THE BOOK: New City
PUBLISHED IN: 2015
THE AUTHOR: Scott Abels
THE PUBLISHER: BlazeVOX
SUMMARY: Experimental Poetry
THE BACK STORY: I am from Nebraska, but much of this book was written when I was living for a few years on the coast of Oaxaca (rural Mexico), and the rest was written when I lived in Honolulu (urban Hawai’i). So, not having been back home in quite a while, the “Nebraska Fantastic” section attempts to imagine a place the speaker has never been to, even though I’m from there. The “New City” section is a play on urban areas as imaginary spaces. What comes out of both imaginative acts is necessarily absurd.
WHY THIS TITLE?: I suppose there is a lot of otherworldly movement in this book, which I find fun. There is also something deadpan or flat about it, which I sometimes find attractive in language.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I think what poetry does best is to help us with our imagination. I think that’s what the book attempts to do–to play–as it asks the reader to just go with it, and I also think the poems just prioritize fun while asking the reader to to do a bit of work. All those things at once.
The headnote to William Rankine’s Radical Cartography website comes from Jean Baudrillard. “It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire but our own: The desert of the real itself.” Scott Abels inhabits vestiges that include Mexico, Hawai`i, and Nebraska. Their landscapes are very different, but Abels is more interested in their parallel dysfunctions. The boys who lose arms on Mexican trains join missing hands with the unemployed in the American Midwest. “We can depend upon the land. / But we cannot depend on jobs.”
He codes his family history with symptoms (e.g., Rx = prescription drugs; SRP = Strong Religious Preference). Not that everything is hopeless, as Abels remarks with a wryness worthy of strong whiskey: “Happy journey, / Everybody. / We had medical care, / and Coca-Cola / has reached us here.” This is global capital’s family tree, whose diagnosis is dire. But Abels’s prescription makes the desert of the real a carnival. It’s a “Dick Cheney Parade,” and Christopher Columbus shits bricks. Given an oil spill or other disaster, “Whoever owns it / is lord of all he wants.” —Susan M. Schultz, author of Dementia Blog, volumes 1 and 2.
Roll into Scott Abels’s gloriously fracked New City, where the vibe is fun, loving, creating, jobs, for kids, “looping our rope over / a natural crotch,” growing up, in Nebraska, looking like clip art, don’t worry pee is sterile, we’re singing for whose supper?, this city’s, got us, altogether now—if you’re a red-blooded a merry can of worms, you need to read this. — Catherine Wagner, author of Nervous Device and My New Job.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Scott Abels is also the author of Rambo Goes to Idaho (BlazeVOX, 2011), as well as the chapbook A STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH (Beard of Bees Press, 2015). He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Boise State University. After many years living and teaching in Mexico and Hawai’i, he now lives on the family homestead near Stanton, Nebraska, where he edits the online poetry journal Country Music.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I’ve been asked what’s with all the pee in the book? and I don’t have a clear answer to that. But I do think the book–in all the politics, pop culture, and tricky dynamics of place it mixes–engages in open-ended play rather than attempting to achieve some purposeful learning objective (at least that’s how I’d rather see my toddler enjoy his toys, if the larger hope is to discover new connections as well as exercise the imagination).
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: https://www.amazon.com/New-City-Scott-Abels/dp/1609642228
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: firstname.lastname@example.org