The literary salon was this weekend and I wanted to thank you and let you know that “Elegy” was a huge success. It sparked a huge discussion, first about what it is that you meant (including an argument) and also about homosexuality, which is something of a taboo topic even at the university level. The discussion surrounding “Elegy” was the longest of any poem that was read that evening. As I said, your poetry is not the kind of stuff they usually have access to so I think it was really appreciated (except for one student who was uncomfortable, probably for the same reason the others were excited). Thank you for taking the time to send me it.
All is very well in China. Hope all’s well in Philly, as well.
We are excited to return and even more excited about Jason Zuzga’s chapbook. Jason is a poet in Philadelphia whose works have appeared in literally a billion places. He is also the nonfiction/other editor for Fence.
FROM THE NATURAL HISTORY OF MAMMALS BY FRANCOIS BOURLIERE 1954
BOOK DESIGN BY HARRY FORD.
LOCOMOTION IS IN A WAY THE FUNDAMENTAL ACTIVITY OF ANY ANIMAL.
IN MOST CASES THESE SPEEDS HAVE BEEN DETERMINED BY USING AN AUTOMOBILE, KEEPING THE CAR ABREAST OF THE ANIMAL RUNNING ON A COURSE PARALLEL WITH THE ROAD.
THE HAMSTER INFLATES ITS CHEEK POUCHES WITH AIR BEFORE TAKING TO THE WATER. THE EUROPEAN MOLE CAN SWIN WITHOUT APPARENT FATIGUE FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED YARDS, AND THE AMERICAN STAR-NOSED MOLE CAN DO LIKEWISE. THE LATTER HAS EVEN BEEN SEEN SWIMMING BENEATH THE ICE IN WINTER IN SMALL PONDS AND “SCULLING” WITH ITS TAIL
ELECRTROCARDIOGRAMS OF ANIMALS DIVING IN SEMILIBERTY – IN THE GREY SEAL THE HEARTBEAT FALLS FROM 100 TO 10 BEATS PER MINUTE.
THE MOST CLASSIC EXAMPLES OF GLIDING ARE TO BE FOUND AMONG THE SQUIRRELS.
MUSHROOMS AND LICHENS ARE NOT NEGLECTED AS FOOD BY THE MAMMALS.
IN THE STOMACH OF A YOUNG FEMALE OF THE RELATIVELY SMALL THREE-TOED ANTEATER, ENDERS FOUND MORE THAT A POUND OF ANTS.
IT MUST BE NOTED, HOWEVER, THAT ONLY A PART OF THE INGESTED MATERIAL IS DETECTED BY THIS EXAMINATION OF THE DROPPINGS; SOME FOODS LEAVE NO TRACE OF THEIR PASSAGE THROUGH THE ALIMENTARY TRACT.
THE ASTRONOMICAL QUANTITIES OF SHRIMP WHICH MUST BE INGESTED DAILY TO FILL THE NEEDS TO THESE MARINE MONSTERS MAY WELL BE IMAGINED!
THE FALKLAND SEA LION ALSO CONSUMES CUTTLEFISH WHOSE “INK” COLORS THE CONTENTS OF ITS DIGESTIVE TRACT A BEAUTIFUL YELLOW.
THE GOLDEN POTTO MERELY SLEEPS SUSPENDED BY ITS FOUR LIMBS FROM A HORIZONTAL BRANCH; ANOTHER SPECIES OF POTTO (FIG 8) SLEEPS ROLLED IN A BALL, WITH ITS HEAD BETWEEN ITS HIND FEET.
THE LITTLE OPPOSUM OF CENTRAL AMERICAM THE ISTHMIAN MARMOSA, BEARS ITS YOUND IN ROLLER-UP AND HALF-DRIED LEAVES OF THE BANANA TREE.
THE INDO-MALAYAN TYLONYCTERIS PACHYPUS, WHOSE PAWS BEAR REMARKABLE SUCKERS, SLEEPS INSIDE BAMBOO STEMS.
THE ROEBUCK IN HEAT TIRELESSLY PURSUES HIS DOE BY DAY AND NIGHT, EMITTING A CHARACTERISTIC PANTING SOUND (FIG 61). THIS MAY CONTINUE FOR A LONG TIME, AND THE COURSE FOLLOWED, WHILE OFTEN SINUOUS, MAY BE CIRCULAR.
THE FEMALE PANAMA HOWLING MONKJEY WHEN IN HEAT MAKES HERSELF CONSPICUOUS BY HER PROVOCATIVE POSTURING AND, ABOVE ALL, BY RHYTHMICAL MOVEMENTS OF HER TONGUE, WHICH IS PROTRUDED AND MOVED RAPIDLY IN AND OUT AND UP AND DOWN. THE MALE REPLIES WITH THE SAME LINGUAL MOVEMENTS.
