Books Received & Acknowledged
Jack Micheline, One of a Kind, Ugly Duckling Presse.
The copyright date says 2008, but I recently acquired the book as a new release. Maybe all this means is Micheline is one of those timeless poet who can be read and appreciated now, as he was when he was alive. Iconic Black Sparrow publisher, John Martin, once referred to his work as cheap imitations of Bukowski which I don’t think is fair. While there are distinct similarities to their work in phrasing, timing and subject matter, I think this observation sells Micheline short and he deserves to be read and appreciated for his own individual wit and wisdom.
“Genius is a rainbow at dawn
A bag of magical beans
Dancing across the world
It makes love to the unwanted
The inventor of eyeglasses
The geek in the circus of time….”
from “The Hidden Eyeball”
This ample selection from obscure, often hard to find books, are illustrated by original artwork by the poet. Now, those are highly derivative and suggestive of work by Bukowski and does little to advance your opinion of their creator.
t. kilgore splake, winter river flowing, presa press.
This current edition is a Selected from Splake’s long career as the artful dodger of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You have to be hearty, a survivor ,even to think about going there, much less chose it as your home: the weather is incredibly bad, the landscape is both beautiful and forbidding, littered with abandoned mines, empty factories, and disused manufacturing plants, even a decommissioned air force base. The desolation is fodder for poetic reflections and as subject matter for the poet’s other profession, as a photographer. It isn’t Always winter in the UP, it just seems as if it is and Splake makes the most of his chosen home as his work in both videos and photo essays, show.
The poet refers to this collection as his “death bed” edition; a compilation of an artist’s life work near the end of its course. winter river flowing features often rare, hard to find pieces from his earlier work, and a generous selection of his later poems. Splake’s identification with the Beats, especially Kerouac, is evident throughout and I’m sure if Jack were around to read these, he would feel the poet had done him proud. It should be noted this book continues presa press’s commitment to publishing works by some of the best, under-represented poets of the greatest generation who have made the small presses a vital force for alterative thinking and writing.
Andy Clausen, Home of the Blues.
Clausen is a poetic force to be reckoned with not only on the page but as dynamic reader of his work. At once fiercely independent and politically committed, his poems rage against the established order that seeks to deny basic human rights and social justice for all. If this defines him as a throwbacks to the 60’s and the Beats then so be it. The Beat goes on and Andy Clausen is the man delivering the message.
A.D. Winans, On My Way to Becoming a Man, NYQ Books.
It would not be an exaggeration to call Allan Winans a living legend. He was there during the San Francisco Beat Scene, hung with Bob Kaufmann, made the scene, and wrote his poems. He was a good friend, if anyone could be considered a friend, of Bukowski’s for many years, and ran the seminal, Second Coming Books publishing venture. His latest book is, as the title suggests, an overview of his coming of age as a man and a poet. The work free ranges from his time spent in Panama while he was in the service, to down and out, then hanging in, in San Francisco. These poems are often political, championing the rights of the downtrodden and the oppressed, and unapologetically so. Anyone who is interested in modern American poetry after the 50’s should check out this well-produced book by one of America’s best voices of the era.
Jennifer Lagier, Camille Verite, FutureCycle Press.
From the Back Cover:
Ah, Camille, if only I'd met you earlier in life, how different it might have been! Camille, Jennifer Lagier's take-no-prisoners poetic persona, is bold, bawdy, a direct literary descendant of the Wife of Bath (but with an edge); she's honest about her hungers and desires, but nobody's fool. And Camille has the scars to prove it. Lagier has created a modern-day existential anti-hero in Camille--vulnerable, ruthless, and a little bit terrifying.
--Charles Rammelkamp, author of Fusen Bakudan and Mixed Signals
Camille Vérité is a densely packed, sensual experience depicting an uber woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. Whether she is clubbing long into the night or locked in a fierce, tight embrace, Camille is totally in control, totally sure of herself: ready, willing and able to maximize her pleasure. Lagier's voice is assured, richly evocative, and alluring. This is a book with charms you won't be able to resist.
