"This is a thrilling book of femininity and magic. When it comes to capturing the intimacy of pain, Larissa Shmailo is among the most daring poets of her generation. When speaking of human rights, she is a human flame. She is subtle and provocative, fresh and out of bounds. You will fall in love here, and you will be loved right back."

—Philip Nikolayev, editor of Fulcrum: an anthology of poetry and aesthetics


"At one point in #specialcharacters, Larissa Shmailo declares: 'Mother Kali, you have made me what I am: feminine, brilliant, entirely without fear'—and the rest of the poems in this collection prove this true. They run the gamut from being outspoken to outrageous, irreverent to downright heretical, taking gleeful pride in knowing exactly how far is too far—and then going even further. I see this work as a continuum in a long tradition of radical writing practices from Futurism, to Dada, to Oulipo, to Pussy Riot. Read it when you wish to be empowered. Read it when you wish to be entertained. Read it to rid yourself of the precious and polite."

—Elaine Equi, author of The Cloud of Knowable Things


"With #specialcharacters—where even the title is special—Shmailo has managed to split language into its common & least common denominators/principles: sound, meaning, symbol, feeling (text/ure) as well as providing us with a range of voices from child to adult & male to female within a range of styles & mannerisms from the ultra-experimental to quirky 'innocent' rhymes like her sexy riff on 'the 12 days of Christmas' in her classic 'The Other Woman's Cunt.' Her knowledge of the WORD & how to use it extends from darkly humorous to warm, lyrical, tender & painful. She explores every facet of lives lived, be it endangered turtles, abused women or battered men. Her passion & compassion know no bounds. 'Between cause & effect...choose this' BOOK, at times a 'woeful bedtime tale' & 'a light in the bedroom' or any room, any space anywhere in the world. It is a book of verse one should return to 'again & again.' A book about 'creation,' 'alive as snow,' these poems 'glisten like apples in the dying sun.' When Shmailo refers to 'Steven's old bones' this 'unorthodox jew' can only think of the pleasure his old bones derive from reading these rejuvenating pages. This is a major work by a major poet."

—Steve Dalachinsky, author of Trust Fund Babies / Phenomena of Interference


The Brooklyn Rail and Meredith Sue Willis review #specialcharacters

from MIRROR, or a Flash in the Pan

Chi son? Chi son? / Sono un poeta. Che cosa faccio? Scrivo.

In the bank, a woman is singing; on the street lined with rag-tag book vendors, a man is whistling, with vibrato, beautifully.

When was the last time Ritar sang?

Ritar is afraid that, now that her two brassieres are tight, she might have to buy new ones, 36G. They are expensive, and there is no money.  


Where any view of Money exists, Art does not, said William Blake.

Who was nuts, Ritar remembers. But who also seemed to understand how things really worked, visions and all.

Now, instead of Blake, there is Artbucks. Instead of fearing the satanic mills, there is the Factory.

Somehow, Ritar was happier before artists became entrepreneurs, before they started selling themselves on Facebook and LinkedIn. 

It was better before ArtBucks. Before Warhol became everyone’s role model.

Well, everyone’s role model except maybe the young Factory sexkids he didn’t pay.

Perhaps, like an artistic army of Horatio Algers, artists, with luck and pluck, could embrace capitalism and prevail.

Forgetting that capitalism doesn’t embrace too many people back.

And, now, hurtling toward debility, Ritar had had her 15 minutes of fame, many times over, and could relax.

Could relax, if there were money.

Help me, Auntie Warhol. You are my only hope.

Ritar always felt affluent until now. Prosperous. And knew, firmly, that there would be, with no special effort, money. Always. Like water, like air. Always.

But now, the money drought, the Cretaceous-Tertiary no-dollar-bolide spewing dust and clouds and blocking out the sun, executing, at a blow, the indigent dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs like Ritar.