November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Category — Poetry

Gail Gerwin/Poetry

 

Vapor

 

After The Three Fates (Working Title)

Seward Johnson, Aluminum and Foam, 2011

 

Double, double toil and trouble . . .

—Shakespeare, Macbeth IV-I

 

Three Fates or Hags or Witches, call them all;

They boil a cauldron filled with feet and brains,

A fenny snake, its venom’s pow’r forestalled,

And hollowed eyes and toes from lives well drained.

Who are these Fates, and why are they portrayed?

What do they think as throngs walk by their site?

And why were kings and nobles so dismayed

While little children giggle with delight?

And why am I so sad to light on them?

Why fear, why yearn for times I spent in class

When time stretched wide, my studies mattered then;

I’m trapped by years like vapor that has passed.

So boil and bubble, Fates, my pot awaits—

But hark, my ending do not annotate.

 

 

 

Slick: A Love Story

 

Chicken soup, the holiday’s here, right?

That’s what Slick the Plumber would say

twice a year as he lay prone on my kitchen

floor, cleaned out the clog in the disposal—

peels of parsnips, onions, leeks, carrots,

turnips, fibrous stems of fresh dill.

 

Slick, name that stuck to him like Elmer’s Glue

well into his octogenarian years, when getting

down to view the cavern of vegetable carnage

became a challenge. Arthritic knees belied the lank

teen who’d evaded the police as he slithered away

like a greased pig when mischief marked his

reputation, his full head of jet hair the only

flash as he fled through the streets of town.

 

This oversized scamp-turned-man never married

and as he aged, he cared for his ailing sister in a

home near the church where he attended daily Mass.

He’d appear minutes after a frantic call—Slick,

the disposal, hurry, guests on the way—lower

his old balding self, flashlight in hand, to install

wider pipes under the sink, sometimes to mount

a ladder in search of the source along the garage

wall where pipes rebelled at the touch of his wrench,

spewed slop on this wet warrior—unfazed, dedicated.

 

A gentle man—Slick who visited whenever puppies

were born to watch them suckle, quiver in their

sleep, tears in his eyes at life’s miracle. Chivalrous

Slick who took a shovel, lifted the dead bunny

from the driveway, reverently placed it in a bag-

turned-coffin, its last rites tendered by his soft hand.

Quasi mayor Slick who held court nightly in our

town’s diner, sat with his back to the counter near

the door, greeted familiar faces, made new friends,

his gap-toothed smile a radiance.

 

When Slick died, the church that may have

hidden the teen hooligan, the church where

he prayed every morning before helping

housewives of New Jersey clear their paths,

that church was filled to the apse with a host

of dedicated  admirers who miss him still.

 

Time

 

                                   for my Nana

 

We plan

As we planned our trip to Prague, we said we

would take a train to Plauen, the Saxon town

where you lived, birthed seven children, my

mother the youngest. Your dark photo, arm on

your husband’s shoulder, bears the address

Banhafstrasse 19, next to the hotel we’d booked.

The town clerk’s email: be sure to visit the lace

museum. I still own the lace my grandfather

tatted in this town. I drape it on my shoulders,

try to gather his scent, to sense his fingers work

the loops. Once in Prague we knew the trip was

too long, too many transfers, a driver too costly.

Someday we’ll go to Berlin, we told each other,

from there we’ll take a direct train, we have time,

we have time.

 

   our lives

On my fourth anniversary my mother gave me

your gold carved bracelet with dulled red and

green stones, give it to your youngest daughter

on her fourth anniversary, she said, my mother

gave it to me when your father and I were married

four years. Carry on the tradition, tell your daughter

to do the same. (I did.) My younger daughter birthed

sons. Where will the bracelet go?

 

      with devotion

On Fridays at sundown, I kindle candles on your

silver candlesticks, 1862 etched in the base. Did

candles burn in your Plauen home? Were they

your own mother’s? My mother never told me

her name, but I do know that you were born

Augusta Gold, somewhere in Austria.

 

         and full hearts,

You may have called Gin when you died playing

cards with my sister the year before I was born.

Perhaps you put down the Queen of Hearts before

your own heart stopped.

 

            waiting.

Plauen, my mother’s birthplace, your home, her history.

Do we have time?

 

About the poet:

Gail Fishman Gerwin, a Paterson, NJ, native, graduated from Goucher College and received her MA in fiction and playwriting from NYU’s Gallatin School. She owns inedit, a Morristown, NJ, freelance writing and editing firm. Her memoir Sugar and Sand was a finalist for the 2010 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her second collection Dear Kinfolk, (www.chayacairnpress.com) earned a 2013 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. Her poems, reviews, fiction, features, and essays appear in print and online. Gail, associate poetry editor of Tiferet, facilitates poetry-writing workshops.

 

 

November 6, 2014   Comments Off on Gail Gerwin/Poetry

Sonia Greenfield/Poetry

School Rules

Your freshly minted kindergartner says,
the fire bell rings and we line-up, and because
you know drills are in place to be ready,
you also know what came before.
Like that turn-of-the-century school,
all heavy-wooden rafters and clapboard,
the children climbing the walls
as flames shook their red fists at the sky:
the worst tragedy of its kind, they said.
Welcome to the age of preparedness.
So you pick your boy up from his school
of concrete, ever on lockdown behind
chain-link where the mothers cling,
unable to pass through. Welcome
to a new school made by guns trained
on little kids. In the morning students
gather in the center of a blacktop slab
and sit in groups, then they file into
the barracks. A few small signs —
a tetherball and four-square markings —
tell you this not a prison, though you know
the edifice is about what is kept out
instead of in. Welcome to the new way
we learn. Still, as you detangle your fingers
from the fence, your boy lost in the fray,
you can’t help think how easy it would be
to prop a rifle in the hard crux of a steel
diamond and aim at children squirming
in their uniforms. How you cannot ever
really be safe from random madness.
Welcome to the way you think now.

 

An Oral History of Bodie, California

The mind of the body is optimistic,
even as the pioneer shovels dirt
into the hole, the never ceasing gust
gritting her mouth and eyes, her stillborn
tamped down in the hills pocked
with mines once ribboned in gold.
Even as she thinks to lay down and die,
every morning she rises and wipes
the night’s windswept-in silt from the stove,
puts on the kettle, and goes on. In autumn
the draft blasts down the chimney
and scatters sparks across the floorboards,
a blackbird sings if you want to call it song,
and her doctor makes another house call,
but she endures beyond the mill’s machinery
grinding to a halt, the pastor leaving
on the only coach, and winter’s short supply
of firewood long enough to birth,
or so he was told, the last boy born
in that moribund town.

 

Babies in the News

Today’s paper reports a woman rolled
her ten-month-old onto the subway platform,
then left on the northbound train.
She would have struggled down
those stairs from the street. I’ve asked
strangers to take the foot-end of my son’s
stroller as we hefted his weight
down into the darkness, those arterial
transit ways of the metropolis, never meant
for mothers with babies in prams. How she
must have thought to be done with
her daughter’s hungry mouth, those
ever-grasping hands, no doubt
dimpled at the knuckles, still full-cheeked
in her infancy. And just a news report
ago, a father left his son in the oven
of his car, the Atlanta sun baking, baking,
baking. So we mourn and move on
to the next abandonment. And in other news,
I bled again this month, the ticking slowed
to a near stop, time dripping into the bucket
of my own infertility, no more babies for me,
so this news is personal, this news that breaks
hearts, this news again about who has,
has not, or God forbid, didn’t want.

 

 About the poet:

Sonia Greenfield is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer who was born in Peekskill, New York, and now calls Los Angeles home where she lives with her husband, son, and feral dog. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of publications including The Massachusetts Review, The Antioch Review, Rattle, and the 2010 Best American Poetry, and her chapbook, Circus Gravitas, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Her latest pieces of fiction can be found in PANK online, and her latest essays can be found on Role Reboot. She teaches writing at USC. 

soniagreenfield.com

 

 

November 6, 2014   Comments Off on Sonia Greenfield/Poetry

Clint Margrave/Poetry

To the Student Who Asked Why He Earned A “C” on an Essay about Love

Because love has its own grammar,
its own sentences,
some that run-on too long,
others just fragments.
It uses a language
not always appropriate
or too informal,
and often lacks clarity.

Love is punctuated all wrong,
changes tenses abruptly,
relies heavily
on the first person,
can be redundant,
awkward,
full of unnecessary repetition.

Every word is compounded.
Every phrase, transitional.

Love doesn’t always know the difference
between lie and lay,
its introductions sometimes
lack a well-developed thesis,
its claims go unfounded,
its ad-hominem attacks
call in question
its authority.

With a style that’s inconsistent,
a voice either too critical
or too passive,
love is a rough draft
in constant need of revision,
whose conclusion
rarely gives any sense
of closure,
or reveals the lingering
possibilities of a topic
that always expects high praise,
and more often than not
fails to be anything
but average.

 

Lost

I was ten when my mother left me
at the grocery store.
It must have only been a couple hours.
I didn’t take it personally,
spent the time looking for a coin
so I could call her
on the payphone.

Now, thirty years later,
it’s she who feels left somewhere,
when she asks me
to pick her up from my sister’s house,
where she’s lived
the past five years.

“I want to go home,” she tells me.

“But you are,” I insist,
knowing she means back to that place
before old age and dementia
and the death of her husband.

“I am?” she says. “I thought I lived
somewhere else.”

It’s not likely she’d remember
ever leaving me at the grocery store,
or how when she finally realized it
she called the manager in a panic,
asking if he’d seen a little lost boy
roaming down the aisles,
wondering where
his mother went.

 

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
were recalled
from Costco
this week

Forgive me
I am delirious
so sweaty
and so cold

 

…………………………………………………………………..

Clint Margrave is the author of The Early Death of Men, a collection of poems published by NYQ Books. His work has also appeared in The New York Quarterly, Rattle, Cimarron Review, Verse Daily, Nerve Cowboy, and Ambit (UK), among others. In 2015, his second full-length collection of poems, Salute the Wreckage, is due out from NYQ Books. He lives in Long Beach, CA.

November 6, 2014   1 Comment

BOOKS/Reviews

Two Book Reviews

Door

by Mary Kane

Reviewed by Miriam O’Neal

 door cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Door
Author: Mary Kane
Genre: Poetry
Published By: One Bird Book
ISBN-10: 149 4838427
Kindle Edition available at Amazon.com

Door, Mary Kane’s first full-length volume of poems, has the fullness of a mature writer. This is a poet who has practiced her craft extensively and with intensity. The door of the title poem turns out to be the broad expanse of a man’s back. Other doors turn out to be memories, windows, spaces between trees, death, ideas…. Each contains a threshold and a frame. Each invites entry or exit; from unconsciousness to consciousness, from the past to the future, from grief to acceptance, from the real to the surreal.

Over the course of the first 5 poems of Door we move from,

  • the ‘black door’ of a man’s back ‘opening/ to a church where the flat/hat of a single congregant/ accommodates despair
  • to the ‘black coat’ in a series of photographs, which reminds the speaker of an early time when ‘Doctors and clergymen’ visited people in their homes.
  • to ‘several varieties of morning light, all of them useful for reflection….’, in the daytime memory of a dream of an extramarital affair,
  • to a woman named Mary Ann, who exists in a painting by that name, but whom the speaker invites you to imagine as yourself.
  • to lemons in a daughter’s drawing that elicit layers of awareness of grief, desire, the loss of innocence, and more.

Real and imagined characters, artists, writers, and family members enter and leave the rooms of these poems, the action often takes place in a kitchen, on a sidewalk, in a dream, and other places. One wonderful characteristic of the poems in Door, is that Kane manages to persuade you to suspend your disbelief early on by providing familiar and ordinary details through which to view the worlds these poems inhabit.

Each poem operates as a report or a musing. We read the odd details of dreams or memories; the propositions she presents begin to reveal our own unconsciousness to us. I do not mean she preaches to us; she discusses matters with us.  In “The Listener” we meet Joe, who

…cups one hand

behind his ear and crouches

in a scraped out space beneath a sidewalk, in hiding

in the dark nine-tenths of who I am….

