FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FRESNO, Cal. – Never cosied up to modern poetry? Loved choose-your-own adventures as a child? Aaron Poochigian has blended the best of both to create an absolute masterpiece that’s accessible to poetry’s newcomers with language rich enough to intrigue even the most devout poetry reader. A poetry epic for the modern age, “Mr. Either/Or” (Etruscan Press, Oct. 10, 2017) sweeps you away with atmospheric rhythms into a story where you, the reader, are the hero.
About the Book: In a world made of rhythms and rhymes you are a government spy undercover as an NYU undergrad—today, you’re cutting classes: Bureau Director One has ordered you to bring in the Dragon’s Claw, a jade box which, according to Chinese legend, contains the apocalypse. Will you recover the artifact from the reclusive Heinrik Van Raadsel before Maoist gangsters known as The Righteous Fists of Harmony unleash its catastrophic power on New York City?
Li-ling Levine, young but cantankerous curator of the Met Museum’s Asian Wing, knows everything, including how to neutralize the threat, but can you endure her haughtiness? Do opposites repel or attract? The answers are out there but, to find them, you must survive an erotic massage parlor, a gang war in Harlem, subway tunnels lousy with mole-men, and the nighttime secrets of the Met Museum.
About the Author: Aaron Poochigian earned a PhD in Classics from the University of Minnesota and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. His book of translations from Sappho, “Stung With Love,” was published by Penguin Classics in 2009, and his translation of Apollonius’ “Jason and the Argonauts” was released October 2014. For his work in translation he was awarded a 2010-2011 Grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. His first book of original poetry, “The Cosmic Purr” (Able Muse Press), was published in 2012 and, winner of the 2016 Able Muse Poetry Prize, his second book “Manhattanite” will be out in the Fall of 2017. His thriller in verse, “Mr. Either/Or,” will be released by Etruscan Press in Fall of 2017. His work has appeared in such journals as “The Guardian,” “POETRY” and “The Times Literary Supplement.”
Poochigian is creating poetry intended for all readers, and his new campaign #SavePoetry, serves to get poetry back into the hearts and minds of readers everywhere. Follow along @Poochigian on Twitter.
About the book
Aaron Poochigian | Oct. 10, 2017 | Etruscan Press
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9977455-2-8 | Price: $15.00
Poetry | Literary | Thriller
“Mr. Either/Or” is an ingenious debut, melding American mythology, Noir thriller and Classical epic in language in which gritty rhythms, foreboding overtones and groovy jams surround you like an atmosphere. Imagine Byron’s Don Juan on a high-stakes romp through a Raymond Chandler novel. Think Hamlet in Manhattan with a license to kill.
“Aaron Poochigian’s ‘Mr. Either/Or’ is the most significant verse novel since at least Vikram Seth’s best-selling ‘The Golden Gate’ of three decades ago, although Poochigian’s prosody and plotlines are more innovative than Seth’s. A kaleidoscopic fusion of the masterful verse of Richard Wilbur and the hipster wryness of Douglas Adams, this book combines multiple genres, high culture with pop culture, and grimness with exuberance. It is a memorable, challenging and entertaining read. —A.M. Juster, author of “The BIlly Collins Experience
“Welcome to Apollo’s Dinerette, where high and low alliterate and rhyme. Think of a Gen X Ovid channeling Dashiell Hammett in a hard-boiled Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, without the illusion of choice. Here we find periods Miltonic and Byronic, gleefully seething with cartoon villainy, pratfalls, B-movie clichés, and vivid brutality. ‘Mr. Either/Or’ is a pop art symphony — sprezzatura on the tongue, melisma in the mind — and a Zoroastrian epic of kitsch and contradiction, aware that “tension alone can keep the world in balance.” Also, it’s funny as hell. The bro-tastic Keanu of a protagonist may face many choices in these pages, but for you, there can be only one. Don’t choose poorly — read it!” —Chris Childers, poet and critic
