Alexandra Mattraw with Tiff Dressen and Norman Fischer
Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco

Alexandra Mattraw launches her new book small siren with Tiff Dressen and Norman Fischer 

About small siren:

small siren believes the inanimate is alive. Here, a speaker navigates music rendered from a terrain of fracture, where emergency and becoming intertwine.  A family's narrative threads and unthreads through the book, as do the ethics of projection. What confrontations arise where people and objects are involuntarily constructed through a mutual process of projection? Truth is slippery but so is the ground. Here, she listens for appendages of herself in nature and in the cities she encounters, where she ritualistically attempts to distinguish between beauty and disaster.

Alexandra Mattraw is a Berkeley poet and fourth generation native of Northern California. Her debut full-length book, small siren, emerges this spring from Brooklyn's Cultural Society. Alexandra is also the author of four chapbooks, including flood psalm (2017), published with Dancing Girl Press. Her poems and reviews have appeared in American Letters and Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Eleven Eleven, Fourteen Hills, The Poetry Project, VOLT, The Volta, and elsewhere. In Oakland, she curates an art centric writing and performance series called Lone Glen, now in its seventh year.

Tiff Dressen was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. SONGS FROM THE ASTRAL BESTIARY (lyric& Press, 2014) is their first full-length collection of poetry. They recently migrated from Oakland to the Portola neighborhood of San Francisco and work in the Office of Research at UC Berkeley. They are the author of Keeper (Woodland Editions, 2005), Because Icarus-children (WinteRed Press, December 2010) and for Aeolus: variations on the element (co-published by the g.e. collective and Poetry Flash, 2011). Their work has appeared in many journals including New American Writing, VOLT and 26: A journal of poetry and poetics, and YewJournal. They enjoy spending time at the SF Center for the Book honing their typesetting and letterpress printing skills.

Norman Fischer is a poet, essayist, and Zen Buddhist priest. The latest of his more than twenty-five prose and poetry titles are (poetry) any would be if (Chax, 2017) and Magnolias All At Once (Singing Horse, 2015). Forthcoming in 2018  from PURH in France is his serial poem On a Train at Night. And from Talisman the poem Untitled Series: Life As It is.  His latest prose works are What Is Zen? Plain Talk for a Beginner's Mind, and Experience: Thinking, Writing, Language and Religion. He is the founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation (, a network of Zen meditation groups and other projects. His books are distributed by Small Press Distribution in Berkeley, CA. 

Norman Fischer's new book, On a Train at Night, was published in March 2018 by Presse Universite de Rouen et Havre, in France. This book-length serial poem explores consciousness, meaning, and what can't be said or written of. June 1 is also the scheduled publication date of Untitled Series:Life As It Is (Talisman Press), also a serial poem in short fragments that describes the hidden, underlying, linguistic shape of ordinary daily events.

What has been said about small siren:

 "When good poetry hits, it animates the actual, it becomes the actual. That's small siren: a serious romp of constructive music that is what it says. Science and nature unlock their mysteries by being precise; in small siren the words — cut, spliced, compressed — form units of attention enacting the physical world so precisely that even the sun and the moon ride their arcs untroubled. Across cities and seas, Alexandra Mattraw’s language isn’t attached to images; it comes out of them, like a birthright. The authenticity is declarative and unmistakable: 'A sign is a block, an island, a cloud, a clock.’  She makes it real."

—Aaron Shurin

"Though cradled by earth, Mattraw’s poems wander through a new human condition. Or are the songs of spirits who won’t tiptoe around their biographers. Through the unregistered versions of ourselves, we can read these poems and worry about having regular bodies later. Here is a beautiful lesson or wager that on a page you can risk your dreams."

—Tongo Eisen-Martin

"In Alexandra Mattraw’s much-awaited first book, small siren, we encounter a poet of extraordinary observation and inquiry. An enchantment and engagement with the world commences: "when is a voice a piano,’ "repetition needs to believe,’ “what grew before you could speak’ build a kind of groundswell where Mattraw puts her ear to the hardscape of 21st century America and its global environs: Sao Paolo, Iceland, New Zealand. Ultimately, notions of country and categories break down. What we find is heresy, hearsay, and yes, wishes. Throughout, what survives is a relationship of love and courage, of errors and triumph. A human relationship of lovers, of family. This is a book of wonder and awe and strength. When the world goes down, I want to be in Alexandra Mattraw’s boat."

-Gillian Conoley