The third book in a trilogy that explores the limits of individual expression, Honestly is an intimate, quiet, and unresolved little book about talking and listening.
It begins with research into a forgotten relative who was kicked out of the author’s family after he was jailed for conscientious objection to WWII, and who then moved to New York to become a composer. From there the poem swerves into a series of minor-key personal anecdotes, interlaced with conversations with friends about work and relationships. Throughout, communication is framed by the economics and psychology of the home. Dialogue takes place in close quarters—constrained by money, space, ego, and empathy.
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Praise for Honestly:
“Steven Zultanski is a great raconteur. In Honestly, he loquaciously monologues about everything from municipal corruption to asparagus horticulture with charm and authority. But this prose-like poem isn’t merely a filibuster. As it unfolds, Honestly spirals closer and closer to the silence behind speech.” —Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick and After Kathy Acker
“Steven Zultanski is in love. ‘When I was a boy I compulsively told my parents I loved them,’ he informs us, then adds: ‘I still have that compulsion.’ With Honestly, Zultanski has written a deft, side-winding love poem (a true love poem) to urban life, with its apartment banalities and moving days, worried friends and fresh cuddlefests, troubled family history and film lore. He loves, we learn, in fits and starts, through compulsions and diversions, with a wry eye on the plain, everyday things—those ‘details in stories traversed with other details’—that shine when they are remembered and held close. Honestly gives us what we seem to need most: the real and the true.” —Andrew Durbin, author of MacArthur Park and Mature Themes
“Steven Zultanski’s latest, the poety title Honestly, is a memoir-esque collection of untitled narrative lyrics/lyric narratives that, once opened, is extremely difficult to put down again.” —rob mclennan’s blog
“If Honestly was a sketchbook, its chapters would be almost transparent watercolours. It’s a collection of lyrical urban sketches about daily discoveries and reflections, stories we tell and hear, events, feelings, decisions and longings. About nothing in particular, but about everything: our life is built from moments like these.” —Alexandra Prochshenko, Goodreads
Honesty is the best policy: A review of Honestly —Michael Gottleib, Jacket2
Steven Zultanski is the author of five books of poetry, most recently On the Literary Means of Representing the Powerful as Powerless (2017) and Bribery (2014). His critical writing has appeared in 4 Columns, Art in America, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Mousee, and elsewhere. In January 2017, an art exhibition inspired by his book Agony (published by BookThug in 2012) entitled You can tell I’m alive and well because I weep continuously was shown at the Knockdown Center in Queens. Steven lived for many years in New York City but now resides in Copenhagen, Denmark.