“Mr Either/Or’ is like nothing else you will have read. You have to imagine Raymond Chandler, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. P. Lovecraft, the script-writers of The Sopranos, Robert Browning and the author of Beowulf all being miraculously melded into one supremely talented writer, with a gift for rhyme, for metrical verse and for extravagant but spot-on metaphors. The story is entertaining, fast-moving and delightfully over-the-top. We move from mysterious Eastern legends of ‘The Dragon’s Claw’ (shades of Modesty Blaise?) to espionage-fiction with shades of gritty hardboiled, and finally to an imaginative parody of apocalyptic science-fiction. It all takes place in contemporary New York, which is described with a loving but acutely sardonic eye, from the gingko trees of Washington Square to Trump’s Palace poking ‘its crenellated top / over boutiques and consulates,’ from the ‘slick / avenues of primordial goo’ of the sewer system (complete with army of subterranean ‘troglodytes with dirt/ for skin, sporadic teeth and vermin eyes’), to the halls and galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, all culminating in a surreal grand finale with lizard-like invaders assaulting the mast on the roof of the New York Times Building. Poochigian alternates action-scenes in superbly handled alliterative verse in Anglo-Saxon style (scenes of gang-warfare, of fights with aliens, chases through the subway, through the galleries of the Met and across Manhattan by car) with deft narrative and dialogue in rhyming iambic pentameter. There is no other voice quite like this in contemporary fiction or contemporary poetry: ranging from coolly colloquial to wittily literate and, when called-for, straightforwardly thrilling. Poochigian is enjoying himself. Read this book and you will enjoy yourself too. That’s a guarantee.” —Gregory Dowling, author of the “Alvise Marangon Mystery” series
An Interview with Aaron Poochigian
What inspired you to write this hybridization of modern poetry, epic, and thriller?
I want to find a broad audience for poetry, and snappy, un-put-down-able narrative verse is, I think, the best way to do it. Poets often complain that no one reads poetry anymore but, as I see it, the lack of interest is primarily the fault of the poets themselves who tend to alienate readers in various ways, rather than giving them something engaging and exciting. That’s what inspired me to write “Mr. Either/Or.” The novel brings together all of my great loves—epic poetry, genre fiction (noir and thriller), action films and Americana. I really don’t know what to call it—sometimes I call it a thriller, sometimes urban fantasy, sometimes an epic poem. The “action” mode was appealing to me for a number of reasons. First, because it is the opposite of most of the poetry that is being written today—it is not static, observational, meditative. Second, the adventures of the hero gave me, I confess, a purely escapist pleasure.
For someone who is inexperienced reading poetry, how would you recommend they approach the book, and why is this book more accessible than others?
Think of the book in terms of a “first-person shooter” video game and of an action film. First off, the hero of the novel is “you”—“you” are an undercover spy in New York City. You encounter the world through his eyes, as in a video game or in those “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” books I read when I was a kid. Second, in being like an action film, “Mr. Either/Or” is an “upgrade” to prose fiction in that the poetry provides a sound-track as in a film by alternating between free-rhymed lines for the exposition and the pounding rhythms of Beowulf for the action scenes.
How has this book differed from your previous work in poetry, and how has it grown your writing?
“Mr. Either/Or” is different from my other work in that it is narrative and action-oriented. Because the hero “you” is a twenty-something, I had to charge up the book with his slang and idioms—with living language, the language of today and tomorrow, and his way of thinking and speaking brought my whole poetic style up to date. “Mr. Either/Or” taught me that poetry can be about anything—anything from shopping at Walgreens, to molemen living in subway tunnels, to alien invaders.
How does writing the book in second person change the narrative style and reader experience?
The reader gets to escape not only into the sensory experiences of the character but into his quirky mindset. Female readers get to learn what it is like to see the world as a male, and all readers get to have the adventures they always dreamed of having. In this sense, the book is similar to the film “Total Recall.”
What was your mindset in developing the music and rhythm of the book? What were you trying to convey with the atmosphere you created?
I just re-watched the film “The Matrix” the other night, and I was struck by the music in that film. The music and rhythms of “Mr. Either/Or” work in a similar way—the movements of the characters are not so much everyday movements as choreography. The whole poem is like a dance from beginning to end, like the fight scenes in “The Matrix.” This dance, when joined with the noir atmosphere, combine to make the book a unique sort of urban fantasy set in New York City—the sort of world I dreamed about while living there.
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