Books Received, Reviewed, Acknowledged
Barbara Ungar, Save Our Ship, The Ashland Poetry Press, www.ashlandpoetrypress.com, 2019, 66 pages, $15.95
A new book by Barbara Ungar is always a cause for celebration in this neck of the misfit woods. Among my favorites are poems such as: “The Emily Dickinson Yard Sale” which manages to be both tongue-in-cheek amusing and moving at the same time. Ungar makes the reader smile, then takes you to a place you never expected to go. There are heartfelt tributes to a mentor and teacher, Bill Matthews, another poet who mingled wit and profundity, that rings true having briefly met and interacting with the man at a weeklong Summer poetry conference not long before he suddenly passed away.
Ungar is equally at home talking poetry and detailing the vagaries of single parenting a growing-into-teenaged-years, boy. As a father of two boys, even with a partner, boys are a wild mixture of hormones and neediness, as she shows with equal doses of sympathy and awareness as she does so well in, “Now That We Are 15.” Note the use of the word “we” instead of you. For better or for worse, we are in this together, parent and child. A poem near the conclusion of the collection takes the family experience one step further: “Your Mother Serves Tongue”. If you have never had the “tongue experience” and, doubtless, many of you have not, this poem captures it exactly.
“How could you
put another creature’s tongue
into your mouth? How could you
bite, chew, swallow?"
The answer is the person foisting tongue on you does not fully explain what “tongue” is. The truest thing my mother ever said was, “Don’t look at where it comes from or else you will never eat it again.” I did. And she was right. I have never eaten tongue again and never will. It’s an experiment in terror, tongue is. Don’t go there. But that’s what makes Barbara’s poetry so enjoyable: she goes there and makes it personal, memorable, and fun. And you don’t have to eat any tongue to have the experience.
I’ve made no secret that my favorite Barbara Ungar poem is, “Jeanne et Moi (or, Two Degrees)”. Recently, I was reading the introduction to an anthology of film poems, I Found It At the Movies” edited by Ruth Roach Pierson who said,
“And who among us have never seen ourselves or wished to see
ourselves reflected in characters played by actors with whom we
identify? I confess that, through much of the 1960’s, I wanted
desperately to become Jeanne Moreau.”
Barbara goes one better, I think,
“One of Moreau’s lovers was my grad
school teacher, drop-dead
gorgeous in his rakish youth.
He took me to the Hampton’s
for a chaste weekend at Lichtenstein’s
estate where I sat next to a Greek prince
in my thrift-shop dress of rotting lace.
Now he is very old and la Moreau
is dead, but for the moment someone
who’d slept with her wanted to marry me.”
There are poems in this collection that are serious, deadly serious, as in the title poem that suggests the ship (ship of state? ship of fools? the Titanic of modern civilization? choose your own vessel) is going down, our shores are being flooded, our natural resources wasted; the SOS has been sent but it may be too late. If we’re going down well, there is no better way to enjoy our last sentient days than, Save Our Ship.
Lorette C. Luzajic, Pretty Time Machine: ekphrastic prose poems, 2020, Mixed Up Media Books, www.mixedupmedia.ca 200 pages of poetry plus end matter, available through Amazon $16 usd.
Pretty Time Machine was the longest book I read this time around and, perhaps, the most rewarding. Lorette describes her book as “ekphrastic prose poems,” and while it lives up to the advance billing, the book is so much more of rendering Art into words. Each poem does specify a work of Art. Some poems are clearly informed by the Art, while others seem only tangentially involved in the Art. Specific images are used as inspiration in creating an extremely personal statement. Essentially, Pretty Time Machine, is a memoir.
Luzajic dedicates the book to her father and her friend: “For Daddy, because he will never read this. And for Ava, when she’s old enough, she will.” What follows is an extraordinary journey across continents, bouts of drug addiction, recoveries and relapses, bad relationships and good, and eventual sobriety. Unlike most addiction memoirs, Luzajic makes no apologies, though she expresses many regrets, refusing to wallow in her addictions by painting us a verbal picture with visual aids. Lorette’s book could have been written as a prose piece, something that would be at home on a talk show, with uplifting Kodak minutes, but she chose not to follow that path. Why? I expect: because there would be no Art in that kind of book.
Art is the sustaining force in her life, the one constant: I need to create. And create she does. There are so many fascinating themes and sub-themes developed in her work, a short review cannot do justice to them all. Her evocation of the Canadian West is like a Russian Ark of the plains. In her writing and her Art, she seeks, like Western novelist, Cormac McCarthy to pare down to the bone. There are elegies for lost friends, her father, loved ones along the twisted paths she follows. Each has a special focus and integrity that makes these people real, so that their loss is fresh, and involving, and you feel it the way she might: no mean feat in an elegiac piece for a person with whom you have no connection.
We meet Candy dying of AIDS, Nobody’s Wife, a poem that made me feel as if I was inside a Leonard Cohen song. We visit the work of Outsider Artist, Henry Darger and his literally, monumental, self-created world, stroll in Van Gogh’s Wheatfield and possess the gun he fatally wounded himself with, know Schiele and Tommy the dancer, Hart Crane before he jumps, Warhol, Basquiat the crack smoker. It is, literally, an epic journey.
Lorette is, in addition to being a first rate painter, a poet and a diverse forms artist, is the editor of Ekphrastic Review, an online publication dedicated to poetry inspired by Art. Lorette takes a broader view of what ekphrastic than the more traditional sense that writing about Art must be about specific paintings or sculptures. I expect there are books about just what ekphrastic encompasses. What Lorette believes, as do I, that ekphrastic encompasses all Art, photography included, the poor sister of the fine arts. She expands that vision to allow herself into the narration, allows herself to see the form as being, not narrowly focused, but able to embrace All objects, peripheral or not, to the Art experience. She knows Art when she sees it in whatever form that might be.
Lorette mentioned to me when she sent me Pretty Time Machine, that she doesn’t expect anyone to actually read the whole manuscript at once. Her hope was that the reader would read some and return to it when, and as, they will. I read it all in two long sittings because I wanted to. You should want to as well.
(from) The Forget Me Not Tree
after Trees, Hart Crane, 1908
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real
tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
1. These things are blue: Chefchaouen, twilight, sapphires,
birds. Marilyn’s face, on the gurney. Rare moons. Great
Lakes. Salt flats reflecting back the sky. Joni Mitchell’s
greatest album. And the poet, Hart Crane, lost at sea.
Allen Brafman, Wherever I Look, I Am Never There, Rain Mountain Press, 2019, 133 pages, $16.00
One of the greatest pleasures of reviewing is the discovery of a new voice. While Brafman is neither new, nor a beginner, his work was previously mostly unknown to me. What
Brafman does so well is make and unmake his world sentence by sentence. A construction is a thought, is a deft stroke, that is completely remade into something else, with a few choice words. There is a kind of Zen feeling to the shifting perceptions, where nothing is completely certain or what it seems to be. I think of, a now mostly forgotten poet, Raymond Roseleip and his tiny constructions that branch out and flower in unexpected ways, with a word shift that alters the balance. We are imbalanced in Brafman’s poems, forcing us to look closely to see if he means what he seems to be saying. Or does he mean something else? The answer is yes; he means what he says, and the opposite as well.
