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Most Anticipated Small Press Releases: April 2021

Here are some compelling forthcoming April 2021 small press books that captured my attention, like Arthur Sze’s The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems, which includes “Blackcap,” previously published in Big Other.

 

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Shane Burley’s Why We Fight: Essays on Fascism, Resistance, and Surviving the Apocalypse

From AK Press: “These essays, many published here for the first time, cover the shifts in rhetoric and tactics of the Alt Right since their disastrous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, and the explosion of antifascist, antiracist, and revolutionary organizing that has risen to fight it. Burley unpacks the moment we live in, confronting the apocalyptic feelings brought on by nationalism, climate collapse, and the crisis of capitalism, but also delivering the clear message that a new world is possible through the struggles communities are leveraging today. Burley reminds us what we’re fighting for not simply what we’re fighting against.”

 

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Courttia Newland’s A River Called Time

From Akashic Books: “The Ark was built to save the lives of the many, but rapidly became a refuge for the elite, the entrance closed without warning. Years after the Ark was cut off from the world—a world much like our own, but in which slavery has never existed—a chance of survival within the Ark’s confines is granted to a select few who can prove their worth. Among their number is Markriss Denny, whose path to future excellence is marred only by a closely guarded secret: without warning, his spirit leaves his body, allowing him to see and experience a world far beyond his physical limitations. Once inside the Ark, Denny learns of another with the same power, whose existence could spell catastrophe for humanity. He is forced into a desperate race to understand his abilities, and in doing so uncovers the truth about the Ark, himself, and the people he thought he once knew.”

 

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Alexei Remizov’s The Little Devil and Other Stories, translated by Antonina W. Bouis

From Columbia University Press:”In a dilapidated and isolated old house, something peculiar seems to happen whenever the town’s bestial exterminator visits. On a seemingly bucolic country estate, the head of the household is a living corpse obsessed with other corpses. An adolescent boy who passes his days in private dream worlds experiences a sexual awakening spurred by his family’s scandalous tenant. In these and other stories, the modernist writer Alexei Remizov offers a panorama of Russian mythology, the supernatural, rural grotesques, and profound religious faith in fiery revolutionary settings.”

 

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Howard Chiang’s Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific

From Columbia University Press: “Against the backdrop of the Sinophone Pacific, Chiang argues that the concept of transgender identity must be rethought beyond a purely Western frame. At the same time, he challenges China-centrism in the study of East Asian gender and sexual configurations. Chiang brings Sinophone studies to bear on trans theory to deconstruct the ways in which sexual normativity and Chinese imperialism have been produced through one another. Grounded in an eclectic range of sources—from the archives of sexology to press reports of intersexuality, films about castration, and records of social activism—this book reorients anti-transphobic inquiry at the crossroads of area studies, medical humanities, and queer theory. Timely and provocative, Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific highlights the urgency of interdisciplinary knowledge in debates over the promise and future of human diversity.”

 

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Yury Tynyanov’s The Death of Vazir-Mukhtar, translated by Anna Kurkina Rush and Christopher Rush

From Columbia University Press:”One of the central texts of Russian formalist literary production, the novel is a brilliant meditation on the nature of historical and poetic consciousness and of artistic creation. It is a complex and fascinating work that explores the relationships among individual memory, historical fact, and the literary imagination. The result is a hybrid text, containing elements of various genres—historical, biographical, existential, and adventure novels—and a deeply personal, almost confessional testament to the writer’s relationship to his generation and the state. Completed in 1927, almost a century after the events it depicts, The Death of Vazir-Mukhtar marks the watershed between revolution and reaction. At a time when the Soviet regime was becoming increasingly restrictive of freedom of expression and conscience, Tynyanov grappled with the themes of disillusionment, betrayal, and unrealized potential. Unabashedly intellectual yet filled with intrigue and suspense, The Death of Vazir-Mukhtar is a great historical novel of Russian modernism.”

 

Glimmers Of Hope: A 2021 Poetry Preview, Part 1 | WYPR

Arthur Sze’s The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems,

From Copper Canyon Press: “National Book Award winner Arthur Sze is a master poet, and The Glass Constellation is a triumph spanning five decades, including ten poetry collections and twenty-six new poems. Sze began his career writing compressed, lyrical poems influenced by classical Chinese poetry; he later made a leap into powerful polysemous sequences, honing a distinct stylistic signature that harnesses luminous particulars, and is sharply focused, emotionally resonant, and structurally complex. Fusing elements of Chinese, Japanese, Native American, and various Western experimental traditions―employing startling juxtapositions that are always on target, deeply informed by concern for our endangered planet and troubled species―Arthur Sze presents experience in all its multiplicities, in singular book after book. This collection is an invitation to immerse in a visionary body of work, mapping the evolution of one of our finest American poets.”

 

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Anne Garréta’s In Concrete, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan

From Deep Vellum:”Garréta’s first novel in a decade follows the mania that descends upon a family when the father finds himself in possession of a concrete mixer. As he seeks to modernize every aspect of their lives, disaster strikes when the younger sibling is subsumed by concrete. Through puns, wordplay, and dizzying verbal effect, Garréta reinvents the novel form and blurs the line between spoken and written language in an attempt to confront the elasticity of communication.”

