Action Books Fall 2017: Recent and Imminent

You can’t cut a cross-section of the Action Books catalog without getting covered in the radical, political, visionary, gorgeous, grotesque poetical blood that runs through our veins; you can’t map the international span of the Action Books roster without turning the globe in every direction. We are extremely proud of these impossibilities. This playlist is culled from some of our recently released books from here and afar, from the translated collections we’ve published in the past by groundbreaking Korean poets Kim Hyesoon and Kim Yideum, and from two of our upcoming releases, THIRD MILLENNIUM HEART by Ursula Andkjaer Olsen (Denmark) and ADRENALIN by Ghayath Almadoun (Syria).


I enter a room.
A cat vomits as if to say

welcome home. Scattered
bones on the floor,

tiles of fur and fever:
welcome. Outside, the parks

are rinsed clean. Grass sprays
across my window.

This clean violence
for the Green and Livid.

Nothing I say leaves
this room. Not a foot,

not a single verb.
This room is meant

to be a cage to swing
sweetly in. Arm in

arm, slow scythe of
each doorway expanding

with each breath I hold in
until I can’t.

Remember, what you can’t
see can hurt you.

I will stay here,
getting fat in the eyes.

Braced against a wall,
I will bite at you.

I will take what
I’ve come to claim –

do not cry and
cry to no priest.

My mother told me
when consuming a whale,

take one bite at a time
or it will consume you.

Take heed. Take tail,
tongue, et al.

I enter the room
full of garlands slung

in a death march.
Flowers crowd the sill

in whiskey water.
I drink until my eyes

flood the entire state
of Jersey.

This year, there will be
a mudslide worth watching.

This year, we won’t
need proof.

Outside, geese shit
on themselves.

It is the season of giving
and I gave everything

over to you: forgiveness,
apology, forgiveness.

Can you imagine roses
rotting in the trash?

It’s simply too much.
Delicate February

and its dunce hat.

To pull a rabbit
out of what?

The future is not stupid.
To make a critical mass,

leave a spoon of honey
out for the ants.

This will be my army,
my kin. The yard

is lined with dumpsters
I know too well.

Sunshine spills
on the oil slick

of last night’s dinner.
My face shines

in the slick, subtly

In the case of a tornado,
retreat into the deepest

interior. Steal anything
you can get your hands on,

including yourself.
Nightly, my army

circles the earth’s bruise.
Split plum of the heart,

stuck to the floor.
I’m unable to rightfully

stomp. Crows pass by
my pupils, recognizing

every face I shouldn’t.
Decisions in confrontation.

Best to forgive or fork over
your better half.

The guts of a cow spill
onto the killing floor.

I scoop out the guts
of a cloud and smear it

across my eyes.
Intestinal, the false ray

of a false sun unravels.
I slither to the light,

suffocating so.
Below the horizon,

a crow flies across graves
off the interstate.

The pouring concrete
freezes, paralyzed

in ice, smog.

Sometimes, crickets go off
at the same time.

Sometimes, my legs itch involuntarily.
Sometimes, I want to be able

to hold my own hand.
This need is inhabitable:

fat tapeworm of the belly,
crooning in corridors.

Luxury Is Culture And Nature

Culture, nature: the two rubbed against each other
until the arc of life was created.

Culture releases nature from its natural moderation, letting babel =
towers grow, letting spires become redder and redder, lavishly
while I dream of escaping this

complicated being with bridges and passages
transporting bodies around
increasingly fleeting and flexible patterns

I long for life to reveal itself to me, in all its simplicity
without luxury and infrastructure, without machismo and institutions
nature washes through


with excessive force. Culture is superfluous = luxury.

Culture is a vital obstacle for nature = ivory. It drains
the foundation so


have a base to stand on. Culture is necessary = nature is a luxury humans cannot afford.

Culture, nature: the two continue rubbing.

I abandon all (Todo lo abandono)

At nine months, I abandoned my mother,
I never returned to her safe womb for comfort or ease.
A few days later, I also abandoned my father,
repelled by his alcoholic breath.

The shelter of fantasy and of solitude
saved my childhood.
In this way, I abandoned fear of people and the dark.

But when one is honest, the world is a miser.
In my adolescence
all was abandonment:
friends I did not want to see again
and places I did not want to walk again.