Memory is a major aspect of his poetic world. What we think we know and remember is flawed; there is complexity in the simplicity of expression. Brafman says “he built a snowman on the subway from memory. This is an astonishing line in, and out of, context. Brafman, is a city dweller who often rides the subway. He muses as he rides, and experiences being where he is now, in ways that completely separate him from the other riders. He is both of and on the subway. He is in another moment, another place, in his mind, and in his memory.
The past is always present for Brafman. The living and the dead are not gone, not completely, as their presence reside in him as long as he retains his memory. Brafman’s vision is not unlike the extraordinary novel by Kevin Brockmeier, The Brief History of the Dead, where the dead appear in a limbo, after life, and remain there until the last person among the living who remembers them, dies.
Brafman asserts he is always taking pictures with his eyes. These pictures become his poems, his poems become his memories, and this flawed memory becomes the only record he has. What better reason to write than to preserve that memory before it becomes lost or altered further?
Perhaps, the best illustration of the mind and method of the poet is summed up in the first few stanzas of his poem, “Daniel”,
“The painter dabs his brush into color
Cigarette hanging from his lips,
he is paining a model
he is trying to remember.
Soon he will pack his easel, take his paintbrush
and colors where a real model is waiting
ready to pose.
Archeologists dig the past out of the past.
Every ten or twenty feet
I saw my father three or four times a day after he died.
Now I haven’t seen him for years.”
Brafman’s collection is the best kind of poetry as it absorbs the reader in a world of contradictions and certain uncertainties. The poem “Rivkah, evokes the life and spirit of a woman he never knew. Her photograph and a brief, handed down story, is all the remains of a woman who was “killed for being Jewish.” Brafman embraces her story as part of his, as she was murdered on the day he was born.
There are so many moments of deep emotional impact it is impossible to single them all out. I would be remiss for not mentioning “Rain Is Always On the Way”. Watching home movies becomes more than an exercise of memory, more than the past escaping into the future, but the extraordinary sense of the present escaping into the past,
“This one almost too dark
to make out the faces my father
watching us on the Fourth of July
wide-eyed fireworks exploding
in the sky over Lake Etra we
spent summers fishing and swimming.
Whenever it rains on television
he runs upstairs to close the windows.
He no longer recognizes the face
in the mirror he shaves in the morning.
He has forgotten the names of his children.
On the anniversary of September 11th
he shouts, “Get out! Get out of the building!”
an amateur video of the plane approaching
He dreams his tongue is a flame
licking at the feet of office workers running
to thick windows, looking for somewhere to leap.
He opens his eyes to the billowing smoke.”
In the last stanza, the poet remembers his mother’s warning,
“Rain is always on the way, she said.
Always wear your galoshes, she said.
Pain never goes away.”
Erica Hoffmeister, Lived in Bars, Stubborn Mule Press, www.stubbornmule.com., 2019, 78 pages$15-
Hoffmeister is the ultimate peripatetic wanderer. Part of her journey is because of family circumstances that required continual uprooting. Later, traveling and gathering new experiences, is just what she does. Many of these experiences involved ending up in a bar somewhere, a bar where real people hung out, and live music is being played. There is drinking and sex, bad life experiences and lessons learned. The tone and content of this book is remarkably consistent and plain spoken. You are there, with her, wherever she is (exact geographical co-ordinates are given at the bottom of each page) and you share her life as she lived it. The poem “70W” is quintessential Hoffmeister on the road, speaking of Kansas,
veins flooding life into endless prairies, before men took harsh lines
to a map to carve out shapes of states. A perfect little rectangle
containing a mass of open space.
That’s what I am inside, desolate open. Curtained
on this long stretch of highway, infinite. Like the sea, like the desert,
this same horizon blurs over landscape, endless. Fields reach for
miles, farther than my albatross arms span, regardless of dismissed
speed limits. Dirt roads that lead to places I’ll never find on this
highway. The middle of nowhere, the middle of
Erica seems to have settled down now but her restless soul is still wandering.
Tom Obrzut, Street Poems, Iniquity Press/Vendetta Books, PO Box 906, Island Heights, NJ, 08732-0906
The epigraphy to Obrzut’s poem, “Overdose”, by Henri Michaux sums up the attitude and scope of the book, “It became clear to (from my adolescence on) that I had born to live among monsters”. While there is quite the array of tripped out, gone, whack job loser-street people in his book, the collection is not without humor. There are threats, shake downs, drunks and pan handling. There are strung out druggies, the poems are not all a drag, down and out in jersey litany of woes kind of way, as he finds a kind of dark humor in their plights. One of the most memorable is when the poet visits a hopeless friend on a locked-in ward. The narrator observes, tellingly, “What does Newark mean in our language?” If he finds out, I hope he will share the insight with us.
And Obrzut does have sharp insights, Major themes are unemployment, jail time, locked- in psyche ward time, no hope drug taking, the demeaning characteristics of people who have given up, because society at large has no meaning and no place for them. It is Trumplandia and this is what it will look like, if The Orange One prevails yet again. Life as we know it will come to an end as the Gestapo dream poem so tellingly reveals. The Youth of America will have crew cuts, brown shirts, jack boots, and hang out in the pool halls the poet once frequented with his buddies when young. This is not America made great, it is America made fascist.
It is a joy to pound the pavement
My enthusiasm for football knows no bounds
Infatuated with employment agency ladies
I throw myself at your efficient, professionally attired feet
These efforts are only efforts
I will make more resumes
Sign permission for many background checks
Please call people who once knew me
I’m sorry they will tell you nothing
It is company policy
I am prepared to be silent also
And will smile
Which way to the bathroom?
Evening hours are no problem
Travel is preferred
Sunlight remains outside where business is no done
Air is breathable everywhere
Phosphorescent bubs are no problem
I can inhabit places
Please put me in a cubicle
I can be real.