--Alan Catlin, author of Alien Nation
I might add that the more Camille poems I read, the more impressed I am that this is Jennifer’s opus magnum. Camille is Everywoman in action. Check her out. Available as a Kindle edition and a reasonable print edition with cool cover art by our own Gene McCormick.
Notes on a Few New Anthologies
The Art of Survival, King’s Estate Books, Ruth Moon Kempher, editor.
Ruth has been putting out these occasional, themed anthologies, periodically for well over a decade. The current one is the largest and best of a wonderful series, featuring many of the best known and better small press poets, many of whom have passed on in recent years. In a way this Survival anthology helps to commemorate and keep alive their work. Some of the gone poets included are: John Elsbury, Hugh Fox, Will Inman, and Todd Moore. I am privileged to have a number of poems included. This volume, as with all previous anthologies, is lavishly illustrated by the incomparable Wayne Hogan.
Fierce Invalids: A Tribute to Arthur Rimbaud edited by Glenn Cooper, Blind Dog Press (Australia).
I am always skeptical of tribute collections but this one exceeded all my expectations. The poems are lively, original and show a firm understanding of Rimbaud’s work and life. As I have two poems in this international collection. I will hesitate to make a critical overview beyond what is already said and the suggestion that despite this being published in an “out” market, it is well worth tracking down and purchasing for yourself. That’s what the Internet is for.
A Touch of Saccharine edited by A.J. Huffman and April Salzano, Kind of a Hurricane Press.
As the title suggests this anthology is geared towards the sweet an sugary. Before you give up on the review and the book, you should be advised that the editors include a wide range, and I do really mean wide range, of different interpretations of the theme. There are some poems that could be classified as icky and others that are on the totally opposite end of the spectrum, down , dirty and demented. And there is much in between well worth looking at. A reasonable print and E edition are available. I am represented in this collection, so you can take my comments with a tablespoon of sugar if you’d like.
Chiron Review Issue 97 edited by Michael Hathaway and a group of Contributing Editors.
While, technically this is a new issue of the revived lit journal Chiron Review, the format and breadth of publication is that of an anthology. There are over 140 pages in a perfect bound format, copiously illustrated, mostly by stunning photographs by Cari Ann Wayman. Many of the poets associated with the former incarnations of Chiron (and its predecessor The Kindred Sprit) are in evidence here. Stand outs include Charles Rammelkamp, Ellaraine Lockie, Richard Vargas, Kyle Laws, and Edward Field. Welcome back Michael. We missed you.
Back to General Book Reviews
Matt Galletta, The Shop is Sinking, Epic Rites.
This is Matt’s first book and it’s a damn fine one. His poems tend to be short, wryly amusing, a bit satirical, a bit surreal, self-deprecating and self-assured. If there are mysteries revealed here, they are of the human heart kind, focusing on the offbeat and the weird things that people do to each other. His voice is self-assured and believable, approachable and satisfying.
Like a kid
laying out pennies
along train tracks,
I wasn’t expecting
and shattered glass,
red and white
illuminating the trees.
I was bored.
I just wanted
Carol Guess, Doll Studies: Forensics, Black Lawrence.
Imagine a bedroom, a crib with the rails up, a doll dressed in girl baby clothes lying in a pool of something suggestive of blood, reclining in an unnatural pose, and you have a typical crime scene in this wild, highly inventive, book of poems. There are any number of these scenes and each one is narrated in a manner that is both tongue-in-cheek and completely serious. There are crimes of passion, wanton cruelty and hideous violence for the sake of violence. All of it effectively rendered in tight, prose poems. I suppose you can even call them ekphrastic poems as they are written as a response to the equally as clever diorama series by Frances Glessner Lea which are reproduced in a book by Corinne May Botz, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. You can look these up on line but they aren’t necessary to appreciating the poems. I strongly suggest you do, though, as they make a much more complete commentary: poems, photos and Art work.
