November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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5 Good Books/Reviews

 

2 Flights of Fancy

Reviews by Silvia Scheibli

 

Poised in Flight (ISBN #9781482734225)
A.J. Huffman & April Salzano, eds.
198 pages, 6” x 9”, paperback, greyscale ($7.50)

Kind of a Hurricane Press
www.kindofahurricanepress.com

Two poetry anthologies are hot off the press, one from the grapefruit capital of the U.S., Florida, the other from the avocado state of California. First up is the anthology, Poised in Flight, an anthology centered upon Poised in Flight Coverthe theme of “wings,” edited by A.J. Huffman and April Salzano and published by Kind of a Hurricane press from Daytona Beach, Florida. The editors “asked the writing community to ponder the theme of wings.” The result is that “several (contributors) delved into the fantastical flights and follies of mythical icons. Some took us on metaphorical flights of passage and transcendence.” Ultimately, the editors were overwhelmed with submissions and ended up with a substantial 198 page book comprising poems by some 70 poets. Too many poets to list, but some familiar names include, Michael H. Brownstein, Esteban Colon, Patricia L. Goodman, Heller Levinson, Lylanne Musselman, Sy Roth, Carol Smallwood, Diana Woodcock, Dana Yost and Ed Zahniser.

The variety of styles and approaches to the flight theme is quite amazing, attesting to the careful attention given by editors, Huffman and Salzano, to this project. A short poem, “Icarus,” by Janet Butler springs directly from the “mythical icon” perspective:

He made the joyous leap

and floated
free
momentarily, from worries
flesh-bound.

Brother, now, to all things light
and soaring, he feels
power in shadows
shadows that follow then fade from sight
as he climbs that wide blue highway
narrowing
to a dead end street.

while Martin Willitts, Jr.’s poem, “Finding the Blue Huron,” explores metaphorical flight:

The Great Huron invented stillness,
and practiced yoga on one leg with the cranes.

It wore white morning light, like a robe.

It knew the patterns of fish;
the purpose of waiting to see
what happens next;
the patience of finding
what you need
and when to get it.

My wife bending her neck in blue reading light,

studies the same intense stillness
as if her life depended upon it.

I balance on one leg finding what I need
and not wanting to disturb it.
And, finally, from the perspective of “passage and transcendence,” we get Alan Britt’s dedication to Andy Warhol superstar and renowned artist in her own right, Ultra Violet, in his poem, “This Time the Clouds.”

This time the clouds
rub their hips
against the branches of our thoughts.

Dried leaves tumble
to the blacktop covered
by redyellow ashes.

Clouds on ice-skates
circle these leaves,
darkening our thoughts,
stirring our imaginations.

Poised in Flight is a lively anthology that is perfect for reading in spurts or at length while RVing your way cross-country or curled beside a December fireplace. This book comes highly recommended.

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Ekphrastia Gone Wild (ISBN: 978-0-9820584-6-6)
Rick Lupert, ed.
145 pages, 51/2” x 81/2”, paperback, full color ($15.00)

Ain’t Got No Press
15522 Stagg Street
Van Nuys, CA 91406
agnp@PoetrySuperHighway.com
PoetrySuperHighway.com/agnp

From flight to flights of fancy via the ekphrastic imagination comes the latest anthology from poet, editor and publisher, Rick Lupert’s Van Nuys, California based Ain’t Got No Press. Lupert’s latest anthology, Ekphrastia Gone Wild CoverEkphrastia  Gone Wild, is an attractive 145 page collection of, indeed, wild poems by 87 poets exploring the subject of art in every way imaginable. In his introduction, Lupert says, “The relationship between an ekphrastic poem and its subject, the original artwork, has the potential to be more of a recreation of that artwork itself, perhaps more so than just an interpretation of it.” Again, too many poets to list, but a few familiar names include Bruce Taylor, Daniel Y. Harris, David Chorlton, Elleraine Lockie, Fiona Curran, Gerald Locklin, Jim Bennett, Kenneth Pobo, Laurel Ann Bogen, Noel Sleboda, Robert Wynne and, of course, Nobel Laureate, Wislawa Szmborska. A number of poets in this somewhat international anthology hail from Canada, the U.K. and beyond.

As mentioned, these poets explore art in a variety of ways. Notice, for example, from his poem, “Mona Lisa Smiles,” Dan Fitzgerald’s humorous take on Leonardo’s Mona Lisa through the eyes of Mona Lisa herself:

Look at this poor sap
trying to become famous
by painting my picture.
I can see by the drawing
in the next room
that he already did my sister.
Wait till he finds out
I’ve given him the clap.

