Books Received, Reviewed, Acknowledged
Paul Fericano, Things That Go Trump in the Night, contact Poems-For-All Press, www.poems-for-all.com., 90 pages, 2019 $7-
Make no mistake about it: this book is not for MAGA gear wearing whack jobs. Fericano has been writing satire and parodies for decades and he knows his stuff and is a master of his trade. Here is the complete opening poem.
Today, today, the lie I make,
tomorrow, tomorrow the truth I fake.
Nothing you hear will be the same,
for Trumpelstiltskin is my name.
Following this introductory dig, is a personal favorite of mine about Sour Sarah Sucklebee: “Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is Asked to Leave the Planet”. If only she would. Every poem in this pocket-sized book is a zinger. I was particularly drawn to the Shakespearian rewrites. The “ To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy is not to be missed. I had to stop more than once to wipe the tears from my eyes, I was laughing so hard. The Macbeth soliloquy is equally as pointed, so to speak. For the Biblical minded, there is rewritten Corinthians reflecting the wisdom of St. Donald the Uninformed.
The last poem there are so many parodies of styles, familiar poems, songs and nursery rhymes it’s almost unfair to choose favorites, is a compilation of sentences, from actual rally speeches, where Trump speaks for himself, and makes absolutely no sense It is the best way to close this collection. We need levity (even if satirizing him is easy pickings, given how grotesque and simplistic he is) in order to survive the obscurantism, the sheer lunacy of this presidency. Buy this book. Buy multiple copies. Give them to your friends. Disseminate. It is the American Way and it must be preserved.
Alan King, Point Blank, Silver Birch Press, www.silverbirchpress.com, 101 pages, 2016, $15-
“What’s my street name?
No, I was never gunned down several times.
Yes, my name is Alan.
No, I never dive for cover behind parked cars
during a drive-by. No my life never flashed
before me like a hologram.
Oh? You think I look like 50 Cent?
My rap sheet only exists in the minds
of those who shutter when I ask for directions...”
--from “Sure, You Can Ask Me About Hip Hop”
Point Blank is a tell it as it is, clear narrative/ poetic statement of what it is like to be black in America today. He is no street fighter but an educated man, a son of Caribbean born parents. He is a man who teaches and believes in the power of poetry to heal and represent. King is never shrill or declamatory, and by this I do not mean he is never angry, how could he not be? He’s a black man in America who knows you are guilty of something for the crimes of being born that way. Black men are always subject to unwarranted traffic stops, hasty errors in judgments by white people in authority with guns, and for just being who he is, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. His poetry delineates the plight through the lives of the characters he inhabits. This is a poetry that is both rooted in time and place and the culture he lives in and timeless.
“On summer vacation, we were black boys
playing cowboys and Indians
in a house that creaked
when we rode up warped wooden stairs.
Our imaginary horses stood and screamed.
We galloped around an antique coffee table
and claw-footed in the living room-
pow pow, your finger shot
‘til you picked up your dad’s gun.”
--from “Point Blank”
What distinguishes this poetry from other books rooted in a particular theme, is that Alan King is writing about Humanity, from the point of view of a human who just happens to be black. And we are all better for him having done so.
David Chorlton, Reading T.S. Eliot to a Bird, www.hootnwaddle.com. 52 pages, 2018, no price listed.
Chorlton declares that he once thought that writing about the natural was sentimental. It can be, but the more he observed, the closer he got to the environment of the Arizona desert, and its inhabitants, the more his thinking evolved. His writing changed from a concentration on what it means to be an immigrant, an exile, and escapee from a culture and a country, primarily with border crossings, to a broader canvas. His latest collection shows, implicitly, that man is an invader of to the natural world. That man is the only creature capable of destroying his own environment and that he has been dedicating himself to doing just this in the name of politics, business, and progress. Man is largely absent from this collection, except as an interloper, and the natural world is the primal source, as it should be. Regrettably, man only seems interested in nature as an irresistible force to be marveled at after a natural ( God forbid we should think manmade) disaster such as forest fire ( a subject Chorlton tackled in a previous collection) or a hurricane. It is fair to the breadth and artistry of this collection to choose one example as summing up the collection but this particular short excerpt does this
6- the magic circle
Mix truth and superstition
with carbon dioxide and stir
until money grows on trees
and all is well
until the trees die.
--from El Amor Ecologico a thirteen part poem based on de Falla’s ballet El Amor Brujo
It is no accident that David chooses to read from early Eliot to his bird, shown both in a drawing on the cover, and in his home, sitting on David’s shoulder. The blackbird, who cannot exist on his own in the wild, is let loose from its cage to sit and listen and do bird things, but seems uninterested in the various section of “The Wasteland.” We, the reader, should be, as it may already be too late to correct the despoiling of the environment( See polymath author William Vollmann assertions in his two volume examination on global warming.) It maybe be too late, but we have only ourselves to blame for not trying to arrest the trend.