T.K. Splake, Autumn Whispers, Cyberwit, www.cyberwit.net. 2019, 36 pages $15-
, Graybeard Whispers, Transcendent Zero www.transcendentzero.org, 2019,
33 pages, $9.95
, One More Winter, Presa Press, www.presapress.com, 27 pages, $8-
Splake continues to amaze us with his productivity and consistency. These three new chapbooks continue the saga of the gray bearded wonder, octogenarian Thomas Smith aka T.K. Splake, photographer, and poet. I say photographer first as Autumn Whispers, is as much about the seven, full color autumn splendor photos (not counting the exquisite cover shot) that are interspersed within the text. Using his patented haiku-like short line poems, he evokes the passage of time and the transition of the seasons as a metaphor for the stages of life. As always, Splake is concerned with making the best use of his remaining time to create new works and to preserve what he has done in splendid, collections of his work.
wrinkled black beret
tattoo body art
ink and paint on levis
coffee stained sweatshirt
facing blank page
making something new
out of nothing
Graybeard Whispers has an intriguing image of a dew laden spider’s web stretched over small new leaf tree branches. Memories are whispers amid the trees, branches in the forests of his mind. These poems are slightly longer than the previouscollection but equally as effective. A sample poem quoted in full,
memorial day ghosts
guadalcanal and iwo
bataan death march
ardennes winter bulge
forgotten young men
gold stars now gray
front window banner
lost in old diaries
dusty attic corners
Continuing his seasonal theme, Splake explores the winter season of life and creativity. The striking cover depicts a setting sun threw snow laden trees, last light reflected on still water.
forty-three mostly short line poems gives us a glimpse into the winter of his mind
nursing home scenery
pictures of elvis and gto
large television screen
quilted wheelchair ghosts
damn dame lady muse
blocked poet struggling
like wounded butterfly
torn wing fluttering
trout fishing in America
one hand casting bait
other holding cell-phone
Darren Demaree, Nude Male with Echo, 8th House Publishing, www.8thhousepublishing.com, 2019, 74 pages, $13.99Darren must be a conglomerate of poets, given the way he turns out deeply allusive, challenging, incisive, tight collections of poetry at an astonishing rate. Many of the poems in Nude Male with Echo, are brief, almost all less than a page, many more brief, but as his previous collections show, brief means dense.
In this collection, the body in question is a multifarious thing. That is the body is an object to be observed , an entity that can be copied (as a an artist’s model), an object that can be interpreted and turned into an impression, a work of Art that has only a tangential relationship with the original. From this reference point, it gets complicated. The possibilities are almost endless, like reflections in a pair of mirrors. Reading these inter-connected, but distinctly separate poems, you begin to get the sense of a projected voice, like the echo is separate from the voice (noise) that created it; both of it, and not of it at the same time; Schrödinger’s poem. The overall effect is like a Dadaist’s collage, something a deep dreaming Dali or a Max Ernst or, even a Edvard Munch might have envisioned.
(from Nude Male with Echo #323)
When I take
off clothes, it’s always
the world I’m taking
the process I think
only of audience
& alternate patterns
that could free me
in front of a crowd.
I want to be naked
& for it to be more
than my only trick.
I’m okay, though, if
that is my only trick.
Demaree is no one trick pony, as a cursory reading of a few of these poems, will reveal. Read the whole collection, preferably at once the first time through, and be prepared to be amazed. The artist is always speaking to you, the reader, but there is also another undefined voice speaking at the same time. Whatever that voice is, and which one you chose to believe in, is up to you and the limits of your imagination. Perhaps, the voice is unknowable. I don’t think it matters; what is important is that there are voices and that they exist, the way great poetry exists
for those who care to look for and find it.
(ed note. for an interesting side note Check out Kathleen Rooney’s book of essays, Live Nude Girl: my life as an object)
PeterMagliocco, Go to the Pain Lovers, Duck Lake Books, www.ducklakebooks.com, 2020, 92 pages $15.99 ebook also available at $3.99
Peter Magliocco’s latest book is dystopian in two clear ways. First, in the Sci Fi genre sense of, slightly over-the-top, futuristic images, recognizable but not quite something we recognize as “Today”. One of the more blatant objects in this almost new world, would be a life-sized neon reincarnation of the rapper Tupac. One recalls Hunter Thompson’s Circus Circus, where any goon with enough money, could have his image flashed on the sky in bright lights. In Magliocco’s world, garish, monolithic images are permanent instead of transitory, as in the Warholian 15 minutes of fame, sense.
The feeling he creates is of a near-future with celebrity icons instead of actual war heroes, innovators, or philanthropists. His use of these images recalls master works of the genre such as J. G. Ballard (Hello America/High Rise), Steve Erickson (Shadowbahn, Zeroville), any recent William Gibson novel, and, yes, even Thomas Pynchon in Bleeding Edge. These are worlds where commercialism has run amok, reality is a made for TV event and news is fake. Reality Events, such as the “celebrity” follow-arounds or, heaven forbid my mentioning it, “The Apprentice”, are what are believed in rather than reportage of facts. That these shows are “real”, only in the context of the medium, is inconsequential. Who can tell the difference between the message and the medium anymore? It’s all massage now. Maybe Marshall McLuhan really was the seer of the late twentieth century
Secondly, Go to the Pain Lovers, is dystopian in a very modern, observational way . Peter is a long time Vegas resident, as well as, an artist and a writer. He has worked extensively as a security guard, consequently, he knows where to look in the underbelly of modern life for the dark side of humanity. Anyone familiar with his novels and poetry books knows he puts this knowledge to profitable use as he does here.
Sometimes Peter is both wry social commentator and Futurist in the same poem.
“Bless those exiled from survivor shows
in the inner city’s gilded ghetto
teeming with desecrated boutiques
where hoarded rags become
“I hear your wife sex-text
Gaddafi’s lady bodyguards
for a little foreign fun
atop the Stratosphere
before a cinematic terrorist
blows it to piecemeal heavens
where lucky winners await
their eyes wild with divine bets
hotter than a virus contagion
about to spread into your lungs
inside a burning tower.”
(from “On Another September 11th”)
Magliocco’s darkest visions are reserved for the most hideous aspects of evil incarnate, Trumplandia. He describes a place that is so foul it reeks of corruption, bile and swamp gases of the most noxious kind. The barbarians are at the gate. Now I know what it looks like to be Philip K Dicked.
T.K. Splake, Winter Whispers, www.cyberwit.net, 2020, 47 pages $15-
What better way to start a new year than with a session in the Upper Peninsula with the bard of the long white, T. Kilgore Splake? The poems and the close to 20 exquisite color photographs radiate cold. In his now signature short, haiku like poems, Splake looks into the land of the midnight sun, Michigan style and sees into the heart of it.
rare writing success
silent invisible audience
espresso good morning
barista’s light kiss
sweet cinnamon lips
student’s workshop poem
using forest stream
water’s without soul
beyond dark side of moon
poet rising to heaven
It’s close to seventy degrees again, in January, as I write this. Splake’s poems remind us what normal looks like. Climate change, what climate change?
Puma Perl, Birthdays Before and After, www.beyondbaroque.org 90 pages, 2019, $15,
As she did in her previous full-length book, Retrograde, Puma Perl’s electric, highly verbal poems beg to be read out loud. Perl brings you to the edge of your chair, completely awake and attentive, ready to be engaged in a deeply personal way. Actually , bring you to the edge of a stage, is what I should say, as I can imagine each of these poems being spoken, with a musical accompaniment, in a club, with a low ceiling, no smoke, but a atmosphere of closeness and intimacy, between the poet and the audience. I was compelled to seek out her work on You Tube and my suspicions were confirmed, Perl is an excellent performer of her work.