 

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Gordon Lish’s Death and So Forth

From Dzanc Books: “With Death and So Forth, esteemed writer and editor Gordon Lish returns with a new book of scintillating short fiction. With his trademark precision, wit, and wiliness, Lish writes outside the margins and around the edges of the death, loss, and the fractiousness and fragmentation of language. Death and So Forth collects a number of Lish’s acclaimed stories and introduces eight new fictions, including a tribute to Denis Johnson and so many others lost in the course of a long life. Brilliant and sharp-eyed, this is a treasure for fans of Gordon Lish, new and lifelong.”

 

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Threa Almontaser’s The Wild Fox of Yemen

From Graywolf Press: “By turns aggressively reckless and fiercely protective, always guided by faith and ancestry, Threa Almontaser’s incendiary debut asks how mistranslation can be a form of self-knowledge and survival. A love letter to the country and people of Yemen, a portrait of young Muslim womanhood in New York after 9/11, and an extraordinarily composed examination of what it means to carry in the body the echoes of what came before, Almontaser’s polyvocal collection sneaks artifacts to and from worlds, repurposing language and adapting to the space between cultures. Half-crunk and hungry, speakers move with the force of what cannot be contained by the limits of the American imagination, and instead invest in troublemaking and trickery, navigate imperial violence across multiple accents and anthems, and apply gang signs in henna, utilizing any means necessary to form a semblance of home. In doing so, The Wild Fox of Yemen fearlessly rides the tension between carnality and tenderness in the unruly human spirit.”

 

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J. Robert Lennon’s Subdivision

From Graywolf Press: “Harrowing, meticulous, and deranged, Subdivision is a brilliant maze of a novel from the writer Kelly Link has called ‘a master of the dark arts.’ With the narrative intensity and mordant humor familiar to readers of Broken River, J. Robert Lennon continues his exploration of the mysteries of perception and memory.”

 

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J. Robert Lennon’s Let Me Think

From Graywolf Press: “Let Me Think is a meticulous selection of short stories by one of the preeminent chroniclers of the American absurd. Through J. Robert Lennon’s mordant yet sympathetic eye, the quotidian realities of marriage, family, and work are rendered powerfully strange in this rich and innovative collection. [….] Like Lennon’s earlier story collection Pieces for the Left Hand, Let Me Think holds a mirror up to our long-held grudges and secret desires, our petty resentments and moments of redeeming grace, and confirms him as a virtuoso of the form.”

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Oparah‘s Thick Skin

From Kernpunkt Press: “After Nneka, a young Nigerian-American, is dumped and abandoned by her partner Jacob, she undertakes a ritual of thickening her skin physically and spiritually—with mud, knives, tweezers, and a questionable form of therapy. Nneka’s healing process is as layered as the emotional abuse of her interracial relationship and embodies all the ways we hide, obsess, flail, fail, and finally carve our way toward feeling and healing. This heavily metaphorical novella, inspired by the author’s experience, mines meaning from memories and half-lived moments. Told in vignettes, from the perspective of a someone-turned-no-one, it grapples with the question: who’s responsible for the wreckage?”

 

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Divya Victor’s Curb

From Nightboat Books: “Divya Victor documents how immigrants and Americans navigate the liminal sites of everyday living: lawns, curbs, and sidewalks undergirded by violence but also constantly repaved with new possibilities of belonging. Curb witnesses immigrant survival, familial bonds, and interracial parenting in the context of nationalist and white-supremacist violence against South Asians. The book refutes the binary of the model minority and the monstrous, dark ‘other’ by reclaiming the throbbing, many-tongued, vermillion heart of kith.”

 

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From Nightboat Books: “In Plastic: An Autobiography, Cobb’s obsession with a large plastic car part leads her to explore the violence of our consume-and-dispose culture, including her own life as a child of Los Alamos, where the first atomic bombs were made. The journey exposes the interconnections among plastic waste, climate change, nuclear technologies, and racism. Using a series of interwoven narratives―from ancient Phoenicia to Alabama―the book bears witness to our deepest entanglements and asks how humans continue on this planet.”

 

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Rosamond S. King’s All the Rage

From Nightboat Books: “All the Rage addresses everyday pleasure as well as the present condition of racism in the United States—a time marked both by recurring police violence and intense artistic creativity—from a variety of perspectives: being Black, an immigrant, a woman, and queer. At its core dwells ‘Living in the Abattoir,’ a series in which people of color live out their days as both workers and meat. All the Rage simultaneously invokes both anger at ongoing systemic violence and the frivolity of something that is, perhaps temporarily, ‘trending.'”

 

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Nathaniel Mackey’s Double Trio

From New Directions: “For thirty-five years, the poet Nathaniel Mackey has been writing a long poem of fugitive-making like no other: two elegiac, intertwined serial poems—’Song of the Andoumboulou’ and ‘Mu’—that follow a mysterious, migrant “we” through the rhythms and currents of the world with lyrical virtuosity and impassioned expectancy. [….] Structured in part after the last three movements of John Coltrane’s Meditations—’Love, ‘Consequence,’ and ‘Serenity’—Double Trio stretches Mackey’s explorations and improvisations of free jazz into unprecedented poetic territory.”