I abandoned my studies, discovered books.
I sank into the night, I hated my body, loved my hands.
Lost time, lost in introspections, fantasies, depressions,
I wanted to die, I wanted to kill myself, I didn’t want anything, wantednothing.
I abandoned desire, will.
I gave into apathy.

I found a place, a job, an identity.
A place that cheated me.
A job that treated me badly.
Identity is a custom worthy of abandoning.
I abandoned all of it.

My vanity defeats my friends:
I abandon them.
My rootlessness defeats my family:
I abandon them.

Even the most beautiful,
this fracture of love, breaking my spirit, forcing me to joy—
I abandon.

From "My Country, Tonight (Mon pays, ce soir)"

The shade of earth
Against the shameless mouths
Of those innate servants
Against the cactus
Of traitorous embraces
It is by the
Of our conviction
That the sheaves of
Our humanity

And we hold
In time’s fire
To live
From this day on
To forge
Our own symbols of history

Why Can't We

leave Buddha alone? We make Buddha ride an elephant like the way a village boy rides on a man’s shoulder, and we let the Buddha run and play, then make him cry, and we make him couple blissfully with a buttery woman and call it Tantra, but then we make him smile by himself in emptiness, make him sit, lie down, make him be born from the waist, then teach him how to walk right away, and we question him when he lies down to sleep You said this and that didn’t you? And we braid his fingers, cut off his nose and swallow it down with water, then dress him in gold, but then we cut his throat and sell his head at a store in Insadong, and we lock him up inside a cave on top of a mountain, and as if that weren’t enough we keep him inside a rock, starve him, paint his skin gold so that he can’t even breathe, have him stand faraway on top of a mountain and caress him slowly as we approach him by boat, and beneath his feet we beg him to beat us up. Why can’t we leave him alone? We build a house on a cliff overlooking a bleu river and lock him up and a bunch of us go together to gawk at him. We pummel him, crush him, and push him over, then we come home and write a letter of apology in blood from our pierced fingers, and we pull his teeth and divide them up into numerous pouches and give them out to the whole world, and why do we go near him and bow on our knees till they are raw and look once into his eyes then return home with our downcast faces?

"Light forsakes you... (te abandona la luz...)"

light forsakes you
among fiery sunflowers
flags soil the gentle wind 
being clots
from the pond geese rise
flying in squadron
in their image
                         everything follows the traces of sun
save the butterfly
all at once landing on a syllable

(from thaw [deshielos])


I was quarantined

overlooking the ocean.

I met no one for

three years who

was not doing their job.

In any touching

condition, an invention

of the human breath

or an instrument,

the effusive bond

clots like cream,

by instinct we think.

From "Black Milk"

I look in the mirror and see your face The poem slips out of my hand I hear the scent of a woman eating my fingers The Mediterranean Sea drowns in the immigration department The water grows thirsty I remove your features from my face in order to recognise myself And my notebook loses its memory The official in the immigration department asks: Where are you from? I answer: I don’t know for I’m not yet married And he refuses my asylum application And the United Nations refuses the colour of my skin And the international community refuses to look directly at my wound At that moment when time becomes dark as Rembrandt’s paintings And feeling becomes cold as the corpses of my friends You emerge from behind the scenes Just like that Without introductions Or explanations Or a logical interpretation And grant me asylum for sentimental reasons

I Didn't Write This Poem

I didn’t write this poem.

Some words were scribbled in ink,
some words were written with a blunt pencil smudged by spit,
and some of the words were underlined in red.

I put on my glasses to revise carefully.
In some places, I make up a few words on a whim
because I can’t read the handwriting.
Sometimes I jot down words
as if they were dictated to me
and I were a clerk at a resume service. 

I didn’t write this.
I went on a picnic by myself.

Somebody cries out from the tip of a branch in the forest
when water spills from a rock or a dead bird’s feathers flutter.

I untie the ribbon and open the red book.
I caress you.

The warmth of your cheeks, the softness of your hair.
You are like a cracker drenched in syrup,
a still-soft cake stuck in its pan.
I can’t pull you out.
I can only read the book I’ve made of you.

You’re an old song, a letter sealed with a kiss.
You’ve failed to seal me.
You’re bones that glitter like jewels.
You’re a book that I’ve written, that I footlessly stomp on.
I merely filter you, polish you,
and transcribe you, you who flow away from me.
So I didn’t write this poem.

My words begin with you, silent inside me.
You’re this poem’s end, and its limit.