Phil Weidman, Rungs on the Ladder : collected poems 1968-2013, Cold River Press, www.coldriverpress.com. 2018, 233 pages, $18.95
, In the Rear View Mirror, Cold River Press. www.coldreiverpress.com., 2918, 59 pages, 2018 $14.95
If being down to earth, concise, vivid, and involving, as a poet of personal tragedy and mirth, is a good thing, and it must be, as Weidman’s work has lasted decades, and is finally collected in these two companion volumes. There is nothing esoteric in his approach, nothing academic or overtly intellectual, just plain spoken, here and now, observations, of people and places, often with a black humorous edge. Weidman was apparently a favorite of my all time favorite small press editor, Marvin Malone of Wormwood Review fame. The larger of these two volumes collects dozens of poems from Wormwood as well as many from Kirk Robertson’s Duck Down Press and D.R. Wagner’s Runcible Spoon.
AT THE CONTROLS
This guy I know owns
a big revolver that will
push a 335 grain hand
loaded bullet thru a
12 inch fir log. I mean
BOOM it’s thru & dirt
flies. This guy loves a
a gun like some guys love a
Corvette. At the controls
he feels invincible.
I chose this piece pretty much at random. If you like what you see here, dig in. You won’t be disappointed.
The second volume continues where the first ends. In fact, there is a small overlap which shouldn’t discourage you from buying either one. I read the shorter one first and was hooked. I couldn’t wait to get home from vacation to read the longer one, and I did, straight through, at one sitting.
T.K. Splake, rectory, contact splake at email@example.com for price and ordering , 2018 51 pages.
Like a blue chip stock that pays quarterly dividends , the indefatigable Mr. Smith (aka T.K. Splake) produces a new book of original poems, in a deluxe package, at least four times a year. rectory covers some of splake’s familiar topics (aging, loneliness of old age, rejection of middle class lifestyle/soul sucking values) but uses his significant powers of observation ( I suspect of is morning existentials-wicked strong black coffee) to render what he sees passing by the window in Calumet City. This is the outward looking splake at his best with “touristas bastardus” (no explanation necessary), “fucking” which leads to “middle-class-middling” (what could have been the folks that have no inner life.... oh what horrible lives they must lead). There is loneliness here, as there always is when an artist forsakes a life of relationships for his art but there is the richness, the reward that only creating art can bring. His poem “stillness” says it best,
poet sacrificing music
for deep solitude
free of distractions
sound system silent
while facing blank page
yet still hearing murmurs
wild celebrating sounds
gentle breeze blowing
through pines of rime
vivaldi’s soft birdsongs
coming into spring
Holly Day, A Perfect Day for a Semaphore, Finishing Line Press, www.finishinglinepress.com, 60 page, 2018, $18.99
If there is a semaphore in these poems, it is being used as a distress signal. Relationships are at the core of this book, and those are often fraught, at best. Marriage is a constant power struggle, often demeaning for the woman, always physical, visceral, immediate as rough sex between mutually hostile partners, whose need for each other outweighs the hostility. Or does it? There is an underlining sense that the battle feeds the need and so the war is never won until someone dies. There is no real rest; sleep means nightmares, and these range from intense to deeply disturbing. If nothing else, these nightmares are so vivid and immediate, you end up as drained as the poet must have experiencing them, if only in her imagination. This is rare feat of engagement. After a couple of these dream sequences the reader feels drained. And the nightmares are not exclusive to sleep as the unforgettable real life nightmare as “Afternoon with My Stepmother,”
“She tells me the dog park is haunted, that every time
we take the dog there, he plays more with ghosts than he does
the other dogs. that when he starts barking at trees or birds or strangers
he’s warning us that we’re in a bad place. She tells me
we should find another dog park, she tells me
she’s heard of a nice one a little bit farther away from home
but it’s still close to her church and probably free from ghosts.”
And it goes way downhill from there.
I read this book on my vacation. It didn’t ruin the trip but it could have. And I mean that as a compliment.
Darren Demaree, Lady, You Shot Me, 8th House Publishing. www.8thhousepublishing.com., 78 pages, 2019 $14.88
Before there was what we think of now as soul music, there was San Cooke. Cooke is often described as the opposite of Elvis: a black singer who appeals to whites. With a velvety voice, a slick natural poise, and his God’s-gift-to-women flair, that defined his life and death. Cooke was a one man hit parade. Until, as Demaree describes it, in his Jesus year plus one, he is shot by a three-buck-a-night motel manager who asserted he threatened her. She shot him once, in the heart, and his last words were purported to be, “Lady, you shot me.”
The story doesn’t end there. Cooke was naked except for a sports coat and one shoe(!)?) and highly intoxicated. He had come to the motel for an assignation with what may have been a hooker. Why is none of this clear? Cooke was black man murdered in LA County in 1964, that’s why.
Theories abound as to what really happened. Suppositions involving a crooked, mobbed- up manager, who was about to get an axe, a hooker who may have stolen his clothes with considerable cash in the pockets, the one-shot wonder of the motel manage who had never handled a gun before, may not have been the shooter, a collaborating story by the motel manager who claimed she heard the whole incident over the phone, which could have been faked. Needless to say there was a cursory, let’s-close- the-book-on-this-, investigation, all adds up to a whole lot more than the official story.
