The Novel

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Selected Reviews for The Novel

“James Reiss, a Midwesternized New Yorker, frequently tells stories. He uses traditional poetic forms, as well as free verse, some rhyme, and plenty of rhythm. ‘The Cold Cuts Woman at Kroger’ evolves from an event in real time; ‘Morning Song’ remembers his father; ‘How It Must Be’ revives an apartment doorman. He describes historical events (‘robert capa photographed a spanish’), speaks out on discrimination (‘Day of Atonement’), remembers dreams (‘Twenty Eleven’) and nightmares (‘A Sick Eagle Looking at the Sky’). He’s nothing if not versatile. His characters may be ‘bit players on side streets,’ but they lead us, ‘snare drumming,’ as we follow the Pied Piper on everyday journeys.”
Splash Magazines

“Whatever happened to Poetry? I’m not talking about that ancient text by Shakespeare that has to be decoded with a Latin dictionary, but plainspoken rhythmic lyrics. We all lead pretty busy lives and often lose time to read. This book is great because it is something you can read while you are on the subway, waiting in line for lunch, or pretending to read your work emails. ;) The Novel is said to be an underground breakthrough of poetry that will get your toes tapping and your feet moving—you’ll be pleased to have picked it up.”
—Kate Taylor
Ugly Book Club,
Ugly Poets Society

The Novel presents itself as a gathering of poem-anecdotes, each anecdote with ambitions hinting at and swept in the direction of plot and character. Reiss has always been a committed story-teller (from his first book, The Breathers) and as he admits, without fanfare here: ‘I write to slow things down.’

The conceit of lowered velocity, of slow going, works well here, but in accordance with the other meaning of ‘novel’ as ‘new’— newly imagined. As D.H. Lawrence observed, ‘Poetry is an act of attention’—and these poems claim our attention the way a veteran runner claims our slightly nervous and concerned regard, as here in carefully-paced rhyme:

I write a line and try to catch my breath
when words lead me to Marathon or    Thrace
I write to slow things down and put off    Death.

To that end, the poems of The Novel are immensely satisfying and accomplished. Here is Reiss at his finest:

When the shard of a 7-Up bottle
sandblasted by breakers
acquired a matte finish
which mimicked the ocean’s floor....

to become over years a lens
through which sea-green
fish could be glimpsed.

Reiss has acquired, over years, a gleaming lens—one of highly-perfected observation and carefully-adjusted speed. We recall Issa: ‘Climb Mt. Fuji: but slowly, slowly.’”

—Carol Muske-Dukes
The Huffington Post

The Novel

After Gatsby and Catcher
and Gaddis it didn’t look back.
It honed its approach for cell-phone mini-books,

then buffed up, tried on smirks,
and tramped past a bust of Jonathan Franzen.
If this was its coming-out party, it mainly peered inward.

It wanted to jostle a reader’s heart
into snare drumming for bit
players on side streets.

Fidgety, bored, it donned cowboy hats
till it grew antennae and crawled
upstairs into your bed.