Reading Perl’s latest, I was put in mind of the time I saw Jim Carroll, back in his Catholic Boys days, when he was touring as a kind of punk rocker with a full band behind him. The opening act was Doug and the Slugs, so I knew this was not going to be an ordinary feature act. Perhaps, the most thrilling moment of the performance was when Carroll, in a house lights down room, white spot focused solely on him, smoke filtering through the light, it was the 80’s, and the place jammed with smokers and drinkers, when this tall, lean, reddish blonde hair, ghostly heroin white skin, lifted the microphone from the stand and began his set. It was electric. Rarely have I seen someone with such a strong, magnetic, personal aura. The energy was palpable, the drinkers were sitting on the bar, reciting along with him, thrusting their fingers toward the stage as Carroll riffed through the names and places of “All Those People Who Died”. It didn’t even matter he had, basically, lifted the poem from Ted Berrigan. Nor that the band seemed to be playing music, with a driving beat that only vaguely coincided with what Carroll was doing with his words. It was the energy that counted.
Puma Perl has that kind of energy on the page and she is probably a much better poet than Carroll was. Carroll remained a big NYC presence because of his supercharged memoir The Basketball Diaries, while turning out highly derivative, some might even be less generous, books of poetry under the Penguin imprint.
But I digress. Perl’s poems speak for themselves. Whether she is writing about the street, her issues with drugs and alcohol, or inhabiting an Art gallery, on the East coast or the West, Perl never forgets where she came from, how she got where she is, and all the people she met along the way.
“The writer from 11th Street
seeks a DeBeauvoir
for his angst-ridden Sartre soul
The poet I threw out
no longer hates me
The married friend resurfaces
as a dark-haired Spencer Tracey,
I’m his Katherine Hepburn
in a rock n roll t0shirt
The comic, the ex-junkie,
the astronaut, the entertainer
All wrapped up
in a Ray Charles song
(from “The Stand”)
I’m reminded of a long ago book of poems, Scars Make Your Body More Interesting, by Sherrill Jaffee, though in Puma Perl’s case, it is body art that makes you more beautiful.
Sean Thomas Dougherty, All My People Are Elegies: Essays, Prose Poems and Other Epistolary Oddities, NYQ Books, www.nyq.org 2019, 113 pages $16
All rejections are personal. I once, back in the days when everything was done on paper, with paper, and so called-writer’s magazines were telling you to save your rejection notices (with the assumption you would make money writing and need them come tax time. Ha! The joke is on you. Writers of poetry do not make money as independents). I could have papered my house with them. Not a room, a small starter house with some left over. In fact, it would get so bad and frustrating, (back in the print only days I could truthfully say, “I was rejected by everybody” and it would be true.”) I had to invent another person who wrote the way I did but from a different place. And that voice was wildly successful but had an unhappy ending, unintended consequences, and bad feelings from people who felt duped, rightly so. How does it feel to be in competition with an alter ego and losing? Bad. I wrote a story about that dilemma and that ended poorly for the creator, while the creation lived on, blissfully unaware of the fraught emotions. Sean’s book is all about rejection: the conceit is responding to editors who were either bluntly rude, inconsiderate, issuers of false seeming sentiments, and form letters. The first poems are tinged with bitterness towards the editors, stick directly to the subject of writing, but gradually, exponentially, the letters become more personal. If these poems are not strictly true, I don’t know Sean well enough to speak to that, they certainly feel true, and that is all the matters in the end. That and the deep sense of empathy for the afflicted, the gone, the helpless in need of care. We learn personal details of a kid who used to frequent the pool hall Sean worked in. We learn how the poet’s point of view of him changed. Learn how people he knew were murdered. We learn of how patiently Sean worked as a medical support aid and how those people declined, died, or were totally diminished. Maybe the most amazing story is of a Down’s Syndrome, serial sneak thief, perpetual liar, who climbed through the ceiling to drop into rooms and lift stuff, and how he always claimed to know actress Sharon Stone, right, he knows the hottie of the age.... and how he produced proof that he actually did know Sharon Stone. Pretty well, once upon a time. Revelations follow of his beloved daughters who have autism/ Asperser’s problems. His wife recovers from a dread disease, but is consumed by a need to follow the path of a the slow death instead with serial, secret drinking. There are miscarriages, still births, near death in the birthing room. There is heartbreak. Learn there is nothing more personal than a body that rejects a donated organ, from a personal pint of view. Ultimately, All My People Are Elegies, becomes an extended dissertation on the larger meaning of Rejection. There is a down tone, these are elegies after all, but ultimately, Sean chooses to go on, despite the difficulties, because of his deep abiding love for his wife, his children, flaws and all. As an editor, I have used some of the tactics/statements that Sean writes his imaginary letters to. In seven years of editing this magazine, I have Always typed every single rejection letter, personally, no matter how trite or meaningless that rejection may seem to be. I vowed, when I began, to be the kind of editor who made you feel better about yourself even if you didn’t make it into the magazine. The way Marvin Malone, legendary editor of The Wormwood Review made me feel whether I made it in or not. Sean makes me feel self-conscious of using terms like wishing you luck with your work elsewhere. Makes me think I won’t use them again. But I will. Because I really mean it.
Karen Neuberg, Pursuit, Kelsay Books, www.kelsaybooks.com, 2019, 77 pages, $-
In order to begin an understanding of Karen Neuberg’s complex, intricate, interweaving of thoughts, memories and understandings of herself, I need to begin near the end of the collection,
Arrival is a position. It can be dark or light. Heavy or weightless.
Arrival holds the girl as the girl presents herself.
The girl is lost to the ensuing years.
What the woman recalls-or thinks she recalls-
is like the machine with numerous folded footholds
that can each be activated with a lever to start
the whole recall from different angles.
The woman is researching how many angles memory has.
While waiting to find out, she slips further and further away
from the girl.
(from “Waiting to Find”
Why the end at the beginning?
The Pursuit is a not a pure process-oriented book, more like a meditation than an exercise in form, as I first thought it would be. The “she”, (the personal pronoun is never simply one thing but many things ranging from the self, to” the other”, to any number of other referents depending upon the context.) The poet, never a clearly defined person, is both here and there, ending and becoming, always in the now which is, of course, always in the past. As the Erasure poems of her chapbook shows, she takes away in order to begin. Subtraction is an addition. Sound confusing? Well, yes and no. I would suggest, the multiplicity of selves the poems (or poem, I think there is a case to be made this is one long poem with many parts) is no more confusing than a Zen Koan that states a question for which there is no clear answer. Perhaps, no answer at all. The point of the problem is: each person has to find the answer they need to find, whether there is one or not.