Then there’s Helen Bar-Lev’s more serious glimpse into Van Gogh’s soul in her poem, “Van Gogh Self-Portrait”:

Brush strokes swirl his face

stir the air around him
into a halo of colours
blue eyes agonized
by their own brilliance

or Wislawa Szymborska’s worldy take on Vermeer’s milkmaid:

So long as that woman from Rijksmuseum
in painted quiet and concentration
keeps pouring milk day after day
from the pitcher to the bowl
the World hasn’t earned
the world’s end.

There are many notable poems in Ekphrastia Gone Wild: Doris Lueth Stengel’s “Last Supper,” Gerald Locklin’s “Frans Hals: Boy with a Lute circa 1625,” Johnmichael Simon’s “The Firing Squad,” Mira Martin-Parker’s “De Young De Young,” and Alan Britt’s “Ode to Velázquez,” a poem which is dedicated to Ragazine’s own José Rodeiro.

An anthology of immense variety, Ekphrastia Gone Wild comes highly recommended for its sheer breadth and depth of originality. As you pack Poised in Flight into the RV, or tuck it under your arm while heading for a glass of Shiraz beside the fireplace, pick up a copy of Ekphrastia Gone Wild as well. You’ll be glad you did.

About the reviewer:

Silvia Scheibli lives in Arizona close to the Mexican border where she taught English to bilingual high school students. Her poems were translated into Spanish and included in La Adelfa Amarga, an anthology published in Lima, Peru. Her poems regularly appear in magazines and journals both in the U.S. and abroad. She is a participating poet in the We Are You Project International (www.weareyouproject.org).

 * * * * *

 Coffee House Confessions

Review by David Fraser

Coffee House Confessions
Ellaraine Lockie
ISBN 978-0615727677
First Edition 2013
Silver Birch Press
silverbirchpress@yahoo.com
www.silverbirchpress.com

On the dust jacket the last sentence says, “Ellaraine writes every day in a coffee shop no matter where she is in the world.” That’s a lot of writing, a lot of watching and being watched, and a lot of coffee. She has assembled in Coffeehouse Confessions CoverCoffee House Confessions, a unique chapbook of 26 poems that explores the lives of characters she meets directly or vicariously in these sanctuaries for one of the world’s greatest addictions.

In “White Noise and Other Muses” she is in Starbucks, her muse haven to watch, witness, and lay down rough drafts. Here is a safe haven to dissect the patrons and not unkindly spit them out on paper.  In the opening poem “Java Genetics” she talks of “a gene seed planted by need/when primal people had no written words” and here we see the archetypal draw of the coffee shop, like the fire at night where prehistoric families gathered to tell stories, to share images and communion, sheltered from the cold of night and the darkness surrounding them.

She tells us that she starts “to feel one with it all” and that line is a message to herself and to us: “That you are a part of what flows and glows / falls and rises, purrs and dances.” I don’t drink coffee, although once I did; prefer tea and chi lattes, but I can’t help identifying with her voyeurism and her invention in her poetic storytelling. For me I invent lives and stories from a window of light seen in a small house beside the railway tracks while I am on a speeding train. Ellaraine does the same in the stillness of the coffee shops of the world from Seattle, Silicon Valley, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Mexico.  She reminds us that not in all places where coffee is consumed in public is there the freedom we have in North America. Some poets are imprisoned for their words.

Good poets can’t help themselves. There is that need again to be a part of what is around them, to draw it in, to recreate and invent the world that they see and hear and Ellaraine does this very effectively in many of these poems. She brings her own imagination to what and who she observes.  In the poem “In the Privacy of the Public” she observes two women, a mother and a daughter who share agony and consolation. The portrait is so delicately drawn for us in the details; sea-green eyes, one rimmed red, a hand, a napkin for a eye, ice melting in a glass, coffee untouched and cold. We see these two women as in a bubble amid the “clamor of the coffee shop.”

Not without a sense of humour, Ellaraine invents whole back stories to the lives that she observes, the family man who is a truck driver, the attorney with The New York Times borrowed from the sales rack on his way into the coffee shop, the war vet hero who desperately wants his independence, the crazy lady and others. At times we get into the whimsical side of her poet’s brain with poems that hint at sensual desires.

There’s World Cup Coffee man on the patio
Lips encircling a cigarette
In bad boy demeanor
Suckle love chiseling his cheekbones”

She says, “I wonder whether his hands / are as hazardous / as the come-hither nicotine”

In another poem it is a man in a cowboy hat, “Eyes blue as Montana Big Sky.” And in another we see a mental intimacy with a blind Japanese man who expects her in her favourite chair close to him and is upset if someone beats her to it. We see the details again that inhabit her poetry so effectively, small intimations, a shoulder tap, a piece of chocolate offered. She says, “I like this limited relationship / The almost romance of it / The quiet between us and the mystique.”

