What follows is the first in J. A. Tylerâ€™s full-press of Subito Press, a series of reviews appearing at [PANK] over the course of 2012, covering every title available from Subito. J. A. Tylerâ€™s previous full-press series have appeared at Big Other (full-press of Calamari Press) and at Mud Luscious Pressâ€™s online quarterly (full-press of Publishing Genius Press).
As Subito Pressâ€™s first competition winner in poetry, Kristin Abrahamâ€™s Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus sets the bar extremely high for future volumes, tangling the standard versions of â€˜Little Red Riding Hoodâ€™ around contemporary culture and through surreal landscapes to form a poetry collection of ghosts and blood and snow, a re-envisioned and re-invigorated fairy tale.
Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus is a pocket-sized, matte volume, slim and beautifully designed by David Stadler. And the physical sensibilities of the book â€“ minimal, simplistic, straight-forward â€“ are in wonderful contrast with Abrahamâ€™s poetry, which is sprawling and dense, thick-blooded and expansive. This ripe juxtaposition in the production of Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus is an excellent way into a book that thrives on contrast.
from â€˜Things That Are Muffled Openâ€™:
We start off slow like this, red. Watch
the stones tipping off our shoes, the snow.
Each second small and aspirin-flavored,
the learning of childhood. May I sit? May I
stand? Look both ways, please & thank you.
(Curtsy to the crowd.) (Pause for applause.)
The starkest contrast is that of transition from childhood to adulthood, the epicenter of Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus. Abraham takes great care to initially point Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus towards matters of innocence, but then later skew towards the realities of adulthood, the grit and difficulties of living, the hurt of growing up.
from â€˜Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Busâ€™:
Now she canâ€™t even see the trees
for all the forests. Somewhere a log cabin,
a woodstove. The first fantasy was a mistake.
The second had a rag stuffed in its mouth.
And within this comparison of old and young, Kristin Abraham uses two brilliant focal points to further the impact of Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus: snow and the mouth. Both of these images lend themselves to double-meanings, and Abraham takes advantage of that layering. She allows â€˜snowâ€™ to function as newness and freshness as well as muffling and entrenching, and she makes the mouth feature as both a way in which to speak but also an the orifice that can be clogged by the world:
Evidence she might have bled,
like all of us bleed in our
own house. But the sight
showed something different:
it was fear-birds and running.
As for the snow, bleary.
You know the feeling,
Ghost wrapped in oilcloth,
landslide in your mouth.
The harnessing of double-meanings, the carefully crafted comparisons between childhood and adulthood, and the clever contrast betweenÂ production design and the demands of Kristin Abrahamâ€™s poetry are but a smattering of the wealth to be found in Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus. Even on a third or fourth read these poems are still opening, still providing rich poetic engagements in unexpected places, making Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus a grand model of what to expect from Subito Pressâ€™s annual competition winners.
Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus is available from Subito Press.
Subito Press is a nonprofit literary publisher based in the Creative Writing Program of the Department of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. We look for innovative fiction and poetry that at once reflects and informs the contemporary human condition, and we promote new literary voices as well as work from previously published writers. Subito Press encourages and supports work that challenges already-accepted literary modes and devices.
J. A. Tyler is the author of eight books of prose and poetry, including Variations of a Brother War (Small Doggies Press, 2012) and In Love with a Ghost (Lit Pub Books, 2012). His recent work has appeared with Black Warrior Review, Cream City Review, Diagram, and New York Tyrant, and he reviews for The Nervous Breakdown and The Rumpus among other venues. For more, visit: chokeonthesewords.com.