Assuming Size

Dan Tarnowski

I received a copy of ‘Assuming Size’ in the mail, which is exciting, because it’s a cool little book. This chapbook features four poets from Ohio, two of which, Jordan Castro and Richard Wehrenberg Jr., are the authors of ‘thinktank for human beings in general.’ The other two poets on board are James Payne and Ryan J.

First, a little about the physical book. I believe it’s format is considered a “quarter-sized zine.” It’s the size you get when you fold an 8.5” x 11” paper into fourths. It’s a nice size, fitting in a back pocket or a jacket pocket.

The cover is done on cream-colored stock heavier than the pages, and the binding is stitched with thread. The graphic design is spare and rustic. Maryn Jones did the cover, an illustration of an iceberg composed of people, the iceberg having more mass above water than below. Overall, it’s a really nice product that makes me want to do some D.I.Y. bookmaking, and some reading of this particular book.

James Payne, one of the poets, emailed me some info about the book and about their crew’s background. Three-quarters of the poets live at, or once lived at, the Monster House in Columbus, Ohio, a punk house rented by 8 people that fosters live music and an array of creative projects, including plays, art shows, movies and book tours. The Monster House tenants also rent a huge garage used as print shop, where Richard Wehrenberg stitched the bindings and screen printed the covers for ‘Assuming Size.’

Going inside the book, Jordan Castro offers two poems. I’d describe them as examinations of consciousness. Using a lexicon of philosophical terms, Jordan pledges to live life moment by moment, to only ingest certain foods, and to help people that are born into shitty conditions. With a stream-of-consciousness delivery, he maps out his values, boiling them down to an underlying principle:

“the secret is that you are enough.”

There is a serenity in his language that makes the poems feel meditative, and a common sense that makes him convincing.

James Payne also explores metaphysical and anti-materialist concepts. The fractured images of ‘how i smelled on i-90’ relate a road trip that became more confused as it grew more expansive:

“I smelled like the exculpations of
the weight of the world
the palimpsest
of justification
and whateverness
the layers of innit
and forgetfulness
at turns me and me
and me and neverness”

In ‘Arthur danto,’ the poet meets a jaded New York girl who is personally acquainted with two of his literary heroes, but is only vaguely aware that they’re famous:

“AND “TOM” PYNCHON IS A “FAMILY FRIEND,” AND, REALLY, GOD,
HE’S JUST SUCH A BORE.”

There’s an implicit disgust for consumerism in ‘One-of-everything,’ in which the poet wishes he could afford a whole store’s worth of expensive clothing.

“it would be nice,
for once,
and only once,
to go to J.Crew
and get
one-of-everything.”

Next up, Ryan J. uses colorful language that is sometimes forceful, sometimes funny. One poem describes a fantasy about gunning down some ignorant frat boys, another takes an unsympathetic look at himself as a perverted 12-year-old, lamenting how affectations that began during puberty can continue into adulthood:

“i’m building a time machine
to beat the boner outta you 12-
you little perve- you’ll be easy
to find in the bra section of k-mart
or fingering through the pages of maxim
in barnes and nobel.”

Richard Wehrenberg Jr. closes out with the closest thing to a love poem in the book, followed by a heartfelt poem seemingly about an absent father. Both poems display his lyrical touch and his sensibility for the profound. Their flashbacks and flash-forwards lend a dreamlike or spiritual tone, as in ‘If you’ll have me (versions):’

“This is my seventy year old mind
creaky, the slammed door of time,
well, slamming

(A lonely path, in the veins of the lungs
we meet back somewhere one day, in a breath,
in this moment, irrevocably emptied, unfinalizable again:
where did you go, ah, —> there.)”

‘Assuming Size’ is a nicely realized collection by four young poets, and an inspiring example of do-it-yourself publishing. I think readers old and young will see the value in this, and I’m looking forward to more projects from Monster House Press and from these burgeoning poets.

Get one for $2.00 by contacting monsterhousepress@gmail.com

Links:
Ryan J.
James Payne
Jordan Castro
Richard Wehrenberg Jr.

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