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In his debut collection, The Existentialist Cookbook, Shawnte Orion sifts through the absurdity of modern living for scraps of philosophy, religion, and mathematics to blend into recipes for elegies and celebrations. From Kurosawa films to "Project Runway," writers to rock stars, influences are embraced and wrestled as Orion magnifies mortality through the prism of chronol In his debut collection, The Existentialist Cookbook, Shawnte Orion sifts through the absurdity of modern living for scraps of philosophy, religion, and mathematics to blend into recipes for elegies and celebrations. From Kurosawa films to "Project Runway," writers to rock stars, influences are embraced and wrestled as Orion magnifies mortality through the prism of chronology and humor.


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In his debut collection, The Existentialist Cookbook, Shawnte Orion sifts through the absurdity of modern living for scraps of philosophy, religion, and mathematics to blend into recipes for elegies and celebrations. From Kurosawa films to "Project Runway," writers to rock stars, influences are embraced and wrestled as Orion magnifies mortality through the prism of chronol In his debut collection, The Existentialist Cookbook, Shawnte Orion sifts through the absurdity of modern living for scraps of philosophy, religion, and mathematics to blend into recipes for elegies and celebrations. From Kurosawa films to "Project Runway," writers to rock stars, influences are embraced and wrestled as Orion magnifies mortality through the prism of chronology and humor.

54 review for The Existentialist Cookbook

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Ann

    Orion's voice is fresh, varied and solid. I loved the setup of the book, it accentuated the poems and kept the flow moving. This collection made me sigh as much as it did laugh, and I thought more than once, "I wish I'd written that line." I think Irreversible is one of my favorites, and I'm pretty sure I told my husband that Shawnte Orion is a genius after reading it. This one has instantly gone to my favorite collections shelf, and I will probably have to get a loaner copy, so I can loan it to Orion's voice is fresh, varied and solid. I loved the setup of the book, it accentuated the poems and kept the flow moving. This collection made me sigh as much as it did laugh, and I thought more than once, "I wish I'd written that line." I think Irreversible is one of my favorites, and I'm pretty sure I told my husband that Shawnte Orion is a genius after reading it. This one has instantly gone to my favorite collections shelf, and I will probably have to get a loaner copy, so I can loan it to friends who love poetry as much as I do.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brendan McBreen

    In this not-a-cookbook, Shawnte Orion channels ghosts of poets past and present to serve up well worded quips and whipped metaphors. Whether he is Basho eulogizing Edgar Allen Poe of the anonymous fast-food employee chronicling Freudian slips at KFC, Shawnte Orion serves us succulent dishes seasoned to poetic perfection.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Spiegel

    First of all, the cover is awesome. Second of all, I tried to read a bunch aloud to my husband as we drove in the car on the way to Bearizona in Williams, AZ with my kids and father-in-law--but I wasn't successful. Which means he'll be reading it too. Success! These were some of my favorites: "Hymn Latte," "Cheese,""Kentucky Freud Chicken," "Things That Make Me Cry," "The Existential Chef," "The Amazing Technicolor Dream Poem," and "Continental Breakfast."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    Shawnte Orion is quick-witted, sly, sharp, and smart, and his poems are full of winks and nods. While strong in word play and wit, he also turns tender and knowing, writing with a willingness to let down his guard and set aside clever tricks. This book offers a really great blend of strong poems, and is an excellent debut.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jared Duran

    Shawnte Orion's new collection, The Existentialist Cookbook, is an utterly satisfying mixture of humor, linguistic experimentalism, and profundity. Just as likely to make you laugh as to provide dangerous moments of genuine insight into the human condition.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    This collection of poems was delightful. The poems were playful but thought provoking. I am not usually one for poetry, but I found myself returning to The Existentialist Cookbook again and again. I read countless passages to anyone who was near me. Bravo Shawnte, bravo.