In her closing poems she tackles weighty metaphysical issues of guilt and redemption, her theft of a dress that she presented in a red wrapped box for her mother at Christmas. In the present her stolen purse brings on this memory , but it is the gratitude she has for all the returned contents thrown from a car window, that were of no use to the adolescent thieves that is so emotive.  And she reminds us in “You’ve Come A Long Way Baby” that in the early days of coffee shops in Edwardian England, you would encounter only men, just as in those days women were not accepted as writers and needed to deceive to be published. She says, “I was the Bohemian camouflaged / As a man in black corduroy knickers / Alone in the corner.”

Ellaraine has her stack of chapbooks beside her as she writes at Starbucks and in the cafes of the world and she is out there documenting her environment in quirky, entertaining, and meaningful ways.

About the reviewer:

David Fraser lives in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. He is the editor of Ascent Aspirations Magazine. His poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Rocksalt, An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry. He has published five collections of poetry and is a member of the League of Canadian Poets.

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Crossing Borders

Review by Miriam O’Neal

Strange Borderlands
ISBN: 978-1-927409-05-3

Ben Berman
104 pages, 6” x 9”, paperback, full color ($18.95)
http://www.ablemusepress.com/

For several days now, the rain has come down in fits and starts; cloud clusters, pushed by heavy breezes, burst open just a few seconds at a time. Then, sun; steam; heat. No rainbows; just yellow glare. Then, gray again. It is 

Strange Borderlands Coverthe kind of weather that demands an ability to take the long view; to accept what is knowing that it will not last; to try to live in the moment, anyway.

That search for both acceptance and the long view is embedded in Ben Berman’s book of poems, Strange Borderlands. The poems bring the reader deep into the back-country of Zimbabwe. They introduce weather and landscapes so real I can feel the skin of my neck needled by my own salt, my own body immersed in close, midnight air, the cold wet floor of the shop that sells soap and dried fish.

The people who inhabit the poems (friends, students, glue-sniffing children, missionaries) now inhabit my imagination. If I don’t actually know them, I know of them. They are real. And the weather of desire permeates the poems: the desire to be part of, wrestles with the knowledge of being apart from. There is the desire to do well pressing upon the desire to do good. There are the competing desires to free and be free of; to make a home in the unfamiliar.  In his poem “Ars Poetica?,” Czeslaw Milosz wrote, “The purpose of poetry is to remind us /  how difficult it is to remain just one person, /   for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, /  and invisible guests come in and out at will.” The speaker of the poems in Strange Borderlands finds himself as such a house. We follow him through his tour as a Peace Corp volunteer and back to the States where he encounters his own, new otherness. His “invisible guests” are the people he left behind in Zimbabwe, who haunt his sleep and his days.

Midway through Berman’s book we encounter “On Detachment and Delicacies,” a brief, lyric narrative about participating in the butchering of goats. It speaks from that moment on the bridge between 2 worlds when acceptance finally meets the long view. The psyche points out to the self, For now, on the map of your life, you are here, and nowhere else.

Even slaughter grows somewhat methodic—
You hold the heads to calm the spasmodic

fits of their feet, focus on precision,
how the right cut, like a good revision

can produce a more deft and seamless
execution….

As an ars poetica this has to be the most visceral metaphor for writing I’ve encountered. Yet it also reads as a record a moment on the strange borderland of the book’s title, of this man who reaches for figurative analogy as instinctively as the goats’ owner reaches for the sharp blade.

of course I felt intimately involved, close
to life and death and viscerally engrossed

but I was dumping hearts into a bucket
and wanted life to feel delicate,

The couplets of this deceptively little poem, with their rhymes and near rhymes, alternate between the two worlds as along the border between the exterior land of full engagement with life, death, and survival, and the interior country of the mind which insists on naming the things of both worlds, both the heart and the heart-felt. The final couplet tells us he

wanted to handle each flimsy liver
with the fine alertness of a lover.

Located midway through the collection, “On Detachment and Delicacies” marks a transition from poems full of the immediacy of the lived life in Zimbabwe, to those more reflective poems in which the speaker tries, at least, to make his way to the long view; tries to look back with some kind of gained wisdom, but often with only an admitted confusion about what has been gained and/or lost.

In the early poems we hear the voices of the speaker and his new comrades as they negotiate attitudes, expectations and different languages. In section V of “Interruptions,” two students who scheme to send pictures of a fly-ridden friend to the USA asking for donations: “Tell them to send money— save African boy’s life.” The boy instructs his teacher. In other poems graves are dug, chickens are slaughtered, the students teach their teacher about ‘beatings’.

