Gnashing Teeth Publishing

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Somatoliths

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In childhood, our obsessions often lie in seemingly the most trivial of objects. Be they simple sticks, stones, or other bone-breaking things, these totems carry weight normally reserved for relics of grander reverence. In essence, these mementos transcend traditional sacred objects into something more personally potent. In James Cole’s The Somatoliths, the smallest of obstructions are sorted and curated in a museum of poetic musings that seek to analyze, defend, and mock the elements of our own mythologies.

The Somatoliths explores how words and symbols become like bodily stones, unprocessable things that enhance or hinder our daily thoughts and actions. In its first sections, The Gastroliths, Cole explores those difficult-to-swallow truths, whose own unproductive digestions teach the habits and endurance necessary to cope. Part two, The Bufonite, uses the image of a mythical gemstone as the locus for lyrical medicines for childhood anxieties. Later, The Regurgitalith seeks to undo these habits, to find ways around the rote methods we use to cope to find the grim, often comically absurd weaknesses in the facades we conjure. Lastly, The Urolith meditates on very nature of poetic ideas, those things born inside but that must come out in the most ruthless ways possible.

Combining elements of Cole’s trademark humor and rumination, The Somatoliths offers a many-layered sideshow of gaffs and adages perfect for poetry veterans and newcomers alike.


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In poetry works, the poet themself, has to engage the reader quickly, either via the title or with the first few lines of the poem as the work starts. Right away, the Somatoliths are the “hook” that as the first section sets the entire work up as to understanding the poetry of a kidney stone as it passes. Using Greek root words throughout, “-lith” for stone, and “somatic, gastro” as to the body and then specifically to the body’s plumbing, the poem progresses essentially as an artful rendering of “Odyssey.” This is a saga unlike any other, and novel-like with our hero taking a journey, he has to face the one-eyed monster, a kidney stone. James is all over inside his head and the scenery that emerges is fantastical and believable. He survives his own personal travel through the Strait of Hellespont, and gives us as our “pearl” a polished tourmaline of a book.

Meet the Author

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Born in Roanoke, VA, James went on to study creative writing, medieval-renaissance studies, and neuroscience at The College of William and Mary. In 2023, James earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Virginia, where he studied neural development and retinal degenerative diseases. He currently teaches neuroscience and psychology as an Assistant Professor at West Virginia University.

 

James’ writings have appeared in numerous publications over the years, including Poetica Review, Oddball Magazine, Carolina Muse, among others. His first collection, Crow, come home, was published in 2019 through VerbalEyze Press. Aside from his publishing, James was the founder of the Charlottesville Poetry Critique Circle, an instructor at WriterHouse, a Board of Governors Member for the Virginia Writers Club, and a judge for the Virginia Poetry Out Loud competition. He has collaborated with many artists and performers over the years, including the Eunoia Creative Arts Community, The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, and Visible Records Gallery. From 2022 to 2023 he hosted the Poetry Live! Showcase in collaboration with Live Arts Theater. In 2022, he co-founded The Rumen Literary Arts Journal and continues to serve as chief editor for poetry and co-editor for fiction and non-fiction.

Beyond the literary sphere, James is a fan of all things ancient and atavistic. He is a practitioner of historic European martial arts and a former sport fencer. James enjoys board games, trivia, and cooking.

More of his work can be found at jamescoleauthor.com

Also check out The Rumen at therumen.com

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