j/j hastain: Reviews



rob mclennan’s Glengarry and C, and Jennifer H. Fortin’s Mined Muzzle Velocity




rob mclennan’s Glengarry


rob mclennan’s new book Glengarry (Talonbooks) is both visceral and concrete. Glengarry appears as a three section wonder that in my reading of it, I experienced as a triptych. Not just three-fold but held together by hinges. The two hinges that held the triplicate together for me were place and body, and they allowed the whole of Glengarry to be a sort of art for me. I will speak about both place and body in a blended way throughout this review. My intent is to reveal how these two hinges work together (enacting Glengarry) in a communal way in order to hold the book together from the inside out.

Part of the triptych feeling certainly came from the aesthetics of the poems. Dripping from themselves--but in a clear and calculated way. Like rain dripping from an aerial gutter that has just reached its max. Addition of drips making drips leak. It is raining right now as I write this. Rain that makes the sky look like a shadow. I think about apparatuses that can fill to a max. That have an end point. I think about what it is to extrude beyond an end point. Is Glengarry just such type of apparatus? Does it have an end point? Or is it the extrusion beyond an end point? What is it for an it to spill over from within itself? Is it possible that spilling over can be an activism? Oh “many-splendoured” wake!

To spill over                        as an activism.

In this book there is something that emerges from what feels to me like a gestural admixing (on the part of mclennan) of the details considered to be history. Prior to reading this book I thought of history as something fixed--as frustration. As site that would always indelibly remain past tense. However while reading through Glengarry’s sections (glengarry: open field, “whiskey jack” and avalanche”) I was struck by the way that through continual threading of the materialities of mclennan’s history (“beyond the darkening side of trees/ beyond the county line”) into other aspects of that history’s materiality (“the junkyard alive”) what emerged was a different (torqued?) site (not necessarily past tense “push of seasons; on,/ unending”) from which to proceed in the considerations and meditations. For perhaps “if you know where the history, happened” you can begin to unravel how to hone that history into home.

Perhaps it is engagement or method (threading) that turns history into home. By way of a process of honing? What generally are the differences between history and home? Does one or the other emancipate us more? Destroy us more? Make us more mute to ourselves? Add to our vividity?

Glengarry often made me wonder about how to be a conduit for transductions of (or conflations of) place. How to be part of an obsession regarding history and home but to do so by way of an awareness of the unavoidability of fractured frames? I see Glengarry’s poems themselves as fractured frames. I see some of the lines in the book as fractured frames (“to become one/ a hardened break” or “think you/ in my standing stall/ a testament/ to all the weather we lived”)—fractured in that they do not enact any singular image—fractured in the way that they move rhythmically. With hard jolts of consonants against smoother mouth and ear shapes (the smoothness of “to become one” against the hard “k” in “a hardened beak”) or how the inner workings work with slanted rhyming (“in my standing stall” to “a testament/ to all”).

“I sometimes talk about my home, my point of origin, as though it isn’t there anymore.” Perhaps this is what we must do if we want to galvanize any given (birth or context) origin for a more animate and current version of origin. This current version--no doubtedly one that we would have to have our hands in. Hence the gestural admixture I see mclennan enacting (mentioned earlier in this review) as one of this book’s main strengths.

I feel that in this book home is “a resolve marked by passion.” A commitment. A shifting and a staying. A site where mclennan and his characters (“partner”, “children”, “her”, “our grandma”, “ex-wife” “the very taste of iron you”, etc.) can interact and interject. Can deepen the myriad landscapes for the sake of a reversal of “can you ever go home again?”--for some sort of guarantee that we are in fact in a home that is our own.

In the multiple times I read Glengarry, I kept thinking of calculated leakage becoming solid flow. I felt Glengarry materialize itself in the ways that “a river is always certain.” A river that is actually capable of never stopping. This river mixes. It reconfigures. It flows over cracks, crags, boulders--borders.


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Creative Engagement with rob mclennan’s C. (LRL, 2011)

mclennan’s new LRL chap “C.” is a masterful blend of mysterious motion and non-normative meta-narratives of the quotidian (“the lights in human form”). With subtle repetition of objects of human sentiment (“figs […] artichoke hearts”) which roots us in the physicalities of planar existence on Earth) as well as with a sort of slipping in of philosophically and compositionally profound phrases (“I wanted change/ to not break; narrative,/ thick and strange” / “titled; sad/ phonetics”), we are taken by this book’s gentle whirling.

It is as if, for a time, we are enacting dervish-spins around unforeseeable derivatives (“a spherical notion/ sometimes a great theory/ of untuned strings”) and that act, motion and location is how we find our relation or home here.

What could be more inductive of connection between the quotidian and mystery, than a “constant renovation”? mclennan takes us into “combined reflection”—a place where there do not seem to be ultimates but instead, so much upturning (“threadbare/ caked in ash”). Here I feel like we are digging up “symbols [] to turn [] angles/ to action” finding ways to “live/ beyond each limit.”



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Jennifer H. Fortin’s Mined Muzzle Velocity


In Jennifer H. Fortin’s Mined Muzzle Velocity, we learn firsthand how “impairment / can alter how we increase.” Fortin has compiled a book of fragments and connections in postcard form. The postcard as base for both the analytical and the intimate information included in the book is felt as a stricture. A beneficial impairment. A tightness that holds us in and to it until we leak. We burst forth. We emanate beyond stricture. Is that not what postcards are for? To bleed on or to weep on or to leave our very individual fingerprints on as we read them while we are cutting meat?


