Tuesday, November 05, 2019

"The result is spectacular." Anne-Adele Wight reviews Take Out Delivery in Boog City #132

Boog City #132

“Like a waterwheel ablaze, everything is of the hunt, voracious.” The poems in Take Out Delivery burst at the seams with food, with the devouring of food, with the insatiable consumption of pop culture. Paul Siegell dishes out pizza, fortune cookies, Campbell’s soup, pasta, eggplant, tapioca, cassava, and Philly soft pretzels––all in the first eight pages. Even the title turns our minds toward dinner: what to get? where? how? The poem titles, each beginning, “We’ve Come for Your...,” remind us that we don’t live at the top of the food chain.

This book is a hybrid, a cross-genre work with its home in the 21st century. Groups of poems alternate with clusters of cartoons featuring the hot pepper people. Ingeniously assembled by an off-label use of punctuation marks, these beings have the genetic characteristics of Siegell’s earlier punctuation cartoons, but here they strut with special flamboyance. While “tightening up their grooviest of shoelaces,” one queries, “chaos cicada?”; the other replies, “impulse octopus!”

Always generous, Siegell agreed to let me interview him. When asked, “Who is the ‘we’ of the poem titles?”, he replied, “The hot pepper people.” They turn out to have names: Hemingway, Gorbachev, Tug McGraw, Rachmaninoff, Catherine the Great, Leonardo diCaprio, Cleopatra, and many more. Throughout the poems we find the names of famous people, public figures who traded privacy for immortality and whose names have contributed to defining pop, and not-so-pop, culture. Siegell says, “I spent my childhood watching MTV,” a medium in which everything has its defining name and its distinctive brand.

Wordplay drives the activities of the hot pepper people. Siegell describes his creative process: “It’s really hard for me not to play.” His strongest imperative is to sign his work by making it uniquely his. If he can’t say definitively, “This is mine,” he isn’t satisfied. Once he realized that “proper nouns were going to take the weight of this book,” the visual element became essential and the cartoons found their place. Throw in one more character, Jay Uxtapo, who personifies creative juxtaposition, and we’re off, circling in a vortex from which we emerge dizzy but well fed.

The recurring theme of a scavenger hunt unifies most of the poems. Jay Uxtapo presents “Pterodactyl scavenger hunt,” “Stark raving mad scavenger hunt,” “Manna from heaven scavenger hunt,” and many more. Siegell points out a subtle detail: in a clever use of assonance, each scavenger hunt is associated with another short “a” sound, which underlines the phrase.

For all its hyperactive scavenger hunts, Take Out Delivery is no bag of popcorn. About a quarter of the way in, Siegell realized he needed a serious theme to give the book more heft. Pop culture has its grim side, notably the 9/11 attacks. A line at the bottom of the copyright page clues the reader in to what’s coming: “Lucky numbers ∙ 9, 11, 9, 11, 9, 1, 11.” The first cartoon appears on page 9, followed by the first poem on page 11. Divided by cartoons, the poems occur in alternating groups of nine and eleven. Between the last two groups, a lone poem, “We’ve Come for Your Pause Button,” begins, “’Fire and smoke engulf the towers of the World.’” There follows “One of the saddest scavenger hunts ever imagined.” The 9/11 section brings a radical shift of pattern, rhythm, and tone. Siegell slams on the brakes in this moment of honoring the dead. Two empty squares, facing each other and each alone on its page, could look like brake pedals but represent something far sadder: the footprints of the fallen Twin Towers.

Under the calliope music a funeral march plays. For any American, references to 9/11 bring up the precariousness of survival. We comfort and distract ourselves with too much work, too much noise, excessive consumption. The book’s “moment of silence,” as Siegell describes it, forces a sudden examination of our fears.
In “We’ve Come for Your Train Conductor Hole Puncher,” a poem preceding the 9/11 section, Siegell drops one more hint by multiplying 111,111,111 x 111,111,111. This calculation involves 18 ones, or (you guessed it) 9 elevens. The result is spectacular.

––Anne-Adele Wight

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

"Coming Up 10th" in Every Pigeon

nice news: honored to have a chill little poem in the newest (& final) issue of Every Pigeon. huge thanks to Jubalee Penuliar and the rest of the generous editors.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Billy Penn calls my work "newly spicy" and "relatively brash"

In their post about The Philadelphia Inquirer's 190th birthday and switch from Philly.com to Inquirer.com, WHYY’s Billy Penn writes:

One of the three oldest surviving print publications in the country, The Philadelphia Inquirer was founded in June 1829 by John R. Walker and John Norvell. The latter man is the source of the paper’s moniker, which comes from this quote:

In a free state, there should always be an inquirer asking on behalf of the people.”

That motto informs a newly spicy tagline for the rebranded company. Answering the question of why “an Inquirer” seeks out information, it uses a phrase that’s relatively brash for the once-staid periodical: “Because they give a damn.”

The tone shift was entirely on purpose, per Parzych, who said it was intended to catch people’s attention and also “infuse some of the proud DNA” of the Daily News into the combined brand.

“Internally, it’s made people excited because, you know, we do give a damn. Philadelphia gives a damn, right?” she said. “We were really trying to encapsulate the passion that is Philadelphia.”

Wednesday, June 05, 2019


My lit is pro Prolit Magazine 🕺🏻🥂🚀 Many thanks to Patrick Blagrave and all his incredible work launching this new, important journal. Honored to help kick it off and be among such inspiring company!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

backstage at the submission apparition exhibition

2018: 3 poetry acceptances + 1 fiction acceptance + 43 rejections received; (1 work promotion) + 1 Pushcart nomination!
2017: 10 acceptances + 50 rejections received; 1 book accepted!
2016: 11 acceptances + 53 rejections received;
2015: 12 acceptances + 88 (54/34) rejections received;
2014: 9 acceptances + 31 rejections received;
2013: 12 acceptances + 37 rejections received;
2012: 12 acceptances + 39 rejections received;
2011: 16 acceptances + 37 rejections received;
2010: 22 acceptances + 52 rejections received;
2009: 23 acceptances + 51 rejections received; 1 book accepted!
2008: 25 acceptances + 73 rejections received; 1 book accepted!
2007: 17 acceptances + 71 rejections received; 1 book accepted!
2006: 9 acceptances + 28 rejections received