Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Alien Here by Leah Angstman

An Alien Here
Leah Angstman
Copyright 2008
Propaganda Press
Alternating Current
PO Box 398058
Cambridge, MA 02139

A little bigger than a matchbook in size, this collection lives up to its title – Leah as an alien – as female, poet, visionary – and rivets us with maniacal, often shot-gun style almost cut and pasted language. I wouldn’t call the associations completely free, but they’re often jagged, lunar, with repeating edges and expressive frames. There is a lack of clear punctuation, so more like a zine in format the little poems run in tiny type-written texts through the book, coming to full-stops with others lunging ahead.

“stale in the air you
humanize public breathing waste”

Her radiant goes way out in some cases and then contracts to a very real, visceral moment. There’s great word-play, like good avant-pop, punk and goth lyrics. The line breaks are precise and do much to craft the startling effects she achieves.

“light light-source sabertooth
interpret this jungle it is
nicotine wasteland like the air I am

Leah likes to go to the edge of inventing language patterns that disrupt our normal constructions.

But there is a also a thread of quite elegant lyricism running throughout the often dark, post-modern, or beat, forest of brute trees. In “Afternoons like This” we have:

“there are afternoons like these
when you learn you are not in love
and when you learn you are”

Still it includes the “alien” aspect as well:

“hollow tubes inside me
draining out color”

and then a series of the artificial manipulations we use to sexually attract:

“we are dyed hair
we are boob-adjustments right before
we catch his eye….”

These poems take wild, unexpected turns in the middle or the end; you can ride them like a riddle or an absinthe high.

“your touch though is so
heavy so many bricks so
cautious but courageous
isn’t that screen story a bit like us
don’t i have her attitude
and don’t you have peter’s excuses.”

And for a moment peter is the character in the film, a peter she knows – some acquaintance-- or he could be the famous Saint.

She’s packed a lot of voltage in a miniature book you keep fingering on the train from its home in your coat pocket. From the epic poem about her ancestry, “1926,” to a poem blatantly about a sexual encounter, “Riding Bareback,” she lassos a lot of material for us to imbibe. (Caution: if you prefer less to more, you won’t like the sometimes “piled on” and finger-paint-like instinctual use of language. If you think free verse should be unbridled and slightly crazed, you will.) The latter poem, while not a totally original metaphor for sex, is fine with me, recognizable and the verse unrolls like a movie:

“he is warm
so fucking warm
and wet
covered in necessity”

And there is the awkward moment when cowboy (or horse, as it may be) wants to know if she has climaxed. And she hesitates to give him a true account so as not to offend his ego—almost a cliché by now but real enough. His bravado and subsequent baby’s sleep is the amusing habit of the human male:

“I’ll make you cum
next time he says”

And there is her simple reticence to jabber:

“I have nothing to say

A thumbalina rocking collection.

Leah Angstam is a poet/writer, editor, publisher, musician, actor, and visual artist raised in a small town outside Lansing, MI. Her poetry blog can be found at

Lo Galluccio
Ibbetson St. Press

Lo’s new prose-poem memoir “Sarasota VII’ is out on Cervena Barva Press. Her fictional text, “Denebola” will soon appear in Heide Hatry’s collection on Charta Books, “Heads and Tales.” Readings in February.

1 comment:

  1. Great review!

    This book is tiny, but weighs a ton in the best of ways.

    These little books are unbelievably packed.

    And $3? Please, that's a steal.