Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

September 7, 2008

Christopher Cunningham, “In Gambler’s Blood” (KSE 110) now available

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 3:17 pm

Anyone who’s known or worked with a problem gambler knows what a fascinating phenomenon gambling is and what a great metaphor for the human condition it provides. KSE previously published EXACTA BOX, which dealt with horse racing, but that work focused more on the details related to the track and its hangers-on rather than the psychology of the gambler. Now Christopher Cunningham, one of America’s most distinctive and instantly recognizable poets and co-founder of the Guerilla Poetics Project, has created a new chapbook, IN GAMBLER’S BLOOD (sound library series, volume 36) that investigates the strange and sweet power that gambling—-in this case, poker—-holds over the players.

This work has an interesting history. When Mr. Cunningham wrote his previous KSE chapbook, NEXT EXIT: FIVE (at the point, the ONLY solo entry in the NE series), he mentioned to me that it had been composed under the musical influence of Calexico and Ennio Morricone (and knowing CC, I’m sure Miles Davis was also in there somewhere). I filed that information somewhere in the back of my brain, and one day while I was blasting Ennio Morricone’s NAVAJO JOE soundtrack on the way to work, I thought, “Christopher Cunningham…Ennio Morricone…Sound Library volume.” CC is the kind of writer who appreciates a challenge, so he immediately rose to the occasion, dug out the Morricone albums, and listened through the music until he found an internal narrative: the story of a poker game from the perspectives of the different players. That, in a nutshell, is IN GAMBLER’S BLOOD, a brand-new nine-poem suite that has all the qualities one associates with Cunningham at his best: the tension, the understatement, the understanding of life and of people, the passion, the diamond-sharp precision of the finely chiseled language.

Beyond the thought-provoking poetry, though, KSE 110 also features a haunting and beautiful original B&W cover portrait from noted photographer Cynthia Etheridge, and if that’s not enough, each sale copy comes with an original mini-painting by Mr. Cunningham, inserted into the book on a card. Yes, each chapbook has a unique artwork in it, not a copy! And all for four dollars postpaid ($5 outside the US).

Chris’s previous KSE book, NEXT EXIT: FIVE, was one of our most-acclaimed and fastest-selling items, so please act now on this. Ordering instructions can be found by accessing the “available KSE poetry chapbooks” page to your right.

Why not pay a visit to CC’s always interesting blog RIGHT NOW!       

And don’t forget that as its second literary offering, Orange Alert Press will be issuing in early 2009 a volume of Christopher Cunningham/Hosho McCreesh correspondence entitled Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon: The Cunningham/McCreesh Letters. As described by the publisher,

At first glance these may seem like simply a few letters between two nobody poets slowly becoming friends. But a deeper look reveals a kind of autobiographical novel, a long-form poetic snapshot, an independent document, a written record of two artists struggling with life in America at the beginning of the 21st century. It is a discussion that explores poetry, craft, politics and social criticism in intimate and stark detail. What unfolds here in these pages is the story of two lives as they struggle and search for meaning, for understanding, for some small measure of sense in a cold and often brutal, senseless world. Sometimes scathing and brash, sometime vulnerable, sometimes self-assured, the conversational threads are woven into a constant, furious tapestry covering the landscape of the American South, the desert Southwest and all the way to the cold mountains of Switzerland. Here are two writers clinging desperately to typewriters as war in the Middle East breaks out, as fear and terror motivate and penetrate the culture at large, gouge into its electronic eye, as the artistic mind is flattened, anesthetized. These letters represent a refusal to submit and a wild shout to the heavens that art can still matter.

I’ll certainly be ordering my copy as soon as pre-orders are accepted.

Although not an example of “crime poetry”, IN GAMBLER’S BLOOD reminds me, on some level, of the great existential crime films from previous decades such as Walter Hill’s THE DRIVER and Jean-Pierre Melville’s LE SAMOURAI, and those two works are beyond compare. They haunt the viewer and are models of high-octane understatement. IN GAMBLER’S BLOOD fills me with a similar feeling. Thanks to Chris and Cynthia for taking on this project—if you buy only one KSE chapbook this season, this one would probably be it.

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