The process of discovery in this book is Janus headed, looking backward to see forward in order to understand where we are now. It is a kind of letting go that is an acceptance at the same time. The acceptance is what she has become because what she was, no longer is. Except in her mind and in her poems. The process is one long continuum, a river with stones in it subject to fluid motions that will vary depending upon conditions that are both unpredictable and unforeseen.
Despite the complexity of this book, a book that requires deep concentration and attention, it would be unfair not to mention that there are personal poems, flights of fancy and a muted sense of humor. I felt transported at times the way you can be reading a poem such as Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” with its wild leaps of imagination. Karen is capable of going in her mind where few poets dare to travel.
References to artists such as Remedios Varo and Jasper Johns provide a visual context that expands the seeing of what the interior of the poet’s mind looks like; what she has absorbed.
Where we are, in the end, is the present. We are always in the now, you, are, too.
Bony Old Folks, begins with a poem that evokes Donald Hall who said” after eighty poems disappear. So he turned to essays, the near-beer of lyric.” The prolific Colby shows that the muse had not abandoned her, at eighty, in a major way. The subject is aging, not without poignancy and wry amusement, evocations of her youth, which is never kind or pretty. Her poem, “Things That Matter and Things That Don’t” catalogs a miscellany of nature and manmade objects that have survived for millennia.
“If we don’t attempt the mountain now
It will be too late. Our strength wanes.
We thought we’d always have time.
Hadrian’s Wall, The great Wall of China.
What do they keep out now?”
We may have time, but the clock is always running out. In the end all we have his time, or we perish from the lack of it.
Along the way Colby chronicles the stuff of life: the joys and tedium of a farm housewife’s life, planting for the future even when there may be none for the planter, how we make do with what we are left with, such as artificial limbs, how we go on because this is what life is; the process of moving on, from one place to another, even if we never leave where we are sitting now. The process is both physical and mental and it is a journey we all must make. Making the most of it is what Colby’s poems do,
“An old man came to our door years back
When we first moved in, to tell us he was born in this
House. To give us the ragged iron shoe
Twice the size of any we had for our thoroughbreds.
These were machine made, aluminum, disposable.
No luck in them.
This show was hand forged. It must have
Been a big man who hammered it to shape
That massive foot.
It was made to hold a lot of luck
And did. Thirty-five years-all our horses dead
But we’re still her with a shoe bent
To uphold the power of hard work,
The energy between the shafts,
The lastingness of love.
(from Good Signs)
Think of an element and Joan has figured out a way to incorporate it into one of her poems, in this brief, but ingenious collection from the Presa chapbook collection. There are actual elements such as Gold, Zinc, and Tin but there are also clever use of the word element clearly showing the poet is at home, as in her element, finding new and better ways to evoke her Elements. As Sherlock Holmes would say, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
Karen Skolfield, Battle Dress, Norton, www.norton.com, 2019, 81 pages, $15.95
There may be other books of poetry that deals exclusively and, in detail, with contemporary woman soldering, but if there are, I am not aware of them. I can’t imagine any that would be better than this one, winner of Norton’s Barnard Women Poets Prize. Skolfield takes us through Basic Training, where she does the reps and the work along with the men in her unit. At some point the drill sergeant admits that he hates training women,
“'The males, I can break.
I break them down, build them
back up, then they do anything
for me. Females don’t break.’
The sadness in his voice
made us sad, too. We wanted
to break. Maybe we could fake
being good soldiers.”
from “Army SMART Book: Inspirational Quotes”
A reader can easily extrapolate that to other aspects in a woman’s life.
Jason Ryberg, Standing at the Intersection of Critical Mass and Event Horizon, Poems(Old and New), Luchador Press a Spartan Press imprint, preferred ordering order from Barnes and Noble, 2019, 125 pages $15-
People do live ordinary lives but that does not have to imply that they are empty and/or terrible lives. Yes, there is a whole lot of “fuck it”: life is absurd, maybe meaningless and “The Lord is coming-better look busy” so we might as well drink us some beers and do some doobies and see what comes down the pike. In an existential way. Without the crisis. Hell, life is absurd and if you can get a poem out of pieces of it, why the hell not just tag along for the ride and see what develops.
As a former barman (and English Major), I am drawn to the stink and the sweat and the stench and the specific noises of bars. One particularly wry observation begins like this,
starts from a post card
from a place that no longer exists
(found in a book, never finished):
the book: Boccaccio’s Decameron,
the post card: A View of Mainstreet, Studley, KS,
Boccaccio: whereabouts unknown,
Studley, KS, a hundred years beneath a lake”
from “This Poem is Mocking You”
There is a whole lot of boring country in the great plains of Kansas, so it helps to liven things up now and again with a road trip or an outrageous night out on the town. Ryberg described an old man drinking shots of Old Overholt and drinking Schlitz Malt, brands I thought were long extinct, like Studley. These are products with rich personal associations; I think I may have worked a couple of those bars in Albany, N.Y. back in the day. Way back in the day....
I was amused by the cockroach races and laying money on a potential champion much like a horse, racing. Think shit like that never happens? Then you’ve never bet on a maggot race as I have (I lost. I mean my maggot lost). If you don’t adequately cover the grease for the deep fry units behind the restaurant (or don’t pay the guys who collect that crap) ugly stuff will happen. And Ryberg will be the kind of poet who will write it all down for us to read and enjoy.
What is most impressive to me is the way Skolfield extracts actual quotes and instructions from the Field Manual and transforms them into dynamic poems that reveal what these instructions may look like in real life on the ground. Pure technical language becomes battlefield situations that reach far beyond the cold directives. Equally as impressive, is the way she expounds on the meaning of words that have special army specific meanings: Enlist, Grenade, Rifle, Saltpeter, Concertina Wire, War....
Hearing her read from the nascent work in progress, a couple of three years ago, centering on the SMART Book poems was a rare, eye opening experience. Reading the whole collection is a revelation.
Suzanne S. Rancourt, Murmurs at the Gate, Unsolicited Press, www.unsolicitedpress.com, 2019, 200 pages, $16
No one could ever accuse Suzanne of living a life of quiet desperation. Not only is she an Army veteran but a USMC veteran as well. Rancourt has received a Native American Writer’s Circle Award for her previous book, Billboards in the Clouds, counsels veterans, has degrees in psychology and creative writing, practices both Akido and Iadio, and in her spare time, conducts Artist Salon workshops. As might be expected of someone with this varied background, her poetry embraces a multitude of life experiences.
