Review: I*HATE*YOU*JAMES*FRANCO & Havoc – Two Reasons to Read Kristy Bowen (and the first one’s free!)



PDF: 20 pages
Publisher: Sundress Publications
Available for free: Sundress

I don’t hate James Franco—I’ve never met the guy nor has he done anything publicly which has actually wanted hate—but apparently my friends have heard me gripe about his forays into the world of poetry enough times that it has become a bit of a joke. In fact, I have several friends who report back to me about Franco, assuring that I don’t miss any of his poetry news: interviews, book releases, questionable publications… well, it’s a long list, because as everyone knows, Franco is nothing if not prolific.

A few months ago, the joke finally paid off. “Have you read this book by Kristy Bowen?” my friend asked, the link she included to I Hate You James Franco starting my literary love affair with Bowen.

While most of us in the poetry community spend our time griping about Franco in a completely non-constructive and somewhat jealous manner (“Ugh, did you read this interview he did with-so-and-so?” “OMG did you hear who published him now?” “I used to really respect this publisher.”) Bowen’s chapbook is much more than a simple gripefest:

Poetry is dead, James Franco, and I’m convinced you killed
it. One summer, you were everywhere, your face plastered
on every lit blog, every entertainment magazine, and I
had this dream that we were fighting zombies, only you
kept loading too many weapons into your backpack and
soon it was too heavy to carry. I also dreamed a lot about
burying bodies that summer, piling them in swimming
pools and hiding them behind the drapes. You could say
I’d grown tired of you. I’d also read an article that
zombies could be real given the right circumstances, a
certain parasite that leads mice into the paths of hungry
cats. One tiny mutation and it’s all over.

Doling out equal parts disgust, humor, and self-reflection over the Franco-machine in sixteen prosepoems, I Hate You James Franco is, given her subject, surprisingly deep:

Mostly what bothers me is your listlessness. It makes
me feel like a dull pencil or a broken wheel. I keep meeting
men like you who have problems sleeping and they all
require careful handling like horses that might spook.
They tend to be frantic, checking their smartphones
impatiently and looking at the door. Maybe I bore them,
James Franco. Maybe I bore you. Me, I can sleep for
days if given the chance, long endless white sheets of it.

And free—did I mention free?

Thank you, James Franco. All’s well that ends well.




Paperback: 26 pages
Publisher: Dancing Girl Press
Available for purchase: $7 DGP (limited edition)

A slower read, Havoc is more menacing and varied in its verse and subject matter than I Hate You James Franco. Havoc is full of ripe metaphors, crafted by a very self-assured and self-aware poet who is obviously well developed in her craft. Bowen sets her tone point blank immediately by “pining for the impending disaster” and then fluidly moves through Hacov with a humid, nearly always sexual, neo-Gothic vibe, which Bowen herself astutely nods to in “midwest gothic”:
I can’t keep dead girls out of these poems.
They knock on my door at 3am with a hangover,
looking for a match.

and further matures in “reality show”:

No one could tell me all the openings
weren’t a sign, an invitation,
because I wore it out, wore
a red dress for three days.
Wore my nails to the quick.

A chapbook of torrid disappointments, near and certain disengagements, and dark undertones, Havoc is for anyone whose “anxiety has a house and a fence and a deer in the yard,” believes that “the moon makes a nice disaster” or, for months, couldn’t write and found it to be “the loveliest vertigo.”

kristy bowen Kristy Bowen‘s work has appeared in fine publications, such as Diagram, Requited, Yew Journal, Stone Island, and Delirious Hem. The author of several chapbooks, she also has five full-lengthbooks, including major characters in minor films (Sundress Publications, forthcoming) and Girl Show (Black Lawrence Press). Bowen lives in Chicago where she runs Wicked Alice Poetry Journal and Dancing Girl Press.


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