In Ernesta, Sandy McIntosh’s exuberant imagination breathes fresh excitement into narrative poetry. The title poem, spotlighting a 19th century Spanish pianist who does whatever it takes (such as eliminating the competition) to survive, discloses fascinating social dimensions of music and its impact: “Music will watch us drown.” “Among the Disappointments of Love” are shorter poems that show how dubious ideals of love get punctured, unbridled egos cause romantic relationships to crash, friendship is subject to a disorienting mirror, a victim of the male gaze becomes the gazer, and science colonizes the hapless body. “Nathan, in the Ancient Language” features a narrative about an affluent dunderhead who comically fails at every endeavor yet cannot shake the comfortable fate ordained for him by his family’s privilege. Replete with echoes of Anglo-Saxon music and phrasing and some actual quotations from the old tongue, the poem raises issues about the ownership of language, charismatic charlatanism and its undoing, and the (in)ability to read other people and the material consequences of reading poorly. Further, the poem implicitly asks: How should individuals utilize the power that sometimes randomly comes their way?
"In Ernesta, when McIntosh's title character declares: 'Music has pictures,' it instantly brings to mind this poet's astounding use of language that creates visual landscapes of great clarity. I've been an enthusiastic fan of previous books and recommend you get your hands on as many as you can. This may be the biased sentiment of a devoted fan, but Sandy: You rock!" —Phoebe Snow
"Ernesta, in the Style of the Flamenco, Sandy McIntosh’s latest volume, bursts with brilliance and sizzles with sass. McIntosh’s new poems are audacious, ravishing, syntactic marvels, clowning-around oddballs. The energy and wit in this book will make you want to whip out your fan, put on your non-skid sole shoes, and dance.”—Denise Duhamel
"In Ernesta, in the Style of Flamenco, Sandy McIntosh concocts poetry that resembles roulette wheels: the poems have a playfulness, but also a dead seriousness about them.
He can be blunt, as in Our 'Hood:
Neighbors steal from neighbors. They exchange possessions,
dress and thought. And so, over the years, have transformed
themselves into the people from whom they stole.
There are two long narrative poems that begin the book: one about a 19th century composer, told in tongue-in-cheek but fairly straightforward narrative, the other a wildly funny mock mystery called "Minute Mysteries: The New Adventures of Inspector Shmegegi and Monica." These two are followed by a section called "Among the Disappointments of Love," and then another long poem which can easily be read as a dramatic monologue, "Nathan, in the Ancient Language."
There is something very Kafka-esque about McIntosh's imagination, but also something of Raymond Carver. As an example of the Raymond Carver echoes, here's a line from "Our 'Hood":
Our neighbor's house caught fire -- something about a
cigarette tossed into lighter fluid just to see what would
Is that tone not so Carver-esque, so pointedly bitter and ironic?
But McIntosh's poetry (perhaps more aptly described as flash fiction, in some instances) is more generous than Carver's, more willing to display the author's hand.
Sometimes he reminds one of Grace Paley. The narrator -- and there does seem to be a single narrator for many of the poems -- suffers an array of indignities, most connected to the idea of being scorned.
Here is a passage from "Among the Disappointments of Love" whose biting, ironic dialogue strongly recalled Grace Paley's short short, "Wants" :
"I can't marry you, after all.
Tomorrow I leave
For the Antipodes
Never to return!"
I had not asked her to marry me!
There is a wonderful piece entitled "Partial Menu of Dishes Returned to the Kitchen by a Fromer Girlfriend which consists of a table listing such items as :
Nathan's Coney Island/ Food: Hot dog/ Reason returned: Roll "too mushy"/ Action Taken: Turned nose up at counterman
Masa, New York City/ Food: Sushi/ Reason returned: "Not fresh enough"
In the end, the breeziness cannot conceal the pain. The poet cares deeply about, occasionally is even angered by, human limitations:
In "To a Former Playmate of the Month," the playmate confides to a friend that she dreams of the faces of strangers. The friend thinks:
. . . For so long
You've been stared at
In stale marriages,
Or those too shy to find their own playmate.
