Salerno (AORTA) delivers a third collection where a kind of contemporary transcendentalism collides with economic pragmatism, where the mundane is made mystifying and the practical becomes poetic. Throughout, the banking transaction—and by extension the notion of value—becomes a means to explore the capability of language, foregrounding the tension between the abstract self and his tangible worth. At its most affecting, a paradoxically uncritical voice emerges from the corporatized dystopia he depicts. In “11:12 ǀ 9/22/12 ǀ WTHDRWL” for instance, “There is something gentle/ about the daisy chain// of white receipts/ the ATM will feed the world.” Elsewhere, “Measurement, Inc.,” places the reader into an anonymous office tower, where “In my cubicle dream there/ are something like a dozen Tony/ Hawks flying over me and/ hitting the mirrored windowglass.” Adulthood and its ennui become a desperate and inadequate reflection of childhood, a nightmare where “Even birds outside/ incorporate on the ground.” Underlying many of these poems is the sense that, in a country defined by dollar signs and manufactured boom and bust cycles, one lives in danger of being unable to see beauty or even humanity: “I walk in// the enormity” Salerno writes at the end of “Swear Jar,” “I drop one shoulder/ like a zombie. I’m down, again, about money.

Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

Christopher Salerno’s ATM is a decadent refutation of Robert Graves’ quip that ‘there is no poetry in money, either.’ The material world and the natural world stand side by side: a tulip planted not beside a river bank but beside a bank machine. The bank, like a tree, has branches. ‘People are getting free shipping, and all the bees are gone.’ Salerno rifles through our empty wallets to show how much we’re missing. These poems are mystical transactions of body and soul, as dark as Faust and as illuminating.

—D.A. Powell

In his dazzling new poetry collection, ATM, Christopher Salerno used the language of transaction as a two-way mirror that questions the audience’s relationship with commerce, and with what we might roughly define as value.  “Reader, you can see / in my mouth the sum of my wallet, // this sense of the world / as souvenir.  I sometimes make withdrawls // just for the tautology,” Salerno states in on of many poems that poems that transform the electricity of monetary transfer into a landscape with sensory delight.  The capital in this collection is impossible to confine to an enevelope, and is rather an awareness of the world’s unspent potential.  Read these poems instead of balancing your checkbook.  They already know your most intimate passwords.

—Mary Biddinger


Author bio:

Christopher Salerno’s books of poems include ATM , Minimum Heroic (selected by Dara Wier for the Mississippi Review Poetry Prize, 2010), and Whirligig (Spuyten Duyvil Publishing House, 2006). His chapbook, Automatic Teller, won the 2013 Laurel Review Midwest Chapbook Prize and is currently available. Another chapbook, AORTA, has been published by Poor Claudia, 2013. His poems have appeared in journals and magazines such Fence, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, American Letters and Commentary, Jubilat, Verse Daily, Mississippi Review, and others. Currently, he’s an Assistant Professor of English at William Paterson University where manages the new journal, Map Literary.

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