It’s difficult to say how many times I have read this particular poem, but every time I read it I am amazed by its ability to clarify the particular reality of an acknowledged hidden self who understands what we are about. We each have a ‘Joe’ within, a ‘listener,’ that hidden part of ourselves with whom we long to merge; we “long to sit at dinner// with [our] entirety….”, even though until this moment we haven’t had a name for that self or for that longing.

A lot of what opens the door for the reader of these poems is Kane’s ability to remove us from the predictable immediately. Her titles and opening lines set up expectations of a one kind only to displace us by way of curious images or ideas.  You might imagine you know what to expect from a poem whose title is, “Better Than Catholicism,” but you would be mistaken.

A man walks up Main Street

with a cardboard box on his head

and decides he likes it

better than Catholicism

but not so much

as a cigarette at a bar.

It’s important to say that Kane never reaches for the polemical. If she’s writing about religion, she’s not claiming it’s rightness or wrongness, she’s writing about the longing that one’s connection to a religion may or may not fulfill. That theme of longing is echoed in “Love Poem #279”, whose opening lines tell us “A poet is someone who is stupid/ enough to keep scratching….”, and with the closing lines of “Love Poem — Egret”,

which closes with,

…. I used to be

made of bird too, my fast

heart, my voice hidden

in foliage, my ready flight.

That sense of past life is one way that the poems address the presence of absence.

Absences create spaces. Spaces are to be entered.

Kane’s poems startle me into awareness again and again.  There is the line from “A Fine Red New of Capillaries In The Shape Of A Human Head” where the speaker claims, “If you bring forth what is in you, that’s the Gospel of Thomas.” Thomas was the apostle who doubted that Christ has risen, so was invited to place his fingers in the wound in Christ’s side as proof that this was Christ. As such, this single line provides a quick insight or an afternoon of contemplation. What is the place of doubt in the human psyche?

There is also an intense awareness of how we inhabit the physical world as in the poem “Measure” where,

In the first winter

two sisters skate at night, lying on their backs

on the ice afterward,  their ears and fingers

cold, the creak and moan of thick ice

widening the night….

Like a painter who knows her brushes, Kane has captured the experience of night skating precisely with a few strokes, including the sound of ice refreezing in the dark, which makes the night feel deeper, broader, and more mysterious.

If you review the table of contents of Door, it might seem that she sometimes goes too far with her titles. There are 7 poems whose titles are 9 or more words long, and 1 exceeds 20 words. These are juxtaposed with the single word titles like ‘Door” and “Measure,”  “Parnate” and “Evidence.” I mention the titles only because they are, all of them, the kinds of titles, whether brief or extensive, that take on the work of doors themselves, framing the spaces of the poems, insuring that when you enter, you know how you got there, especially because where you end up can be so unexpected.

One of the remarkable characteristics of Kane’s work is her capacity for an undercurrent of droll humor. Imaginary characters like Eleanor, Ellen, a woman sitting on clouds or in a tree, and 3 women having tea, arrive with strange news or casseroles, or a photo of a window and a field; a poem shows up with mud on its trousers. The reader feels she knows the cast from somewhere else. Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Woolf, Whitman, Dickinson, Cezanne, Kitaj, Degas, and others show up to referee, infer, or illuminate situations.  Yet there is not a single presence that feels self-conscious. They inhabit the poems as naturally as the birds— herons, orioles, egrets, the shadow of a hawk.

A common practice of reviewers is to examine a collection of poems for its arc. I won’t claim to have found one in Door. What I find is a wandering, as in the aboriginal ‘walk about’, which is defined by some as a rite of passage of adolescence, but is also related to the practice of leaving ordinary/daily life without notice when a ceremony must be attended to. The poems lead the reader on and on, from room to room, world to world, vision to vision. The first and title poem “Door” ends with the line “I only have to change/ utterly to enter.” The final poem “There Will Be A Woman Written In As A Wren,” suggests the transformation has occurred when one last character is introduced, “…there’ll be a young boy tossing a baseball in the air, higher and higher, always catching it in his glove….”.  His easiness with ball and glove, in spite of ever growing distance between the two suggests a way of living with it all— with longing, with absence, with wonder, with grief: stand still, wait, receive, release. Repeat.

Door, by Mary Kane (ISBN 13: 978-149483423)
One Bird Book
35 Brush Hill Circle
Hatchville, MA 02536

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 WithWhat We’re Given is currently looking for a home.

 …………………………………………………………………….

From These Roots

 by Audrie Clifford

Reviewed by Eileen Dandashi

 

roots

Title: From These Roots

Author: Audrie Clifford
Genre: Fiction/Memoir
Published By: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
(March 4, 2014)

Pages: 252
ISBN-10: 1495948005
ISBN-13: 978-1495948008

 

 

 


Audrie’s books are so unique. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. She tells us that some are purely fiction, some are memoirs and others are a combination. She’s got stories in her, this feisty-tell-it-how-it-is-80-year-old, who puts just enough fictional material in a factual setting that you have to read it.

Her story about her mother and grandmother was researched through family and her own memory. It is her mother’s story, but it’s hers and well as her brother and sisters. The absolutely clever way she begins the book keeps you reading, after all, doesn’t everyone want to find out what the dead have to say?

I’ve been dead a good long while now. I didn’t mean to scare you by saying that, but I           didn’t want you to think that I was alive and that you could communicate with me.

I died in 1939, which was a considerable time ago, but you know how folks say that as long as there is anyone who remembers you, you’re really not gone? Well, it’s true. There are only two granddaughters left who have the vaguest memory of me, and those two girls are getting old, so I won’t be around much longer, I guess. I’ll just be fading into that blur of ancestors that we all have, and I don’t know if there are individual spirits among them. Guess I’ll be finding out pretty soon.

I liked the book for the story itself, the relationships been daughter and mothers.  I was touched by the purely unselfish acts that women did for each other.  It also described life as it used to be. I am not as old as Audrie, but I know life was simpler in the 1950s. But in the early 1900s when Florence, lived, there was very little of what we’ve come to expect today. Yep, outhouses were the norm in lots of the United States since much of it was rural. People did their own canning of summer harvests to tie them over through the hard months of winter. Poverty during the depression years was the new norm. Cars were a rarity. Doctors may know what you have, but have nothing to make it go away. And if they know what something is, there were no pills to pop, just herbs and natural ways to get over something. Addy, one of Emma’s children, had the Cuban itch. What is the Cuban itch you ask? The doctor had such a novel way to get rid of it! Hey, you gotta’ read the book, I can’t tell! People had to rely on themselves whenever they could, but also found help was available from the graciousness of others who had a little more than they did. Life was simple, yet difficult.

Women have always had to be strong.  They were survivors.  They still are.  Our environment and challenges have changed, but the struggle continues.  I’d like to think that our genes have been conditioned by our ancestors dealing with adversity.  Women have always been thus challenged.  We shall overcome and be stronger for it.

Audrie writes from her heart in a very entertaining way. I really have enjoyed all her books to date. I hope that you’ll choose to read one. Below are the covers of her books with purchase links from Amazon. Below that are links to my previous reviews of her three other books.

Book Jacket Blurb: Most of us don’t live in exactly the same style as our parents. It is the nature of the child to break away and to see a life more in keeping with their own inclinations. From These Roots tells the stories of Florence, a woman of the early 20th century and her daughter, Emma. Both women faced the challenges of poverty and heartbreak and yet, neither woman let circumstances define her.

As women of the modern age, we are inclined to give ourselves credit for our strength and courage in overcoming obstacles, never wondering where those qualities came from.

Perhaps the best thing to inherit from your ancestors is neither money nor beauty. It is the ability to cope with adversity.

Book Description
A warm, but unsparing look at the events that occur in many of our lifetimes. Florence tells the tales of her own life and that of one of her daughters. They were both good women, but while Florence accepted betrayal and heartbreak in a docile manner as was proper at the turn of the twentieth century, Emma was more inclined to fight back or to get even. Their strength and endurance, along with that of other mothers has been left as a legacy to the women of today. “Great story about the joys and sorrows all families face during a lifetime.”

Another Damn Newcomer https://eileendandashi.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=852&action=edit

Dimensions https://eileendandashi.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1172&action=edit

Maggie Whitson https://eileendandashi.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=340&action=edit

A bit of information about Audrie Clifford:

My first book was factual, my second and third books were fiction, From These Roots is both.

I always knew that I wanted to tell my mother’s story because I found it to be almost unbelievable. What I needed to put it in an acceptable format was someone to tell the story from an all-seeing point of view. My mother’s mother seemed to be a perfect solution. The only problem was that I hadn’t known my grandmother. She died when I was only five-years old, after seeing her one time.

Family history, however, gave me some of the known facts of her life and she became “Florence” in my book. All I had to do was write the story to conform to the known facts.

My mother’s story (“Emma” in the book) was written to be as true to her reality as I could make it. She really, truly did intend to commit murder, and admitted it quite casually to me. She really, truly did deliver another woman’s baby in the desert.

Most women don’t have those kinds of stories, so that’s why I felt hers should be told.

The book I’m currently working on was decided on as a bit of challenge to me.  This is a story of an ordinary life as told by a nine-year old.

 

About Eileen Dandashi:

“I am a lover of books, both reading and writing. My mission is to encourage people to see the treasures that lie between the pages. I enjoy conversing with authors, fellow bloggers who have anything to do with books and have a particular thrill seeing writers newly published. I am a past teacher of music, English as a secondary language, and French. I have traveled and lived in much of the Middle East, Arab speaking countries and would like to share my experiences and knowledge through the printed word.”

View all posts by eileendandashi

November 5, 2014   Comments Off on BOOKS/Reviews

In Contemporary Tense/Book Review

 

borito-outline.indd

 

The Universal Poet

From Transylvania

Review of Sándor Kányádi’s poetry volume

“In Contemporary Tense”

by Emil Fischer

Book Review: “In Contemporary Tense” by Sándor Kányádi, poetry translated from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar, introduction by the translator.

Published by Irodalmi Jelen (Romania) and Iniquity Press (David Roskos, POB 906, Island Heights, NJ 08732, USA), 2013.
Hard cover, full color, 6X9, 342 pages; USBN: 1-877968-49-8
Available on amazon.com or the publisher, $19.50.

* * *

It’s unusual to have a little-known poet introduced in a densely packed 300-plus page tome, but Sándor Kányádi, the prominent Hungarian poet, is not entirely a newcomer to the English-speaking world; “Dancing Embers,” a neat selection of his best-loved poems, was published by Twisted Spoon Press in 2002 to critical acclaim, and the present volume lists four pages of magazine and anthology acknowledgements. Thus, his name may resonate with many lovers of poetry.

György Faludy, a contemporary compatriot poet, yielded the title of “the best living Hungarian poet” to Kányádi; anyone interested in modern Hungarian poetry need only pick up this volume and keep sampling it, the way poetry is best enjoyed. Daunting as the sheer amount of material may seem at first, in Paul Sohar’s translation, the lines come in a natural flow whether in conventional form or in free verse or a unique blend of both. The poet’s eclecticism guarantees a great variety of approaches and styles; never a dull moment, never a hackneyed metaphor, never a theme not worth exploring. The poems added to the 2002 selection are of the same high quality and interest and include several longer late works not yet available at that time. Nitpickers may question the inclusion of two or three pages of ditties from story books. Skip them if you don’t want to stoop to children’s level, but don’t miss the longer tale, “The Curious Moon;” it can be read as sci-fi full of social significance and political parody. Such interpretation would rarely be amiss anywhere in this volume.

One more thing about the length of the book: the collection is couched in additional prose material, mostly commentary and elucidation but the incisive introduction by the translator should be especially helpful to readers not familiar with Hungarian literature, and it’s not very often that even such ancillary material is credited with prior publication. Almost all poems bear a date and even footnotes where absolutely necessary – the language barrier is not the only one to be overcome in translation.

