Books Acquired Recently: Gary Leising Edition

Leising, Gary. Fastened to a Dying Animal. Columbus: Pudding House, 2010.

—. Temple of Bones. Georgetown: Finishing Line, 2013.

I bought these two chapbooks at a poetry reading by my colleague Gary Leising last night. I had never read any of his poetry before, and was thus happy to discover that I really enjoy it. Leising’s poetry reminds me of work from the New York School in that it elevates everyday occurences to the level of the profound, and also smoothly incorporates elements of pop culture into its narratives. For example, my favorite poem from the reading, which is brand new and thus not included in Temple of Bones, is about Scarlett Johansson suing a French novelist for including a character named “Scarlett Johansson” in one of his books (which is obviously a ridiculously frivolous lawsuit. Good job being on the side of censorship, Scarlett.). The narrator of the poem then goes on to use Johansson’s name repeatedly, openly hoping that she will sue him and his work will get some free publicity. Many of Leising’s poems include this kind of well-crafted playfulness, which is refreshing rather than gimmicky. I look forward to reading more of them!

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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