Winner of the 2017 Diode Book Prize
the empty season can be found through Diode Editions, Amazon, or at your local bookstore (one of my favorites is Open Books!)
Catherine Bresner’s first collection the empty season is a formally audacious, dexterous, & heart/filled book of bravery & strange. Head-butting the strictures that surround a traditional poem she collapses the collage, the erasure, the illustration, musical notation, the hyperlink, & the high lyric. One piece opens “Write, they say, like a band-aid / when writing feels like the wound.” & these poems perform both functions, the wound & the suture. This is a beautiful book.
Beautiful and imagistic, the empty season feels as if it is being written in real time, with its contemporary ear and relevant sorrows. Indeed, this is a book of the times. The strong voice in these poems and poetry comics is innovative, fresh, sincere, and maybe most importantly, has an intelligent curiosity. “Today the chore of being alive” is what I feel when I look at these poems: gorgeous collage, illustration, language—that is the music that keeps me going as a reader. It is delicious to read and see this book in the world.
Catherine Bresner brings a freshly savvy vision to the conditions of modern life—to our broken intimacies with others, to our alienation from our own best selves, and to our impaired commitments to civic wholeness. Dark in its whimsy and subversive in its truth-telling, the empty season is full of a kind of Baudelairean spleen, bitter and exuberant at the same time. As one of Bresner’s speakers declares: “How knowledge can be a euphemism / for wreckage, as in I will wreck you.” That’s a fair—and most welcome—warning from a vivid new ironist in our poetry.
Photo credit: Colleen Louise Barry
Mount Analogue, 2017
“Bresner is the raging id of the South Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1923, unleashed on the page. She has glued photographs of topless women riding horses and drawn giant phalluses over passages. She transforms the charm-school manners lectures into declarations of freedom: “Outsiders judge you / more than they / help.” She frees the individual from the crushing expectations of others: “with a stranger / you / may secretly feel / ashamed / Never allow any feeling of awkwardness to keep you from doing what you know to be correct.”
ERoS is a book that is exorcising itself. A reader can’t help but imagine the faculty of the high school tut-tutting their way through this Sharpied text, with Bresner’s illustrations of gushing vaginas and charges to “allow your curiosity to lead you” and “give / oral,” above a cartoon of two women in a science-fiction sex rig fellating a man as their own erogenous zones are plugged with what one assumes to be suction devices. It’s a bawdy, sexy explosion of hormones and enthusiasm and empowerment.”
— PAUL CONSTANT, THE SEATTLE REVIEW OF BOOKS
View the erasure series at Mount Analogue here.