Banned for Life by Arlene Ang

Source: the poet
Paperback, 81 pgs
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Banned for Life by Arlene Ang is a collection of poems in which all is not as it seems.  She is an inventor of transforming verse in which death takes on a new life and ghosts are the living.  The collection begins with a quote from Anatole France that sets the tone: “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”  Whether we are looking at the crime scene and all the parts except for the dead girl at the center or considering the mass extinction of pigeons in Venice, Ang has caused us to pause and rethink our perceptions.

Death is a clear preoccupation in these poems, as the narrator examines what it means to be a dead woman floating down the river in “The Model Particular.”  She examines how that minutiae serves as a sign to a larger picture, like the bracelets that become scars on the girl floating in the river, revealing more about her past and how she may have ended up there.  “When a red shoe finds/the silt, it may take up to thirty years/before it reaches the ocean.//The girl is wearing bracelets/of scars. She is purpling under both eyes./She is all poise and dead leaves.”  (pg. 15)

Her poems speak to not only the temporary nature of life in the body, but also the temporary nature of the impressions we make while we live and interact in society.  Ang juxtaposes the beautiful and the horrifying, challenging her readers to see the gruesome allure of death, murder, and more.  In “Field Trip,” “The man under the bus was previously dead.  … The smell of rot became his speech and, towards the end, we were all talking about it … There was oil all over him and oil all over the dead man in the manner of really good excuses to start a war.”  Stories within stories unfold in these poems as the characters tell lies to themselves, to the narrator, and the reader.  It is up to the reader to uncover the truth.

From “Process of Forgetting” (pg. 19)

That’s how we knew mortality is all
about forgetting.  Even as we observed each other,
the holes were already in place: the skull is structured
around them, the senses merely tenants
who might suddenly choose to go for a swim
in something as absurd as ballet shoes and plastic gloves.

Banned for Life by Arlene Ang is filled with the beautiful moments of sitting by a dying mother in her last days to offer comfort in any way the narrator can (“To Sweat”), which are then juxtaposed with the deaths of women and men who may or may not have had the same comfort (“Pictures”).  Stunning in many ways, readers will want to read every last poem to reach “Rediscovering Paris Through Female Body Parts,” which is by turns exquisitely sensual and unsettling.

***Another contender for the best of 2015 list***

About the Poet:

Arlene Ang is the author of “The Desecration of Doves” (2005), “Secret Love Poems” (Rubicon Press, 2007), and a collaborative book with Valerie Fox, “Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon” (Texture Press, 2008). Her third full-length collection, “Seeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu” was published by Cinnamon Press in 2010. Her poems have appeared in Ambit, Caketrain, Diagram, Poetry Ireland, Poet Lore, Rattle, Salt Hill as well as the Best of the Web anthologies 2008 and 2009 (Dzanc Books). She lives in Spinea, Italy, where she serves as staff editor for The Pedestal Magazine and Press 1.






Mailbox Monday #294

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Banned for Life by Arlene Ang for review from the poet.

Arlene Ang’s third poetry collection examines the lives of those who have been forced by either circumstance or their personality problems to watch from the sidelines — unwanted birds, zombies, psychopaths, missing children, even the recently dead who have been “banned” from their own existence.



2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Pop-Up Book by Lisa Ann Marsoli and illustrated by Keith Andrew Finch

Start a new holiday family reading tradition with this delightful pop-up retelling of the beloved Christmas story. Just in time for its 50th anniversary, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is now a stunning pop-up book, a treasure for generations to come. All of the classic characters join Rudolph for his North Pole adventure: Hermey the elf/aspiring dentist, Yukon Cornelius, and the doe-eyed Clarice. The impressive large-scale pop-ups re-create classic scenes using actual movie stills. Fly along with Rudolph, join in the reindeer games, flee from the Abominable Snow Monster, visit the Island of Misfit Toys, and save Christmas one foggy night. Most importantly, be touched by the timeless story of acceptance and the true meaning of the holiday spirit.

What did you receive?