THE STAG IN RUT GENTLY RUBS THE TIPS OF HIS ANTLERS TO AND FRO THROUGH THE HERBAGE AND THIS STIMULATION PROMPTLY INDUCED ERECTION AND EJACULATION (DARLING).
SUCH ARE APPARENTLY AIMLESS RUNNING AND JUMPING, EVEN THAT ODD “EXERCISE DANCE” OF THE NORTH AMERICAN PORCUPINE.
YOUNG CHIMPANZEES HAVE A CURIOUS PROPENSITY FOR DECORATING THEMSELVES WITH LEAFY BRANCHES, FLOWERS, AND PIECES OF CLOTH OR PAPER. YERKES TELLS US ALSO THAT THEY MAY SMEAR FLAT SURFACES WITH THEIR EXCRETA, AND KOHLER HAS SEEN THEM WET WHITE CLAY WITH SALIVA AND USE IT IN THE SAME WAY. MENG, THE YOUNG GORILLA A YEAR AND A HALF OLD OBSERVED BY JULIAN HUXLEY AT THE LONDON ZOO, ON THREE OCCASIONS TRACED THE OUTLINE OF HIS SHADOW WITH HIS FOREFINGER UPON THE WALL OF HIS CAGE.
YOUNG OTTERS DO NOT ENTER THE WATER OF THEIR OWN ACCORD BUT ARE DRAGGED IN BY THEIR MOTHER.
IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING THAT SUCH BEHAVIOR SHOULD BE RECORDED IN MOVING PICTURES WHENEVER POSSIBLE, THE CAMERA LENS BEING MORE IMPARTIAL THAN THE EYE OF THE OVERENTHUSIASTIC OBSERVER.
SO IT IS WITH THE LITTLE EASTERN CHIPMUNK OF NORTH AMERICA, A SPECIES IN WHICH THE MALE AND FEMALE BECOME ANTAGONISTIC NO MORE THAN A FEW MINUTES AFTER MATING.
WHEN A CALIFORNIA GROUND SQUIRREL PERCEIVES A BIRD OF PREY FLYING IN THE VICINITY IN UTTERS A SINGLE SHORT SYLLABLE OF UNUSUAL LOUDNESS AND CARRYING QUALITY, A “CHEESK” AND SEEKS COVER. IF THE ENEMY IS A SNAKE, THE GROUND SQUIRREL EDGES UP TO IT, OFTEN COMING WITHIN A FOOT OR TWO, EXAMINES IT, FLICKS ITS TAIL VIOLENTLY FROM SIDE TO SIDE, AND GIVES A PECULIAR CHIRP, “CHEET’-IK-IRR-IRR-IRR,” DISTINCTIVE IN ITS LOW, VIBRATING QUALITY. IF MAN, DOG, OR COYOTE CONSTITUTES THE DANGER, THE SIGNAL GENERALLY BECOMES TRISYLLABIC, “CHWEE-CHU-CHUK.” A STILL DIFFERENT SOUND IS PRODUCED WHEN THE DANGER IS LESS IMMEDIATE—A “CHEESK-ISK-ISK-ISK-ISK,” WITH THE FINAL SYLLABLES BLENDING IN RAPID SUCCESSION. IN THE CASE OF A MOTHER WITH YOUNG, THE FEMALE’S AGITATION IN THE PRESENCE OF DANGER THAT IS NOT IMMEDIATELY THREATENING IS EXPRESSED BY THE PROLONGED REPETITION, AT INTERVALS OF TWO OR THREE SECONDS, OF A LOW, MELODIOUS NOTE, “CHWËRT,” THAT IS MORE IN THE NATURE OF AN ANXIETY SYMPTOM THAN OF A SIGNAL OF ALARM. FINALLY, OTHER SOUNDS, DIFFERENT FROM THE BASIC CHIRP, ARE PRODUCED BY THIS SPECIES: A LOW GROWL THAT SEEMS TO EXPRESS DEFIANCE, A SHARP SQUEAL THAT SEEMS TO BE A CRY OF PAIN AND FEAR, AND A HIGH-PITCHED SQUEAL ENDING IN A TRILL, GIVEN WHEN ONE SQUIRREL IS PURSUED BY OTHERS.