With these caveats out of the way let’s look at the contents. We see poets coming from Eastern Europe in two preconceived models: either the rustic native talent full of natural wisdom and contemptuous of western decadence or the cunning intellectual sophisticate filled with irony and enamored of western decadence. Neither of these notions applies to Kányádi – or else they both do. He came from a poor peasant family and had a barefoot childhood in a small village of Transylvania, but his subsidized boarding school education catapulted his mind into the wider world of ideas very early on. By the time he finished college with a teacher’s certificate he was a recognized poet and got a job as a magazine editor, living in a major city of Transylvania. But images of country life remained iconic in his poetry and hardscrabble existence determinative of his sensibilities.

The stubble was so cruel to my feet
(their burning even night rest couldn’t treat).
So often I stopped stumbling just to cry,
lizards had a better fate than I.

At least a bird, a butterfly or a bee,
but it was a pilot I most wanted to be.
My pitcher was so easy to destroy,
yet always I remained a waterboy.
(From “The Waterboy”, p.91)

Sounds a little old-fashioned? While Kanyadi has pursued formal poetry all his life he has not hesitated to venture into free style when the poem demanded it like in the eponymous poem:

I fear him
you fear him
he fears
we fear him
you fear him
they fear
(p. 219)

This works better in the original, because Hungarian conjugation incorporates not only the pronoun but some indication of the object in the verb. The poem is dated from the ’80s, before the regime change, from the era of Ceaucescu dictatorship, a deadly combination of strict communism and even stricter Romanian nationalism that forced the Hungarian poet into either silence or subterfuge in his poetry. In any case, in a situation much too complicated for the waterboy to retain his identity; by this time it had the city sophisticate indelibly superimposed on it, just as the Rumanian citizenship was stamped on the ethnic Hungarian and the communist ideology on the liberal. With all these dualities stretching the poet in different directions it’s no wonder he remained very eclectic in his poetry, using conventional forms and free verse with equal skill and most often in the service of a cause. Number one being the survival of his ethnic minority which he saw ensured only by building bridges to the majority Rumanian population through their poets. He did not only translate their works into Hungarian but dedicated numerous poems to them.

he set the potholes of the sidewalk
to music with his melodious gait
he made a downpour loosen its strings
and the brightest rainbow replicate
(From “My Friend Aurel Gurghianu”, p.257)

In addition, he seeks to better the situation of his people by agitating for the survival of ethnic minorities all over the world; thus he is a cosmopolitan nationalist, feeling kinship with minority cultures condemned to extinction:

down in mexico or far
up north in a Vancouver park
where I saw how natives are
apt to sit around and daze
at the last flickerings of hope
hands dropped on their knees they hold
with us the same end of the rope
I was in those distant lands
so sad and shocked to realize
how our vacant gaze had turned
us into Indians with eyes
that a funeral could’ve hewn
on a sunday afternoon
(From “Oil Print” p. 225)

But enough of Kányádi the polemicist; let’s see how he stacks up as a poet, how he uses his craft, what if anything special he has to offer. His ability to combine images with social issues in a creative way is well demonstrated by the above quotes. However, his best virtue lies in the way he can thread a narrative in a long poem with propulsive force and yet in a deceptively simple and direct language, and this cannot be illustrated; one has to pick up the book to appreciate the magic by which he can compel the reader to follow him in a forest of words page after page. Another unique feature of his long poems is the amalgam of styles he puts together, sometimes even a pastiche of poems quoted in Romanian, French and German. Yet the divergent pieces hang together, echoing and reinforcing one another. The most notable of these long poems is “All Soul’s Day in Vienna:”

They will braid you too some day
in a wreath with pomp replete
but the world will feel as cold and
strange as this Vienna street
*
In the whitewashed cathedral of
the augustine order I got to pass
an evening with my back against a pillar
listening to mozart’s requiem mass
(p.149)

The opus magnum of his later years, “Mane and Skull”, was written against the background of the Balkan wars of the ’90s that sorely tried the poet’s faith in mankind and in god but also inspired some of his most fervent lines:

You piously hide your face
behind the mounds of our sins
leaving us without a clue
you trespass oh lord by using us
to do your trespassing for you
(p.329)

In “Heretic Telegrams” Kányádi presents a chapbook of poems about poetry and Eastern Europe inspired by his meeting in Rotterdam with Zbigniew Herbert, the noted Polish poet, in 1988; some of his most experimental approaches are demonstrated therein. In addition, he is a master of his own version of the sonnet that utilizes the shorter Hungarian tetrameter lines; he has a number of updated Aesop fable and historical events cast in that form. Whatever the subject or the form his language is always poetic and his metaphors are breathlessly fresh:

Vacant barnyard, vacant hut:
the sadness of church bells
with the tongue torn out.
(“Fall”, p. 69)

And his descriptions are always vivid, merciless in their precision; here is how he brings his aging father to life on the page:

Skin and bone,
Frayed synapses.
Live-wire circuits
Face worn down to skull.
Time whittled to a pin.
(“A Song Choking up on Itself”, p.82)

The enthusiasm of this review is partially due to the translation. Paul Sohar has succeeded in giving us Kányádi in fluid and modern English translation. Even the formal poems have the natural flow of the language; they are never rhyme driven, never twisted out of shape by inversions or other nineteenth century tricks of the trade. The large number of prior publications also attest to the quality of his work; this is the fifth publication of his “All Souls’ Day” and in its fifth version. Most modern translators do not bother with reproducing formal poetry, but Sohar meticulously retains stanzas and line length. He sometimes thins out the rhymes but retains enough to show the form; often he changes “aabb” scheme to “abcb,” which is sufficient to evoke the feel of the original. What he gives us in this book is not a prosaic synopsis of each poem but an English version of it. This is a must read for anyone interested in Eastern European literature – or just good poetry from anywhere.

 

About the reviewer:

Emil Fischer is a closet writer not by design but by the laws of the literary market place. He has written an unpublished novel and his diary is full of poems. Or scribblings he privately calls poetry. Lately he’s had a few poems published in Buckle &, Chiron, To Topos, Visions International, etc., and a book review in Orbis

About Paul Sohar:

Paul Sohar received the 2014 Irodalmi Jelen Translation Prize for “In Contemporary Tense”, a volume of poems by Sandor Kanyadi (a prominent Romanian-Hungarian poet) in his English translation, available from Iniquity Press (2013) via Amazon.com. You can read more of Sohar’s work and translations here: 
http://old.ragazine.cc/2010/06/paul-sohar/
http://old.ragazine.cc/2013/05/faludy-sohar/
http://old.ragazine.cc/2012/06/paul-soharcreative-nonfiction/
http://old.ragazine.cc/2014/06/union-city-poems/

 

* * * * *

buzzkill

Lynda Barretto

August 29, 2014   Comments Off on In Contemporary Tense/Book Review

4 Good Books

REPORT

This Is for Life:

Kathryn Levy’s Disquieting Reports

Review by Jorge L. Rodriguez-Miralles

Book Title: Reports; Type: Poetry
New Rivers Press, 2013
ISBN #: 978-0-89823-286-8 9  ($14.95)
83 pages; 6″ x 9″
Color: Tan/Cream 

The semi-divine, for some of us, alchemist of language and sentiment, Rainer Maria Rilke, once advised 19-year-old fledgling poet, Franz Kappus, that “nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism.” I take his memorable exhortation to mind as I pick up Kathryn Levy’s newly published second book of poems Reports (New Rivers Press, 2013) and reflect on some of the strange pleasures I found in “art” as showcased in it.

LEVY

First of all, the volume is slim enough to seem non-threatening when you first see or pick it up. It is also a brief eighty pages of similarly slim, down-the-left-margin-running poems. Its cover is as evocative a cover for a book of poems as I believe any could and should be. And how apropos these initial, superficial observations seem! for in its four-part span, various themes will be tried after: here loneliness, there rage; here love, there the indiscriminate, indistinct sweepings in and out of random indecision or death—or, which is worse (a poem in Reports assures us), even paralysis, a state that takes many forms. The book works as lure. It invites, then beautifully unsettles.

Indeed, Levy’s poems in Reports seem to provide a need as well as create a demand for the book’s well-chosen title, for what is experienced in these poems is the result of intense witnessing, of personal or shared elations, of personal or shared shocks. Many of the poems take hold of a reader and run him/her through a sort of psychic gauntlet, one that is as strangely ravishing as it is intensely frightening.

Four poems from Reports that illustrate what I have tried to phrase adequately are: “In the Place in the Woods”, “Wedding”, “A Wonderful Life” and “Exposed to the Winds.” Each of these briskly paced pieces called out for specific attention, shocking me awake (with harrowing surprise) as did a few other pieces in this disquieting second collection I will not be able to get to at present.

Disquieting is no hyperbole. Levy’s “In the Place in the Woods” proves this from beginning to end. Here is a narrative dilemma, lyrically elided, presenting a child, a woman, a blind man, a not clarified “they” in a sort of “selva oscura” where “the shooting continues.” As if Levy had ripped this poem’s situation right out of our now too-routine for this type of crime headlines, a child “clutches/ rage in his fists” and:

… points
his gun at the sky and
the trees those leaves
the birds who keep flying
for he believes “they/ have to be taught”:
I can’t see
anymore – so I have to hang
onto this gun…

Words like shooting, begs, blind, closet, bends, pounding, clutches, tumbles, explosion, murder, rage, sacrificed, refusing, pokes, hang, gun possess us in unremitting sequence from the first line to the last until we have become every character in the tragic “In the Place in the Woods.” We become the enraged child, the woman who tries to stop and comfort him, the blind man who hides, even the trees, leaves and birds at one remove from their exit. We become, too, the undisclosed “they” − those who witness, those who move on as if “uncaring,” those who must “be taught.” This poem’s great strength, if brevity and pacing are put after, is its inconclusive finger-pointing. Who is at fault for setting innocence to rage? Who is its victim?

Levy’s “Wedding,” a second poem from Reports, moves us from blind rage to a marital celebration. In this also lyrically elided poem, the poet conjures up a common scene – a wedding. Here there is song and dance and ritual “patterns”—here, too, these give way to “the ground/ slipping beneath us” as we are whisked by emotion and metaphor to this startling comparison:

….like watching your wake
as the boat presses

into the wind the sails
swell the hand grasps
the powerful tiller − this
could lead us to death −

for a marriage contract is, in faith and legality, a risk – a departure into deeper, unpredictable waters. And here again the poet “grasps” for grounding and possibly control by locking in on the minister who witnesses, but who also places “hands upon hands” and declares, “…This/ is for life -” Are we at a celebration or arrived at another kind of “wake”? The reader is given no easy or conclusive answer. A marital vow, after all, promises no sureties. By this point readers of Reports can be left feeling as if they had begun a poem by George Oppen or Louise Gluck and arrived somewhere else entirely. Its four times depicted “flowers” seem to conceal more than they decorate.

Who reads to be startled? Who takes his/her time to enact and/or join a poet in such inconclusive witnessing? Perhaps readers who demand, like Levy, that poetry take them to the breath-taking edge, daringly – with nothing freely given or mapped out before or after. Thus “A Wonderful Life,” also in Reports, flashes on and off, and, like a bolt of lightning, dazzles and singes. It begins innocently enough with laughing and “a party at/ Christmas time.” The speaker in the poem ventures to a store and is unable to decide on what to purchase. Why the confusion? Is there nothing left? Is the money at hand too little? Why the anxiety that leads to “Tearing/ the dollars to pieces”? Levy changes voice for pictorial dilemma as economic collapse is considered and distant, Scrooge-like “men with the gold/ bars in their pockets” are judged, even as they are shown:

laughing at a dinner, mumbling at the bedside
of another friend who is dying – and
gripping the bars as tightly as they can…

A line further we read: “In/ this world you have to survive.” Clear accusation also does not assuage in Reports. Instead readers are made to ask, “For What?…For/  what?”

Kathryn Levy’s Reports is a collection of truly risky psychical dilemmas survived; the strange power of the whole, as in its parts, is its brave gleaning into the multifaceted nature of what is ultimately, in our moral-hungry world, termed beautiful or meaningful. Like “Exposed to the Winds,” one of its final poems, asks, “will the storms ever stop?…./….did you think the storms were the worst of night?” The paralyzing answer is “rush through these halls/ to find/ even one sound// they are all gone.” So are clever or tender words to appraise this book of poems. Whoever reads it can either hide in an actual or metaphorical closet like the blind man mentioned earlier or else rise to witness, report.