Randy Phillis, Plots We Can’t Keep Up With, Encicrcle Publications.
Plots You Can’t Keep Up With is the stuff of life and all those unexpected misdirections
that occur without warning that alter our plans, sometimes for good. The title poem deals with a neighbor whose wife has left him and the yard sale of their possessions where “everything is worth a quarter.” There are scenes in bars, both as a child with his Dad sneaking a few drinks with the narrator sharing a secret with the old man, to later in life where the watering hole visited after a fishing trip feels like the end of the line. This is a fine small collection of solid narrative poems.
Charles Rammelkamp, Mixed Signals, Finishing Line Press.
The old adage is, “you can’t tell a book by its cover” but in this case you sure do get a lot of clues. We see Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield seated at a formal dinner of some kind. Sophia is wearing a tasteful, black dress that is appropriate for the occasion: flattering but not too revealing. Jayne, however, has a low cut, shiny affair, apparently chosen to allow her ample boobs to fall out. She seems to have forgotten underwear for the occasion, and seems pleased with the result, as her joyous mugging-for-the-camera smile suggests. Sophia’s barely contained look of contempt expresses her feelings. Mixed Signals indeed!
Rammelkamp’s exquisite poems radiate his trademark mordant humor. His stint at the telephone bank for a PBS fund drive is a classic. Instead of fielding donations from callers, he is a magnet for all the malcontents venting their rage against PBS, in general, and a recent Nature show, in particular. To say the callers range from the splenetic to the outsized nut bag, minimizes the craziness of the experience. After one particularly vicious rant, the poet handles the caller with characteristic aplomb asking,
“Will you be putting that on a credit card?
Or should I send you an invoice?”
In the title poem, the poet is an eight year old boy witnessing a bizarre, it-could-only-have- happened-in-the 50’s moment, when his aunt , fresh out of the shower, wrapped in a towel, sets her sprayed hair on fire with a lit cigarette and is forced to use the towel to dampen the flames. Young Charles gets more than an eyeful and the aunt reacts first, with anger at the boy, who, through no fault of his own, witnesses her nakedness and, compassion, when she realized she overreacted. It is the kind of sad, touching, yet wonderfully funny moment that only a consummate poet could pull off.
It is well worth mentioning Charles’s previous full length book, Fusen Bakudan from Time Being Books. Two forgotten sidebars to recent American history are chronicled to great effect. The first is a balloon bombing on the west Coast by the Japanese during World War II. Yes, actual balloons were shipped across the ocean and some bombs managed it drop, killing unsuspecting people on a family outing. Later, many of these same people would become missionaries in South East Asia at leper colonies working with the then legendary Dr. Tom Dooley. For anyone interested in historical narratives, told in the poetic form, this is an essential book. The book is available both in a print and kindle edition.
Harry Humes, All Waters Are One, Adastra Press.
This limited edition chapbook shows that the Art of fine book making is alive and well in Easthampton, MA. The collaboration of fine, handmade printing, exquisite illustrating and excellent lyric poetry yields a work of Art that should grace the shelves of any collector who values old fashioned book making. Both the poet and the publisher, Gary Metras, are avid fisherman and their love for the sport shows in every word, poem and page of the book.
The river I love most
has a dry oxbow and flows through mountains
filled with wild grape vines rotted logs honeysuckle
and there is a railroad along it and the river roars
through a trestle’s stone arches and it is a day river
and a night river made of hellgrammites and brown
though sometimes there is a bear in it…..
Kyle Laws, Wildwood, Lummox Press.
Wildwood, for the uninitiated, is a hot spot tourist destination on the Jersey shore. As you might expect it is a crowded, noisy place, with all the glitzy trappings that draw tourists like lemmings to the sea. But for Kyle, it is both a spiritual, and actual home. Memories of growing up and coming of age are intermixed and become, a vital component to a larger canvas of life’s journey. Physical shores are a major competent of Kyle’s life, as well, whether it be in Jersey, Florida, or New Orleans, places she has lived and worked in. While she now lives in landlocked Colorado, the call of the ocean is never far from her heart. This ample, far reaching, collection shows a substantial gift for the essence of the narrative line. Every poem has a richness in it that extends beyond the page whether it be a reminiscence or a descriptive passage of people and places.
