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NOTES: Holy Land by Rauan Klassnik (Black Ocean Press, 2008)

So, yes, I know Rauan, and yes these notes are completely biased:

Some of the best prose poems I’ve read in a long time. Visceral and, eschewing abstraction or self-reflexiveness, unrelenting. These aren’t lazily surreal prose poems, where a normal situation slowly starts getting, inevitably, weird. Nope, Rauan inducts you immediately into a world where thin margins separate things–sex hovers over death, violence bursts out of laughter.

Can you believe it: a man, woman, and child all reduced to bones in the stomach of a shark. She laughed and she played with her hair and she slammed the headboard against the wall.

Many of Rauan’s poems seem to work by rapid fire juxtaposition, but he keeps things from getting too simple by being, in turn, mystical and crass. “A rat climbed out of her cunt (or maybe her asshole)(or maybe it’s just one hole), up her stomach, up her neck–and it grunted up her nose and became her brain” & “I reach in to grab her and she crashes against the bars, the tips of her wings like clocks: great sea turtles diving down with billions of rocks shining in their blood.”

If I could I’d cut out a few of the poems here, because they are just too damn simple for me, but that doesn’t matter–the poems are so efficient, unapologetic, and of a piece, that as a collection Holy Land works exceptionally well. Also, man, that poem where the horse is getting all cut up then turns to flowers is tremendous. I mean, surrealists have been chopping up horses for a century, but this makes it makes it new. Also, in case Rauan is reading, the poem I think is no good is the one about a girl on a swing. It’s on page 65. How’s that for conflict of interest?

Put this one on the shelf between two bad-asses–Jack Kerouac and Caroline Knox–Book of Blues & A Beaker.

Filed under: Book Notes

About the Author

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Joe Hall is the author of five books of poetry, including Someone's Utopia (2018) and Fugue & Strike (forthcoming). His poems, reviews, and scholarship have appeared in Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Postcolonial Studies, Peach Mag,, PEN America Blog, Poetry Northwest, Ethel Zine, Gulf Coast, Best Buds! Collective, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. He has taught poetry workshops for teachers, teens, and workers through Just Buffalo and the WNYCOSH Worker Center.

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