About Kathryn Levy:

Kathryn Levy is the author of the poetry collections, Reports (New Rivers Press, 2013) and Losing the Moon (Canio’s Editions, 2006), as well as The Nutcracker Teacher Resource Guide (NYC Ballet Education Department, 1996), a guide to poetry instruction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications including Slate, Cimarron Review, Hanging Loose, Provincetown Arts, The Seattle Review, The Minnesota Review, The Southampton Review, and the Manhattan Poetry Review, among others, as well as the anthologies The Light of City and Sea, We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon, and Adventures in the Spirit. She has received numerous writing fellowships, including awards from Yaddo, the Blue Mountain Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation. Levy was founding director of The Poetry Exchange and the New York City Ballet Poetry Project, two poetry-in-the-schools organizations. She divides her time between Sag Harbor and New York City. 

Kathryn Levy’s website for more information: http://kathryn-levy.com

Kathryn Levy’s email: kalevy@aol.com

About the reviewer: 

Jorge L. Rodriguez-Miralles is currently a high school teacher and former adjunct professor of writing and literature at Miami-Dade College and St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida. He is also an MFA in Creative Writing graduate of Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. Jorge Rodriguez-Miralles is a poet, literary critic, translator, plus enthusiastic advocate for peace-making via ecological and spiritual renewal.

 

 * * *

  Whale

Whale of Desire, a Jacob’s Wrestle

Review by Jorge L. Rodriguez-Miralles

 

Whale of Desire, by Micah Towery; Cat In the Sun Press, 2013
ISBN/EAN13: 099115231X (9780991152315) ($12.00)
76 pages; US Trade Paper, 5.5″ x 8.5″, English, B&W
https://www.createspace.com/4536534

….What unlike things must meet and mate;
A flame to melt—a wind to freeze;
Sad patience—joyous energies;
Humility—yet pride and scorn;
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacity—reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel—Art.

-Herman Melville, from “Art”

 

I recently read Micah Towery’s first book of poems Whale of Desire (Cat in the Sun Press 2014) and came away from the experience thinking of two key figures: Jacob and Herman Melville. Jacob, of biblical renown, came easily to mind due to the uneasy wrestle between the personal and spiritual observed in the poems of Whale of Desire, moreover, Towerybecause of how Towery attempts to keep these many times dual strains immediate, arresting, fortifying, even while establishing a name for himself. I thought also of Herman Melville, not only because he and his work are alluded to directly and indirectly in the volume, but because Melville’s lines above, taken from his poem/credo “Art,” neatly summarize, for me, the best of what is to be found in Micah Towery’s Whale of Desire, that is, a poet’s wrestle to have the material and transcendental fuse.

That many of the poems in Whale of Desire conjure up a poet/Jacob can be quickly seen in the personal and spiritual “wrestlings with the angel” that turn into poems like “Hunter (Seraph)” and “Moth (Psalm 39).”  In “Hunter (Seraph)” readers come across a man (the poet?) who:

“…enrapts him-
self to staunch the lode
that leaks
out in a cold brume and sags
around him, high in the tree,
where he and his body hang,
in hopes that once today

he’ll spear a searching ray
into some chest –
after which he’ll lay his able back
down and rest…”

Readers are further told that the end of this “staunch” effort, which also mirrors the Passion of Christ and perhaps even the subsequent piercing of his side, is that “searching ray”, which is among “the first/ fruits of them that sleep.” But a “searching ray” to understand himself, others, the divine? For sure all three, but mostly the divine one being addressed as both giver and destroyer of beauty in “Moth (Psalm 39)” where a reader overhears how the divine one snatches:

… away another’s beauty

in gloating silence, leaves us bleached,
belly-up whales on the sand’s ecru…

while a few lines later the same man/moth complains, “Not even a bone to gnaw at when I’m hungry?”, which question leads to the bitter-sweet:

… your beauty
is a bitter sponge of lye you lift up daily
to my mouth, while you consume
me with the blows of your hand – my beauty,
a moth, feeding, still hungry.”

The fusion of actions described above become a startling transformation or revelation, like many others in this book, that brings to mind the Suffering Servant Christ, St. John of the Cross’s moth in “Super Flumina Babylonis” or from Book One (Desire and Detachment) from his Dark Night of the Soul, John Donne’s hammer and anvil in “Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God,” several meditations in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Wreck of the Deutschland” and Leda of William Butler Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan,” a startling revelation or transformation which is uneasily arrived at suddenly, finally, which is “the point” of such a redeeming, though we are not told this directly, struggle.

Two other Jacob’s wrestle lyrics of power and refreshed, even fortifying imagery are “Prologue” and “On The Refrain Taken From An Old Hymn.” In “Prologue”  readers are told quite literally that a “hammer was the face of God” and several lines later “But man tired/ seeing his own face in the face of the hammer, when he met/ the hammer in the cool of the morning,/ every morning,” lines which lead to a wholly original and surprising conclusion. “On The Refrain Taken From An Old Hymn,” the poem that closes this book, the poet tells his soul “Be still” no less than ten times in a poem of twenty three lines and he tells it to be so with deeply sensed and down-to-earth catalogued images like the “condensation on a beer glass,” “my father deep in reading contemplation/ or when napping/ or thick stained glass” or the “way my mother draws blood from her patients.” Whale of Desire closes with ten be stills, but, of course, we come to sense this cannot and will not be so, hence an ongoing wrestling and its tripartite consolation: transformation, revelation, poetry.

Indeed among the highest felicities of Towery’s first book is the rarity of coming across an American writer of any age, male or female, especially one with Christian leanings, who can wrest and share such spiritual grandeur in mostly formal poetry without turning it into the one-scent pleases all potpourri of prevalent consumerist pseudo-mysticism or without rapping one over the head with hand-me-down, splintery ruler platitudes. While Micah Towery’s Whale of Desire also brilliantly engages more day-to-day coming-of-age themes, among them growing up, work, the experiential souvenirs of travel, falling in love, plus a young man’s trying to make sense of things, which more directly honor material pursuits, I revel in the fact that I am left “feeding, still hungry” by the spiritual honesty and mystical questing of this first book. I am tempted to refer loosely to two more figures Whale of Desire made me recall as I close, figures who could lead to another topic completely, Jonah and Jack Kerouac. Those who know these two prophetic figures and who go on to read Whale of Desire will know how, so far, Micah Towery’s trajectory seems to mirror and simultaneously deviate from these figures and their studied, much talked about paths.

About the author:

Micah Towery helps run thethepoetry.com and teaches at Indiana University – South Bend.

About the Reviewer:

Jorge L. Rodriguez-Miralles is currently a high school teacher and former adjunct professor of writing and literature at Miami-Dade College and St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida. He is also an MFA in Creative Writing graduate of Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. Jorge Rodriguez-Miralles is a poet, literary critic, translator, plus enthusiastic advocate for peace-making via ecological and spiritual renewal.

 * * *

kidney

* * *

The Kidney Sellers:

A Journey of Discovery in Iran

* **

Review by Matthew Ray

The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran
by Sigrid Fry-Revere, Carolina Academic Press, 2014

ISBN 978-1-55507-635-4  Hardback $35, 254 pages

A post from Bioethics International on the bioethics.net blog[i] from October 2013 acknowledged, “Paying living donors for their kidneys would reduce the number of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients on dialysis and transplant wait lists, and save the healthcare system money.”  What this post does not state is that doing so also has the potential to vastly improve the well-being of hundreds of thousands of people.  With this idea at the fore, Drs. Fry-Revere and Bastani recorded hundreds of hours of interviews with donees, donors, administrators, and overseers of the Iranian system from throughout the country.  Upon their return to the United States, Dr. Fry-Revere’s interns at the Center for Ethical Solutions[ii] began translating the many hours of footage and compiling this information into usable data to garner insight about the Iranian system.

Whereas Dr. Fry-Revere admits that she initially intended to publish this information as a manuscript, the nature of her findings changed that portrayal into one of discourse.  She gives an honest reflection about her pre-conceived notions before and during her trip, and lays out those preconceptions throughout the book as they become applicable.  This presentation lends itself well to gaining an understanding of how the country’s religious and social dogmas direct the mechanism of transplantation, as well as how we as a predominantly Western audience may check our preconceptions while grappling with understanding the book.  Many of the facets of a system espoused as “altruistic” must necessarily discuss socio-political mores of the system in question.  Since Iran is a predominantly Muslim country and seemingly devoid of much “Western” influence[1], the format as a book telling the story intertwined with an expose of the system aids in understanding how Drs. Fry-Revere and Bastani came to their conclusions about the nature and scope of the Iranian system, in addition to its benefits and shortcomings.

The author provide continuous discourse with strong, yet hopeful, condemnation for the US system of organ transplantation.  To quote,

“The United States should be ashamed to be outdone by a country like Iran. This is not to suggest that what Iranian has done is flawless. The Iranians should be more proactive about informed consent and provide life-long health insurance for donors, and [since the systems are regionally governed] some are lacking in the financial and medical resources necessary to make any form of organ-procurement system work. It also would improve the Iranian system if they could find a way to take the bargaining out of living-kidney donation, perhaps by raising the government contribution to the going rate of four or five million tomans [approximately US $50,000, when adjusted for purchasing power parity and the benefits received by donors] so fewer donors will haggle for more, and fewer will feel cheated or undervalued. The United States, on the other hand, could introduce compensated living-kidney donation without facing most of the problems Iran has faced. Unlike Iran, informed consent is already part of the U.S. medical and social ethos, and administratively, paying donors instead of paying for dialysis would be an easy transition.[iii]”

While arguing that neither the American nor Iranian systems are perfect, the author makes powerful, and compelling, recommendations to aid in our plight facing the shortage of adequate transplantable organs.   Given the gravity both in lost quality of life and in financial mismanagement, it seems that our system could greatly benefit from some of their insight.  If we can learn from mistakes made, and adapt our policies to allow for the possibility of compensated donation, then the understanding Dr. Fry-Revere has brought back from Iran could be used to greatly change the way we approach transplantation, and for the better.

End Stage Renal Disease presents an immensely problematic issue in modern medicine.  If we can alleviate some of the bottleneck to advancing our stance on the issue of compensated altruistic living-donor organ transplantation, we can begin to reshape the system of management of these complicated patients.  The Kidney Sellers details a compelling account of not only how we can benefit from the lessons learned in Iran, it also gives us the opportunity to use this information to benefit many, many people in the process.

 

[1] I say this as a Westerner who has been to the Middle-east on vacation, but never to Iran, and never having lived in a totalitarian state.  I do not have any firsthand experience with the country, and much of my understanding comes from the published news-media and in discussion with acquaintances about the area.

[1] See discussions about the possibility of adapting a compensated living-donor organ transplantation program in the United States for more insight into the debate.

[1] I say this as a Westerner who has been to the Middle-east on vacation, but never to Iran, and never having lived in a totalitarian state.  I do not have any firsthand experience with the country, and much of my understanding comes from the published news-media and in discussion with acquaintances about the area.

[i] bioethics.net. 2013/10/paying-kidney-donors-can-save-help-patients/)

[ii] www.ethical-solutions.org

[iii] Kidney Sellers, pp. 291

i Kidney Sellers, pp.7

ii Kidney Sellers, pp.8

 

About the reviewer:

Mat Ray has an MA in Bioethics from NYU, and is in his last year of medical school at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.  He plans to become a full-spectrum family physician and work with the National Health Services Corps to provide medical services to people in  medically under-served communities in the Northwestern regions of the US.  He has worked with the Center for Ethical Solutions since 2009 as an intern, and was promoted to scholar in 2010.  His  interests include understanding how decisions affect quality of life outcomes, and how those surrounding the medical course for death and dying can be better implemented to ensure a peaceful and fulfilling end to life.

* * *

pink

 

In the Pink

by William Taylor, Jr.