  7. 4 out of 5

    McKenzie Tozan

    This review first appeared on my review blog: http://mckenzielynntozan.com/?p=1756 Here I am, attempting to think of what to say, but my coffee spilled, and it made such a lovely and dark display across my table. This is the sort of mindset in which Shawnte Orion places me: an area of in-the-moment appreciation, the odd humor of something spilled and its preoccupation with gaining our attention, and the beauty found in the small, the subtle and the sometimes-frustrating. In Orion’s debut collect This review first appeared on my review blog: http://mckenzielynntozan.com/?p=1756 Here I am, attempting to think of what to say, but my coffee spilled, and it made such a lovely and dark display across my table. This is the sort of mindset in which Shawnte Orion places me: an area of in-the-moment appreciation, the odd humor of something spilled and its preoccupation with gaining our attention, and the beauty found in the small, the subtle and the sometimes-frustrating. In Orion’s debut collection, The Existentialist Cookbook, I am floored by these poems’ honesty, their humor and their seeming, underlying want for this Cookbook to be a recipe for a new kind of living. In this collection, living is truly in the details. Orion’s frequent use of fragment, as well as surprise and humor, reminds the reader of the potential for discovery in a chicken salad sandwich, a pause, an antiquated phone booth—and while his poems may not suggest our stopping to smell the flowers, they provide more world-specific examples of the absurdities of life, and the appreciating of a teacup over the din of traffic, or the sporadic nature of a midnight cat. “Despite” their pop culture references, these poems are timeless in their sentiment and challenge of ways of living, and their humor keeps them memorable, beyond-relatable and always-surprising. According to NYQ Books, “Orion shifts through the absurdity of modern living for scraps of philosophy, religion and math to blend into recipes for elegies and celebrations,” which proved to me to be an incredibly accurate summation—these poems are fixated on the everyday and the small absurdities that occur, but, as I found, they also present the opportunities for thankfulness that accompany. While I read a collection, I write down page numbers for the poems I enjoyed the most, but in this case, I wrote so many page numbers down, I had to rank them—for this exact reason, the relationship between thankfulness and the absurd. Below, I have included three of my more-favorite poems that I would like to share before continuing my review: DREAMS pl. n. Mysterious river connecting lake and sea you lie on the embankment eyes closed plunging hand into stream grasping at powerful currents water flowing between your fingers rushing toward the sea you stand empty handed but notice your hand still wet water dripping from each finger as the Sun dries your arm THINGS THAT MAKE ME CRY You slicing onions in our new kitchen In our old kitchen slicing onions by myself DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRONICALLY-DEPOSITED UNEMPLOYMENT CHECKS? Job security isn’t manufactured on this assembly line. It might sound technical but I basically press buttons on a machine while they invent a machine to press the buttons on my machine and I can only hope this new machine will have its own buttons that also need to be pressed. These poems are brief, but they are also lovely, imagistic and raw. What is particularly interesting to me is how these poems are so deeply rooted in the mundane and still manage to find value and beauty in that moment and to teach us something about the self. For instance, there is the water dripping from the narrator’s hands in “Dreams,” which represents beauty and simplistic, the cutting of onions in an empty kitchen in “Things that Make Me Cry,” which represents solitude, and what about the ever-shifting role of the factory worker in “Do Androids Dream…,” which can represent stability, hope and regret, and even a certain element of humor. These poems accomplish in tight spaces, through singular instances and images, truths that are often overlooked in our everyday lives but which are otherwise deeply telling of ourselves and our needs. And if such sentiments were not compelling enough on their own, I also truly admire Orion’s writerly decisions—particularly his use of fragment and transformation from fragment to full sentence for emphasis. These traits are not portrayed in the poems I included, but what becomes so important about these techniques in Orion’s poetry is that they accelerate the poems forward and create an emphasis, in image and concept; the use of fragment isolates these images, and finalizing a poem with a full sentence emphasizes and finalizes the importance of that image. In the poems I included above, Orion focuses on double-meaning through the removal of (most) punctuation and the power of successful enjambment. For instance, in “Dreams,” I particularly enjoy the isolation of images that occurs, based on the enjambment of the lines and lack of punctuation—take “water flowing through your fingers,” for instance, which takes on a feeling of not only importance but a small, eternal continuity. Take, also, the images of the onions being cut in the second poem; not only are two instances of onions being described, but they are separated into a form of ongoing, isolated and deprecating silence. How this works is very lovely and surprising, as well as memorable and sharp-handed. These poems, from the beginning, entranced me first in their earnest, humorous appeals but then kept me with their surprise and subtle movements at the level of the line. Shawnte Orion provides a unique snapshot of our world and its little absurdities, its humor, and even its beauty, often found through simplicity. The Existentialist Cookbook confronts some of our greatest inconsistences, our sins, and reminds of what we can and should focus on, how we should operate, how we should live. It’s deeply honest, and in that honesty, humorous, and it is greatly memorable. This is one of those collections where you should take it to a quiet place, sit back and drink a cup of coffee like I did. And maybe spill it a little, close enough to the book for you to need to pull it away and watch spill spread; it’s so worth it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Was able to interest my husband and daughter in poetry more by sharing some of the poems from this collection with them.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

  10. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Snoek-Brown

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Stephens

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ed

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

  14. 4 out of 5

    Becky

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ee Zaphod

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cathryn Shea

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  18. 5 out of 5

    Girl Underground

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sally Lehman

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leah

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rae Jager

  22. 5 out of 5

    Clint

  23. 4 out of 5

    Corie Cisco

  24. 4 out of 5

    RK Poe

  25. 5 out of 5

    Isak

  26. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jason Arias

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shelly Taylor

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shawnte Orion

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jessica King

  31. 4 out of 5

    Rachella Baker

  32. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  33. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Lombardi

  34. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Carnes

  35. 4 out of 5

    Pam

  36. 4 out of 5

    Skymira

  37. 5 out of 5

    Sue

  38. 4 out of 5

    Pam Mooney

  39. 4 out of 5

    Vykki

  40. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

  41. 5 out of 5

    Callie

  42. 4 out of 5

    Steve Sengele

  43. 4 out of 5

    J

  44. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

  45. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Daniels

  46. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  47. 5 out of 5

    Robin

  48. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Duncan

  49. 4 out of 5

    K.

  50. 4 out of 5

    Gracey Thomason

  51. 4 out of 5

    Lori

  52. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Reader

  53. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  54. 5 out of 5

    Sara Lynott

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