Lady, You Shot Me #7
He wanted to give away
& the police
in Los Angeles
wanted to catalog his heart.
They did the least
The absolute least.
Demaree examines the last years of Cooke’s life and career, touching on the essentials of his womanizing, his wives, and his lovers. He notes Cooke’s influence as a producer. For instance, successful record artist, Bobby Womack, was initially produced by Cooke and later married Cooke’s wife.
Demaree’s Cooke is a vain man, yet a vital, driven force, sexually and otherwise, whose gifts were extraordinary and whose music seemed almost effortless. There seemed to be no limits to how high he could fly. Death took care of that.
There is not one false note in this collection.
Mark Pietrzykowski, sanctum, Pski’s Porch, firstname.lastname@example.org. , 89 pages, 2018, $10-
In dark times of political upheaval, of repression, of hatred. and moral turpitude, times such as these, it is no surprise that there has been a general proliferation of dystopian literature.
Add sanctum to the list. The poet sees America as a kind of Dystopia with yard sales, six packs and football. It is not uncommon, nor would it be unusual to describe a neighbor as being the kind of guy who, “loved his truck more than his children.” Everyone would nod and say, “Yeah, that about covers it.”
Right out of the chute the poet offers a life manifesto in his prose poetic piece “Call and response” where he attempts to deal with the issue of whether he is a poet or not. In these times that could be a killing offense in some neighborhoods. Whether he considers himself a real poet, might be an open question, whatever a real poet is, but the reader can be assured the writer is extremely gifted, observant, trenchant chronicler of life in these troubled times.
Work sucks, is demeaning and dehumanizing. The boss is a two legged demon on a mission to maximize productivity at minimal pay. Ideally the working class should be slave proles and should willing give their time and energy for free, so that the fat cats can sustain their prosperous lives. Sound familiar? It should.
“Every moment of your life
was more meaningless than the last?
Stop, you’re killing me.
No, really, you are murdering me,
spearing your spiny claws
into my guts, pulling out
my intestine, wrapping it
around my neck, tightening ‘til
my eyes bulge and tongue lolls
swollen and purple. Ha!
A fucking riot, this vale of tears.
I laughed. I cried,
there was no difference
and that’s the joke, that’s the gag,”
--from “Stand-up Sit Down”
sanctum portrays life as a raw deal, a howl in the climate changing vortex, the spinning eye of the next 500 year storm. He may be howling in the dark but at least he is howling.
Daniel Crocker, Leadwood: New and Selected Poems 1998-2018, Stubborn Mule Press, stubbornmulepress.com. , contact the author at email@example.com for further ordering information, 172 pages, 2018
Leadwood is not your typical selected poems, laid out chronologically, book by published book, and ending with the newer, unpublished in a collection, work. Instead, it is thematically organized and progressive. Several themes become apparent ,as you read through this self-lacerating, deeply disturbing but always arresting, collection. Missouri, where he was born, raised and still lives, is like what Dylan had in mind when he wrote when he wrote,
When you're lost in the rain in Juarez when it's Easter time, too
And your gravity fails and negativity don't pull you through
Don’t put on any airs when you're down on Rue Morgue Avenue
They got some hungry women there and they really make a mess outta you
(Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues)
When Crocker says, as a kind of throwaway line, it was Missouri, you know exactly what he means. Missouri is a state of mind, a place, the pits, an open wound, hell on wheels, headed for a one car accident, drunk on some two lane blacktopped highway you are speeding on for no other reason than it’s, well, Missouri.
A second obvious theme is his mental illness. He’s depressed. And why wouldn’t he be? He’s surrounded by Aids, drugs, decay, poverty, ignorance. It’s like a state of mind he evoked by referencing Berryman just before he jumped from a bridge, waved goodbye, and aimed for the river down below. And missed. Not that it mattered, he was dead anyway one way or the other. That doesn’t seem to be a state of mind anyone should envy or aspire to, but it seems to be inescapable in this place.
Moments of levity are rare despite a happy marriage and a lovely child. He is bipolar, bisexual and bi, well, everything. He is Janus in jeans and when his wife observes, as they watch the movie Sling Blade, “That’s you. I married Sling Blade.” At first, he is, upset and hurt and then he laughs, says,” Yeah, I am. That asshole Dwight Yoakam had it coming.” They share a laugh and you sort of go with it, all the while thinking, if this is as good as it gets.....
Of course, Crocker is not mentally deficient , nor is he emotionally stunted, or a simple child in a man’s body, but a well published poet with a PHD in literature. He edits Cape Rock and teaches at a university. But he is haunted by the past, especially his father, who is cruel and ever present. The poem “Silent Killer’ is as emotionally fraught and compelling as any on the subject of parent-child relationships. His father’s silence he would know anywhere. It’s isn’t like death. It is death. Personified.
This is a mid-career selected, Stay tuned for further editions.