CARPENTER’S RESEARCHES ON THE BEHAVIOR IN NATURE OF SEVERAL SPECIES OF MONKEYS AFFORD OTHER EXAMPLES OF AUDITOR SIGNALS. THE PANAMA HOWLING MONKEYS HAVE A VOCABULARY OF AT LEAST 15 TO 20 DIFFERENT VOCALIZATIONS, ALL OF WHICH APPEAR TO PLAY A VERY DEFINITE PART IN THE BEHAVIOR OF THE SPECIES. THE FUNCTIONS OF NINE OF THEM SEEM RATHER CLEAR. THE FIRST IS A VOLUMINOUS BARKING ROAR, LOW-PITCHED AND SONOROUS, UTTERED BY THE MALES OF THE CLAN IN THE PRESENCE OF AN ENEMY, OF A RIVAL CLAN TRESPASSING UPON THE TERRITORY, OR OF ANY OTHER DISTURBANCE. IT HAS AN INHIBITING EFFECT ON ALL ACTIVITIES, SUCH AS FEEDING, LOCOMOTION, PLAYING, AND SO ON, AND THE MEMBERS OF THE GROUP PREPARE FOR ATTACK OR DEFENSE. THE SECOND SIGNAL IS A DEEP, HOARSE CLUCK, WHICH MAY BE GIVEN IN SERIES OR SINGLE BY THE LEADING MALE BEFORE AND DURING THE TROOP’S MOVEMENTS; IT INITIATES PROGRESSIONS AND CONTROLS ITS DIRECTION. THE THIRD IS A DEEP, GURGLING SOUND GIVEN IN A SERIES BY THE ADULT MALES IN THE PRESENCE OF SOME DISTURBING FACTOR; IT USUALLY PRECEDES THE LOUD ROARS BUT SEEMS TO AFFECT ONLY THE MALES AND NOT THE FEMALES OR YOUNG. THE FOURTH VOCALIZATION IS A WAIL MADE ON INSPIRATION OF AIR, FOLLOWED BY A GROAN, SOUNDED BY A FEMALE WHOSE YOUNG ONE HAS FALLEN; IT IS REPEATED UNTIL THE BABY IS RECOVERED, AND IT STIMULATES THE MALES TO UTTER THEIR LOUD ROAR. IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES THE FALLEN BABY GIVES A SERIES OF THREE NOTES OR LITTLE CRIES THAT DIRECT THE MOTHER AND THE MALES TOWARD IT. ANOTHER SOUND IS A PURR OF SEVERAL SECONDS’ DURATION, WHICH A YOUNG INDIVIDUAL UTTERS IN ORDER TO OBTAIN CODDLING FROM ITS MOTHER. FINALLY, THE YOUNG AT PLAY FIVE LITTLE CHIRPING SQUEALS. THE MALES OF THE CLAN PRODUCE TWO OTHER EASILY RECOGNIZABLE SOUNDS: A GRUNTING SOUND PRODUCED WHEN THE YOUNG PLAY AT FIGHTING AND ONE OF THEM UTTERS A CRY, THE EFFECT OF WHICH IS TO STOP THE FIGHT; AND A RAPIDLY REPEATED GRUNTING THAT IS HEARD WHEN THE GROUP SITUATION INVOLVES SOMETHING NEW AND STRANGE.
THE LEADER OF THE GROUP IS NOT NECESSARILY THE INDIVIDUAL HIGHEST IN THE SOCIAL SCALE.
MAMMALS ARE NOT MERE AUTOMATA FUNCTIONING APART FROM THEIR SURROUNDINGS.
THE REASONS FOR THE BROWN RAT’S SUCCESS ARE NO DOUBT VARIOUS.
VICUNAS ALSO BUILD UP HEAPS OF DUNG ON THEIR HOME RANGE WHICH MAY REACH EIGHT FEET IN DIAMETER AND A FOOT IN THICKNESS. PEARSON OFTEN WATCHED A HERD OF THESE ANIMALS, YOUNG AND OLD, APPROACH SUCH PILES OF EXCREMENT AND SAW INDIVIDUALS GO ONE BY ONE TO SNIFF AT THE MATERIAL, ADD THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS, AND THEN MOVE ON.
I successfully defended my dissertation, “Uncanny World: Envisioning Nature in Documentary” on June 28th, 2016. Many thanks to my supervisor, Charles Bernstein, and my committee members, Karen Redrobe and Timothy Corrigan.
If you’d like to read the presentation I gave on the 28th about the dissertation, click on the link above to download a relatively brief illustrated PDF version.
Happy to have HEAT WAKE as the featured book for this month at the website of the Evanston IL Public Library! https://evanstonpubliclibrary.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/poetry-365-jason-zuzga/#more-22265
“This month for Poetry 365 we’re highlighting the impressive debut collection from poet Jason Zuzga. In Heat Wake, the FENCE editor meditates on desire, the complexities of time, and the natural world while traveling through the silent Arizona desert into the suburban New Jersey of his youth. Poet Kevin Killian raves, “For the anatomical sensations he observes, the tenderness of his sentences, his insatiate curiosity, and his experience of surrealism, we might consider Jason Zuzga the Oliver Sacks of poetry.” So check out Heat Wake, sample a poem below, and make sure to stop back next month for Poetry 365.”
I store my easterlies in a black box.