Final Part of My Interview With Arlene Ang

Welcome Arlene Ang for her final questions from Savvy Verse & Wit. If you’ve missed the first two parts of the interview, click here and here. Additionally, you may have missed my review of her chapbook Secret Love Poems. If you have, check it out here. Stay tuned for giveaway details after the interview.

Without further ado, here’s Arlene:

7. While reading your chapbook “Secret Love Poems,” I noticed that there are five “numbered” Secret Love Poems (13th, 15th, 19th, 22nd, and 24th Secret Love Poems). Were there other numbered secret love poems that did not make the chapbook? If so, why were they not included?

The original plan was to have 69 for a book. I got as far as 35 before running out of gas. When I submitted the manuscript to Rubicon Press, the contents page looked so redundant with 1st Secret Love Poem, 2nd Secret Love Poem, etc that I decided to change most of the titles. Quite a bit of secret love poems are floating out there that weren’t included in the chapbook, mostly because they weren’t in context with the rest or were still awaiting first publication in a magazine at the time. Also, towards the end, I got a bit creative with the concept and wrote quite a lot of duds.

8. The poems included in “Secret Love Poems” obviously were chosen for their central theme. Were the poems written at the same time (Much like your self-proclaimed obsessions with words or ideas) or over a period of time in spurts?

Oh god, yes. I was obsessed with it — inspired by Apollinaire‘s secret poems (check out The 9th Secret Poem) — for a couple of months. I wrote all 35 in less than 60 days, I think.

9. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

For many years, I was a member of the Internet Writing Workshop’s Poetry-W, a critique group that functions via e-mail. Because participation was a requirement, I was forced to write a poem at least once a week. Then I discovered SaucyVox — an online writers’ community, now defunct — which had this challenge to write 30 poems for 30 days together with other people. It was such a fun and inspiring experience that when the site closed down, the members just moved on. Right now, the 30:30 challenge is being hosted by Rachel Mallino at In The Writer’s Studio. As much as I hate to admit it, the cure for writer’s block is writing. Bookwise, my favorite is still John Drury’s Creating Poetry.

10. When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

No music, no tv. I get easily distracted. One routine I learned is to start writing as soon as I wake up. Once I start thinking of other things, I’m a goner. When inspired, I usually write in bed with pen and paper. When desperate, and the 30:30 clock is ticking, I type directly on the computer. I also read something like 30-50 poems a day — between books and online journals — before writing. It works as a kind of sun salutation for me.

11. What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

Valerie Fox and I might have another poetry book in the making. We’re trying to move towards real collaborative writing as opposed to writing poems based on each other’s poems. It’s rather unexpected since we just had our Bundles (of joy) last year, but we find that once we start writing in 30:30 together, we just go into collaborative writing mode. Another project would be to start updating/revising my full-length manuscript, “Seeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu” for Cinnamon Press. It’s scheduled to go into print early 2010.

I want to thank Arlene for spending time with us here at Savvy Verse & Wit, and for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my unusual questions.

***Giveaway Details:***

Originally, I had decided to pay for one or two winner to receive a copy of Secret Love Poems.

However, Arlene has generously offered to giveaway THREE copies of her chapbook, Secret Love Poems, to three lucky winners.

The giveaway is INTERNATIONAL, since she is in Italy herself, and she will be mailing out the copies. She’s such a doll, and she likes to mail things.

Deadline is FEB. 26, Midnight EST.

1. Leave a comment, ask a question, just don’t use the trite: “Please enter me” or “pick me” comments.

2. If you blog about the contest, refer someone to the contest and they drop your name, or whatever, leave me a link or comment about it and you will get another entry.

***This Just In, there are now FIVE copies of Secret Love Poems available for the giveaway, courtesy of Arlene*** Enter away!

Secret Love Poems by Arlene Ang

Arlene Ang’s Secret Love Poems is a short chapbook of 22 pages, but the poems pack a powerful punch. The incongruous images used in some of these poems come together in unusual and satisfying ways. Readers will be hooked from the first page and the first poem, “The mime under my left breast.”