This generous selection of her work is both intensely focused, and personal, as it is rich with history. Whether the poems are long or short, or somewhere between, her voice is steady and on point. No subject is taboo, from being raped in marriage, joining the Marines following the usual rites of passage, that somewhat radical life choice seems organic to the kind of person she is growing to be. Murmurs at the Gate is a mosaic of memories, as she pieces together words to form a kind of broken parts, stained glass window, that provides a kaleidoscopic view. What she expressed and emphasizes, is that we all share a common humanity, and we would all be better off recognizing this obvious fact than to create prejudices against others we somehow have a need to feel superior to. In these times what should be an obvious message is one many of us need to relearn. One poem in particular from this massive, truly impressive collection, moved me as few poems can. The poet recalls sitting with her mother on her death bed and sharing final thoughts and impressions,
“It was my turn to sit with her.
It was after midnight. She and I had done all our talking
She would go to Hell, she said, because she gave the priest
one last chance to forgive her.
She forgave him for refusing to administer her last rites.
“No,” I said, “you will go home to the stars.”
from “Singing Across the River”
The summation is what you would expect from someone who
“I hum a Chris Smither tune, mouth the words dyskinetically
“I am not the passenger, I am the ride.”
An exotic rife
through railing marriages, raising two sons, grad school fulltime
while working three and four jobs.”
And a remarkable woman who writes a remarkable book, Murmurs at the Gate.
Michael McIrvin, Hearing Voices, Fearful Symmetry Publications, 2019, 83 pages, $15-Avalable on Amazon, Kindle version also available.
McIrvin is a truly gifted American original His book, Dog, remains an underground classic, boasting a voice as raw and as vivid as Ted Hughes’ in Crow. His work remains consistently dark, but with a probing intellect and a poetic gift few modern poets can equal. When I think of this book, the word Noir comes to mind. In fact there are poems with Noir as a basis but not in the sense of 50’s black and white movies, but in deep-seated, primal night terrors.
McIrvin’s voice is both trenchant and insistent. I think of his work as being like a horror movie of modern life. Maybe something like what Lars von Trier might create after a bad session with his latest psychotherapist/analyst, only without the fatal creative characters flaws that makes von Trier seem like he has grudge against humanity and wants to make everyone feel sorry that they were born. McIrvin doesn’t stoop to outright disgust, like Celine (or von Trier) but travels a route that might be more of a Bob Dylanesque Existential Blues.
One of the many complex themes McIrvin explores is transmigration as he does in “Animal Lessons” and “Dog.” He extends a metaphor from: inside a valley of death, describing the creatures there and how they came to be ultimately, exploring the end of the poet, the end of the universe in unexpected ways. Only a poet of rare ambition and accomplishment would attempt the series of poems that dwell in this arena. And this is just the first 15 pages or so.
McIrvin has dedicated this book to our mutual friend and publisher, Leonard Cirino. Leonard’s influence can be seen throughout, though most vividly in the poem, “Sorrows.” I am heartened that Leonard’s sprit remains with us and that this neglected poet has not completely faded away.
Another mutual friend he channels, is Maggie Jaffee, and extraordinarily gifted poet whose work on the prisons: the actual prison that confines people, the political ones, and the ones we create ourselves, are nearly forgotten works that deserve to be re-released. His poem, “Dreaming of a Poetess” keeps her spirit among us.
The poem that remains with me the most is the “High Plains Book of the Dead”. A legless coyote haunts the living and the dead equally, with the kind of vivid ferocity that is rarely equaled.
I would be remiss if I did not mention McIrvin’s special kind of wit. He is not the kind of poet you go to for an easy laugh ala Billy Collins or anything “easy” for that matter but his sense of the grotesque, his satirical impulse is spot on,
“Orpheus to Hermes in the moldering
dark below ground. Oedipus to his child
at the self-inflicted dark above. Rilke,
blinded by light, to his angel. Written
on a bar napkin and hung above the TV
for drinks to ponder between innings.”
(from “What Direction Home?”
I wouldn’t want to be working the bar but I sure as hell would have liked to have had a beer there.
Michael Miller, Tea and Subtitles, Moon Tide Press, www.moontidepress.com , 2019, 115 pages, $15-
Miller is a poet of the people. His teaching and tutoring inform the poems he has collected from twenty years of work. Generally speaking, Miller has an even tone of expression, rarely raising his voice in protest, or making a rude or mocking gesture. It is this consistent tone that is one of this poet’s strengths as you always know where you are and who is speaking. His generosity of spirit is evident throughout.
Two poems in particular stood out. “The Chicago Window Washer Lets His Soap Painting Stay” which examines the work of one of those invisible people as an art form. The window washer,
“Before the office with the door shut all summer
and the muse dangling where the modem sat,
cuts the sky in three:
one layer splotchy
one streaked straight
and pure light
sandwiched in the middle.”
Window washing will never be the same for me again.
The other outstanding poem was “Bonfire at Cape Cod with Marge Piercy’s Workshop.”
Anyone who has ever been to, or directed a workshop, will identify the process, the sharing and the feeding of bad drafts to the fire.
Charles W. Brice, An Accident of Blood, Word Tech Editions, www.wordtechweb.com, 115 pages, $20
The cover of the An Accident of Blood, has a cowboy connection putting me in mind of the song “Ghost Riders in the Sky” made famous by Vaughn Monroe among others. The choice of the image was well founded as the first section deal exclusively with Brice’s growing up in Wyoming in the 50’s and 60’s. While most of these poems have a distinctly rural feel, of wide-open spaces, horses, and guns, and all those good things, there is a suggestion of wider world out there. Of Vietnam and of cultural tropes invading the hinterlands.
Brice is a better man than I, admitting to dancing the funky chicken a brief, but memorable phenomena, in the fortnightly dance fads, fueled by TV shows like American Bandstand, that thankfully become a relic (the fad as well as this particular dance) as the age of innocence that was the 60’s coming in, and the darkness at noon, going out. For those not familiar with the moves, assuredly never taught at Arthur Murray dance studios (another relic) as a gyration exercise that was part Mashed Potatoes (think of you feet as standing on a pile of cooked peeled potatoes and rotate) part epileptic fit, and part St Vitus Dance . Brice’s story pretty much follows the arc of the 60’s.
During the war, he was a CO, a particularly brave and difficult choice to make, as the draft boards did not take kindly to, nor where they inclined to dispense CO exemptions. Charlie got one and like other men I know of, did their service doing the shit work, literally, in a hospital for the years he would have served if he were drafted. The concluding poem in the war section, “Remembering Vietnam, Memorial Day, 2917” is a must read. “Remembering Vietnam concludes as follows,
“We C.O.s deserve to be remembered today.
We served our country, not our government.
We tried to make the world a better place
and, like all the others, we failed.”
More of us should make that difficult choice today than they expedient one of serving a corrupt administration like Nixon’s only worse.
Also, of note is an elegy to Jim Harrison among several other poems evoking this great writer’s life and friendship with Brice. Brice as the common touch eschewing deep thoughts for observation and narration. Some of these work better than others but on the whole, the pluses outweigh the minuses.