It seems justice
That you get
To study them
Even the most appalling hurt can be borne, can be transmuted into wit and irony. That is this writer's admirable skill.--Marianne Villanueva, Galatea Ressurects
ISBN-13: 978-0984117710 $15.95
Praise for Forty-Nine Guaranteed Ways To Escape Death
Sandy McIntosh’s poems are incisive, clever, sometimes cynical,
sometimes political, but above all, comic. As the reviewer, I got my copy of Forty-Nine Ways as a freebie. (Eat your heart out.) But I would gladly pay money
for it. In the interest of stimulating the economy, you should buy this book. —Rebecca Spears, Sentence 6
Sandy McIntosh’s gift of exploring the “what if”
moments of life is most evident in his new vivacious collection Forty-Nine Guaranteed Ways To Escape Death. McIntosh spins a tantalizing
web of tales—unlikely encounters with the famous; musical
instruments invented not to be easily played, but rather to be beautiful
objects themselves; and mega-lists, one of which is the sublime
title poem. Constantly inventive, his poems are meta in their metamorphosis—one
prose poem even becomes a review of his last book. He mythologizes
terrorist threats and re-imagines The Man of Steel. His poems are
indeed reminiscent of Superman, zooming into Metropolis to scoop
up Poetry and save it from the villains, Boredom and Pretense. —Denise
Praise for The After-Death History of My Mother
Sandy McIntosh's entertaining new volume might be mistaken, at
first, for a merry romp through personal and literary history conducted
by a slightly confused, well-meaning people-pleaser. His confusion
begins with his bemused revelation that he has (maybe) two mothers,
and continues through various other doublings (dream transformations,
reincarnations, literary 'forgeries,' literary mothers both male
and female, poems masquerading as prose and vice versa) to a final
doubling (double-crossing) that brings with it a 'broade [sic] awaking'
to reality.... This is a book of elegies—eulogies, really—to
all the literal and literary bastards who have made McIntosh an
artist and (maybe) a con. —Laural Blossom, American Book Review
“As the title suggests, the poet’s quest is familial,
but it is also poetic. In a way, the poetic mentors McIntosh invokes
(such as Allen Ginsberg and David Ignatow) are like fathers, or
at least older brothers, to him. A sort of detective, McIntosh uses
whatever tools are available to shed light on his family and poetic
pasts.... The innovation of this work is most apparent when McIntosh
combines as many methods as possible into one piece.”—Erica
"Obsessional," a long poem in parts, comprises the final section....
Throughout "Obsessional," the speaker's work serves as an additional
focal point: a literary scandal in 1559 surrounding Cambridge scholar
Nicholas Grimald, London Printer Richard Tottel and the publication
of Songs and Sonnets.... Intriguing and entertaining enough that
it would make an excellent film. —Rebecca Spears, Sentence
The showcase piece of this book, a long sequence titled “Obsessional,”
is remarkable for yoking an engaging Elizabethan literary detective
story to a personal narrative about life as a grad school poet.
Even more impressive than this set-up actually succeeding is the
way McIntosh is able to tie compassion to dagger-thrust humor. If
that’s what “obsessional” poetry is—personal
narrative of neurosis that is aware a world exists outside the poet’s
gut, and is not afraid to tell a joke—maybe it will catch
on among those still in the stranglehold of the confessional.
The ending sequence is balanced at the front of the book by the
title sequence, composed of memorial lyrics and anecdotes in prose
and free verse, at once touching and chilling. With pieces about
David Ignatow, Allen Ginsberg, and H. R. Hayes the book leaves a
haunting lasting impression, like the poet’s mother in “The
Hospital Chair”—“She touches you and tells you
you are healed/ and may go home,” but also warns “No
one knows what will happen/ when I leave my tomb in the night/ to
touch you.” —Brian Clements, Boog City
Sandy McIntosh’s The After-Death History of My Mother is
whimsical, sharp, humorous and clever. It’s multi-hued content
reflected in the multicoloured joyful painting of its cover. The
joi de vie of the art is a shocking contrast to the stark declaration
of death made by the title. This juxtaposition continues through
the book with poems sectioned into moments of contrast to those
before and after them. It seems to dare the reader to follow the
thread of McIntosh’s thought, to try to keep pace with what
at one moment is funereal slow and the next as fast as the night
creature avoiding the glare of a porch light.... McIntosh’s
ability to skip a whimsied path between prose and poetry is one
of the most enduring factors of this book. He feels no need to confine
himself to one style within a poem; occasionally he brings in drama
as well. Perhaps in his next collection he will add lyrics and a
news report, and the one after that can bring in a thesis and biblical
sermon. I wouldn’t underestimate anything about this poet.
He is a wild card, and they are often the best to read and follow. The After-Death History of My Mother is an energetic book. The reader
is dazzled, bemused and caught unawares by the way McIntosh approaches
his subject. A surreal book for a surreal today!—Fionna Doney
Simmonds, Galatea Ressurects
Sandy McIntosh’s collections of poetry include 237 More Reasons to Have Sex (Otoliths), with Denise Duhamel, Forty-Nine Guaranteed Ways to Escape Deathl, The After Death
History of My Mother, Between Earth and Sky (Marsh Hawk Press), Endless Staircase (Street Press), Earth Works (Long Island University), Which Way to the Egress? (Garfield Publishers), and two chapbooks: Obsessional (Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry) and Monsters of the Antipodes (Survivors Manual Books). His prose includes Firing Back, with Jodie-Beth
Galos (John Wiley & Sons), From A Chinese Kitchen (American
Cooking Guild), and The Poets In the Poets-In-The-Schools (Minnesota
Center for Social Research, University of Minnesota. His poetry
and essays have been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The
Nation, the Wall Street Journal, American Book Review, and elsewhere.
His original poetry in a film script won the Silver Medal in the
Film Festival of the Americas.