 

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Nathaniel Tarn’s The Hölderliniae

From New Directions: “The thirty hymns of The Hölderliniae are inspired by the intricacies and transcendent humanity of Beethoven’s last quartets. Nathaniel Tarn’s new book opens with a biographical note on the ‘Poet of Poets,’ Friedrich Hölderlin, setting the scene and introducing the doomed love of the poet’s life, Diotima; it ends in the Neckar River, the river of Hölderlin’s birth and death. Via affairs of love and polity, Tarn speaks through Hölderlin, and Hölderlin speaks through Tarn. The French Revolution—which Hölderlin supported passionately until the Reign of Terror—illuminates our war-torn, ecologically precarious age, as the failures of our age recall those past tragedies. Line after line carries Hölderlin’s hope in an ideal of a poetry that can englobe all the mind’s disciplines and make a universe of its own.”

 

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Clarice Lispector’s An Apprenticeship or The Book of Pleasures, translated by Stefan Tobler

From New Directions: “What to make of a writer who follows the metaphysical heights of her great The Passion According to GH with a book that looks suspiciously like a romance novel? In An Apprenticeship or The Book of Pleasures, Clarice Lispector tries to discover how to even try to bridge the gap between people. A woman struggles to emerge from solitude and sadness into love, including sexual love: her guide on this journey is Ulisses, who (yes) leads her patiently into the fullness of life.”

 

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Lee Soho’s Catcalling, translated by Soje

From Open Letter Books: “Lee Soho’s debut collection of poems is an experimental lyric bildungsroman that confronts dynamics of abuse as it challenges poetic form. Catcalling exposes and ridicules the violences that the speaker-protagonist Kyungjin encounters as she navigates a patriarchal world. Divided in to five formally distinct sections—ranging from lyric to prose poems to experimental mash-ups to concrete forms—the book begins in Kyungjin’s childhood home as she recounts the haunting claustrophobia of verbal and psychological abuse, and follows her into the world as an emerging female poet navigating pervasive sexism in the era of Korea’s own movement against sexual violence and the global #MeToo movement. Lee’s poetry is reactive: reacting to a series of foils, but also initiating a kind of chemical reaction that introduces something radically new to a world that has such confining gender and artistic expectations for a young poet. Following in the footsteps of feminist Korean poets like Kim Hyesoon, Kim Yideum, and Choi Seung-ja, who have made their way to English audiences in recent years, Lee Soho emphatically heralds the arrival of the next generation.”

 

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Donatella Di Cesare’s Immunodemocracy: Capitalist Asphyxia, translated by David Broder

From Semiotexte: “Immunodemocracy offers a stimulating and profound portrayal of the epochal event that has already left its mark on the twenty-first century. Moving from the ecological question to the rule of experts, from the state of exception to immunitarian democracy, from rule by fear to the contagion of conspiracy theory, from forced distancing to digital control, Donatella Di Cesare examines how existence is already changing—and what its future political effects may be. In her own personal style, the author reconstructs the dramatic phases of what she calls “the breathing catastrophe.” Coronavirus is a sovereign virus that skirts its way around the walls of patriotism and the sovereignists’ imperious frontiers. And it reveals in all its terrible crudeness the immunitarian logic that excludes the weakest and hits the poorest.”

 

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Cecilia Pavón‘s Little Joy: Selected Stories, translated by Jacob Steinberg,

From Semiotexte: “Poet, writer, and translator Cecilia Pavón emerged in the late 1990s as one of the most prolific and central figures of the young Argentine literary scene—the so-called ‘Generation of the 90s’: artists and writers whose aesthetics and politics were an earnest response to the disastrous impact of American-exported neoliberal policies and the resulting economic crisis of 2001. Their publications were fragile—xeroxed, painted on cardboard—but their cultural impact, indelible. A cofounder of Buenos Aires’s independent art space and publishing press Belleza y Felicidad—where a whole generation of soon-to-be-famous Argentine artists showed their work for the first time—Pavón pioneered the use of ‘unpoetic’ and intimate content—her verses often lifted from text messages or chat rooms, her tone often impish, yet brutally sincere…In 2015, Pavón’s first volume of collected poems, A Hotel with My Name, was published in English. Contemporary writers in the United States, Australasia, and Europe discovered a deep affinity with her work…Translated by Pavón’s own poetic protégé Jacob Steinberg, Little Joy collects the best of Pavón’s short stories written between 1999-2020, originally published in three volumes in Spanish.”

 

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Elissa Washuta’s White Magic

From Tin House: “In this collection of intertwined essays, she writes about land, heartbreak, and colonization, about life without the escape hatch of intoxication, and about how she became a powerful witch. She interlaces stories from her forebears with cultural artifacts from her own life—Twin Peaks, the Oregon Trail II video game, a Claymation Satan, a YouTube video of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham—to explore questions of cultural inheritance and the particular danger, as a Native woman, of relaxing into romantic love under colonial rule.”

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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