wisconsin shorts—micro-reviews of 9 micro books (a #'d series)

by Wendy Vardaman


shortstack of micro books—
think brief—narrow—smaller than usual—
often filled with shorts, only a line sometimes,
spill out of a birch-bark (not-laundry) basket near my lap top table:
quirky /unique / hand sewn / illustrated / homemade / dense packed / light / narrative / unevenly cut / remembering scissors / experimental: each some—not all—of these things / not always these things

brief history of Wisconsin shorts: haiku / Niedecker / Hummingbird / repeat

a history of discarded synonyms: briefs/ smalls/ tinys/ littles/ petites/ itsy-bitsys/ bits/ minis/ scants/ wees/ limiteds/ diminuitives/ runts/ miniscules/ minutes/ trivials/ toys/ modests/ pithys/ laconics/ breviloquents/ curts/ hastys/ succincts/ lacks/ blunts/ terses/ shortfall

well maybe terses

not minimalism—more like boiled distilled / compression [opposite of tension—as in forces] / compact [efficient] /density [as in opposite of sprawl] / ice fishing

requires crossing out        requires revise       requires blank        requires image       requires you


Michael Kriesel, Whale of Stars, Sunnyoutside, 2013 [all-letterpress-printed, hand-sewn chapbook]

35 lines: distant
darks. wi’s year. connect haiku
dots / read between the lights

bee gathers / light


winter supper / in the window


fireworks / above the barn

Gary C. Busha, On the Dock, Wolfsong Publications, 2012, free from the author: 3123 S. Kennedy Dr., Sturtevesant, WI 53177

self-made man/book
of Wisconsin haiku linked
lines packed on the dock

looking at the stars //
counting every lure / in the ol man’s
tackle box // what it’s like

to be a minnow /
used as bait for bigger fish //
studying on the dock //

fish calling /  the ol man
knows I lost his pliers//  the boy /
cannot hide his own shadow

catching stories on lines


From Matthew Stolte, visual poet who blogs here two books—From Oceans and From the Fishes—handmade / stapled / ¼ page / printed with ink that bleeds when it meets liquid (& it does) / oceans of text / text of oceans & vispo—10 pp between covers. Fishes emerged from the a small gathering of poet-artist-musicians / gathers words like shapes / cut up / collaged / what we look again find on the street might reuse / crack open Death Credits / you can’t buy these oceans of fishes / perhaps you’ll encounter them nevertheless / you must know where to look / they are all around you / I carry them in my backpack / for the moment

location / echolation  

Big Gulp

 i.¢.e. / $hell / ¢rude // $quid / $oil / $ea

made a map. wealthier peak/…panic near Lord. /…war del Circumnavigate./ All strait dark.

Vanishing shoreli

                        (quoted lines from From Oceans)


Tom Montag, That Woman, Red Kite Press, 2012, email

Of density / brevity. One dozen and one short untitled poems dedicated to That woman/ Lorine Niedecker—not / shadow// not/ mist // vapor at the blue/  edge of flame // not thereso like the wind // the motion / she makes // silence Tradition of Wisconsin shorts. Breath between blue lips when every inhale hurts the chest. & how you must use metalpractical tools a spatula to Scrape at/ solitude / These poets        These silence  almost enough


Ray Bayley, A Collection of Wisconsin Alphabetical Geographical Limericks, available from the author, Apt. 806, 6209 Mineral Point Rd., Madison, WI 53705-4553, $1.50 plus postage

There’s something completely Wisconsin
about a book that begins with a caution—
reading all could be tough
one a week is enough
Their writing staved off work-out boredom.


I met a young man in Madison
Who was raised to be his daddy’s son.
When he met a cute girl
Dad said, “Give it a whirl.”
So he rented a room in the Radisson.

—Ray Bayley


F.J. Bergmann, Out of the Black Forest, paintings by Kelli Hoppmann, Centennial Press, 2012

16 B&W dramatic/suggestive illustrations
gorgeous Centennial design
16 small story-poems
of winter of rock of teeth of bone
of animal of hide & feather & fin
of forest & dark water
of once & wants

from “Teeth”—

The mother said the red hood
would always make it easy to
find her, as would the silver bells.
The father told her what paths
she must follow: At the dead oak,
turn north; go deeper into the valley.
Go further.


When it grew dark she lifted
the napkin. There was no bread.
In the moonlight, white pebbles
glistened like teeth.


viii & ix

Two of the chapbook series published by plumberries press (sometimes in Milwaukee): “Plumberries is a mobile press invested in the tangible.”


cynthia spencer, In What Sequence Will My Parts Exit, plumberries press, 2011, covers letterpressed with artwork by eric k. zimmerman

So many questions: the five W’s—

There is irony, “we took Greg’s car/ because only he knew the way/ through the eerily open Midwest-/ ern roadspace to the cute little town/ where we were to get ice cream/ and perhaps talk a while about/ things that matter.”

There is winter: “Oh, winter. You’ve been here longer than I have, so I’ll pay/ my due respects, but truthfully we both know this isn’t working out./ One of us is gonna have to go, and I think it’s obvious who that is.”

There is prairie      There is water             There is driving            There is mythic Death       There is thrift store   &         story

Where is Milwaukee? Who is the town with the closed ice cream store? Why don’t you name it? When will you finish the story? What are you hiding?


chelsea tadeyeske, heeldragger, plumberries press, 2012

hand sewn & illustrated by matthew gasparek, whose collages show 60s / show kitchen / show quilt / show fragments / show feet / show heels

kryptical like Michael Kriesel—well more cryptic less elliptic—

more experimental  less wiscful: “who leaves/ laurel-wreathed./ sweat and sparkle,// heels in parade”

more languageful. more invisible.

more the stretched word. the letter dragging itself across the edge-to-edge page: “what i wanted/ t o s h o w  y o u / a  l  r  e  a  d  y  / d  i  s  a  p p  e  a  r  e  d.”

pages themselves see-through—“the holy animal stroked to transparency”

                                                “chelsea tadeyeske needs a penpal”


conclude / invite / go

Wendy Vardaman ( is the author of Obstructed View (Fireweed Press), co-editor/webmaster of Verse Wisconsin and co-founder/co-editor of Cowfeather Press. She is one of Madison, Wisconsin's two Poets Laureate (2012-2015).