Cool Limbo

by Michael Montlack

120 Pages, 5½ x 8½

Library of Congress Control Number:  2011921533

ISBN:  978-1-935520-40-5

Publication Date:  05/15/2011

Press Release

Cover Art:  Illustration & Design
by Justin Winslow  |


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Cool Limbo is a series of dazzling portraits that are accessible yet complex, hilarious yet poignant, down-to-earth yet ethereal. Like its cover, which features the title poem's sexy 70's chick lounging—stoned—by the pool (as she neglects the water-winged kids she's supposed to be babysitting), the book is the best kind of party—unofficial, unpretentious, and unabashed. And everyone's there "on plastic lawn furniture...with six packs and lit cigarettes:" From Liz Taylor, Gertrude Stein, and The Golden Girls, to Orpheus, Vanity Smurf, and Stevie Nicks. Poem after poem, these figures somehow mingle with the poet, in the not-so-still life studies of his boisterous family and friends, building a narrative about the departure from suburbia to the big city (from the ghost of a boy to a realized though sometimes-haunted man)—all while commenting on, as Elaine Equi puts it, the "constantly shifting sexual codes" assigned to men and women alike. Few places can you find a poem about a gay porn star that concerns itself with the meaning of objectivity and art just pages after a charged feminist manifesto called "If Hello Kitty Had a Mouth." But beyond that colorful variety of subject and theme, not to mention his mastery of dialogue and what Mark Bibbins calls "devious one-liners," what's most remarkable about this poet in his debut collection is his ability to confront the serious and painful while never abandoning his sharp sense of humor and playful spirit.


Like Montlack, I grew up on Long Island, and it seems this talented poet has got the suburbs exactly right. Lighting up his poems are distinctive, amusing portraits of the women in his life—from schoolgirl days through their East Village punker phase to matrons playing Mah Jongg. With a few drag queens thrown in. However, as seen through his gimlet eye, liberation hasn’t made the 'boys' happier or connecting with someone easier. Though having a mechanic father who accepts him is quite a tribute to the openness Gay Rights have brought. A memorable collection, and fun to read!

—Edward Field, author of After the Fall, Poems Old and New

Cool Limbo navigates a lavish parade of constantly shifting sexual codes, zeroing in with wit and precision on such topics as the pursuit of beauty, the lure of indifference, the gaudy charm of the suburbs, and mortality. Even the somber pieces maintain a tone that celebrates subversive pleasure. These are poems you’ll want to cruise.

—Elaine Equi, author of Ripple Effect: New & Selected Poems

Satire and nostalgia may seem like an unwieldy pairing, but Montlack pulls it off, gleefully dishing out devious one-liners while creating warts-and-all portraits of friends and family with generosity and insight. His raucous but wise misfits join in a chorus promising that in Cool Limbo, we'll never be alone.

—Mark Bibbins, author of The Dance of No Hard Feelings

With an unabashed "Uncle Mame" penchant for pop and camp, Montlack's meticulous ear for urban banter is used to maximum effect—hilarious, compassionate, and frank, as well as delightful.

—Cyrus Cassells, author of Beautiful Signor

Cool Limbo strikes a chord for any gay man who grew up an honorary citizen in a community of hard-knock divas—"ladies in waiting with truck-driver mouths/ and illegal tattoos." But this female paradise is also inhabited by gal pals, their mothers, silver screen icons, even Hello Kitty—each earthly goddess preparing the boy for the inevitable expulsion into the terrible/beautiful world of men. Montlack's poems, sparkling with awe and ethos, celebrate those days as lessons which will enable a man to offer "some of that female love" to another man.

—Rigoberto González, author of Other Fugitives and Other Strangers