“The glass slipper on his night stand/is the couplet I swore//never to write after the first act./In a copy of Scientific Monthly,//the average boy steals at least five/street signs before he loses his virginity.//” (Page 1)

The last line says it all, revealing the “secret love.” I think it also sets the stage for the rest of the chapbook. “girls who live dangerously.”

A number of poems in this volume have girls, really women, who live dangerously. A woman involved with a married man, a woman who’s lived a long life and is running out of time, and a girl home alone with a boy she hardly knows and her parents are not home, just to name a few.

Whether these poems are real situations or hidden desires, it is obvious many of these poems are about hidden desires, passions simmering beneath the skin.

From “The 13th Secret Love Poem”:

“I wonder how his leather briefcase/would move against my skin./Twenty meters apart, we are never alone.//” (Page 10)

From “The 22nd Secret Love Poem”:

“We never exchange more than/a few words: my professional advice,/the weather, her next appointment.// She leaves like snow crystals on/my lash. Briefly, the world glitters.//” (Page 19)

In “The 13th Secret Love Poem,” mundane objects like a briefcase have an electric charge, emanating from the poem. A woman in “The 22nd Secret Love Poem” becomes magical to the narrator, helping the world to shine. Ang’s poetry has a luminescence that will stay with readers for many years to come, whether she speaks of passionate love or convivial love.

I cannot praise this volume of poetry enough.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of my interview with her here on Savvy Verse & Wit. Check out the first two parts of the interview with Arlene Ang here and here.

***Don’t forget my Arlene Ang, Secret Love Poems, giveaway***

About the Poet:

Arlene Ang lives in Italy and edits for several literary zines and is a prolific poet.

Part 2 of My Interview with Poet Arlene Ang

Welcome to Part 2 of my interview with Arlene Ang.

I was reading over her answers to the second part of our interview, and it donned on me where else I had heard of Arlene, and it was Poems Niederngasse, which published a poem of mine in 2004. Check out Sacrifice if you are interested.

However, this is not about me, it’s about Arlene, so without further ado, let me welcome Arlene back to Savvy Verse & Wit

4. Have you edited for other magazines? And are the processes and atmospheres similar at those magazines to those at Pedestal?

Before coming to Pedestal Magazine, I was editor of Niederngasse Italian for some years. Presently, I’m also one of the Press 1 editors — more webmistress than editor actually since Valerie Fox and Phyllis Wat do most of the paper/legwork.

Editing for Pedestal is certainly different pace-wise. I find that I have to read submissions every day or get behind. When I was editor for Niederngasse Italian, I remember having to solicit poems for every issue because otherwise there wouldn’t have been any issue. Pedestal has a sleek, businesslike atmosphere. I love the database, sorting out the submissions like a postal worker (one of my dream jobs). When I’m on duty, it feels like a real job behind a real cubicle. No chitchat with co-workers, just 100% concentration.

With Press 1, we’re pretty lax. We discuss the poems we receive and take votes. Oftentimes we’re late, too. The only time, I think, that a Pedestal issue came out late was because the server got hacked.

5. If you were to describe your writing what 5 buzzwords would you choose? And could you elaborate on what those buzzwords mean to you and why they describe your work?

Difficult question. Like standing in front of the mirror and wondering which shoes go better with your dress.

Versatile is the first word that comes to mind. A friend said that, not me, because I like to try different genres from traditional forms to prose poems to photoetry. Photoetry is just how I coined the marriage of photography and poetry. There’s probably an official literary term for it. I did a couple ages ago: Like Turned Tables and Like Electricity.

Evolving. At least that’s how it feels. At some point I broke off from the straight narrative road and entered the Twilight Zone.

Godless. After thirteen years in a Catholic school, it’s hard not to be. It probably shows in my writing.

Experimental. Sometimes I actually imagine myself putting on a lab coat when I write and start poking into bodies and language that shouldn’t concern me.

Inventive. Maybe. I like to think of ways on how to lure in the reader.