In the Pink, by A. D. Winans
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (January 8, 2014)
ISBN-10: 149475455X ; ISBN-13: 978-1494754556
English, 156 pages, 6″ x 9″ 

Fittingly enough, I read most of In the Pink, A.D. Winans’ first collection of short stories,  in the heart of the San Francisco’s Financial District while on my lunch break.  I sat on a stone bench on Market Street in the midst of a busy afternoon.  I ate my sandwich and watched the people bustling past, imagining any number of them as characters from Winans’ colorful stories.  Today’s  San Francisco has gone through some changes since the incarnation captured in Winans’ tales, but if you dig beneath the surface a bit, you realize most of the difference is superficial.  A city is always in flux, but the people on the streets are its heart, and they tend not to change overmuch. The drunks, the junkies and the crazies crash and rush about me as I eat my lunch, their curses and laughter ringing in my ears.

The majority of In the Pink’s stories take place in San Francisco during the 1960s and 70s and appear in roughly chronological order.  In the first few stories the protagonist appears as a young boy just experiencing puberty and all that goes along with it.  Later we follow him through his young adulthood while serving overseas in Panama, then back to San Francisco as he eases into middle age.

As the title suggests, the common theme in the collection, other than the city of San Francisco itself,  is sexual experience, in all its glory and horror.  In the first story, the narrator is a young man on the edge of puberty, experiencing the wonders of sexual awakening through spending some quality time with his boyhood friend’s stepsister in the backyard tree house.  The experience is humorously awkward though ultimately educational for the narrator, who eventually walks home with the understanding that everything, somehow, had changed.

During the stories set in Panama and eventually back in San Francisco, the sexual encounters remain less than blissful, and have the ring of hard-won truth about them. Winans doesn’t flinch from the messiness of human relations.  Throughout the book we encounter a variety of people, many of them seeking some kind of answer in sex and generally finding only more confusion.  After detailing his first true sexual experience (with a two dollar street whore) the narrator concludes “The whole thing took less than thirty seconds and left me feeling as badly as I have ever felt in my life.”  But the seeker remains undaunted, and moves on to the next bar room, the next bedroom.  By the end of the collection, we’ve encountered enough prostitutes, drunks and just plain crazy folk to populate a Bukowski novel.

And there is certainly a Bukowski influence in these stories.  Winans and Bukowski were friends who corresponded for years, and during the 1970s, Winans published Bukowski’s work extensively through his Second Coming Press.  In the two men’s work you can feel a similar take on the absurdity of the lives of the down and out.  While Bukowski chronicled it in the streets, bars and skid row rooms of Los Angeles, Winans did the same in the City by the Bay.  The specter of Bukowski even makes a brief appearance in one of the more fantastical stories in the collection:  The narrator is spending a harrowing evening with a woman who may or may not be a witch who may or may not possess the power to turn men into living dildos.   As he attempts a hasty retreat, the woman tells him, “You know, I once had a poet named Bukowski, but he escaped.”

The other writer that immediately comes to mind when reading Winans’ work is Jack Micheline, whose writing Winans has longtime championed.  Fittingly enough, and quite by accident, the last book I read before Winans’ was a collection of stories by Micheline, published by Second Coming Press.  Like Winans’, Micheline’s book chronicles the horror and the joy of the lives of artists, bohemians and other outcasts on the fringe of society as they live their chaotic lives in San Francisco.  Micheline’s work shone with an empathy for the mad, the poets, the dreamers and the outcasts.  Winans’ stories come at you from a similar place.  Like Winans, Micheline revealed the soul of San Francisco through the eyes of the downtrodden and lost in his poetry and stories, and through them you can experience the city one again as it was when it was a more hospitable place for poets, artists and others not particularly adept at making the rent.  As well as being entertaining tales in their own right, the stories in In the Pink also make good reading for students of the cultural history of San Francisco and the Bay Area.

While upon the surface some of the stories in the collection might appear samey (narrator drinks in a bar and ends up having an unsettling sexual encounter with someone he meets there), the characters and situations encountered are diverse enough to make each story a unique experience.     The book is branded fiction, but it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that the majority of the pieces are largely autobiographical.  In Roses Trapped in Cubes of Ice, one of the early stories made up of a powerful collage of images from various moments of a life, the narrator incriminates his grandmother for the fact of his becoming a writer: “She bought me my first typewriter, and told me to become a writer.  I don’t know whether to thank or curse her.  All I ever wanted to do was retire.”  In my mind, I hear these words coming, in perfect dead-pan fashion, from Winans’ own mouth while sipping a beer somewhere in the Mission neighborhood which, along with North Beach, provides the settings for many of the stories in the collection.

Like much of Bukowski’s work, Winans’ stories are crafted with simple and effective unadorned prose.  The unmistakeable music of spoken language flows through these stories.  From beginning to end, In the Pink is a solid, entertaining read that manages, with a unique voice, to capture the spirit and the people of a San Francisco that doesn’t quite exist anymore.  Or maybe does, if you know the right neighborhoods.

 

 

About the Reviewer:

William Taylor Jr. is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and a cat named Trouble. His work has been widely published in the small press and across the internet in such publications as Poesy, Anthills and The Chiron Review. He is the author of several chapbooks and his latest books are So Much Is Burning (sunnyoutside, 2006) and Words For Songs Never Written, (Centennial Press, 2007).    

 

 

 

August 29, 2014   Comments Off on 4 Good Books

Chloe Marisa Blog/Poetry

 

Pearl Teeth

Some do it all at once
but I lost my pearl teeth
one by one.
Mom was there
a fragmented moon
with her face half-eaten,
dismantling the blonde forsythia
till the branches stood
barren and brown. We sat,
cupping the dead teeth in my palm,
my pupils unlocked
and opened to the red-worn sky,
under a quiet, tight-lipped sun,
for Dad was never there.
Such a sullen grave
for my baby teeth.
But I knew, vapor or ghost,
what I had known all along.
Once combed together
into wholeness; a worthy simulation,
the sun and the moon were gone.

 

Nineteen

The moon has kept its skin this month
No brown petal, leaking spot
Not me—

Honey yolk,
Cracked in half, have you
Seeped between my cavity?

I will breed fish bones.
Sadly threaded filaments
My heart

Cannot. Pupa or imago
Beating sweet against me?
A homicide—

Free particle! Ride frictionless
Tiny echo
Inner pesticide.

Dead beak, round eye, crushed wing
Milk, thick
And foul

Vacant,
Cavern blue and
Spider webs revived

Grisly beekeeper,
I alone survived.

 

Firsts

I never said anything
about whale songs,
but already, waves lower
my head into the lap
of the sea.
I didn’t see you,
the lush green fish-eyes,
kraken teeth.
Storm sputters,
shudders, breathes foam
to fill my throat.
Fifteen and floating
skin putrid and bulging,
I lay mangled,
sandy knees, dead
from the sea.
I need everyone to please
just stop looking at me.

 

About the poet:

Chloe Marisa Blog is currently studying as an English major at Binghamton University. She is deeply inspired by the works of Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and Richard Siken. This is her first publication.

August 29, 2014   Comments Off on Chloe Marisa Blog/Poetry

Carlton Fisher/Poetry

 

The Break Up

On the 11th of April snow came,
something we should be used to by now
after years of living in northern New York,
but we still remain shocked at the way
winter can hang on with a death grip
which never seems to slip from our throats,
the way in which what should be green,
thriving, fertile ground can be blanketed
in white, even after tulips have begun
to poke their heads above the surface of gardens
and as red breasted robins hop tentatively
through frozen piles of slush. Winter
is a long-term lover, the kind that doesn’t
go away, even after you’ve said, “We need
some time off.” Winter, instead, wants to
cuddle closer together, and bangs on the door
at three in the morning, shaking the house
with its insistence. When you tell it you need
more than time off and that it really needs to
get its shit out of the drawer in the bedroom
and go find something else to do,
winter tells its friends you’re getting married
and buys invitations. Finally, when it’s
gone on too long, and you get the
restraining order, that last blizzard comes,
and you think, for certain, that winter is going
to kill you before it leaves, but it doesn’t, and
it goes away quietly, and spring sponges at
the wounds winter left behind, reminds you
there are good reasons to still live here too,
and then hands you into summer’s warm
and loving arms, and you are rocked to sleep,
until you wake up to find fall is over
and winter has you in bed again,
but you almost missed it, didn’t you?

 

 

M and Joe at City Hall

It was supposed to be a secret,
but no one keeps secrets in this town,
and the cameramen are waiting for us—
the building is under siege,
flash bulbs like small bombs.

I’m not you, mama,
not you at all,
and not that other daughter
you barely raised
who never knew her father’s name.
My children will know
his name is Joe,
with his baseball mitts in a glass case
and his trophies waiting to be dusted.

No mama, I’m not you.

But everybody wants to see,
wants to crowd around the chamber.
The desks are empty,
the halls filled,
and the judge says we need the license,
but no one is there to type it.

“Miss Monroe, Miss Monroe,
how will it feel to be Mrs. DiMaggio?”

But he stands just a little in front of me,
as though I need to be protected—
Oh Joe, dear boy,
the camera is my father.
Who else could give me away?

The clerk is running from floor to floor,
but the women have gathered in the vestibule,
line the stairways,
have parted for us in the main hallway
leading to the chamber,
and he doesn’t know how to type,
has never considered it man’s work.

“Oh Joe, oh Joe DiMaggio,
are you excited to be Mr. Monroe?”

And his arm suddenly gets a little stiff,
pulls back from me, from my smile.
It’s just the roll of laughter
following the lightning of the joke
that makes him lean into me again.

From room to room and floor to floor,
the clerk finds only empty desks,
blank license in hand,
the flashbulbs pop and shine,
someone says something to Joe
about another home run,
as though I was just the score.

The ghost of Norma Jeane
dressed in the tatters of her old wedding gown,
stands where my bridesmaid should be,
but I turn my back on her past.

Joe is impatient, shifts from foot to foot,
but the judge says he needs the license—
but it’s just a piece of paper,
just a few names,
just one more artifact
to prove I’m not you, mama.

Suicide Threat #?

Don’t kill yourself, old man,
just because little brother has rebelled,
taken off down the road
in the middle of the fight,
turning his back on you
and walking away to
where?
Who knows?
Away.
Walking away at a pace
you apparently felt you couldn’t match.

Don’t kill yourself, old man,
sitting in the living room chair,
shotgun in hand,
demanding someone bring you the bullets
that your wife has hidden in a safe place,
bottom lip puckered out
like a toddler whose been told no once again.
I answered my phone,
drove here,
I’ll bring him back.

Don’t kill yourself, old man,
I found him strolling casually
just past the creek in the lowlands,
heading toward Grandma’s house,
forty miles away,
face calm, he said, “Oh hey,”
when I pulled the car up beside him,
told him to get in,
brought him home for you to stare hard at him
until he finally went up, alone, to his room,
while you sniffled and sobbed and said nothing.

Don’t kill yourself, old man,
just because it’s happening with the second son,
a back turned on the roadway
leaving you behind,
the same way I did when the choice
was to run or break,
when I realized I was my own parent
and not yours.
Remember how you didn’t follow me either?
But now I ran your errand for you,
fetched this one back home,
to see what it would have been like
if I had turned around and come back.

You’re oh so quiet,
and I can see now
that I never had to run away—
could have escaped just as easily
by walking.

Don’t kill yourself, old man.
Give me the gun.
Let me do it for you.

 

About the poet:

 

August 29, 2014   Comments Off on Carlton Fisher/Poetry

Daniel Reinhold/Poetry

 

THE OYSTERS IN PARIS

These white chrysanthemums smell like Paris
in November of 1928
the weather has been mild
the drive from Barcelona
had not been unpleasant
though the absinthe bottle
broke in the trunk
and ruined not only your lace dress
but the promise of several sleep-filled nights.
The sun will set in half an hour
so we have stopped for an aperitif
before going for oysters
at the little place by the market
where we used to go before the war.
You are nervous because your mother
is in the sanitarium again in Zurich
and your father when he’s drunk
tells the doctors they’re Germans
and still can’t be trusted.
I am content however
because there is almost half a bottle of absinthe
still in our cellar
the hotel in Barcelona was not bad
and the oysters in Paris
are still as good as they were before the war.