“Leave them behind
the wounded, the addicted
the fucked up
The cheaters, the liars
and the mother fuckers
The bastards, the bitches
the mentally ill
The pill poppers, the drunks
the cutters and the out and out
pieces of shit
Give them to me. These
are the people I want”
--from the final poem in the collection, In Response to the Article"‘10 People to Rid Yourself of Before the New Year”
George Franklin, Traveling for No Good Reason, Sheila-na-gig Editions, www.sheilanagigblog.com., 2018, 105 pages, $17-
Franklin appears to be a lonely guy. It is his nature to take solo flights though life, despite two marriages that failed, and a permanent relationship that seems to have rooted him to a place of happiness and contentment. The cover Art for this book, which won the second Shelia-na-gig Book Contest, is by his partner. It reminds me of what Gatsby saw when he looked across the water. That vision, for Gatsby, was one of longing, of dreams unfulfilled, and the shattering of illusions. Franklin has moved beyond the disillusionment by the third and concluding section of the book. But first he has to deal with a series of life defining issues that are centered almost equally on nostalgia for what is past and permanent loss.
“I open the blue Rubbermaid storage box and
Cough from the dust and a chest cold I’m still
Getting over. It’s full of old photographs and crumbling
Scrapbooks, notes in my great-aunt’s handwriting,
Inventories of jewelries and newspaper articles that mentioned
The family. I remember the chair where my grandfather
Is sitting. it has a green silk cover and was probably
Sold after my father died. My mother is four or five
Years old in the brown-tinted photo, jumping into
Her father’s arms. They’re both smiling and both
Beautifully innocent. A few years later, he would lose the
House in the depression, to unexpected margin calls...”
His early years, his wanderings, his attempts to become a writer, the moving from one job to another are all affected by a deep sense of loss. Of a family that once was, and the feelings he had within it, that can never be regained. He is literally rootless. A poem like “Sadness” suggests the root of his anxiety is deeper than melancholy, as deep and as profound as a persistent depression. He says the sadness is always with him, like a muse or a lover , or a wife, reminding him to dress properly against the cold weather. Later in the section, he receives a slightly drunken phone call from an ex, filled with regret about the past they once shared and will never share again.
“I still don’t know why you called then, or what you wanted so badly
To tell me. I think I heard you say that getting over love sometimes
takes a year.
I had already gone to bed when you called, sinking into sleep
Where a day or a minute is no different from a year.
When I tried to phone the next day, your voicemail
Told me to leave a message, that you would call back next year.”
(from Phone Call)
The final section is “The Way It Is Now. “ The tone of the poems shift to a more whimsical, black humorous, cynical point of view. The world is still tinged with a deep sense of melancholy but there is brightness and light, even something like joy. The poems are more” literary”, outward looking, forward thinking. The past is gone, the present is now, and living for today is the focus of his more expansive view. He is no longer self-enclosed but engaged. The love a good woman will do that for you.
Jennifer Lagier, Camille Mobilizes, Future Cycle Press, futurecycle.org. , 37 pages, 2018 $11.95 also available in a kindle edition.
We’ve seen Camille before: she’s this red hot, super-charged, weightlifting, pinot drinking, sexually active , do not go gently into this good night lady of a certain age. Her politics are straightforward: the president is an orange haired, pussy grabbing, moronic “Cheeto-in Chief”.
“Camille watches The Donald
cozying up to Sarah Palin,
Tea Party darling,
It’s amazing that much stupid
in a confining space
doesn’t implode the skulls
of cheering fans”
Right On Camille!
Gary C. Busha, On the Dock, Wolfsong Publications, firstname.lastname@example.org, 26 pages, 2018, contact Gary at the press for this and other titles in a similar vein. $5- (this is one a series of 12 books. There is a larger collection with the same title that collects 6 of these books available for $15-)
This small in size of haiku and haiku like poems, maybe Lilliputian in size, but the poems work well to evoke larger themes. Gary’s chosen forms are perfect for evoking an idyllic childhood fishing and swimming and hanging out with other like minded kids his age.
Looking in the water
there is depth and mystery
the boy imagines.
Robert Penick, Exit, Stage Left, Slipstream, PO Box 2071, Niagara Falls, NY 14301, www.slipstreampress.org., 31 pages, 2018, $10-
Bob’s chapbook was the worthy winner of the 2018 Slipstream Chapbook Award. I was proud to officially hand over the poet’s laurels to him(much as Francine Witte passed the torch to me) as my successor. Exit, Stage Left, is a hardnosed, no nonsense look at life in the country formerly known as United States, by a no longer young, been-there-done-that, working man. Love affairs have not gone well, more than one night has ended up at the bottom of a bottle, alone again. Day- after are fraught with hangovers and pick me ups. But Penick is no Bukowski wannabee. He is not so much an imitator, as he is a survivor of the age old school of hard knocks, of which Buk was the most famous member. Let’s face, even Bukowski gloated late in life that: he made it and you didn’t, went to the flat track in his Mercedes or his BMW, I can’t remember which, but it doesn’t matter, you get the point. Bob isn’t like that. He goes to the races, sure, but he hasn’t “made it”, he doesn’t drive a late model yuppie car, he just is what he is, keeping on with keeping on. And that is what makes this collection a strong one and a must read as Slipstream, the magazine, and the annual chapbooks, always are.