This work is not a memoir. I am not even sure if it is memory anymore. Fortin explains (in an interview with Nate Pritts (also at Lowbrow Press, http://www.lowbrowpress.com/prittsfortininterview.html) that “it felt natural and necessary to cannibalize my written memories, to feed them air again.” Are memories that have been fed air (toward new livelihoods) even memories anymore? Or are they unforeseen autonomies?


I felt a very strong awareness while reading Fortin’s book, that if these postcards came to me in the mail and not in book form it would be difficult to ensure that they ever stay as a collective. Fortin tells us “subsets can be beautiful” and I agree—therefore I find that as I encounter this book, I am somehow pleasantly caught between wanting the postcards to remain collective (ensured by their remaining in book form), and needing them to be able to be separated. Lost. Made somehow disparate to one another—to become subsets. This means I am going to print the PDF copy of the book that Fortin sent me so I can separate and regroup the postcards. Perhaps even a need to tear the pages out of the paperbound copy of the book when it arrives in my mailbox.


“I think of a postcard as a sideways / call to action.” Yes. Mined Muzzle Velocity is “a sideways / call to”. An echo resounding powerfully in a glass of milk. A wrist bleeding gray. A collection of Technicolor graphs superimposed over black and white photographs of unnamed fields.  I see “a sideways call” as always somehow bent. Tilted. Strange. But all the while provoking.


Now, regarding “action” (as in “a postcard as a sideways call to action”) this book is wild with various actions. Actions of interactive mind between the speaker and its “yous,” locational/geographical action: “What do you think of the statue?” and ephemeral or dream-like action: “the non-trees between other trees.” When WE are engagements of such “sideways call to action” we must “Resort to / the eyes on the sides of [our] head.” I see the method of engagement (the commitment when reading this book) as a swerve being met by a swerve. This is how we must give. By filling in the blanks. By trusting the gaps. I am saying that as we read the postcards (which are enacting by way of and within us) we are changed. We are charged. Heated.


How to share when the aspects of one’s action are inherently disparate? Fortin speaks about the creation of the “Dear” in these postcards as act toward touch—“leaning particularly hard on the consistency of the addressed ‘Dear. (And when one is anywhere but home—hey, but also when one IS at home—isn’t there inevitably a missing Dear you want to share some things with?)” What is most intriguing to me re the composition of said “Dear” is the way that what must be relayed (because it is what of text is included in the postcards) is not necessarily erotic intimacy—is instead a motley of quotidian details, praxis, sensation, chatter, species feeling, yearning, proposition, etc. It is as if what is created in the “Dear” is a closeness, but one that could be a kinship or an emotio-spiritual proximity as much as it could be a lover. And all the while the speaker says “I’ll show you / everything or as much as I can.” There is a sort of admittance here between the speaker and the “Dear” that implies that there are limits (“as much as I can”) to what can be shared. I as a reader am curious about where the limits come from. Are they translation (of emotional extant into linear articulations) limits? Are they limits based on keeping others’ secrets? “To encase but not to enumerate”?


Fortin goes on to say “I’ve shied away from trying to imagine real places if I can’t see them myself—I don’t like constructing fuzzy versions of things.” It is important to note that in the articulation of this real version of things (articulate of Fortin’s experiences while in Bulgaria) we do in fact (by duration of taking in the postcards) get a “fuzzy version of things.” The way information is given and information is left out. The way that we “witness grazing wild” both partially belonging and partially not belonging. Dizzy with details and with disparateness.  I see in this book a subtle energy toward helping to be “separate from the outside while inside” and while Mined Muzzle Velocitydoes divulge itself with honesty and formal precisions, it also in my opinion allows us as readers to be unable to complete it. “Have I shown you the real skeleton key / I have? It is filed but opens no real locks.”




j/j hastain lives in Colorado, USA with xir beloved. j/j is the author of numerous cross-genre works previously published and forthcoming (a few of which are): prurient anarchic omnibus (Spuyten Duyvil), long past the presence of common (Say it with Stones), a womb-shaped wormhole (BlazeVox), treOOA(with Eileen Tabios/ Marsh Hawk Press). j/j’s writing has appeared in numerous journals including Trickhouse, Vlak, Big Bridge, The Offending Adam, Dear Sir, Eccolinguistics, EOAGH, Aufgabe, Queerocracy Art, Masculine Femininities, Caketrain, Plath Profiles, Bombay Gin and PANK The Queer Issue. j/j is currently in the process of curating an Anthology of Queer Nudes (Knives Spoons and Forks Press, 2013) and has helped curate (and participated in) two major Trans anthologies. j/j is an Elective Affinities participant, a member of Dusie kollektiv, writes for Lit Pub and is a regular contributor to Sous Les Paves. j/j currently writes creative reviews for Big Other, Jacket2 and Emprise Review. j/j’s work has was appeared in a Queer-focused show at the Leslie-Lohman Annex in New York. j/j’s books have been finalists in the Kelsey Street, Grey Book Press, Grace Notes Books, Switchback, Omnidawn, DIAGRAM and Ahsahta book and essay competitions. j/j’s work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Publishers Triangle. j/j’s manuscript extant shamanisms won the Pavement Saw poetry award. j/j’s manuscript dear secondary umbilical, won second place in the Mad Hatter’s Wild and Wyrd Poetry Contest. In 2011 j/j’s book we in my Trans was nominated for the Stonewall Book Award and j/j’s book prurient anarchic omnibus was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.