ANC038: Lightening after the Echo

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If I were to talk of a history and the sounds of you, / then I would create a space with a bamboo chime / waving and making a flat sound not like / metal on metal but more like earth pounding on straw.

As the Midwest was increasingly developed over the past century, a multitude of factors produced lasting consequences for the region's rich biodiversity. Agriculture has necessitated widespread habitat loss, industrial toxins continually spoil the environment, and invasive species have further decimated numerous ecosystems. What land remains diminishes with every push outward from the human population; city, suburb, exurb, expanding freely and forever. While it can be easier to lament the hazards faced by charismatic critters, it is kingdom plantae we have devastated most significantly. In Illinois alone, hundreds of grasses, sedges, ferns, weeds, and worts are currently listed as endangered or threatened.

The free verse and prose poems in Viola Lee's Lightening after the Echo concern themselves, too, with the passage of time and the seemingly inconsequential items it so often glosses over. Lee documents her heritage, her role as a Chicagoan, and the small moments upon which her daily life pivots. The body and its shortcomings are featured throughout but greatly outweighed by Lee's attention to the sheer quantity of objects she is surrounded by: shampoo and frying pans, tofu and rice, scissors and staplers, boots and balloons, Shake 'n Bake and Bubble Yum, mixtapes and forks, plywood and glass, cake mix and coffins, blankets and bottles, envelopes and oranges, mirrors and ink. On and on and in the end, "you become all of it: the houses, the windows, and the ash."

112 pages with ten color cards, handmade and numbered
$20 (US postage paid)


ANC037: There is one crow that will not stop cawing. by Rushing Pittman

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I am holding myself in my abdominal cavity. / I am happy I am not speaking. / This morning I looked at the sun. / I am okay with it I think. / My head is large but not unwieldy. / I think you are better than me. 

Although it was developed as a healing approach for children, neuroscience has found the practice of play therapy to be similarly beneficial for adults. Through modalities as varied as nature play or storytelling, individuals reduce negative cognitive behaviors, allowing them to comfortably address grief, anxiety, depression, and more. 

The poems in Rushing Pittman's There is one crow that will not stop cawing employ an absurdist perspective in their examination of death, the limits of the body, the acceptance of infertility, loss in love, the human soul and the soul in all things. Also explored are the constant flux of our multiple identities and the conversations in which they engage. Ultimately, the collection handles lightly these heavy concerns; the poems are tinged with hilarity as much as sadness. In short: they play.

Pittman writes: I began this book on my deck at the start of spring in 2015. I was preparing to come out to my family as transgender, and my world order was shifting. I could no longer imagine my future. I barely knew what my body would look like in a year’s time, and I was unsure of who I would still have in my life. The way I got through this period was to sit on my deck and stare at my yard. I wanted to sit as still as possible and be silent. I counted the weeds. I considered making a garden. I listened to one crow cawing repeatedly. I think that eventually, as this project went on, I became very much like him.

60 pages, handmade and numbered
$16 (US postage paid)

ANC038: Calamity & Me by Boona Daroom

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I come from a long line of arsonists, she tells me. The kerosene can of her vapors through her nose. Tell me more, I say. But she falls silent. No, her lips seem to insist. Never. She handstands on the sun-baked lawn and walks towards me, pouring what’s left of her out.

When faced with catastrophe, human instinct spurs creation; torched homes are restored, leveled cities rebuilt, communities revived. Yet for every feel-good story of new beginnings, a ghost town is lost to time: Beichuan, San Juan Parangaricutiro, Bor. The pathos lingering over much of New Orleans and Detroit, disasters at the hands of man and nature alike, speaks to our need for swift, clear-cut resolutions to communal misfortune. But what of personal loss? To flip the axiom: an earthquake is a statistic, breaking up is a tragedy. 

In Calamity & Me, Boona Daroom crafts a metaphorical love story between himself and the regular hardships of life. Told through a series of vignettes weaving transgressional style and syntax with obscured meanings and double entendre, the narrative employs personification liberally and on a sliding scale. Sometimes Summer is a season but sometimes she is a ghost plucking a cello in the narrator's room. The Atoms are merely the sensation of a breeze on his skin, except when they are a stoned swarm scarfing a loaf of bread. Calamity is both a partner and the allegorical manifestation of our daily woes. Seesawing between hilarity and heartache, the private and universal, Calamity & Me presents a pseudo-autobiographical account of the discomfort we all know so well.