Penelope Scambly Schott, November Quilt, The Poetry Box, www. The PoetryBox.com.,
31 pages, 2018, $12
Schott’s book is laid out the way a good scrap quilt would be. Each day of the chosen month has an entry, not so much as a progression, the way a diary would be, but as a mosaic with scraps of memory, experiences, thoughts all pieced together to form a cohesive whole from what might have, at first, seem a jumble of random pieces. Choosing November as the month was also not a random thought, as this well published excellent poet is in the November years of her life. She is not regretful or mournful, but almost joyous, in her selection of details from a rich life.
“After Sputnik we were all supposed to study math.
Now it’s programming. I mean coding.”
--from November 16
“I was surprised at my first bumps of breasts.
I’d thought they would arrive complete, as if
Two pockets in my ribs unzipped to pop them out.
silliest was a training bra. Just what, I wondered,
did breast get trained to do?”
--from November 19
Schott’s book was the second place winner in Poetry Box’s annual chapbook competition. I loved the tone of this book, the wry observations, the tenacity of her vision, and her assertion that women are fierce, not strident, just adamantly and justly, themselves.
Mayse Meijer, Northwood, Black Balloon Publishing and Imprint of Catapult, catapult.co
127 Pages, 2018, $18.95
White lettering of black pages fits the mood of this intense portrait of an illicit love that swerves over double lines into head on obsession. The unnamed man and woman, meet in a cabin on the woods watched by a Woodcutter who seems to be a kind of big, bad wolf creature, disguised as a landlord, interloper, she later has violent ex with. The lovers each have other people they are married to, but even miles apart, and unable to meet, they can’t have enough of each other. Billed as a novella, this seems to me a linked poem in wide (wild) variety of poetic forms that plummets headlong into the darkest regions of passion and lust. I was initially put off by the font, which seemed both pretentious and difficult on the eye, but gradually, as I accepted the inescapable nature of this relationship, I found myself hurtling along with them into whatever disastrous conclusion awaited me at the end. It may have been black and white on the page but not n the lives they led. What they had together may not have been a train wreck or a car crash, but an obsessive love thwarted (denied) feels devastating even when impact is avoided. Or is it?
Heikki Huotari, Tooth & Shoe, Willow Springs Books, www.willowspringsbooks.org. 45 pages, 2018, $10.95
If you want t know what surrealistic poetry looks like, this book is as good a place to start. Reading Tooth &Shoe is like a mathematical uncertainty principle in words, proof positive that you can take the math teacher out of the classroom but you can’t take the math out of the teacher (or in this case, the poet). And that’s not a bad thing.
These are brief conundrums, word puzzles, that often yield totally unexpected results. Many of these pieces are serial montages like Dali on a half-shell, not as Aphrodite but as an appetizer before a four course meal. Or maybe they are Self-Portraits in a Concave Mirror to riff on another much less enjoyable conundrumical poet. We even get to walk through the valley of death ( a variation on Psalm 23) and are literally, nourished.
The language made me think of early Sam Shephard, spare but tight, made me think what would Shephard’s work have looked like if he had decided to write poetry instead of plays. What would be the tooth of that crime?
Once I finished this book, I started reading it backwards, from the end to the beginning. It felt like the right thing to do. And it was.
Herta Mueller translated by Thomas Cooper, Father’s on the Phone with the Flies, Seagull Books, 193 pages, $24.50, 2018
Who knew the Nobel Prize Winning novelist of such unforgettable books as: Land of the Green Plums, Nadirs, and more recently, The Fox is Ever the Hunter , wrote poetry? Poetry of a sort, I should say. One way to describe these poems in collage, is as Found Poetry. Another would be ransom letters from a country under siege. Another would be as Dangerous Art. Each poem is shown in the original: all the words are cut from newsprint or magazines, and accompanied by a small drawing , that can be best described as, surrealistic. The visuals are actually stunning in their simplicity. The translations are brief, pithy, and I presume, somewhat distilled, when one considers that their seem to be so many more words in the original, than in the translation. Part of that would be the German language’s use of articles not found in English, I assume, not having the language myself I can’t rightly, or accurately, say. What I do know is this is a vital piece of an Impressionistic puzzle, not in a lyric mode, but one whose themes are repression, fear verging on paranoia in a police state environment, messages stripped of superfluous information, much like her novels and stories, previously cited.
in the red army
you know is
a) blood in grass
and b) blood
Michael Casey and Bill Shute, (dual chapbooks back to back on the occasion of their reading together). Casey’s contribution is Firearm ID & Other Poems and Shute’s is Culture of Compliance , White Square Books, The Ruminant Easthampton, MA, 2018 no other information provided text is approx 39 pages total. ruminantpress.wordpress.com
At first glance, these poets share little in the way of style and substance: Casey’s poems are lean, lyrical, and compressed while Shute’s are expansive on the page, loosely knit, which is not to say unified, more free flowing than Casey’s, like a stream of consciousness picking images from the air and going with them wherever they want to go. Casey’s poems are in his distinctive, hard punching, always gratifying, to the point, way. Shute’s less so.
