Night Palace, ed. by Micah Ballard and Julien Poirier

Screen shot 2014-06-05 at 6.00.02 PMNight Palace is a collection of poems by writers John Weiners, Darin Klein, Robert Creeley, Gerard de Nerval (trans. Robert Duncan), Cedar Sigo, Tom Clark, Pierre Reverdy (trans. Kenneth Rexroth) and others. The chapbook’s aura resonates best with lines from “Black Ghost,” by Will Yackulic, Micah Ballard, and Cedar Sigo:

The shipwreck echoes back
figures against the glass
to do the work, the keys
the riot, the ones (26)

There are communal ghosts among the poems, haunting, existing as phantoms talking code through crows, barkeeps, dragons, moonlight, Count Dracula, Jimmy Hoffa and blood. They, like Count Dracula, welcome one into their universe only to be consumed by the vivid images and crisp distortion of social reality through the fantastical.

One excellent poem is “Night Palace,” the last piece in the text, written by Joanne Kyger and dedicated to the editor Micah Ballard. The poem’s caesura cuts back on specific spacing where the line, “is that its over’” ends out towards the right margin, but the next lines lead back to “from the dream” on the left margin. “Then you grow up” stands alone as the break between the first and second half of the poem. The content of “and get to be post-human/ in a past that keeps happening / ahead of you” mimics the literal structure of the language earlier in the text. Kyger’s poem could be a rumination on innocence and experience as much as an acceptance of death and the possibility of afterlife.

Another strong poem of the collection is “15th Raga/For Bela Lugosi” by David Meltzer. The poem is both an ode to Dracula as a literary as well as cinematic figure, and the man who first starred in Universal’s 1931 film. A line at the end of the first stanza describes eyes as “pure / white marble” manifest as a description for heroin noted by the use of “junkie” in the second stanza. Lugosi himself became addicted to morphine and methadone, linking the second half of the piece to both actor and the character. A smile, the bite into the neck, and “good taste” as a homophone for Lugosi’s suave talent and blood forms a gothic scene into tragicomic memoir. The lines, “The way / you drifted into Victorian bedrooms / holding up your capes like skirts,” not only carries a grace to its adjectives, but also references Mina Harker and the Golden Age of Hollywood when Dracula was first made. “Capes like skirts” carries the sexual nature of the original epistolary novel with Mina Harker, as well as the great films of the 30s such as The Wizard of Oz, and Gone with the Wind.

The editors have selected a fascinating collection for one to enjoy, hopefully on a dimly lit train ride or watching pouring rain from a coffee shop. Any way one enjoys Night Palace, they will be entranced by a sublime community from current poets to French Romantics.

Night Palace is available for free at Ugly Duckling Presse

Matt Pincus was born and raised in San Diego, CA. He received a B.A. from Pitzer College in English and World Literature, and is currently an M.F.A. candidate at Naropa University’s Writing and Poetics program. He is also a review contributor for Pank, RainTaxi and Bookslut.

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