I close it to hear sounds at arroyo’s edge,
dry as skull, dry as silver.
Listen, stray letters
pinch air. t t bz k
The sky veins with electricity.
Perspiration breaks down,
the ground blond and blind, hot deer
hoof the riprap and find you there,
eating soy-milked cereals or popsicles.
You think you can live here.
Sun blinds you.
The readymade earth is fat
because it is spinning. The dark interior bodiness
apples open with a stumble down onto these
broken stones. Erosion a process that
doesn’t happen here.
Some forms of silence flourish in the purpose gap.
In a house on the rock live two people.
They die and dry odorless.
In a pocket in the rock
lives a desiccated festival
of toads and beetles waiting for a dull rain.
Moths move among the tall cactuses.
The desert likes the moths because they are silent and dry
and about to die–adult trash in the air.
The desert wears its cactuses like a whale wears lice.
Whales breach to bang itches out of their crevices.
The sounds flick off. Please.
The desert would like to be alone.
Frank reviews HEAT WAKE on his blog:
Saturnalia Books, 2016
Full Disclosure: Jason Zuzga is a friend of mine, but I have no connection to Saturnalia books.
It is such a pleasure to finally see a Jason Zuzga book in print. To say this book has been long-awaited by many, many poets is an under, understatement. I was in grad school with Jason in Tucson, 2001. I loved his work back then; everyone did. I don’t know why this collection took so long to bring into the world. Maybe Jason wasn’t submitting enough. Maybe presses couldn’t see what a wild, original, talented mind this guy has. Or maybe the book just took this long to come to its final form. I’m hardly one to talk about publishing slowly.
Anyway, it’s here now and it’s really good.
Heat Wake is everything I am excited about in poetry now. The poems feel odd as the spores on a fern plant at one moment and polished as a limousine the next. You just have no idea where he might go next in such a delightful way. And it always works because the poems are extensions of life and personality more than exercises in craft (though they are also very skillful). I guess what I’m trying to say is that they’re not trying to be something. They are that thing. That is Zuzga’s mind. There are fun, wild associative leaping and tender personal moments, history and science; and everything odd seems personal and everything personal odd. And there is a closeness and humanity to it all underneath. Quoting lines don’t do his work justice, so I’m just going to quote a whole poem here.
Your Age on Other Worlds
Greased surfers on the right,
oil pumping up the left – you drive down the crease
of California as the convexities of boys become
heightened on the waves.
I will guess your age on other worlds.
Stretched into sixteen on all of them. Mine.
When Neptune hurls back around to where it is now
these boys will be decaying
not tucked into their skins not tucked into their wetsuits
not sixteen not alive not riding the waves off California
rubbing itself the way a back shifts.
One night one boy is hurling through time to
the instant he will pass you in the supermarket.
His liverspotted hand a vortex shoves you through
gliding up the crest of time to California.
The pumpers suck sweet sip of time’s decay.
The car drives past you down the crease burning rubber.
The oncoming night glides open and closes and pulses.
Observers lightyears away longingly watch wave
lift you. Look back now to where we were before
this got started – star collapsing,
insane and greedy in the dark.
I mean who does this! Who connects time travel and the sleek bodies of surfers and drive down the coast in such a strange and beautiful way? This collection gets me really pumped about poetry again. Seriously, I would trade this one poem for a dozen other full collections I have read in the past year.
I could go on and on about all the poems in this collection, but this collection makes you want to write your own poems because it just humms with an infectious vitality. So, just use your internets and order it now. You must have it in your life and on your shelf.
• Neural networks functioning like a poem
• The potential for poems inside the body
• Connections between poetry and science
• Buying his own book on Amazon when it came out so he could experience opening it up
• Thinking of a stanza break as a commercial break
• Similarities between film editing and writing poetry
• The time he sang “Camp Town Races” to a bear
I’m thrilled to have had this chance to talk with Prof. Al Filreis and Carlos Price-Sanchez about the poem “Connected”….
Very happy to read this in-depth review by Christopher Nelson Bowcutt:http://www.greenlindenpress.com/#/jason-zuzga/
“…Zuzga shows us that behind the hallucinatory hides truths we don’t know yet. (Remember, the Fool is the smartest person in the room.) In “Lullaby” he writes, “Watcher, companion / as the final solar storms begin. / There is a house inside your medulla oblongata. / There, retract now and reduce.” Comical and sometimes metaphysical, Zuzga deftly employs conceits to illustrate difficult truths. My new favorite simile is in “Brother Poem,” where ambulance men carry the speaker’s ill father across the front yard in a wheelchair “like C3PO mistaken / for an Ewok god.” The loss of the father, the complexities of time and love—traditional lyric concerns woven together with iconic images from pop culture create a world deeply felt and wonderfully habitable.”