 

THE LAST TRAIN TO TULSA

To the sound morning rain and tambourines
you come softly
like a sampan leaving Bannock
before dawn.
It is August
and your goddess
is on vacation,
gone to St. Remy
for the month.
You are hungry
and your roof leaks
but you only speak
of St. Augustine
and that funky bar
outside of Ketchum, Idaho.
Do they serve cheese sandwiches
on the moon
you want to ask me
but you don’t.

Instead you trace the outline
of Atlantis
on my stomach
with your finger,
a little to the left
of my navel
just below my last rib.

I know that in September
you will leave me,
that your goddess
will be home,
suntanned and frisky.
You will take
the last train to Tulsa
while I’m sleeping,
dreaming of Crete,
afternoons on the Libyan sea,
eating red snapper,
drinking retsina,
waiting anxiously
on the promise of rain.

 

ONE GREEN CANDLE

On this morning of the first snow in seven days
I think of your breakfasts in New Mexico,
the loaves of home-baked bread,
the warm pots of Irish tea,
and always of the eggs fried in fresh butter
just the way your father liked them
over once the edges lightly browned.

This summer will end
our second cycle of nine years,
nine years since we said goodbye
on the highway North of Taos,
and before that nine years
since you left the old farm on Fishing Creek
and I wonder are you still in Santa Fe
with your hair like rivers of honey
falling to your waist?

Do you still travel alone to the Rio Grande,
sleep like an Aztec Warrior,
flat on your back
both hands clenched
your arms at your side?

Did you learn to bathe
with your lovers
light one green candle
and rub their skins like leather
with the lather of your rose-colored soaps?

I am thirty now
and I’ve danced upon the Mississippi
arm wrestled with the devil once
in a cheap hotel in Tulsa
a Gideon Bible on the nightstand
a three-fifty-seven
somewhere on the second floor.

And you have grown past forty
baking bread, brewing tea, frying eggs
in fresh butter
wondering if the work
you thought you were meant to do
was already done a long time ago.

 

About the poet:

Daniel Reinhold was born in Allentown, PA. He has lived in Baltimore, MD; Ithaca, NY; and now lives near New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of the Antioch University Los Angeles MFA Creative Writing program. He is a recipient of a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship for poetry. He has been published in The Painted Bride Quarterly, Samisdat, Axe Factory Review, and H_NGM_N. He was the poetry editor for LunchTicket. He now works as an acrylic and encaustic painter. He is obsessed with rhinos, Gatorade, and the promise of rain.

August 29, 2014   Comments Off on Daniel Reinhold/Poetry

Dana Shishmanian/Poetry

Translations by Flavia Cosma

 

Missing

A poem is missing
it is there somewhere under your hand
but you don’t feel it
you only guess it
as a matter of fact you are guessing its maternal
absence
all hopes throng round it
all desperations
all angers, all kicks,
it accepts all, endures all,
doesn’t give anything back,
fiercely jealous of its virtual treasures
it leaves you always on the threshold
hungry
your mind haggard
your eyes roving
your ears asleep
begging for some alms

now and then, it throws in your direction
a few crumbs

Manquant

Un poème manque
il est là quelque part sous la main
mais tu ne le sens pas
tu le devines seulement
en fait tu devines son absence
maternelle
tous les espoirs s’y fourrent
tous les désespoirs
toutes les colères toutes les joies
il reçoit tout supporte tout
ne te rend rien
jaloux de ses trésors virtuels
te laisse toujours au seuil
affamé
l’esprit hagard
l’œil vagabond
l’ouïe endormie
mendiant ta pitance

parfois il te jette
quelques miettes

 

High Combustion

If we were to die in each other’s arms
we need to remember the suffering
that united us
let’s savour it with inextinguishable
fury
during this brief instant
let’s us satiate
in its untamed fragrance
in its fleshy
frugality
feast our eyes
in its profound
plumpness
let’s submerge ourselves in it forever
as in the happiest
of hells
a hell that nothing will ever replace
and no paradise could redeem
our salvation will be eternal
in your total annihilation by me
in my annihilation by you
glimmer of an universe never born
dreamt of by no God
and whose presence
would be known solely to us
we, the ones consummated by it

Combustion jubilatoire

Si nous mourons dans les bras l’un de l’autre
rappelons-nous la souffrance
qui nous a unis
goûtons-la avec une rage
inextinguible
le temps d’un instant
sans durée
rassasions-nous
de sa fragrance indomptable
de sa frugalité
charnue
repaissons-nous
de sa chair
profonde
plongeons-y pour toujours
comme dans un enfer
heureux
que rien jamais ne peut remplacer
qu’aucun paradis ne rachète
notre salut sera éternel
dans l’anéantissement de moi par toi
de toi par moi
lueur d’un univers non né
rêvé d’aucun dieu
dont nous seulement
savons la présence
qui nous consomme

 

Ultimatum

At the limits
of the senses
bosom lifted
against his face
breathing suspended into void
the eyes blinded
by obscurity
the body left behind, jagged,
and then
no more thinking
in the proximity of the final
the surprise
always fresh
nothing usual
engaged by this death
that fulfils me
I’d say even after
it enters my insides
and I am joining in from the outside
and watch
as in a reversed well
whose bottom is my heart

Ultimatum

Aux confins
du sens
poitrine soulevée
contre sa face
souffle suspendu au vide
yeux aveuglés
par le noir
déchiquètements de corps derrière
plus aucune
pensée
depuis toujours et tous les jours
voisinage de l’ultime
avec une surprise
toujours fraîche
pas d’habitude
prise avec la mort
qui me remplit
dirais-je même que l’après
est rentré dedans
et je viens du dehors
y regarder
comme dans un puits inversé
dont le fond est mon cœur

 

A Wizard in Transit

To write is to die
to pass blood
to dismember ourselves alive
this is not something for poker players
one doesn’t bluff
with playing-cards that one doesn’t have
one doesn’t hide duplicates
under the sleeves
come and see
ecce poeta
stretched out on a dissecting table
look for his soul
amid lost words
amid his entrails
exposed in front of people
just to serve as a lesson
for the unruly
come closer and read
your destiny
at the mercy of a wizard
in transit

Un devin de passage

Écrire c’est mourir
pisser du sang
se dépecer vivant
ce n’est pas pour les joueurs
de poker
on ne bluffe pas
avec des cartes qu’on n’a pas
on ne cache pas de doublets
dans les manches
venez regarder
ecce poeta
gisant sur la table de dissection
cherchez son âme
dans des mots perdus
parmi ses entrailles
exposées au peuple
pour servir de leçon
aux insoumis
venez y lire
votre destin
au gré d’un devin
de passage

 

About the poet: 

Born in Romania, Dana Shishmanian has been living and working in France since 1983. She has published poems in many magazines, anthologies, and four personal collections (2008, 2011, 2014, the last one forthcoming). She has also contributed, as a translator, to the recent collection of Ara Alexandre Shishmanian, Fenêtre avec esseulement (Harmattan, July 2014).

The four poems translated here are excerpts from the volume Plongeon intime (Intimate Diving), published at Editions du Cygne in February 2014.

 

About the translator:

Flavia Cosma http://www.flaviacosma.com is an award-winning Romanian-born Canadian poet, author and translator residing in Toronto, Canada. Flavia has published twenty-four books of poetry, a novel, a travel memoir and five children’s books. She is the Director of the International Writers’ and Artists’ Residency, Val David, Quebec, Canada, and of The International Biannual Poetry and Arts Festivals of Val-David.  http://www.flaviacosma.com/Val_David.html

 

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Walter Gurbo, Drawing Room

August 29, 2014   Comments Off on Dana Shishmanian/Poetry

Feeling Chapbooked

Three Good Ones

Reviews by Robert Joe Stout

 

Elegiacs in a Closed Room, Carol Frith. Gribble Press, 2012

Varian, Ellen LaFlèche, Dallas Poets Community Press, 2010

If They Have Ears To Listen, Terry Lucas,Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2012

 

Small volumes and chapbooks of excellent poetry appear and disappear, read by friends, colleagues, other poets but seldom getting the readership or the acknowledgment that they deserve. Three such small but impressive offerings are Varian, by Ellen LaFlèche, Elegiacs in a Closed Room by Carol Frith and If They Have Ears To Listen by Terry Lucas.

LaFlèche’s curt testimonies of a woman dying of cancer are stabs in the gut. The poems are short, evocative: The reader is in the room with Julia, with her friends, her lover, her son, gasping at the intrusions, the lucid ironies, the moments of despair. In “Knit One, Purl One”

the black stitches unravel in her lap

like cat-gut sutures, each loop

tugging at the next

like the loosely knitted

scar on her belly.

and in “I Organize my Own Memorial Service so I Can Be There to Enjoy It”

The banquet room is a pretty

preview of hell—hot red walls

and ceiling. Red

candles in mirror cups,

the charred wicks writhing like sinners.

LaFlèche handles an intricate and delicate balancing of life and death with near surgical precision, evoking emotion without catering to it. An excellent read.

Frith’s Elegiacs observe more than participate: observe in ways that bring the reader into the colors, tastes, movements. In “Imaginary Nude in Enamel Bath”

She has waited,

watching as the artist draws her bath,

lowers her to water,

 

her fractured, glowing skin a kind

of common sense against the sad

uncluttered motion of the dark.

Images flow through the poems: “sky is like a scarf make out of silk,”

memory “is like salt on watercolor/like warm apples on the tongue,” “The red part/of each apricot blossom glows like a small/tired sun.”

Fruit filled, flowers filled, thought filled poems. A fine reading experience.

In “If They Have Ears To Hear” Terry Lucas, narrator, story teller, active participant in everyday life, links the reader to events at first glance ordinary—unpoetic—that details, descriptions, movements make meaningful, enjoyable and insightful. Coins clatter into a cash register as “contralto quarters, soprano dimes,” dates end with engines “cooling down with the ticking sounds/of shrinking metal, re-buckling of belts, re-hooking of bras,” prayer meetings prompt “women to rest foreheads in palms, men to crouch on the scuffed linoleum floor/Grip the back of a gray metal folding chair as fiercely as a child steadying a wooden ladder…”

Commonplace, but commonplace touched with magic, viewed with awe. Wrens, Corningware, goldfinches, Luke’s Café, Abboud suits web the reader in experiencing life the way it is: curious, quirky, laughable and—quite often—profound.

 

About the reviewer: 

Robert Joe Stout is journalist and freelance writer living in Oaxaca, Mexico. His forthcoming book Hidden Dangers details obstacles facing Mexico and the United States on various fronts, including drug commerce and immigration. His most recent book of poetry is A Perfect Throw(Aldrich Press).

August 29, 2014   Comments Off on Feeling Chapbooked

Union City Poems

OASIS: Music & Poetry

at  William V. Musto Cultural Center 

Union City, NJ 

The following poems were read by the poets at the recent exhibition in Union City organized by LaRuche Art Contemporary Consortium’s director, Roberto Rosado.


 PAUL SOHAR 

paulsoharmug

Two-Minute Salvation

Although life exhales but one poetic line,
the market place is crowded and the stands are sagging with words
syllables go tumbling over unrhymed syllables,
verse climbs over verse
and you get but 2 thin minutes or less to unpack and sell your wares;

2 thin minutes to diagnose and cure the ills of the universe plus dissect
your soul and hang it out for everyone to see the bloody mess,

2 minutes to lie on the altar where your heart is torn out and tossed
into the shredding machine for the lack of sacrificial fire
on the cool foreheads fencing you in

2 minutes to shove your metaphor into the mouth gaping at you
and reach all the way down into the stomach to turn it inside out

2 minutes to strip off the clown costume and play a naked violin
standing on the ceiling
2 minutes to get your s.o.s across an ocean of suffocating clichés
2 minutes to douse yourself with rhymes and look for matches
2 minutes to give away eternity wrapped inside a hyperbole
2 minutes to steal a pearl into the eyes before you
2 minutes on the judge’s bench
2 minutes in the dock
2 minutes on the butcher block
2 minutes on the rack
2 minutes on the soapbox
2 minutes on the cross

but 2 minutes can also be the age of the universe if you have
a well-honed secret tucked away in a pocket of your verse
and if your frantic meter doesn’t cause it to sink before
you reach a sunny shore of applause
hanging on to the 2 minutes refrain
just 2 more minutes please
and then you can shoo me off into nevermore.

