Bone Bouquet Volume 2, Issue 1, Winter 2011

In “20 Questions” (which is collected in The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book), Barbara Barg ironically presents the following multiple choice question:

12. Women writers
      a) are only concerned with content      b) don’t have happy       marriages      c) should always have men edit their       works      d)   are naturally gullible   d) [sic] are always referred       to as “women writers”

Obviously, the correct choice is no choice at all. Or it would be to abandon the multiple choice format altogether since such choices (especially “a” and “d”) delimit and hypostatize what women’s writing can be. Bone Bouquet: A Journal of Poetry by Women is a new venture that intends to fight such delimitation and is, according to the editorial statement in the inaugural issue, “not a venue for feminine poetry or the poetry of ‘women’s issues.’” Rather, it “seek[s] to highlight the best new writing being produced by artists both established and emerging.”  This is a welcome mission particularly in light of the 2010 stats just released by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts that indicate huge disparities between men and women in terms of contributors and books reviewed in a range of high profile publications (the tally for Poetry, for example, counts 246 men and 165 women).  VIDA committee member Amy King writes, “We’re ready to invest our efforts and energy into the radical notion that women are writers too.”  Bone Bouquet is, then, concerned more specifically with advancing the liberating notion that women that are writers are not just “women writers.”

If the poetry found in the first print issue of Bone Bouquet engages with content that is recognizably “feminine,” then it is content elaborated within the high-pressure crucible of poetic form.  Or it is content made performative by means of a savvy conceptualism.  Take, for example, Dana Teen Lomax’s “Lullaby” which concludes the issue:

You want your ears pierced.
You want your ears pierced.
You want your ears pierced.
You want your ears pierced.
You want your ears pierced.
You want your ears pierced.
You want your ears pierced.
You want your ears pierced.
You want your ears pierced.

Compared to James Tate’s “Lewis and Clark Overheard in Conversation” (Tate’s poem is simply the line “then we’ll get us some wine and spare ribs” iterated 23 times), which is content to frolic in the bone-headed silliness of male homosociality, Lomax’s poem is concerned with gendered normativites and ideological interpellation (which is particularly insidious when cast as a lullaby).

Including front and back matter, Bone Bouquet (Volume 2, Issue 1) is only a slim 31 pages but if more conventional print journals have the advantage of volume, then Bone Bouquet has the advantage of a well orchestrated coherence and a tight editorial vision. The disparate pieces in the volume by Carolyn Guinzio, Emily Skillings, Jennifer H. Fortin, Leigh Stein, Dawn Pendergast, Arielle Greenberg, Claire Hero, Becca Klaver, Jennifer Firestone, Tamiko Beyer, Kara Dorris, and Dana Teen Lomax seem to nicely harmonize with one another that this textual object seems not so much a journal but a smart, multi-authored chapbook (Claire Hero’s prose poem “ruining Dolly” ends “& the bones of my bones lullaby my limbs,” resonating not only with the title of the journal but with the closing Lomax poem that I quoted above).

If one can generalize about the range of writing here then it is marked by a lyrical obliquity and an eccentricity of voice. There is a focus on imagined worlds, on what might emerge from what Becca Klaver (perhaps referencing Brion Gysin) calls the “DREAM MACHINE.” There is a concern with the subjunctive possibility of the “if”; Leigh Stein’s “Autobiography” claims, “If she were a man, she would have sex / with the cactus for the cactus’s birthday.”  All of this surprising work represents a great riposte to those who think they know what women’s writing sounds like or should look like.

I end, following Barbara Barg, with a multiple question of my own:

Bone Bouquet is
a) meant to show that special pooch how much you care by sending a gift of crunchy bones that will have him begging for more   b) a reference to Stéphane Mallarmé   c) a gorgeous grouping of delicate bone china flowers arranged in a white vase that can be had for the “Buy it Now” price of $28.99 d) a journal to watch


The Latest from Octopus

Congratulations to Jenny Zhang, Christopher DeWeese, and Rebecca Farivar for having their manuscripts selected for publication by Octopus Books 2011.

Congratulations also to finalists: Claire Donato, Julie Doxsee, Laura Eve Engel, Sasha Fletcher, Dan Hoy, Brenda Iijima, George Kalamaras, Kirsten Kaschock, Seth Landman, Linnea Ogden, Alexandria Peary, Craig Rebele, Rob Schlegel, S. E. Smith, and Melinda Wilson.

And in other Octopus news. . . .


#14 is live and features the following sixteen long poems:

The Water’s Piety in Doubt and Question by J. Michael Martinez

It is Especially Dangerous To Be Conscious of Oneself by Jeff Alessandrelli

Dwell-E by Brandon Downing

The Massachusetts Book of the Dead by Katie Peterson

Coney Island Avenue by Andy Fitch

Length of Fetch by Jesse Lichtenstein

A Geography of Pleasure by Amy King

Descend, Descend by Samuel Amadon

Vertigo and Bone Room by Julie Doxsee

from Rosalia by Molly Gaudry

The Kingdom of Blizzards by Michael Rerick

The Erotic Life of Art: A Seance with William Carlos Williams by Eileen R. Tabios

Topic Sentences by Dot Devota

We Know in 2010, We Survive by Claire Becker

The Personal History of Wind by Jennifer Denrow

Dark Highway by Zvonko Karanović transl. by Ana Božičević.

And the following reviews:

Not Blessed by Harold Abramowitz, reviewed by Janice Lee

Under the Quick by Molly Bendall, reviewed by Suzette Bishop

Sum of Every Lost Ship by Allison Titus, reviewed by David Carillo

Mr. Worthington’s Beautiful Experiments on Splashes, reviewed by Sommer Browning