I Take Back the Sponge Cake
Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson. Rose Metal Press, $14.95 paperback (64p) ISBN 9780984616640

In their collaborative mini-masterpiece published by the rock solid and always surprising Rose Metal Press, Erdrich and Nelson prove that three is definitely not a crowd as they not only invite reader participation but also quietly demand it. Constructed to loosely resemble the choose-your-own-adventure model and comprised of pairings—poem and image and also homonyms like wait/weight and tide/tied —the work as a whole is surreal, playful, and wonderfully addictive. Erdrich’s beautifully soft, often haunting images hold a certain dreamy childlike quality that suits Nelson’s nostalgic text. Lines like “But the sun is blind and must touch everything:/always feeling its gold way forward towards the dark” and “Your small ears are necessary/to my/day” spark both amazement and delight. At the end of each poem and image pairing, the reader is presented with a fill-in-the-blank sentence and must choose between two homonyms to determine the next step of the experience. The construct is clever, not to mention relevant and culturally adaptive in this age of hyperlinks and touch-screen devices, and the worn interface of printed page and reader is injected with new life. The book is looping and fast, two traits that lend to its compulsive readability and also to its power to move the reader to begin again and again, hungry to try different routes. The size of the book, too, particularly its generous width, makes it easy for the reader to flip back and forth. What’s more, it’s this casual flipping that allows for glimpses of as of yet unseen texts and images, thus whetting the reader’s curiosity to uncover the paths to these pages. Erdrich and Nelson, who continue to collaborate under the name Invisible Seeing Machine, have successfully bled their imaginations together to produce a delightfully whimsical and exploratory experience for the reader. Whether paired up or as individuals, these two have established themselves as bright stars worth watching. (March, 2012)

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Reviewer bio: Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel FREIGHT. Visit his website at