 

 ALAN BRITT

Capture

 

DOOMSDAY: 12/21/12

Bleached blonde, black eyebrows —

In case of fire break glass —

Emergency flashers —

Recessed lights inside skull —

Bullfrog cello with sore throat —

Knocks at the door —

Paper gown removed, vitals checked —

Verbs & adverbs braided like scorpions —

Cellphone in wheelchair —

Lies about love↔angry love —

Christmas tree with red gauze, golden cones
& white blinking lights, hisses like a possum
in darkest corner of coffin —

Small white dog with pink skin, cataract
about to bloom —

Detroit gangs fake each other’s deaths —

Greektown serves shell casings
& steamed mussels for lunch —

Clouds of magnesium —

Helium kisses —

Sunglasses the size of sunflowers —

Roman numeral X on wall clock leaps
to its death —

Raining mercury in Estonia —

Raining ashes in Cincinnati —

Raining bicycles in Berlin —

Raining gramophones in Bangladesh —

Raining mustaches in Pittsburgh —

Raining reindeer in Iraq —

Plastic roses at Italian bistros die
of liver cancer —

Snow plow scrapes electrons into wall of cocaine
in suburban mall parking lot —

Drones in your shower, drones in your
underwear, drones in your anus —

Just saying —

 

(First published in Skidrow Penthouse)

 

 

MIKE FOLDES

MikeF

 

Madrigal

Cool dew on grey-green grass.
A painted warrior waits,
excitement wells within,
adrenaline erupting, as
expectations of survival wither.

A shiver undulates through the wood,
returns a shot on leaden wing;
now there is no bad or good,
now there is no hesitation,
the time to strike is here.

Neither victory nor defeat
will shed a tear, a coin can tell
as well whose body will resign,
add compost by its posture
to the land. No failure this,

but simply chance, and grace,
as foul scent escapes a bloody shell.
Would they have done as well
to not be born than duly waste,
forgot by name, uniformly

borne to rest on guilt or fame,
a tragedy or wonder one
can only know by what awaits
beyond the tethered tides
dreamless sleep capitulates.

 

SAL TAGLIARINO

sal headshot

Icon

 The floating Earth in space is a living

Icon for our presence here.

And we, like vermin, are busy eating

Holes and tunnels inside the very wood

That holds the divine image present.

Suffering is a mystery of human existence

Death is a mystery of life

But self-inlicted suffering and death

Rape, murder, pillage, theft, wars, and

Terrorism are no mystery.

Sunrise

I have seen the sunrise again.

The arcs of my spirit’s space, vault.

Inside my cheeks, I smile.

In the east churns a universe of foam

Over the green waters, waiting the next tide

White sea birds feed on fish

As man eats time.

The gray clay beach lights the broken stones

In morning light, the gauge of time’s clock.

The mind turns and sets my hour on the earth

Holding all things together

As I sit in fear of immense life.

Holding me once in its womb, it

sends me now to sit inside a greater self

That holds unseen stars as its limits

And the smallest cells as its base.

So must I not necessarily breathe?

For breath is drawn from me

But then, I draw breath as air breathes wind.

Since my part is a prelude for the fugue

Completed in every sound.

Prologue

The earth spits up again

A soul.

Spewing up sands

Uncounted polyphony of

Colliding boulders,

Microscopic collisions

Well within their universe

Of small space.

The sand grains infinite distance

Between each member,

Uncounted souls hold individual

Volume within a infinite distance.

A sun moves on

A star in space.

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For more information about the event, see: http://old.ragazine.cc/news-haps-snaps/
(You may have to scroll down!)

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June 11, 2014   Comments Off on Union City Poems

Writers & Artists of Val David IX

IMG_2950 (2)

Participants in the Ninth International Festival at Val-David gather for a group photograph at the end of the conference. Conferences take place twice a year.

 

Palabra en el Mundo/

Words in the World

 by Eva Halus

International residency for writers and artists of Val David

The International Festival of Writers and Artists held for the ninth time at Val David at the International residency for the lovers of poetry and art was certainly under the influence of the nine Muses, number that celebrates both the birthday of this Festival and Poetry and Art in general. The festival was directed by Flavia Cosma, a well-known writer whose poetry, prose and children literature is published in English, French and Spanish, as well as her native Romanian. She welcomes at her residency, year after year, new talents from all corners of the world. With more than 30 books published, Cosma shows not just a tremendous creativity, but also the big gift of sharing the poetical-artistic experience with other fellows through festivals where poetry and prose readings, book launches, conferences, round tables, improvisations, music and exhibitions are giving poets and artists of all ages and styles an opportunity to perform and share their work in the languages of participants, most frequently English, French, Spanish, Romanian and Ancient Greek.

The festival takes place in a beautiful ambiance set by virgin forests that spread right from the backyard to the horizon, punctuated by the so called Agapes fraternelles, gatherings on the terrace of the residency with plenty of food and wine and high-spirited conversations.

This year, for the ninth edition of the Festival, the Residency welcomed more than 30 poets and artists from Argentina, France, Romania, U.S.A., Tasmania, Peru, Armenia, Serbia and Canada (Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and the Laurentian region).

The stage is set on the upper part of a double living-room, lighted by two big chandeliers and flanked by an old style fireplace, and one by one the participants are taking turns in reading, declaiming or singing, by the side of a small table, looking at the audience over a huge bouquet of Italian roses, freshly cut from the rich soil of Val David.

Although it is almost a pity to describe the work of these poets and writers just in a few words, for the lack of space, a complete list of the festival`s program, more details about them and about the festival and residency are available on the website of the International Residency of Writers and Artists, Val David.

Saturday, the 31st of May welcomed writers and poets including Felicia Mihali (Romania-Montreal), Claudia Caceres (Peru-Montreal), David Brême (France), Nicole Davidson (also the mayor of Val David, Qc) and Luminita Suse (Romania-Ottawa, ON).

 

 

Felicia Mihali, Romanian-born writer, presented her new book, The Second Chance, a novel that appeared this year after the big success for publishing The Darling of Kandahar, (her first novel written in English that was selected among the top 10 best novels of Québec writers in Canada). Her new book tells the story of a married man that can`t recover his memory after an accident.

Claudia Caceres, a literature scholar from the Catholique University in Peru, with a diploma in Audio-visual communications (2001) and Quebec University in Montreal, read from her latest book Retorno hacia el Antiguo Sur, published in 2014.

David Brême, from France, read recent poetry. He defines himself as a self-taught philosopher, with love for gardening, agriculture and apiculture. His proverbial words are: I am a flame that burns, wishing to become a beacon.

Nicole Davidson, the mayor of Val David and an always present figure at the festival due to her love for poetry and art, read from her latest poetry creations. President of the “Cities and villages of art and heritage,” she`s a big friend of the festival..

Luminita Suse is the author of two tanka poetry books, A Thousand Fireflies (Petites nuages Editing House, 2011) and A hint of Light (together with Mike Montreuil, same editing house, 2013). She read from the above-mentioned books.

The program continued after a well-attended pause where delicious food, beer and wine sparked interesting discussions and expressions of different points of view.

After the break, Hugh Hazelton, poet and translator, presently the co-director of the International Center of Literature Translation in Banff and an honorary teacher of Spanish at Concordia University, read from his poetry book Antimatter, which is also available in Spanish.

Among many brilliant poets and authors who contributed to the success of this Festival, we should mention Flavia Cosma, whose poetry book Leaves of a Diary was accepted at the literature program of the Toronto University as a study material in 2007-2008. She received many prizes, including the Golden Medal of the House of the Peruvian Poets, becoming a honorific member since 2010. Also she received the Title of Excellency for the exceptional contribution for promoting and enriching the Romanian culture in Europe and in the Entire World (www.flaviacosma/Val David.html).

Others include: Carmen Doreal, a flamboyant poet and painter, of Romanian origins as well, is a member of the International Academy of Fine Arts, Quebec and the Circle of Artists and Sculptors of Quebec, Anna Louise E. Fontaine, poetess and artist from Montreal who enjoys summers in the Laurentian region,  Antoine Gravel-Bilodeau, the youngest poet at the festival, certified in literature from UQAM, who read from his ongoing project-a novel where themes like love and nature are explored, Traian Gardus, well-known poet, epigrams-maker and translator, who cheered the public with tonic epigrams. He read also from his latest published book, Sonnets, that saw the light in 2012.

A series of conferences on Sunday, included a discussion about the magazine Francopolis, a link in the francophone and Francophile poetry world from Quebec to France. Geturde Millaire spoke about  the magazine, the team behind it, the published authors and the echoes of their literary creations.

Luminita Suse presented the creation of two other fellow poets: Nicole Pottier (France) and Clelia Ifrim, accompanied by Zen images that came along with the Yohaku, a precise form of Haiku, followed by an open discussion: The Young poetry from here and everywhere, in English and French, with guest speakers: Claudia Caceres (Peru), Eva Halus (Romania-Montreal) and Nicola Smith (Tasmania), moderated by Flavia Cosma.

The afternoon started with a new series about great poets ignored during their life-time, mistreated and forgotten,  featuring Jacobo Fijman (Argentina) with readings from his poetry and a song about Jacobo Fijman, composed and interpreted by Luis Raul Calvo. An important poet from Argentina, Luis Raul Calvo was present virtually with poems from his latest bilingual book Breve Anthologie (French/Spanish).

Luise Dupré, well-known poetess who received The Grand Prize Quebecor of the International Poetry Festival in Trois-Rivières and the General Governor Prize of Canada for her acclaimed book Plus haute que les flames/Higher than the flames, published in 2010, launched her new book L`Album multicolore/The multi-colored album, followed by Ljubica Milicevic, a poet and artist from Serbia living in Montreal, and Louise Carson reading Jeremiah Wall, Quebec-based singer/songwriter and stalwart in spoken word production and performance, sang accompanied by Neil O`Connor, veteran of the British Punk scene from the late seventies.

Eva Halus, Montreal-based artist (poet, painter, photographer and journalist), born in Romania, read poetry from her newly published book Of me and you. It is her second book, following Fragments, published in both Romanian and French. She announced the third book, The well-composed Muse, that will see the light at the same editing house, Reflection Publishing in California. 

Frédérique Marleau, a slam artist from Montreal and organizer of  Fétichic! and other events, presented her co-production of la femme Phalique/The Phallic Woman,  a visual carnal poem that premiered in 2007. Her first poetry book Feu de l`Être/The fire of Being, was published by Guérin, in the collection Poésie d`Ici/Poetry.

Kate Kretler, a true Homeric scholar with an interest in performance and ancient philosophers’ interpretation of Homer, interpreted a passage from Homer, seconded by the English and French translations. Gordon Bradley, poet from Saint Adolphe de Howard, Qc., full of humour and ready to spread it, read some of his never-published creations and some haiku. He explained that the most important day in his life is almost tomorrow, explaining his altruistic visi scholaron.

The Festival ended on a high note with Sharl Dubé, author-composer from Québec, whose performances of the spoken word often include music, imagery, staging, more ideas and dreams, sensations and visions. among the artists present at the festival were Nicola Smith, artist in-residence from Tasmania who has a bachelor degree in Fine Arts from the National Art School in Sydney, Australia. She completed her Honors year at the University of Tasmania, Hobart. In the last five years her painting was inspired by the cinema, most recently by Quebec director Benoit Pilon`s film Ce u`il faut pour vivre/ What you have to do for living (2008).

Carmen Doreal, Elisabeth Whalley, Ljubica Milicevic, Eva Halus, Anna Louise E. Lafontaine  and a special guest from Holguin, Cuba, José Ramiro Ricardo Feria added a touch of color to the festival with their artwork . Feria is an Arts teacher, retired from the University of Holguin and is the president of the Artists` Union of Holguin. Since 2002 he exhibits also in Canada (Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal). He displayed several big half-tone engravings in sepia, green and other earth colors, homage to his native land Cuba and a neighbouring poet.

Paul Ballard, a painter, printmaker and papermaker, exhibited some of his works. Ballard lives in Ste Adéle and the Atelier de l`Ile, Val David, Quebec.

