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Enter the 2008
Book Prize

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Runner-up in the 2006 National Poetry Review Book Prize

Bill's Formal Complaint

by Dan Kaplan

Dan Kaplan's Bill's Formal Complaint featured in the Oregonian

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In Dan Kaplan’s provocative new book, Bill’s Formal Complaint, we encounter American neo-surrealism at its finest in the form of Bill, the quirky representative of our privileged discontent with living. Bill immediately takes us everywhere and nowhere, flaunting his eponymous history, then leading us breathlessly into the netherworld of dream and the accidental beauties of miscommunication, only to escort us out of it with the same uncertainty: who was Bill? (“How Would You Describe Him?”) The title poem captures the psyche of the book as it ritualizes the contemporary tendency to blame our progenitors for our physical and spiritual failures. The form of choice, used to brilliant effect, is the sonnet, which Kaplan synchronizes to Bill’s level of anguish: “…The dream never varies,/only the piece. Who said that? Or maybe//it goes recurrence is comfort and curse./That’s it. Recurrence is comfort and curse.” (“Ordinarily #2) We can almost hear the ghost of Miroslav Holub, the great Czech poet, whispering from Pilsen a possible preface to this book: “Mummy, come here, there’s a dead devil—” but what follows is the story only Bill can tell.
—Larissa Szporluk

A chicken in orbit, an armless orchestra, all manner of objects wobbly and surreal, dire and dear, inhabit this haggard landscape of non-stop linguistic playfulness that flickeringly translates into Bill, or Billness, or Billessence—a life-like postmodern everyman whose languagey bits coalesce long enough to give voice to this unforgettable complaint. What a funny, crafty, wise, warm, virtuosic debut!
—Robin Behn

Dan Kaplan is also the author of the bilingual chapbook SKIN (Red Hydra Press, 2005), a collaboration between Cuban and American book artists. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Barrow Street, POOL, the Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward, and elsewhere.He lives in Portland, Oregon.