• Marías at Sampaguitas

Review by Kristina Ten


In Al Russell’s debut poetry collection, Children of the Anxious City, the gods are less glamorous, the figures of myth less remote, and the everyday people—in cities and mill towns, forests and swamps—familiar and relatable in their longings and flaws. They tell tall tales in bars, steal pens from banks, and marvel at the natural world. They drill slits into the bones of whales, looking for something. They wonder if anyone else out there dreams the same dreams they do.


“Do any of us know

the utter loving kindness

of copper wires?

They give such warmth,

ask only in return

that they be coiled up

properly in storage.

People are not

always

like that.”


As forecast by the collection’s title, the people found in these poems—though spread out across time and space, history and fiction—are united by their shared anxieties. A nervous first-grader is punished for fidgeting; local children hear a bird’s call as a man’s shriek. Characters relive memories from the past and feel dread for the future. They grapple with regret and loneliness, or the fear thereof, and seek comfort and understanding at the end of the world.


“I lost fourteen teeth that day.

Gambling.

Not my teeth.

Other people’s.”


Russell’s language is energetic, imaginative, and irreverent, at times taking the form of a confrontation and at others a fever dream. These poems are full of evocative imagery, rich specificity, and unexpected connections; they delight and challenge in equal measure and deliver their fair share of gut punches. The collection has the overall effect of knowing something you don’t—but it’s willing to whisper a secret or two if you’ll listen.


“Will you let love

wash you in its

quaking green

under the false

street lamp?

The light comes in

Morse-code-ticks:

Have/

a/

heart./

Don’t/

look/

at/

me/

any/

closer.




Kristina Ten is a Russian-American writer of short stories and poetry. Her work can be found in The Masters Review, Pithead Chapel, Jellyfish Review, b(OINK), and elsewhere. She has been shortlisted for The Masters Review Anthology Prize, longlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She recently moved from Oakland, California, to Chicago, where she works as a copywriter and worries about the winter.



Al Russell is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire. She is a poetry editor at Outlook Springs literary journal. She is also an ordained minister of the Church of the Subgenius. She lives in North Carolina.



Children of the Anxious City

Al Russell

ISBN: 978-1-7326827-4-0

Publisher: Vegetarian Alcoholic Press

Distributer: Ingram

Release: February 5th, 2019

$14.95

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