some slim volumes here and there. Poetry, flash, and short stories always save me during my busy times, so here’s some short works that you can read in a few emotional bursts, in between checking out my novel description, of course! :)

Book cover of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Image: Penguin Books.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Other Poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

It’s been a hot minute since I read this one, so I’ll keep this short since my memory isn’t as fresh on it as it was right after reading it, and nothing I can say about it is going to help or hurt Penguin Books or the long-dead author. I somehow managed to skirt this one in high school and college, so I thought I’d pick it up when I found it at a used-book store, not least of all because it has a ship on the cover and is about sailing, and we all know I am obsessed with All Things Age-of-Sail. I also wanted to check out the origins of the “albatross around his neck” lines, and, welp, that’s this li’l guy.

The collection I read is a 1995 volume from the Penguin 60s reissue during Penguin’s 60th anniversary. It contains the lengthy title poem and the lengthy “Christabel,” plus the shorter poems and fragments “Kubla Khan,” “Dejection: An Ode,” “Frost at Midnight,” and “The Nightingale.” We’re of course really here for the “Mariner.” Everything else feels like filler. This version is annotated, which is helpful in understanding what is otherwise a fairly bulky and unwieldy poem.

The power of “Mariner” is more in its message than in its language, oddly enough. It’s the first eco-fable of its type — a warning of what happens when you’re wasteful in Mother Nature’s eyes. In that, Coleridge was centuries ahead of his time. The language is typical Coleridge, typical of the time period, romantic rhyming schemes and fluttery phrases that, as a whole, work well together, but broken down individually, are sometimes nearly nonsense. It’s a classic, but as far as heightened rhyming classics go, it’s no Lord Tennyson or Alfred Noyes, sorry.

Image: Sibling Rivalry Press.

Revelations by Ruben Quesada

This one was a sweet score that I picked up during Smol Fair. A pocket-sized gem that dips into the ancient to bring us the current moment. Smothered in angels and crucifixion, a childhood in religion, this is the language of the body and the self. Quesada talks about his Costa Rican-American heritage, societal entrapments, and growing up gay within the confines of a stringent and unforgiving world, but above all is the beauty of discovery, the sensual longings that find a home in the language of our bodies.

Book cover for In Stone by Paul Crenshaw
Image: Bull City Press.

In Stone by Paul Crenshaw

I’ve been a Crenshaw fan ever since this piece tore me apart, and now I know that he is just out to keep crushing me. This is another pocket-sized book that I picked up during Smol Fair, but this one is filled with micro memoir and flash nonfiction as part of Bull City Press’ “Inch” series.

This chapbook covers family histories set in stone, from graveyards to seashells, and societal lessons that we should have learned from nature if we’d only listened, from curating gardens to not killing insects:

On the first day of school our teacher opened the windows for a wasp that had gotten inside. When I told her I could shoot it, she said she wouldn’t want to see anything killed in her classroom. This was forty years ago, and I assume now she could see the future.

Currently on the nightstand:

Image: Black Lawrence Press.
LEAH ANGSTMAN is a historian, book nerd, transplanted Michigander in Boulder, and editor-in-chief for Alternating Current Press. Her writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, L.A. Review of Books, Electric Literature, Nashville Review, Slice, and elsewhere. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA (Regal House, January 2022) is her first novel, and it is currently shortlisted for the Chaucer Book Awards. Find her at her website.

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Literature to change your lightbulb.

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Leah Angstman

Leah Angstman

Historian, The Coil & Alternating Current editor-in-chief, book nerd, author of OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA (Regal House, Jan 2022). https://leahangstman.com.

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