136 pages, 4.625" x 7.5"
Publication Date: Dec 2017
The Next Crystal Text connects the glittering consumption of gems to the brutal exploitation of their production, undermining our cultural myths of beauty, wealth, and the feminine. These multiform poems accrete language from geology and political resistance into a faceted amalgam that’s completely original. Dazzling and various, it both mimics and critiques the intricacy of global capitalist systems.
Praise for The Next Crystal Text
"If The Crystal Text by Craig Dworkin is a pyrotechnic lyric cut of The Crystal Text by Crystal Coolidge, itself a discursive record of thought with quartz as the meditative center, then The Next Crystal Text by Melissa Mack is all of these things and everything the others left out. The labor that conveys minerals underground into the realm of jewelry, everything that labor touches, its mystification in the glossy folds of display cases. What clings to a crystal, what else it might be or mean, and how a person under pressure approaches such questions. Do you remember Marilyn Minter’s painting “Dirty Heel”? A foot muddy and wet about to slip off a jeweled six inch heel. Flesh glistening in muck. The Next Crystal Text is sort of like that."
Sky’s the limit! No no I meant to say earth is the limit, a limitation, because we are dealing with mining here, a dirty, scurrilous business. And gemstones, gleaming with $$$. Written in five sections, The Next Crystal Text samples Dante and Drake, Duncan and Kanye, George Oppen, Ted Rees and many others, making reference to Sedna, the Kalevala, the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the I Ching. Melissa Mack’s seriously gorgeous, well-timed The Next Crystal Text, sometimes prose, sometimes poetry, is a book-length poetic essay that startles and stuns, “exploding the system” with lyric freight. Now is the time for The Next Crystal Text. An astonishing pearl of a book!
Norma Cole, author of Fate News
"The Next Crystal Text is philosophically provocative and complex in what it offers. It reminds me of Robert Duncan, and in its music I am reminded of Myung Mi Kim's work, but with a fuller and more boisterous brass section. The Next Crystal Text also posits developments to multiple traditions – both the experimental lyric and the open field poetics of Black Mountain, but with an affable foray into contemporary conceptual minimalism. Its approach to syntax and music is compelling; its wielding of the image is often stunning and lucid. The Next Crystal Text is able to draft from and grow through multiple discourses – geology, world systems, immanent critique, local organizing culture – while remaining very much its own creature terms of tone and image."
"Mack combines the intensity of a polemic with the inquisitiveness of an essay in a debut collection that rebukes the form of the gemstone as a conceptual model for poetry. Instead, Mack describes how such gems elide the histories of labor exploitation and colonialism that produced them: “It’s so clear—these pretty things, they come from somewhere—but we let them be emblem.” Mack divides the book, which is really one long poem, into five sections, each moving between historical fact, luxurious description, and ruthless self-incrimination. “A relation, dispersion.// We see what the crystal’s electrons reject/ the rejected emits,” Mack writes, noting the self’s transformative capabilities. While the work here considers what it might be like to be intoxicated by beauty (gems—“so complete and so ravishing—are like steps that lead into eternity and beyond”), the poem always returns to the “actual work of mining,” how “it was meant to be burdensome.” A glossary is included, defining such terms as cabochon and matrix, but it’s almost unnecessary. In Mack’s work, these beautiful but secretive words parallel the status of crystals and crystallike forms in the world, such that “pendaloque-cut emeralds have become emblem of the world-end.”
Melissa Mack is a poet. She lives in Oakland, California. Her work has appeared in journals (Elderly, The Capilano Review, Try!, With+Stand), anthologies (Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot, What We Want: A List of Our Fucking Demands), a chapbook, Includes All Strangers (Hooke Press, 2013), Poet’s Theater (Debt: A Play, with Lara Durback, Lauren Levin, and Anne Lesley Selcer), at the Alette in Oakland Conference, and at many public readings. Her life is structured by a day job, multiple study groups, showing up at protests, reading tarot, and going on walks with her friends. She aspires to live in a world where everyone has their needs met and human creativity can flower in whatever directions it wishes without being manipulated or devoured by capitalism.