Neeli Cherkovski, Elegy for My Beat Generation, Lithic Press, www.lithicpress.com., 2019, 115 pages $17-
The title says it all. The poet relates experiences from both coasts, of many of the principles of the late Beat generation, some still living, most gone. There is a real sense of been there, done that, knew everyone there was to know. I believe it was Harold Sounes, in his bio of Bukowski, who described Neeli as the ultimate hanger on, an assertion he attributed to Hank himself. Given that Bukowski was fickle to his friends, the closer they got, the harder he pushed them away, you have to take that observation with a grain of salt. Poems about, Ginsberg
(friendly though they spelled his first name wrong in the book) Snyder (respectful, true to the subject’s elements), Ferlinghetti (wry, amusing, intimate), Kaufmann (joyous and regretful) and Kryger (truly moving) . If you knew them well enough to write about them, that is all that matters. The poems seem intimate, informed and well-crafted.
Gyorgy Faludy, Silver Pirouettes, translated by Paul Sohar, Ragged Sky Press, www.raggedskypress.com., 2017, 157 pages, NPL
Faludy is a major European, no make that, a major world poet, whose voice is largely unheard in this country. Thanks to Paul Sohar’s rendering of these wide-ranging poems, we get a real sense of this poet’s dynamic work. Faludy lived a long-life experiencing WWII and much of the social upheaval following it, the fall of the Soviet Union and the hectic times of uncertainty of the 80’s and 90’s into the new millennium. He was, alternately, a soldier, a world traveler (he seems to have lived just about everywhere on three continents) a political prisoner, a husband, lover, widower, and chronicler of his times. Faludy manages to sum up LA in a few lines, NYC in a sonnet, London smog (and London on a clear day) in one poem. Silver Pirouettes is a deft and inspiring sampler of what must have been a large body of impressive work, as impressive as the remarkable man who wrote it.
Andres Cerpa, Bicycle in a Ransacked City: An Elegy, Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org., 2019, 65 pages, $15.95
Parental relationships are deep, biding, and eternal. Nothing can change the facts of sharing the blood of another person but that sharing goes...well, it’s complicated. Very complicated. The essence of Cerpa’s book explores the tensions of a father and son that lacerates the bonds that hold them, even while tying them anew. There is resentment, anger, and hostility but, ultimately, there is love. And loss of the father than is deeply felt. Rarely has a book of “confessional” poetry felt as honest and as revealing, without self-consciousness or self-pity. Nor has Staten Island felt so elemental.
Reginald Dwayne Betts, Felon, Norton, www.norton.com or 800-233-4830, 2019, 93 pages $26.95
If we, I mean as a society, as a “free” nation (and I add free in quotations as former inmate Betts explores the meaning of the word and the concept in depth) and we haven’t burned all the books, beginning with poets, the poet’s of color in particular, thirty years from now, a reader will pick up this book, and can say with assurance, “This is what it was like to black in America in 2019.” No doubt about it. Let’s hope, that future reader will be reading this in a class, as he or she, should be, or finding it on his or her own. The conclusion will remain the same. Need I say more?
Martin Ott, Fake News Poems, Blaze Vox, www.blazevox.org, 2019, 63 pages, $15-
The title explains the concept of the book and you have to love where Ott goes with it. Selecting 50 off the wall, outrageous, seemingly incredible news stories from a variety of sources. Ott expands a header from a news item and goes to town with it. The poems are absurd, funny, and serious, sometimes all at once. If you think the news is crazy, and it is these days thanks to a general debasement of what constitutes actual news and “facts,” exploring the very real notion of the current a debasement of truth (disinformation) that is right out of George Orwell, then this is the book for you. Personally, I would have liked to have seen 50 poems taken from a year’s culling of Orlando Sentinel news items, which seemed to me to have more tales of ordinary madness, that could have been ripped right out of the pages of the late, lamented World Weekly News Every Single Day (as Dave Barry would have said, I am not making this up) than any other daily I know of. But that’s neither here nor there. Ott is the real deal and so is his book. Alas, so is the news.
David Thompson, Grace Takes Me, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, www.vegetarianalcoholicpress.com, 2018, 61 pages illustrated with color photos by the author, $14.95
The press claims to be founded on a punk ethic, by which I mean they use recycled paper, make their books with individual care, and have an eclectic view of modern life and what its Art should look and sound like. This said, because I can think of few people who are less “punk” than Thompson. He is equally as talented in both photography, (desolate landscapes, decaying buildings and mechanical artifacts : cars, tractors, vehicles in general) and poetry. This collections combines the best of Thompson’s down to earth, observations of people and places in both word and image. And then there are the photos. Well worth checking out just for these. Some of the books are readily available directly from Satan (their designation, not mine) which I assume means from Amazon/Bezos, who is vying with Zuckerman for the title of The Evilest One. It’s a tossup who will win. Buy their books directly from the press.
Naomi Shibab Nye, The Tiny Journalist, Boa, www.boaeditions.org, 2019, 118 pages $17-
Nye is all about presenting the Palestinian point of view on the occupation of their homesteads by the Israelis. She calls her land the largest open-air prison in the world. Her case, in personal terms, is a convincing one, no matter where you stand on the issue. She takes great pains to point out the Palestinians, as a people, are not anti-Semites because, they are Semites as well. The president seems intent on making her worst fears and observations, worse. Read this before it is too late.
Brian Looney, Alcoholic Murmurs, Unsolicited Press, www.unsoliciedpress.com, 2017 69 pages, no price listed.
I think it would be fair to say this book reads like a personal journal of an alcoholic told in three parts: before, during and after AA. Like most drunks who write memoirs, Looney is a going nowhere schlub, drinking too much, who sees a way out. The way out is difficult, the road is rough and once, achieving a measure of sobriety, the future is uncertain. Yes, it’s familiar, Yes it has been done before, but Looney should be commended for taking the journey beyond the bottle and finding a way out. Never question a drinker’s method or rationale for stopping drinking. Whatever it takes is good. Writing this book is part of that recovery.
Allison Blevins, Letters to Joan, Lithic Press, www.lithicpress.com, 2019, 32 pages, $12-
Letters to Joan, is a beautiful little book, as all Lithic Press books, large or small. Blevins channels the work of Joan Mitchell in these evocative, ekphrastic poems each centering on a different work. While I was not familiar with most of the paintings, I was moved to find out more about the artists to better appreciate them (the poems and the Art). What more can you ask from a book (or the Art that inspired the book?)
Christina Olson, The Last Mastodon, Rattle, www.Rattle.com. , 2019, 33 pages $16-
Olson’s book is the latest addition to the ongoing Rattle chapbook series that derives from their annual competition. Having read them all, I have not been disappointed yet. If I have quibble, it would be that the book wasn’t longer. Olson’s assertion, in the final poem that,
“as it turns out, paleontology & poetry
are not all that different”
is borne out by this wonderful exploration into the world of mastodons as seen while serving as a poet in residence at a paleontology conference and exhibition. This collection could easily be titles: Aspects of Mastodon Bones as she has some ingenious use of forms and technique. Olson closely observed the work of the scientists, the museum’s collection and the fossils including her favorite, Max the Mastodon. It was a fruitful combination if old bones and word smithing. I could see this tight collection as one third of a larger books of very old bones; first mastodons then...And thanks for clearing up the misnomer La Brea (Tar Pits which is a redundancy as La Brea means the tar.