The more I read Shute’s poems, the more intrigued I became by his method. I checked out some work, in a similar vein, via Kindle, and was confirmed in my suspicions that that the root of his work appears to be lodged in a Bob Dylan, angular, off-key (rhythmically) verse poem songs of the early albums. There are also (Inevitably?) echoes of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, Dylan favorites from that time. In essence there is an overlay of Dylan, filtered through Shute’s consciousness, to produce these imagistic works, that are both revealing as they conceal. They are wryly comical, as Dylan can be in his absurdist moments, and somewhat serious also without the demands of deep meaning. As an off-stated Casey devotee, I am heartened to say he has not lost the edge that he made distinctive way back in the early 70’s with his Yale Series debut. Shute, while no stranger to publishing, was mostly new to me, and a pleasant discovery, a poet worth discovering, even if belatedly. That must have been one kickass reading.
Don Winter, Cleaning Up at the Hamtramack Burger Chef: Selected Poems 1999-2006, check out donwinterpoetrybooksonline.com for price and publishing information, 58 pages, 2018
One of the pleasures of a brief retrospective book such as this one, is a chance to revisit old favorites in a compact space. Winter is not a prolific publishing poet but he is always a memorable one. His style is lean, often wryly, black humorous, and always down to earth. He celebrates the common man(and I mean that in the old, descriptive sense of Humanity,)
those people, men and women he worked with, or saw, in the multitude of blue collar jobs he has held over the years.
“She left scraps of scripture
in every nook & cranny of Hinky Dinky’s
in cash drawers & cookie jars& cupboards.
even in a Bible
we swore would explode,
until one day
geewilkers her heart did.
The good in us ran downhill.
We stood around at Tiptop Tavern,
drinking beer, pushing one another
Us back to good for nothings, wrong
--from “The cashier at Hinky Dinky’s Discovers Jesus" (chosen at random)
Haven’t discovered Winter’s poems yet? What are you waiting for?
Jonathan Hayes, A Full Moon in Santa Cruz, Mel C Thompson Publishing, 3559 Mount Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette, CA 94549 email@example.com, unpaged roughly 70 pages 2018 no price listed.
These are mostly short, haiku like poems, on a wide variety of subjects ranging from sad contemplative work, to tender love poems, to the rude and crude. If I needed to characterize the overall effect I would say: part demon-seed, part desolation angel. Hayes unabashedly channels Frank Stanford, the prolific suicide poet whose dying young did more for his career than the actual quality of his vast output ( in my humble opinion. ) More successful channeling by Hayes, centers on Steve Richmond (among many others, some familiar to me, others not) the vagabond inheritor of wealth, who proved that millions of dollars do not a happy junkie make. Unlike Basquiat, Richmond lived to a ripe, but unhappy, relatively old age, and his once fierce, energetic, totally unique, highly stylized, poems, in a form he invented, called gagaku, based on a classic Japanese music, survive. Hayes replicates the style well. As Steve once said: what a bitch it was trying to find recordings of that stuff . And what a bitch it was writing as his output diminished as the squandering f his inherited wealth predominated.
As a fan of the late Doug Draime’s work, I will quote, in full Hayes’ tribute to him as representative of his style.
for Doug Draime
I take the small round beer can
Like a woman’s ankle or holding a baseball
Gripping the curve snug
I’m in control of something beautiful
Judy K. Mosher, Shrinking Bones, The PoetryBox.com., 27 pages, 2018, $12.00
Mosher’s collection won the Poetry Box’s Chapbook prize. Having read a couple of the runners up, she faced some tough competition. Usually, you see a book, this slight in length, and you might be tempted to say, come on, is this it? Well, you would be wrong . Shrinking Bones, is, simply put, a remarkable achievement. The poet uses her past career as a professor of anatomy and physiology, to chronicle the physical decline of her aging mother. Each poem relates to a separate part of the body: the Humerus, Radius, Ulna...to Spine and everything in between. Each area of the body is clearly defined by the scientist, and analyzed, in terms of her mother’s deterioration. The complex relationship between mother and daughter: the love, the pain, the sadness, and most of all, the helplessness in the face of a reality of what must happen next, that cannot be halted, has never been better described. This book is priceless.
Eric Greinke, Shorelines, Adastra Press, 16 Reservation Road, Easthampton, MA 01027, 25 pages, 2018 a signed limited edition of a hand made book.
Adastra and Greinke make a perfect fit: the usual high standards of a rare, hand set and sewn chapbook on fine stock and Greinke, a rare poet , kayaker, avid hiker, dedicated fisherman (as is publisher Gary Metras) and keen observer of both human nature and the natural world .
Besides the well wrought nature poems, imbued with the spirit of place, there are tribute poems to the late poet and publisher ( of Bogg Magazine) John Elsberg, one to his wife Roseanne, and a kinship poem, centering on fishing, to Metras. Below is a complete, sample poem.
In a Westerly wind
the seagulls scatter.
The lake is turning over
Around my kayak
achieve natural buoyancy.
