• Alex Crowley (author)
  • Daphne Taylor (artist)

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Poetry, Prose, Music, Composition, Music Theory, Of Sound Mind, Diorama, Autobiography, Biography, Capitalism, Ekphrasis, Travel, Internet, Media

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Print Document

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Improper Maps

Improper Maps strikes a balance between the study of our modern life and our active and ever-changing place inside the study. Through the individual and disordered ‘dioramas’ we are both inside and outside an ‘internet k-hole of uploads’ and ‘floor to ceiling treatments of a fragile psychology.’ These poems perform our user experience (as consumers, as tourists, as voyeurs, as dreamers) with skill, while still managing to reconsider what it means to be an ideal user, navigating the burden of its consequences with heart.” — Jackie Clark

“What are the coordinates for time, space, eggs, homunculi, and shattered lamps? Can we GPS secondhand clothing? How to triangulate the distance between mycelia, car alarms, and a pink lawn flamingo — ‘exhibits we become by simply living’? Alex Crowley’s Improper Maps — an atlas charting the mind’s architectures — invokes these interrogative dérives. It’s like Joseph Cornell on wheels: immediate, uninterrupted, and yet somehow always zig-zagging. These dioramas serve as a cheat sheet for metaphysics, a curated assemblage of miniature 3D texts, a record of ‘a second’s loss of object permanence.'” — Claire Donato

“Reading Alex Crowley’s Improper Maps is like stepping into a kaleidoscope (slide show, evidence file, national park, curio shop) where you’re Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon watcher—except this isn’t a prison, it’s your vacation, and you’re not watching people, you’re watching visions turn into Vision, images into imagination, ‘a pink lawn flamingo signed by Donald Featherstone’ into ‘a wash of bent pentagrams.’ These poems-as-dioramas blur the lines, not only between what’s seen and what’s scenery — what’s awkward and what’s miraculous! — but also between reality as we find it and the aesthetic judgments we make about it. ‘We’ve a vested interest in exchange’ they remind us (which is the nexus of value, so the nexus empathetic possibility/entanglement), deflecting and reflecting us as we gape from our distance. ‘Come for a visit,’ they call us, ‘Get close.’” — Matt Hart

In his debut chapbook, Alex Crowley plays the odd rhythms of the prose poem as he explores the blurry boundaries of dioramic form. It’s a meandering journey through (auto)biography as well as an attempt to articulate what passes for a stable self under the clashing lights of spectacular culture. He asks readers to briefly imagine what Capital desires of them, then take a breath to keep from hyperventilating.

These melodies are woven from road trip journals, ekphrastic exercises, street scenes real and imagined, sociological meditations, and the confounding joy and terror of life online. These are the barely perceptible phenomena that sneak their way past your vigilant attention and find a way to the front of the memory queue. It’s easy to lie autobiographically; we’re supposed to fudge the details and let the cash flow in. Hasn’t that always been the case? How can I want what I want when you want as well?

And what of the diorama? Is it merely a scale representation of a scene? A 3-dimensional still complete with actual air? Can it move? Does it move? More importantly, does it move you?

The more clearly we see the barriers, the harder it becomes to determine what’s on the other side.

About the Contributor(s)

Alex Crowley is a reviews editor at Publishers Weekly and a cofounder of Brooklyn's MENTAL MARGINALIA Reading Series. He was the recipient of the first annual Paul Violi Award from the New School. Poems and reviews have appeared in Phantom Limb, TLR, Forklift Ohio, BORT Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Handsome, HARIBO, and elsewhere. He is the guitarist/vocalist for the band Warmth and you can find him on Twitter @fonzmulder.

Daphne Taylor was born into a Philadelphia Quaker family with historic roots reaching over two hundred years. As an undergraduate at Rhode Island School of Design, she studied ceramics and developed her love of craft traditions. While working on her MFA in painting at the University of Pennsylvania, she continued her lifelong discipline of drawing, which to this day, influences stitching patterns in her quilt work. Her close association with the Quaker traditions is a strong influence in her life and work. The curious and profound silence of a Quaker meeting can be felt in the patient, meditative lines of her quilts. Her compositions also frame challenging relationships of colors and other formal tensions, suggesting that there is never an easy or obvious blueprint to her quilts. Like the complex silence felt in a Quaker meeting, the world within Taylor’s quilts is hardly a straightforward place. Taylor taught for over thirty years in New York City and now lives in rural Maine.

Cover Art: Quilt Drawing #15 by Daphne Taylor, 2012
Series Designed, Edited and Curated by Elæ Moss [Lynne DeSilva-Johnson]

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