Cordelia and John Danced to a Player Piano
That summer she began planting the dune
that was her front yard, sand sloping
to the parking lot of Smitty’s Bar.
She put up a fence,
appointed the wide boards white,
wove them back and forth around posts,.
She started with beach heather,
low growth and fine leaves trapping
rain that blew across the bay.
It was what was most abundant
where they had lain,
tiny flowers that scented her skin
as they danced to invisible hands
on a piano in the arcade
in Wildwood that year.
David Chorlton, Selected Poems, Future Tense Books.
Chorlton, in addition to being one of the finest poets working today, is an artist whose work graces many book covers including one by Nobel Prize Winner Tomas Transtromer, award winning author Denis Johnson, and one of my own. David is a man of integrity: he refuses to review books by personal friends, and I should follow his lead, as we have been friends for over 30 years. Still, as anyone who has read the reviews published throughout the issues of misfit, must have assumed by now, I know many of the poets whose work I have commented on. This is unavoidable, though I have generally tried to be as objective as possible when writing about poets and their work. My feeling is that, we wouldn’t be acquainted if we didn’t share some kind of mutual respect and a bond in poetry. That said, I can objectively say this book is representative collection of David’s work, from lesser know early books, to later, award winning ones such as his two Slipstream Press chapbook winners. Rather than choosing a standard chronological collection, David’s poems are organized thematically, giving the work a fresh new blending of the old with the more recent. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my all time favorite poem, “Haydn’s Skull Returning,” is featured. You’ll have to buy the book to find out why I love this piece.
It should be noted that Future Tense offers its books in a reasonable, Kindle format as well as, print editions. To date I have downloaded:
Christopher Bursk Selected Poems
Diane Kistner, Falling in Caves
Bill Glose, Half a Man
Jesse Breite, The Knife Collector
Maria Williams-Russell, A Love Letter to Say There Is No Love
Wally Swist, Luminous Dreams
Mary Parker, Miss Havisham in Winter
Joanne Lowry, Scything
Cheryl Lachowski, The Secret Life of Hardware
Barbara Bennett, Sighting in the Land of the Dead
All of these are available at a low cost, in a highly readable format.
John Bennett, Passing on the Fire, Hcolom Press.
Okay this isn’t a book of poetry but it’s my review section and I can put anything I want in it. These articles, collected here, for the first time, are a scatter of Bennett’s spot on journalistic observations. Thirteen of the fourteen pieces are short, witty, and telling, usually all at the same time. One is an outright classic, and I say classic, as a person who hates the word and idea of something being “an instant classic”, given it is a contradiction in terms. Not this time. The piece I am referring to has aged well as it was written some 25 years ago. I am confident that, “De-Euphemizing the 60’s will stand a further test of time and earn its way as a Classic.
Anyone who lived through those strange, often mischaracterized years, will read this essay with a sense of, “Yeah, you know this is really how it was, not how everyone is imagining it must have been.”
“Are you proud to be part of the counter-culture?
The counter-culture isn’t the counter-culture, it’s the
culture, and what passes for the culture is cancer
of the soul.
Do you believe in going with the flow?
Do you believe in gravity”
Now we are getting someplace.”
John knows the difference between artifice and reality, hype and bullshit. Besides the 60’s didn’t begin in 1960 and did not end in 1970. Everyone who was there knows this. It’s like the myth that all the good ones died young. Don’t you believe it for a minute.
The last, long piece, “Belizing It” should bring on a strange sense of déjà vu for anyone who ever took a cruise or a group trip. John Bennett was, is and remains to this day, an American original. Buy his books.