50 pages, handmade and numbered
$16 (US postage paid)

ANC035: Becoming by Laura LeHew

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I wake up in the middle of the night / my sister, Karen, stands in the darkened kitchen / fully dressed, hands in her jean pockets, swaying back / & forth back / & forth like a wraith // I ask her why she didn’t wake me / & she says I don’t know—am I awake

The last poem of this collection asserts that “…the past is the answer not / worth pursuing.” But the startling and moving poems that precede it prove otherwise. In Becoming, Laura LeHew has pursued the past, delving into a family history replete with the catastrophic effects of alcoholism. Using innovative forms and vivid imagery, LeHew’s work poignantly evokes the devastation created by an alcoholic sister, mother, and father. These poems tell a powerful story—one both provocative and wrenching.  —Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita

Through finely crafted formal innovations and an unflinching focus on the realities of alcoholism, dementia, and the precarious pathways of family histories, Laura LeHew reminds us that poetry is one of the surest ways to fully inhabit our lives while grappling with realities that unsettle the mind and soul.  —Ce Rosenow, author of Pacific and Spectral Forms

Rather than portraying family as the mythological unicorn we wish it to be, Becoming is the poetic equivalent of an antithetical Brady Bunch. Full of fracture, dementia, multi-generational substance abuse, and violence, Laura LeHew’s poems wrench family damage from shadows and whispers directly onto center stage. A poem in the voice of sister “Karen,” relates: “Once he fuckin’ broke the door down / pulled the phone off the wall / while I was callin’ the cops. / Remember? // Like dad did that one time when he was so pissed at you?” Heartbreak, rather than sentimentality, is woven into the tightly crafted fabric of the verse, as well as the organization of the collection, with found journal-entry poems, non-sequential ordering, and this solemn profound couplet from penultimate poem “Mother’s Day”: “& the past is the answer not / worth pursuing.” As dark as the reality of Becoming is, the journey is redeemed by unflinching examination, moments of unwavering generosity, and the faithful testimony of survival.
—Lana Hechtman Ayers, author of The Dead Boy Sings in Heaven

72 pages, handmade and numbered
$16 (US postage paid)


ANC034: Future Wars by Kyle Hemmings

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We entered an area where the enemy / was known to use a mix of gases / they called Simple Euphoria. / Scents of orange, honey, and rose / drifted through us. We were reduced / to children with magical gifts, / making shelled buildings levitate, / or windows bulge like pregnant bellies.

In the dying days of our second world war, with the f├╝hrer nothing more than a petrol stain and Uncle Joe squeezing his mustache through their backdoor, Hirohito's goons tried in vain to rid the world of Unit 731. Alas, time was not on their side but the facility's American discovery proved highly fortuitous. Tucked away in the newly liberated Manchurian countryside, MacArthur and his men found evidence of unanesthetized vivisection; plague experimentation; and death by centrifuge, x-ray, or injection of animal blood. Prisoners became test subjects for fine-tuning flamethrowers, grenades, and chemical weapons. Frostbite, gangrene, and venereal diseases were areas of tremendous research; rape was both an incident to be studied and a way to pass the time for Unit 731's doctors. In all, upward of a quarter million men, women, and children died at this site alone. It was one of many medical laboratories. When it fell in to Allied hands, immunity was quickly granted in exchange for its secrets. Although the world was at least affecting the pretense of falling back in to place, there would be battles to come. To the victors went the spoils: further mastery in the art of death.

Kyle Hemmings' Future Wars portrays a world hell-bent on finding increasingly surreal ways to eradicate itself. Reflecting the enduring futility of war, the poems' narrators amble about in a timeless, dreamlike fugue; exactly when and where it all may end is never fully evident. References to conflicts from past and current theaters of war are scattered throughout but for every moment of familiarity, the "lasers and whited-out sunsets" of some yet unseen nightmare appear. Hemmings has complemented this collection with two short suites capturing the paranoia and disorientation present on the home front. Civilians composed of rock and schizophrenic souls await the inevitable, if it has not already occurred. In a world where everything is some form of destruction, it can be difficult to know if you have truly been obliterated.

68 pages, handmade and numbered

ANC034 is out of print.

ANC033: MJ by Joseph Rathgeber

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Jordan was inextricably articulated as a living, breathing, and dunking vindication of the mythological American meritocracy.
—David L. Andrews

Sociologist Max Weber identified charisma as being based on superhuman powers or qualities setting an individual apart as a natural leader. Exhibiting narcissist traits and exceptional amounts of energy, the charismatic benefit from an internal clarity free of the common anxieties limiting an ordinary person's achievements. Lacking the fears, shame, and guilt that obstruct others, these ostensible paragons display an exaggerated self-confidence rendering them all the more attractive to their followers. Over time, this phenomenon has enabled the supremacy of despotic monarchs, sinister cults, and in our celebrity-focused age, the herculean luminaries of professional sports.

Joseph Rathgeber's MJ is a personal account of idolatry coming apart at the seams like a two-hundred dollar pair of sneakers. Using an extensive range of cultural, academic, and historical sources to fill empty spots in the Jordan mythology, this hybrid assemblage/memoir/epistolary project seeks to undermine the aracial and apolitical brand cultivated by one of America's great capitalist and consumerist icons. Examining the dark abstractions overshadowed by this heroic figure's hyper-competitiveness and rise to greatness, MJ collapses one generation's champion while so many seek to emulate his conquests.

84 pages, handmade and numbered

ANC033 is out of print.