The International Residency for Writers and Artists will open its doors for the 10th Edition of the International Festival of Writers and Artists, next October 4 and 5.

 

— Eva Halus – 3rd June 2014, Montreal

 

June 8, 2014   Comments Off on Writers & Artists of Val David IX

Beautiful Rush/Book Review

rush

Cassandra’s Song: Beautiful Rush
by Marc Vincenz
Poetry, 88 pp.
Unlikely Books 2014
ISBN 978-0-9708750-2-0
Winner of the 2013 Unlikely Mississippi Award

by Larissa Shmailo

One day in Hong Kong not so very long ago, a Swiss businessman named Marc Vincenz was hit upside the head by Calliope, Erato, and Polyhymnia all at once. At the muses’ insistence, Vincenz left behind 2,000 employees and the Orient, and surrendered to the life of a poet. Today, as becomes a servant of the muse, he is dutifully prolific, with seven books, and several chaps. A prominent translator of German poets and editor of Madhat and FULCRUM, Vincenz is also the force behind a new nonprofit serving small presses, Evolution Arts.

As might be expected, Vincenz’s poetry is cosmopolitan, wise, and colorful, brimming with the life of the many countries and people he has known. With Beautiful Rush, however, there is an ethereal and transcendent quality to his verse, a subtler and softer beauty to the language. The muses are gentler here, and the poet, although he sings of death and chaos, seems lightly touched by their wings.

This ethereal, otherworldly quality appear even in poems that speak of tuberculosis, gin bottles, guns, or war, and the many miseries, psychic and physical, to which we humans are heir. From the section, “How to Die of Beauty”:

when the sea

shakes the walls

and an infinity

of ghostly shoes lines blue-eyed

towns

where I am not yet dead

where

I am not quite

born.

— “Simenon’s Speck of Gladness”

There is the feeling that Vincenz is writing the final haiku of a samurai before seppuku who suddenly sees the beauty of the overcast sky. There immediacy to the verse in Beautiful Rush, supported structurally by Vincenz’s choice of short lines and spare stanzas. The white space on the page gives room and air to the poems, so that even its imprisoned denizens can breathe.

True to the poetic traditions of East and West alike, Vincenz’s codas are pregnant with meaning, posing to the reader the accursed questions of human life. From “She, at Heart, a Blue Whale”:

Is this the world that I’ve come to know
on the back of my hand?

The heroine of Beautiful Rush is the doomed Cassandra, who is the voice of several poems in this collection, and who, like the poet, has seen it all. From “Cassandra’s Designated Light”:

Isn’t there potential for chaos
in everything we see or touch?
. . .

Who is the patriarch?
and who the master?
the I in her?
And who the sky
that hangs above,
blue and in its foul temper?

and from “Cassandra Knows How to Die of Beauty”:

The name, love,
is crossed out.

O to write
letter after letter

belaboring
a fruitless cause.

A letter, of course,
seems like immortality.

The beauty of Beautiful Rush is not innocent beauty, callow and untried. It is a beauty that has been scarred, and yet rises to sing. It is, as the poet says, beauty to die for.

 

About the author:

Larissa Shmailo’s newest collection of poetry is #specialcharacters (Unlikely Books). Larissa is the editor of the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and founder of The Feminist Poets in Low-Cut Blouses. 


April 28, 2014   Comments Off on Beautiful Rush/Book Review

Paul B. Roth/Interview

Ragazine Interview (Paul in front of a tree)

Roth

An interview with Paul B. Roth

of Bitter Oleander Press

by Alan Britt
Book Review Editor

For the past several decades as corporations have gobbled up major publishing houses, causing poets in many cases to succumb to the whims of commercial-minded editors, the future of serious fiction and poetry in the United States has been under attack. For the sake of survival, medium and small presses around the country have carried the torch. Publishers such as Anhinga Press, Boa, Black Sparow, Brooklyn Arts Press, Červená Barva, Coffee House Press, Four Way Books, Graywolf Press, March Street Press, Milkweed Editions, Red Hen Press, Sarabande Books, Soft Skull Press, Tupelo Press, Twisted Spoon Press, White Pine Press, along with several others have taken up the mantle similar to what New Directions and City Lights did throughout the 1950s and 1960s. All of these publishers began small and have since grown into vital alternatives for innovative poets and fiction writers. A few publishers, such as City Lights and New Directions, in particular, also published journals and anthologies along with books. In this necessary tradition, editor and publisher Paul B. Roth has been publishing his celebrated international journal of poetry and short fiction, The Bitter Oleander, while building an impressive library of books through his Bitter Oleander Press. Year after year Roth continues to produce beautiful books by some of the most impressive writers from the U.S. and abroad. The brief interview that follows allows us a glimpse into Roth’s emergence as one of this country’s most important publishers of poetry and short fiction.

* * *  

Alan Britt:  You publish the award winning literary journal, The Bitter Oleander, a bi-annual, international journal for poetry and short fiction that features extensive interviews along with a large selection of poetry by poets from all over the globe. You also publish The Bitter Oleander Press which features books of poetry and flash fiction by writers both domestic and foreign. When and why did you begin publishing the journal and books?

Paul B. Roth When I was finally awakened from the doldrums of contemporary North American poetry in the late sixties and reborn by the teachings and work of Duane Locke, it became paramount in my mind to find a way to make the kind of poetic temperament he espoused more available to those who, like myself, craved it and for those who didn’t yet know they craved it. There were no journals at the time willing to accept great numbers of deep image, Surrealist or Immanentist poetry. As a result, there was no one journal specifically dedicating itself to the kind of poetry that had already been flourishing for decades in both the European salons and in the darkest blood our Latin American brothers and sisters were bleeding into their poems. A profound poetry that, for the most part, was just not as accessible to the English speaking world as it is today.

AB:  What words would you use to identify your mission statement?

PBR:   Patience, perseverance, dedication, openness, and the presentation of different landscapes in as many exemplary poems as are publishable from one issue or individual book to the next. And to find those poets no one knows, no one has ever heard of or whose work exemplifies in stark contrast to what it means to be an individual poet in a world where so many sound like each other, as if we were all somehow the same.

Ragazine Interview (Alberto Blanco & Paul at Dartmouth College)

Mexican poet Alberto Blanco & Roth at Dartmouth College.

AB:  What is the origin of your press’s name, The Bitter Oleander?

PBR:   Again in the late sixties, while reading García Lorca’s poems and plays for the first time, I came across and loved his play, Blood Wedding, which I read  appeared in New York City back in the early thirties. The play’s producer was concerned that the American audience would misinterpret this play because of its title. Lorca was consulted, completely understood the problem and pronounced the play would now be called Bitter Oleander. Upon first seeing this name I said to myself, if I’m ever lucky enough to succeed in my dream, this will be the name my journal will go by. When it all fell into place in 1974, it was the only name I had ever considered.

AB:  Along with your journal, am I correct in assuming that some of the books The Bitter Oleander Press has published have won awards?

PBR:   Yes, a few. In 2005 we were recognized by National Public Radio (NPR) as the best journal for poetry in the United States. Shawn Fawson’s book, Giving Way, won the Utah Book Award for poetry in 2011 and the Estonian poet Kristiina Ehin’s 1001 Winters was short-listed for the prestigious Propescu Prize for best book of poetry in translation from a European language. With our books we pursue every competition for which we qualify. Getting our name out there in every possible circumstance has helped over the past forty years to bring a lot of positive attention to this press and it’s certainly helped establish us as a more than legitimate and successful publisher of poetry in the United States. Along the way we’ve been fortunate to receive two extremely helpful Hemingway Grants from the French Cultural attaché, one for a book of poems by the purest Surrealist of them all, Benjamin Perét, and his Children of the Quadrilateral translated by Albert Frank Moritz, along with Torn Apart/Déchirures by Joyce Mansour who was the only woman within the inner circle of the Surrealist movement and whose work here was so beautifully translated from the French by Serge Gavronsky.

AB:  Besides an impressive list of books by U.S. poets, you’ve also published an amazing array of books in translation by poets from Bolivia, China, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Germany, Mexico, Sweden and Switzerland. Why the stress on publishing so many books in translation?

PBR:   I cannot think of a time in cultural history when translations have reached such great proportions. There are translations of poems and fiction of all kinds from every corner and language of the world. Much has been translated into English and some into other languages. Having come to realize that there are vigorous cultures whose pursuits of its own language through poetry are much greater than what we read and see every day in submissions to us from around the U.S., we wanted to try and amp up the availability that a true seeker of poetry could have in regard to a less self-absorbing and more universal kind of writing.

We have also tried to accomplish this reaching out to non-English speaking voices in those poets we feature in our semiannual journal. By feature it should be understood that we devote thirty or more pages to one poet in each and every issue. There’s an interview usually conducted by me, plus a generous selection of work by the featured poet. We’ve featured close to forty different individuals. Specifically, from other countries we’ve featured Ruxandra Cesereanu (Romania), Alberto Blanco (Mexico), Nicomedez Suaréz-Araúz (Bolivia), Aase Berg (Sweden), Chun Ye (China), Martín Camps (Mexico), Pierre Albert Jourdan (France), Ana Minga (Ecuador), Fiona Sze-Lorrain (France), Kristiina Ehin (Estonia), José-Flore Tappy (Switzerland), Tóroddur Poulsen (Faroe Islands), and such excellent American poets as  Duane Locke, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Ray Gonzalez, Silvia Scheibli, Christine Boyka Kluge, Rob Cook, Shawn Fawson, Patrick Lawler, George Kalamaras, Carol Dine and Patty Dickson Pieczka.

Ragazine Interview (Roy, Silvia, Paul & Georgina in Upstate NY)

Roy Rodriquez, Silvia Scheibli, Roth & Georgina H. Roth in upstate New York.

AB:   What plans for publishing do you have for the future? Projects? Desires?

PBR  We just published a wonderful little book of poems by the anguished Ecuadorian poet, Ana Minga, translated by Alexis Levitin, entitled Tobacco Dogs/Perros de tabaco. At the same time we published the winning book in our annual Library of Poetry (2012) competition by Patty Dickson Pieczka entitled Painting the Egret’s Echo. We’re on the verge of publishing Patrick Lawler’s new book of poems, Child Sings in the Womb, which will be available in March of this year. A month after that book’s debut, our spring issue of The Bitter Oleander appears. Following that issuance, other books coming due in 2014 include Puppets in the Wind by Karl Krolow, translated from the German by Stuart Friebert; Sheds/Hangars by the Swiss poet José-Flore Tappy, translated by John Taylor; Movement Through the Pain by Philippe Rahmy translated from the French by Rosemary Lloyd; the 2013 winner of our Library of Poetry award The Cave by Tom Holmes, and beginning in 2015 we will publish Rich Ives’ Light from a Small Brown Bird.

AB:  Any other future projects you’d like to see come to fruition?

PBR:   After Rich Ives’ collection, and at this very moment, I’ll be starting to look for outstanding manuscripts, particularly translations. We want to keep concentrating on those poets who are still living or have not been gone for too long. It’s been said that more people than ever are writing poems in this world. That there’s an abundance of literary journals both in print and online for those who seek publication, credit and attention, makes things more complex for any editor today. There’s a lot to sift through, as one can imagine, but until we’re moved to accept a person’s work for our journal or have it collected in a full edition, we’ll continue to sift.

 

About the publisher:

Paul B. Roth edits and publishes The Bitter Oleander Press in the village of Fayetteville, NY. He has seven books to his credit, the two most recent of which are Cadenzas by Needlelight (CypressBooks, 2006) and Words the Interrupted Speak (March Street Press, 2011). His eighth collection, Long Way Back to the End, is to be published in the spring of 2014 by Rain Mountain Press.

The Bitter Oleander Press
4983 Tall Oaks Drive
Fayetteville, NY 13066
(info@bitteroleander.com)
(www.bitteroleander.com)

 

About the interviewer:

Alan Britt is the Books & Reviews editor of Ragazine.CC. He received his Masters Degree from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. He performs poetry workshops for the Maryland State Arts Council.  You can read more about him in “About Us.”

 

March 1, 2014   Comments Off on Paul B. Roth/Interview