new poetry chapbook review by Juliet Cook

“riding the lace barometer”  by j/j hastain, ISMs Press

(small review from Juliet Cook)

Since I read this poetry collection online in PDF format, I can’t offer specific comments about the visual appeal of the print chapbook, but I can speak about how the words affected me.  I feel that some of how writer j/j hastain experiments with and uniquely organizes the poetic content and approach of words is visual in its own way; offers its own bodily-based, sexual, questionable, provocative, peculiar displays.  Prepare for an in-deep partaking of strange yet powerful “folds as they enshrine a gorgeous hysteria”, because that is part of what hastain’s poetic encounters will be placing upon you.

Many of the folds are bodily based, but not traditionally positioned or traditionally gender based.  There are turn ons; there are questionings; there are comfort zones and discomfort zones, causing uncertainty in the midst of intense arousal. Despite occasional discomfort and fear, the collection continues trying new and different and intense positions and unlikely positions and re-positioning and restructuring. “We are taking the musk and mush maps and shoveling them into each other’s open mouths.” We are frequently searching through a variety of fleshy fusions and new lubrications.

Overall, hastain’s subject matter and her approach offer s a wonderfully well written slew of unique words/visuals/thoughts/feelings/fusions.  Indeed, the ability to uniquely fuse and affix visual and descriptive; lust and love; bodily based changing and interchanging with in-depth connections definitely strikes me as one of hastain’s powerful strengths as a poet.  

Personally, I am not a big fan of the pages that consist of only one line, such as, “Those that are  and are not my memory”, because what is so unique about one little line like that and why is it necessary enough to appear as its own  entire page?   But then I will read one line such as, “Oh so many secreting, unearthed drawers” and find that one to be interestingly unique enough to stand on its own plus evoke further thoughts/feelings/interests/other parameters.

I will admit there were times when the overall content of this collection struck me as a bit overly lengthy and repetitive (for a slow, intense reader, such as myself). Also (and again this is just coming from one individual reader), there are some parts of the content that sound good enough to elicit visual appeal, yet the imagery doesn’t quite make sense to me; I wouldn’t be able to easily explain what the content means.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I guess it depends upon what the writer is aiming for.  Sometimes I might not understand how certain parts fit together, but sometimes we don’t quite understand exactly how or why relationships start, fit, last, or end.

“How to allow the dead ones and the living ones, a sense of ritual belonging?  Are we dead or living or? Are we on the brink of belonging differently than we ever have before?”


If interested in purchasing a copy of this chapbook, you may contact ISMs Press editor Rachel Kendall at ismspress@gmail.com

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