The gulls swim away
from one another.
In an Eastern wind,
they float together.
The water around me
is thick with green floaters.
The surface flashes
as if on fire
beneath the old wind.
I smile and breathe it in.
This book is a must for bot, rare book collectors and lovers of poetry.
Casey Renee Kiser and Johnny Scarlotti, Poems from the Edge, RaVen Ghost Press, contact CaseyRenee76@gmail.com, 26 pages 2018 npl
A manuscript page in the old Royal desk model typewriter cover art suggests that it is getting harder and harder to tell these two poets apart. The two poets are, Renee who is aggressively neurotic ( aggressively empowered?), perhaps because she was mentally (and maybe, physically) abused as a child as she alludes in her early book Doll Shaker. And Johnny, who is wrestling with the notion that he should, maybe, transition. I’m not sure if this meant to be a marriage of true minds or the clash of the Titans.
Johnny doesn’t seem to be able to reconcile his sexual ambivalence though his stated dream seems to be “maybe I should be lesbian.” Still he brags about lifting weight, how ripped he was, how he fucked two girls in one day. He is aggressively a mess, no arguments there. But that’s what poetry is for, right? To express what a mess you are? In these poems it is.
Ever see the Lynch movie “Lost Highways”? Remember the Robert Blake character and his sinister painted- all-in-white face ? That would be what Johnny’s author’s picture looks like. Or maybe he is going for an all out Clown Posse look. Whatever.
Renee is totally out there on the edge. Rough sex allusions, violence of the heart and mind, complex complexes abound. The poetry is part Mommie Dearest, part Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Keep all your blunt and sharp objects under lock and key when she’s around. Especially if there is an assignation involved.
Molly McCully Brown, The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, Persea Books, www.perseabooks.com., 75 pages, 2017, NPL
Brown disabuses anyone who might harbor illusions that Medieval ideas about the treatment of undesirable, misfit people, deemed imperfect in some ways, disappeared long ago. As recently as the 30’s men and women were sterilized, without their consent, for the crime of being imperfect: dimwitted, epileptic, feebleminded....(and one suspects the practice continued well after the events in this book). If there are still proponents of Eugenics around, this is a book for you. WWII showed what happens when Eugenics is taken to its logical extreme end . McCully’s book is a kind of footnote to what happens to folks who fall in to the hands of well-meaning (one hopes) officials (social scientists?) who share a common goal: to keep the human race free of impurities, by limiting their ability to reproduce. In theory, eliminating folks with hereditary problems, is a desired end, but in practice it is horrific.
Brown grew up in the shadow of this place, abandoned then, but the stories she researched, found, and fictionalized for this stirring account, live on. The recurring “Where You Are” poems that take place “in the blind room”, a euphemism for solitary confinement, are horrifying. In fact, the whole collection is horrifying, if you have an ounce of empathy or have ever known anyone who was shuttled in and out of the mental health industrial complex as one of my parents was in the 50’s and 70’s. I have no desire to find out exactly what happened to my mother while she was spending four years, at the height of the confinement craze, that featured new methods of treating mental illness , but a little research would tell anyone all they need to know. Brown has done her homework .The case notes, speaking from inside the heads of the patents, the descriptions of the place where they were, are a monumental testimony to man’s inability to separate altruistic notions from public policy/doctrine.
T. K. Splake, anatomy of desire, Presa Press PO Box 792 Rockford MI, 49341, www.presapress.com. 33 pages, 2019, $8-
The handsome new, or should I say, beautiful?, new chapbook by Splake has the image of a sultry woman in a casual robe, smoking a cigarette. The image suggests a woman readily available ( before or after and available again?) for a pleasurable encounter. Splake’s object of desire is both the elusive dame, the muse, and a final tryst with a willing younger woman. Sex and death are the twinned subjects as the aging poet confronts his mortality, trying to squeeze as much life and Art from the bardic bones while he remains above ground. Appropriately, my favorite poem in the collection, is “last dance” celebrating the rueful encounter with a lady love, leah. Other, shorter pieces impress as well:
dictator of nothing
empty little man
cell phone waiting
pretentious little holster
after labor day
no new poems
writer wasting days
summer talked itself away
(both quoted in full)
and from academic reflections:
reading classroom poems
office student meetings
evaluating their semester’s work
filling out applications
Guggenheim Fulbright grants
forms full of lies
As with all Presa chapbooks, this one is printed with loving care with a fine stick cover and an easy to read, equally as pleasing interior.
Received, Read, Recommended, but Not Reviewed
Alan Casline, In Exile, Benevolent Bird, PO Box 522, Delmar NY 12054 , 2018 unpaged roughly 20 pages or so, price not listed contact the Bird himself, Mr. Casline.
