A month later...
I can't get over how AWP is such a perfect treasure trove of stuff. (I don't meant that pejoratively.)
All of these works start as one idea somewhere in the brain of an artist, become lumped into one conceptual entity as varying forms of literature, and then become different, new ("found") ideas that hold extra fascination to strangers because they were discovered. It's a beautiful movement from one place to another.
This is my favorite AWP discovery. Not only am I exceedingly thrilled to now know about The Cupboard pamphlet series (Jesse Ball authored the first volume) from Lincoln, Nebraska, but this particular volume (I either totally lucked out, or they are all this fantastic, in which case the whole world lucked out) is just unbelievable. Play describes 29 children's games with titles like "Crossing the Brook," "Cat & Rat," and "It Looks Like War." Each section outlines the rather poetic rules to terrifying games with nightmarish, illogical objectives, although some games make more practical sense than others. My personal favorite is a game called "Jiggle the Knife," which is meant for two players. The description begins, "One child is the hunter & one is the knife. One child is the ocean & one child is the silver of metal stuck in the pad of the thumb." The game itself wonders why one must do anything in this world at all, outlining the passing of days and the stasis of the world, and ending with this excellent real-world advice, "A black velvet bag could contain anything, but you should never stick your hand inside it."
The Octopus Books table just happened to be next to the Cupboard table, and also had fantastic looking little books. (Is there something about being a woman that drives me to purchase everything small in size?) Each book on their table had a cover more lovely (and intriguing) than the last, leading me to go the Holy Grail route and choose the one with my least-favorite cover, in the hopes that it might contain the greatest treasure. Sadly, it did not. While Patrick Culliton's poetry is sound and interesting, it's just not quite my style. However, I will never, ever get over this stanza:
I feel a cannonball rising up in me. Root
beer belly jellied out of my singlet, hair a slick
of coils. I am buffalo sauce, I am hot wings
throwing snake dances into the nostrils of the forsaken...
I love the discovery that reading offers.
Gosh, if your eyes and hands are longing for something that is "cool" in a mysterious and indescribable way, then The Agriculture Reader is probably what you're going to want to buy right away. Edited by Jeremy Schmall and Justin Taylor, and published by X-ing Books, The Agriculture Reader is top notch from its established (volume 4 featured Mary Jo Bang and Ben Lerner) and up-and-coming contributors to its look/feel/smell (like the virgin paper of a notebook)—not to mention, volume 5 included these freaking adorable "all occasions cards" (Fuck You, Thank You, and Sorry), the whole of which is titled "You Me and the Royal We," which is so cute I could just about die.
STRANDED IN STRANGE WATERS
Oh, Idiots'Books, why are you so amazing? Creators of approximately a million books, and three children, husband and wife Matthew Swanson (author) and Robbi Behr (illustrator) are a super team of awesome. The particular book I bought is a series of short, paragraph-length stories—which are generally silly, and sometimes oddly touching—are paired with illustrations that I would describe pretty much word-for-word as I just described the stories. They also keep a fantastic website (which is a pit of cute), and have digitized a previously print-only book which features interchangeable sections of stories and illustrations, which can be rearranged into a ton of new stories (sounds confusing because I'm using my words poorly, so just go check it out here).
How do they do it all? I'm assuming they're involved in some sort of artistic dark magic. They're clearly inhuman, but know exactly what we humans want/need/desire in the realm of entertainment.
How cool looking is this, guys? This is TRNSFR's fourth issue and features tons of poetry, short stories, and art (presented in the form of tear-out postcard-sized prints), along with "hidden texts" and a freaking "flip movie." With breathtaking design and content like the short story "Bald" by Brandi Wells (about a woman with Trichotillomania), TRNSFR magazine is kind of where every (non-school affiliated) lit magazine should aim. What a treat to discover, buried among countless other treasures at AWP.