The Book of Hulga
cover by Julie Franki

The Book of Hulga

Part fan fiction, part hagiography, part graphic poetry, The Book of Hulga wrestles with the long shadow of Flannery O’Connor, a Southern Catholic writer who wrote about roadside killers, racists, and wooden legs. The poems ask what use can be made of suffering and in what ways are we defined by absence, and they look to the same sources that O’Connor looked to for answers, ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to the French philosopher Simone Weil. The Book of Hulga allows the reader to get closer to O’Connor while also acknowledging that each of us has an inner Hulga, a self that rigidly refuses joy, but who just might find it anyway.

Nine original illustrations by Julie Franki further illuminate this verse biography of an imagined modern-day hillbilly saint.

For books and quotes that inspired The Book of Hulga, check out Notes on the Nothingness.

Flannery O’Connor birthday special! Get The Book of Hulga for just $10 + $2 shipping and handling.

The Alphabet Conspiracy

The Alphabet Conspiracy takes its name from a 1950s-era school filmstrip of the same title. With a cast that includes patron saints for country girls and criminals, a Revolutionary War hero, the Wolfman, a sin-eater, John Wayne, and Johnny Cash, these poems swagger and sulk through an educational film turned film noir, replete with femme fatales in love. Mark Doty noted that the title poem “artfully addresses itself to the way children are taught to enter–and then become trapped by–a world constructed of language.” Rita Mae Reese digs beneath the surface of dictionary entries to uncover their secrets and to discover some of her own.

The Alphabet Conspiracy is about the ways in which language itself can function as a plot, keeping us estranged from ourselves, but also about the way it can be used as a tool for recovering our truest selves.

Here indeed is a master poet at work, deftly and persuasively ranging across cultural references that extend from Babylon to West Virginia, from movie theaters to madhouses, from ghost words to words that form phrases of heartbreaking beauty likely to leave readers breathless. . . . [A] remarkable collection of poems that will go on whispering in your ear long past the moment you turn the last page.

—Eleanor Lerman

Bonus: The original film strip can be seen in its glorious entirety on the Internet Archive.

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