Rob Cook, The Charnel House on Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Rain Mountain Press, www.rainmountainpress.com. 44 pages 2018, $12-
Nickole Brown, To Those Who Were Our First Gods, Rattle, www.rattle.com, 46 pages, 2018, $6- winner of the Rattle Chapbook Contest 2018
Jackie Craven, Secret Formulas & Other Techniques of the Masters, Brick Road Poetry Press, www.BrickRoadPoetryPress.com 2018, 96 pages $15.95 (See Rammelkamp review in this issue)
Jon Bush, 101 Reason to Love Betty, Chapel Hill Press, no contact information provided, 163 pages, 2018 $10-
Catherine Arra, Writing in the Ether, Dos Madres, www.dosmadres.com., 2918, 72 pages
also by Catherine from Future Cycle Press, www.futurecycle.com. , Tales of Intrigue & Plumage available as a kindle book and in paperback 11.95 print, 3.99 kindle copy 41 pages 2017
Lenny DellaRocca, Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Unsolicited Press, www.unsolicitedpress.com., 77 pages, 2019, $19.00 pb. $3.99 Kindle
Received, Read and Highly Recommended!
Kendra DeColo, My Date with Ron Jeremy also her Saturnalia Poetry Prize Winning 2014, Thieves in the Afterlife
Sam Sax, Madness, National Poetry Series Winner published by Penguin
Blurbs for Books Recently Published:
Charles Rammelkamp, Me and Sal Paradise, Future Cycle Press, futurecycle.org. 33 pages, 2018, $10.95 also available on kindle
Me and Sal Paradise details road trips undertaken in the early 70’s in the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. If this were a long playing record album it could be called, “The Freewheelin’ Charles Rammelkamp: adventures in hitchhiking .” One lengthy, ill-advised, booze fueled jaunt to Canada, from the Midwest, culminates in rambling return fraught with unforeseen difficulties including a pass by of the Woodstock, N.Y. area, three years After the Festival. Later, he hitches from the Midwest to California to visit his twin in The Haight. You could hitchhike in those days! Enjoy the ride and the poems he made from them as much as I did.
Using rich, lush language, Allison Thorpe, in The Shepherds of Tenth Avenue, creates word paintings: a veritable chiaroscuro of youth. Days are redolent with blossoms and scent, nights, a garden with a serpent in it. Gradually, she reveals the serpent is her father whose idea of employment seems to be taking oral inventories of bars and storing the results of his work in his liver. While the youth she describes is often fraught, her poems about: craving a lime green bikini, dreaming of Fabian, plus wild girls Janis and Gracie, and of misadventures with hair dye, inject a readily identifiable, wry sense of embarrassment at: stupid-things-done-when-young. We can survive trauma and abuse. Thorpe shows us in this collection there is a real art to it.
Reminder to support these valuable print resources for small press poets. These are an endangered species: Independents
Chiron Review-four anthology sized poetry collections a year the last double issue was over 300 pages!
Lummox Press- annual anthology of poetry, brief prose, art, essays and book reviews
Clutch -annual anthology of art and poetry
Slipstream magazine all poetry and chapbook contest
Nerve Cowboy semi-annual poetry magazine
Big Hammers-Just arrived 300 page compendium of many of the late great and living contemporary small press poets
Free Poetry Books
Any and all readers of Misfit. I need to reduce my backlog of books! Big time. I will send you one or how many you want, free of charge, to domestic addresses. If you have ordered books from me in the last, this applies to you as well. Tell me what you have and I’ll send you something different! I guarantee you that I will have something on hand you haven’t read. If you want to kick in something for postage cool, if not , that’s okay too. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Available Titles Include
Men in Suits-MadmanInk, chapbook
Brain Damage-Propaganda Press chapbook
Insomniac’s Gift-SharkArt chapbook with illustrations by Michael Shores
Near Death in the Afternoon on Becker Street-March Street Press-book
Deep Water Horizon- Pygmy Forest Press
Alien Nation-March Street Press-book
Playing Tennis with Antonioni-March Street Press book
Thou Shalt Not Kill-Chiron Review Press-long poem chapbook
Our Lady of the Shipwrecks-Finishing Line Press-chapbook runner up chapbook contest
Still Life-Black Buzzard Press-chapbook
Last Bus to Albany-Pudding Publication-chapbook
The Schenectady Chainsaw Massacre-Staplegun- book
Views of Mt. Greylock-Snark Publications chapbook
Screaming Mimis-Butcher Shop Press-chapbook
Self-Portrait of the Artist Afraid of His Self-Portrait-March Street Press book
Last Bus to Albany
The Leper’s Kiss
Hair of the Dog That Bit Me-Four Sep Press chapbook
Stop Making Sense-March Street Press-chapbook
Joyce in Hades-chapbook of prose poems
My Son and I-Timberline Press chapbook
An Unresolved Argument with Shadows
Limited copies of other books not listed may be available, both newer titles and older ones. Not listed are newer books still available from presses who published them or for barter from me. State your preference.
Still in print available from publisher:
Last Man Standing. Lummox Press
American Odyssey and Wild Beauty from Future Cycle Press
Beautiful Mutants and Hollyweird from Night Ballet Press
Walking Among Tombstones in the Fog and Three Farmers on the Way to a Dance from Presa Press
Drunk and Disorderly Selected Poems from Pavement Saw Press
Effect of Sunlight in the Fog from Bright Hill Press