In “Learning Shona,” which is the language of Zimbabwe, we hear how easily sounds change meaning on the tongue.

I learned to pray and with ass sound
almost exactly the same..
Perceptions can be confusing too,
…and it wasn’t just
language either, I’d see a man

suffering gum disease and write home
about the beautiful toothless smiles.

Later in the poem we learn
I confused a woman with a room,

announced, excuse me, but I’d like
to enter you as I tried to squeeze
by….

What I admire most about these poems, beyond their intense imagery and the tensions constructed between dark and light, is the clear love and respect this poet demonstrates for his subject matter. There is a human scale to each poem that helps the reader walk the trails of this landscape however unfamiliar they may have been until that moment. Whether it is the image of a Peace Corp volunteer unwittingly perching himself on a coffin as he hitches a ride to town in the bed of a friend’s truck, or of the same man perched on a barstool in midafternoon back in the States, who feels caught by the hook of belonging to that other place, we arrive, each time in the realm of dislocation, in that “desire to remain just one person” which memory steals from us again and again. In these poems we recognize it as if we have crossed the border too.

About the reviewer:

Miriam O’Neal has published poems and/or reviews in AGNI, Marlboro Review, Louisiana Literature, Birmingham Review, and The Guidebook, as well as elsewhere. Her translation of Italian poet Alda Merini earned her a Beginning Translator’s Fellowship from the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) in 2007. Her manuscript, We Start With What We’re Given is currently looking for a home.

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Hot to the Touch

Review by Boris Dralyuk

Natural History of Asphalt (ISBN: ISBN 9781304181787)
Anthony Seidman
116 pages, 6” x 9,” paperback, full color ($9.98)

First Edition 2013
Oneiros Books
www.paraphiliamagazine.com/books.html
www.paraphiliamagazine.com/oneirosbooks/catalogue/poetry/

The prose poems of Anthony Seidman’s Natural History of Asphalt are every bit as hard as the “vast and ugly” avenues of North Hollywood – the San Fernando Valley town where the poet makes his home. They are dark

Anthony Seidman - Natural History of Asphaltas pitch but, under a certain slant of light, they shimmer. They rise from the Valley’s potholed roads and parking lots, which reverberate with paved-over scars and traumas, like waves of refracted light in the blazing desert heat: “Sunday, the San Fernando Valley is a plain of empty parking lots, with the Tongva gone, bones under the macadam. Their women of ochre-smeared faces now dance and feast in the underworld. Their men hunt ghost deer. All the juniper-berries they desire. All the yucca and jackrabbit.”

Like these parking lots, in a country where every day is a travesty of summer, the poems are hot to the touch, even blistering.  In one of the most powerful pieces in this collection, a young Latino boy runs to a corner store for a Hershey bar, scorching his tender bare feet: “I set the boy down and hold up his feet to see the damage; his soles are now two blisters, in parts parchment yellow, in other parts translucent sheaves of epidermis. One blister ruptures, mustard colored plasma oozes thick as penicillin.” At the end, when the boy is being carted away in a Fire Department ambulance, the poet finds himself unwittingly – but wholeheartedly – adopting the injured and frightened child. These poems call us to adopt what we never intended to own— towns seemingly scrubbed of any real humanity, full of circumspect strangers with whom we haven’t a word in common.  But a living heart beats beneath the asphalt, and “Christmas lights flicker over the bar-top.”  We are surprised by a pride of place: “These foothills, chaparral, are my country, these gas stations, these sub-par public schools, vacant lots and miles of asphalt… they are the sigil I behold through smog.” And when we realize with the poet that “All of us are marooned here,” at the landlocked bar Las Playas, the taste of loneliness, which is “acrid, aspirin on the tongue,” slowly melts away.

 

About the reviewer:

Boris Dralyuk is poet and translator who holds a PhD in Slavic languages and literature from UCLA and is the translator of Leo Tolstoy’s How Much Land Does a Man Need (2010), A Slap in the Face: Four Russian Futurist Manifestos (2013), and Anton Chekhov’s Little Trilogy (2013); co-translator of Polina Barskova’s The Zoo in Winter: Selected Poems (2011) and Dariusz Sośnicki’s The World Shared: Poems (2014); and author of the monograph Western Crime Fiction Goes East: The Russian Pinkerton Craze 1907–1934 (2012). He is also co-editor of the forthcoming Anthology of Russian Poetry from Pushkin to Brodsky (2015). He has received various prizes for his translations.

 

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Lynda Barreto