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Poems for Travelers: Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs

by David Miller Mar 20, 2009
Sometimes the most vital piece of gear is a book of poems that makes you feel less alone. Matador Senior Ed. David Miller’s pick? Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs.

Four weeks ago I was doing a Google search for “literary writing + web 2.0.” I found the name Tao Lin. I started reading his stuff. I started reading his friends’ stuff.

They all seemed to write like each other but different from everyone else. It reminded me of a crew of skaters all going off on variations of the same style.

I got the feeling they tried to make everything they wrote sound like it was just scribbled down super fast when actually they spent hours editing.

Tao started a publishing company called Muumuuu House in October 2008. Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs, by Ellen Kennedy, is the first title they’ve published (3/09). There was a stain on the press release Tao sent with the book, and a handwritten note pointing to the stain that said “beer”.

The night I started it I’d been up since 5:20 am writing and editing then worked a full day laying bamboo floors. When I got to one poem I started reading:

I am going to make boxes and put things in them and then
write your name and addresses on the boxes, then bring them
to the post office to be mailed to you


and I thought I could feel the entire universe slowly expanding in the white space between those last two lines.

A lot of people will be repelled by this book. Or not repelled: they simply won’t ‘get’ it. It’s not safe and comfortable. (I’m thinking of something Miles Davis said in an interview: “I can’t be around comfortable people.”)

There are lines about ordering a pizza with no cheese and feeling alienated. Stories about Norm MacDonald wondering if he should commit suicide. Poems about nipples the size of cds. Scenes of kids in the car with their parents on the way to Walmart. A world constructed out of people with various levels of alienation sitting around refreshing their Gmail inboxes.

As with everything that means anything, its what’s between the lines that matters. I could try and dissect it here. I could come up with names and comparisons like Raymond Carver or Amy Hempel. But all of that feels like turning something off.

What matters is the the ‘overall effect’. Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs makes you want to give Ellen Kennedy a hug.

To give somebody a hug. Your girlfriend or wife or dog. To eat better. To write better. To have sex. To have sex in some public place like the characters in her poems, and realize if anyone is watching “it will just make their lives more interesting and maybe help them reevaluate what really hurts people.”

Visit Muumuu to order this book , or hit up the amazon link above.

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