6. Do you have any obsessions you would like to share?

Obsessions are my passion. My updated list includes (in alphabetical order) computer games, death, drink, food, mutation, Sims 3, and Tom Waits.

I also get obsessed with words or ideas. This month is eye-patch month and hermit crabs. Last year was amputation, gorilla suit, and shipwreck year. Like with songs I love, I just keep repeating the words or concepts in my writing until I get bored and move on to another subject. I’m worse than a virus.

Part 1 of My Interview with Poet Arlene Ang

I first saw Arlene Ang’s poetry in Pedestal Magazine, and then I saw that she became a guest editor of the magazine. I started reading her blog–Journal Writing and Other Ways to Talk to Myself–soon after, lurking about backstage and reading.

I also discovered she has her own Website where she posts some of her poetry, and offers links to her recent publications. Check out Agoraphobia published in The Chimera and The Itch on My Scalp Means published by Poetry Ireland. These are two of my favorites.

Suffice to say, Arlene and I have been chatting over email for some time and exchanging flowers on Facebook, having a grand old time. I figured since I was reviewing books, why not her chapbook, “Secret Love Poems,” and her new joint book with Valerie Fox “Bundles of Letters Including A, V, and Epsilon.” Arlene was kind enough to send me both books for review. Stay tuned for those reviews.

That brings me to today’s post, a partial interview with Arlene about her chapbook “Secret Love Poems” and her editorial position at Pedestal Magazine. Without further ado, I welcome Arlene to Savvy Verse & Wit.

1. I just love the cover of “Secret Love Poems.” Did you have a hand in selecting the cover and if so, what speaks to you about it or how does it fit the poems inside the volume?
When the publishers asked me if I had any cover image I’d like to use, I immediately started going through the deviantART galleries until I found Oana Cambrea‘s work. When I saw “Black Milk,” I just knew it was the right one. I love how the image itself is open to interpretation. One can see it as a woman lying in bed, a heart nestled in her hair. Or the woman is upside-down, hence head-over-heels, her hair turned into legs with her heart between them. But what I love best is how the white background could be seen as a tooth and the woman’s hair as caries-in many ways the secret love in these poems is like that, something that eats one up by its very nature of having to remain secret.
2. “Secret Love Poems” is a slim volume compared to some other releases I’ve seen. Is this considered a book or chapbook of poetry? Please describe the differences between the two and whether the publication process is different for each type.

“Secret Love Poems” is a chapbook because it’s under 50 pages. A full-length poetry book is at least 70 pages probably because any thinner than that and it would be impossible to bind it. Chapbooks are usually saddle-stapled while books are perfect-bound. It’s trickier to publish a chapbook, I think, since the pages have to be numbered differently because the pages are basically letter-size paper folded in half. With a laser printer, you can make chapbooks at home.
3. You are a poetry editor of Pedestal Magazine, how did you come to this position? What does your position as an editor entail? Are there any submission tricks you’d like to share with readers?

I guest-edited an issue for Pedestal Magazine in 2006. Early 2007, Pedestal editor-in-chief, John Amen asked me if I wanted to become a permanent member of the staff and I said yes. Prior to that, I was something of a regular contributor… though not without my share of rejections. Funnily enough, my first letter from Pedestal Magazine was a rejection.
As staff editor, I’m asked to read for two issues a year. It’s quite smart actually to keep a rotating staff of editors. For every issue, we get something like two thousand poems and to have to do that all year long on your own would certainly be quite overwhelming. When I’m off-duty, I just answer questions anyone might drop in my mailbox.
Submission tricks. Personally, I like to read a group of poems as opposed to just one poem. Because we’ve got different editors for each issue, it would be a good idea to send different genres. You never know who’s behind the purple door. What else? Don’t give up; you may be the next staff editor.

Thanks Arlene. We’re going to have a great time getting to know you and your work. Thanks for taking time out of your busy, busy schedule to answer questions for Savvy Verse & Wit. Stay tuned dear readers, there is more of Arlene to come.