John Stupp, When Billy Conn Fought Fritzie Zivic, Red Flag Poetry, www.redflagpoetry.com
2020, 32 pages $8-
This beautifully crafted, limited and numbered edition is an ode to the workers of Pittsburgh in the early years of the last century. These are men of steel, literally, hard livers for whom brawling was a way of life. Stupp centers his narrative of a group of fighters ranging from well known, incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson, and the merciless artist in the ring, Emile Griffith, to semi-legendary fighters like Fritzie Zivic, Billy Fox, Ike Williams, Clarence Henry, Johnny Saxton and a host of other boxers all but forgotten except for collectors of boxing lore. Stupp is so enamored of the heroes of the sport he summons the spirit of Keats for his rhapsodies on a bare knuckles theme.
Francine Witte, Dressed All Wrong for This, Blue Light Press, www.bluelightpress.com, 2019, 73 pages $15.95 order from Amazon
Witte’s book is billed as flash fictions, but these could easily be read as prose poems. Regardless of how you read the work, they all share a common quality of deft writing, often outrageous, Kafkaesque proportions, absurd but also relatable, as even the most absurd situations can be. A quick perusal of the collection’s titles yields: “Pigeon Radar”, “Death Primer”, “Husband Weight”, “One, Day Mary Sends Her Shadow”, “My Mother Was a Loaf of Bread,” “When Michael Turns a Fish”,” Mary as a Constellation” and so on. Despite these challenging “subject headings” Witte rises to the occasion. There is not a loser in the book, just an enjoyable read if only to discover how she resolves the challenges set by the titles. The Theory of Flesh won the 2019 Blue Light Book Award.
Shira Erlichman, Odes to Lithium, Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org. , 2019, 87 pages, $17.95
David Graham, The Honey of Earth, Terrapin Books, www.terrapinbooks.com., 2019. 79 pages. NPL,
Paisley Rekdal, Nightingale, Cooper Canyon Press,www.coppercanyon.org., 2019, 92 pages, NPL Her best and that is saying something!
Robert Murphy, Among the Enigmas, Dos Madres, www.dosmadres.com., 2019, 61 pages, NPL
Yuko Otomo, anonymous landscapes, Lithic Press, www.lithicpress.com., 2019, not pagesd roughly 100+, $17- a beautiful book
Robert Murphy, Among the Enigmas, Dos Madres, www.dosmadres.com, 2019, 59 pages illustrated,
Holly Day, In This Place, She Is Her Own, www.vegetarianalcoholicpress.com, 2018, 73 pages, $14.95 more domestic terror by a fine poet Large format, eye unfriendly, tiny print
Miriam Sagan, Luminosity, www.ducklakebooks.com (probably have to order from a mass seller like Amazon) 2019, 79 pages, $15? Long poems in parts especially “Woman, Sleeping” excellent.
Sam Roxas-Chua, Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater, www.lithicpress.com, 2017, 85 page, $17.00 Time and mind expanding poems of mixed race heritage here, there and elsewhere, often astonishing juxtapositions: words and images. Usual beautiful book from Lithic Press
Gary Metras, River Voice, Adastra Press, 16 Reservation Road, Easthampton, MA 01027 signature limited edition of 100 Fly fishing love of, as life, a metaphor. Well wrought and enjoyable even if you have never cast a line.
Dan Curley, Conditional Future Perfect, Wolfson Press, www.wolfsonpress.com, 73 pages, 2019 $15.00 order through Amazon
Mary Harpin, Shadowrise,Dos Madres, www.dosmadres.com, 2019, 70 pages, $ 17- Witty, wise, formally challenging
Meg Lindsay, Notes for a Caregiver, Poetry Box, Poetrybox.com, 2020, 50 pages, $12 Life changing experienced of a spouse after husband’s diagnosis of multiple myeloma. Heart breaking.
Lauren Tivey, Moroccan Holiday, Poetry Box, www.poetrybox.com, 2020, 50 pages, 2019 chapbook contest winner.
Wendy Rainey, Girl on the Highway, Picture Show Press, www.pictureshowpress.net, 2019,
51 pages, $7- On the road poems from a tough, been there done that woman with a no nonsense attitude.
Mickey J Corrigan, the disappearing self, Kelsay Books, www.kelsaybooks.com , 2020, 53 pages, $16-
David Chorlton, Speech Scroll, Cholla Needles, www.chollaneedles.com, 2020, 160 pages, $8-
I’ve been reading this collection piece by piece over the many months David spent writing this collection. The poems are highly visual, evocative of place, the desert and the cities built in them, as well as the creatures that inhabit them. I am looking forward to reading them all in one place and I can think of no better bargain than this ample collection. Bar none. 8 bucks. Go for it.
Robert Cooperman, Lost on the Blood Dark Sea, Future Cycle Press, www.futurecycle.org, 2020, 89 pages, $15.95 a kindle book is available as well.
The Asylum Floor, literature with a sledgehammer edited by Brenton Booth, 98 pages 2109 no contact information offered or price. 15 poets selected for their dark, often harsh, sometimes funny take on life. A couple of short stories mixed in for variety. Several Misfit contributors including myself.
Hobo Camp Ten year Anniversary Anthology, subtitled poetry and prose from the road www.hobocampreview.blogspot.com Edited by James Duncan and Rachel Nix Check out the home page for ordering information. I confess, I bought mine from Amazon 2019, roughly 110 pages $10. A good mix of around the fire, slice of life poems from a host of poets whose names will be familiar to readers of Misfit. A good browsing volume or a read right through. Nothing dense, wordy or preachy here just damn fine poems.
Bunkong Tuon, The Doctor Will Fix It, Shabda Press, www.shabdapress.com, 2019, 92pages $16-
The Doctor Will Fix It continues the poet’s primary theme: the importance of family. Tuon’s
previous collection, the heart-rending Gruel which deals with the refugee experience of literally being carried out of Cambodia on his grandmother’s back, and his new life in America. And So I Was Blessed, follows his new life as a husband, father and teacher with a revealing journey to Vietnam where he learns about his late father’s roots. Now with The Doctor Will Fix It, Tuon explores the vagaries of parenting, the misgivings and joys, the problems of biracialism and small-minded prejudice and how we deal with these new realities. Ultimately, the poet’s sense is that with love and hope a better world that has such children as his will prevail.
Even impossible dreams may come true.
Self-Promotion for My Latest Collections:
Lessons of Darkness