Books Received

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Edward A Dougherty, Pilgrimage to a Gingko Tree, Word Tech.
                                   , Backyard Passages, Foothills.
                                   , The Metal of My Mouth, Foothills.  

Essential poetry by Peace Activist Dougherty who spent several years in Japan with his wife working, teaching and writing for the cause of world peace, in general, and in response to the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in particular. Never strident or preachy, these poems should be read by anyone who cares for the fate of the world in these increasingly hostile times.  Also noted is the fine work of Foothills Press known for their fine workmanship and attention to the craft of book making.

Robert Head, Prometheus Amongst the Satyrs.

Catherine Barnett, The Game of Boxes, Graywolf.

Quite simply, Bennett is one of the most energetic, forceful, dynamic poets writing today as this collection amply shows. Readers of this book will want to search out her earlier book, Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced.

Malaika King Albrecht, What the Trapeze Artist Trusts, Press 53.

Kayla Sargeson, Mini Love Gun, Main Street Rag.

This terrific chapbook is an up yours to all you macho, football playing, date raping assholes of the world.  When Kayla says, “I do not fear sex,”  she means it and she is brave enough, not only to admit it, but to prove it.  Some readers will perceive this book to be solely about sex but it is about a whole lot more: power, dominance, and gender politics, just to name a few. Equally as impressive, is her skill as a poet.This is book for readers who like an undaunted, clear voice who faces extreme adversity head on and says what needs to be said without flinching or resorting to cheap or exploitive, clichéd language in fresh, in your face, language.

J.T. Perry, The Dairy of a Mad Hermit.

Peter Magliocco, The Still Birth of Beauty, Red Bird chapbooks.

In keeping with Magliocco’s most poetic recent work, there is an overlapping sense of time and place,  as if the reader is immersed in a world that is part reality TV, part news event, part scripted Psycho Drama, in which everything has a surface veneer that belies the ugliness and petty vulgarities that lurks just below the surface. Perhaps, Peter’s long association with the mother of vulgarities, Las Vegas, has colored his perceptions. Perhaps, it is just the times. At any rate, the closure to his poem, “Lolita Is Alive & Well Thanks to Cryogenics, Inc.” sums up his sense of reality in a few telling lines,

“But look:
here comes Nabokov’s ghost
flaunting a butterfly net
telling me
immortality is no fun
& his characters seem
more alive
than he

Of note, this book is an example of what fine chapbook making is all about: fine paper, clear print with generous white spaces, fine art cover by the author, hand sewn signatures.

Matt Rasmussen, Black Aperture, LSU Press.

Ordinarily, I avoid speaking about winners of big awards but this book is an exception to the rule.  Rasmussen won the Walt Whitman award for this collection and while the subject is bleak, suicide of a sibling, the poems are emotionally charged without being hysterical or bathetic. Perhaps, even more difficult, they are never oblique like another recent collection on the same subject, Porcelain Heads or self-pitying/cloying.  At least three of these poems have made my short list for best ten poems of the year.

Nancy Richardson, Unwelcome Guest, Main Street Rag.

Jo Barbara Taylor, High Ground, Main Street Rag.

Tom Pescatore, He Lit a Match to Check His Gas Tank That’s Why He’s Called Skinless Frank, Citizens for Decent Literature.

Five brief poems in a  mini-chapbook format.  How can you resist the title?

Luis Rivas, Random Acts of Terror, Citizens for Decent Literature.

If you thought in your face, left wing, political poetry was dead and buried, you would be wrong as this collection amply shows.  Yes, Rivas is strident, militant, and committed, but he has something important to say and people should listen before the 1% brings the whole country to its inevitable, ugly end.

Joan Colby, Selected Poems, Future Cycle Press.

To say this collection is a substantial addition to an already established poet of considerable depth and accomplishment, would be an understatement.  I admit to being prejudiced, as I have been reading and admiring Joan’s work for over thirty years. The best part of this collection, besides renewing my acquaintance with old favorites from The Lonely Hearts Killer and How the Sky Begins to Fall from the 80’s, and her recent Dead Horses, is selections from previously unfamiliar, earlier books.  Anyone who loves poetry should acquire this book.

Bill Jones, Crazy Bone, Lummox Press.

I was unfamiliar with the recently deceased Jones, so this book was a kind of revelation, a substantial glimpse into what I had been missing.  Combining quirky poems and equally as individual illustrations, this expatriate born in American and long time resident of Australia, lived a life of not so genteel near poverty.  He was always true to himself, refused to be a good member of society and wrote and drew voluminously right up to his death.  This is a fresh voice that should be more celebrated and thanks to editor Armstrong for keeping his voice alive.

Daniel Romo, Where Kerosene’s Involved, Black Coffee Press.
                  , Romancing Gravity.

Growing up as a decidedly Not chulo type in Southern California was not a pleasant experience for Romo.  A self-described geeky, skinning kid, shy around girls, awkward, though plucky at sports, a decidedly not Macho, he somehow manages to view his upbringing with humor and panache.  Now a teacher and a voluminous writer, as these two collections show (Kerosene is well over 200 pages of concise prose poems, while Romancing is a mere 60 odd pages of free verse). Romo’s is a voice and point of view, that grows on you the more you read.  He is both empathetic and clear eyed, but not overly sentimental. In short, Romo is the kind of role model you could  safely entrust your children with, knowing they he remembers the pitfalls of youth and what is necessary, now, to move on with life.

Lauren Schmidt, Two Black Eyes and a Clump of Hair Missing, Main Street Rag.

Two Black Eyes is substantial collection that tackles the issues of adolescence, sexuality and inter-personal relationships with an unflinching eye, considerable craft and, most important of all, humor. When was the last time you read a poem about the very real crisis of a vibrator dying in mid-sex act? Never, right?  I thought not.  Schmidt is the kind of tomboy who proudly displays her two black eyes and hair missing after a fist fight with another girl uses a vibrator as an adult and doesn’t care who knows it. In a few words, Schmidt is a clear-eyed, dynamic, original poet with few if any boundaries, and is at the top of my list of poets who I wish would submit to our magazine.

Laura  Eklund, White Ibis, Selected Poems, Ara Pacis Publishers.

Unlike previous selected poems we have received by Greinke and Colby, Eklund is an early in her career poet of great promise instead of a later in life, accomplished poet.  Basically, the book is divided into two distinct section.  The first, White Ibis, is a compilation of personal, daily life style poems mixed with the more abstract poems that she so successfully wrote in her later collection, Song of Lisbon.  These earlier poems feel more formative that the later ones, but still show the sensitive  and painterly eye, an astute sense of form that blends words and image in often startling, unique ways. The second section, Forgetting the Face of Leaves, is a love song for her beloved husband George.  Anyone who appreciates sincere, heartfelt writing for a spouse could not help but relate to these poems.

Writing this last review I see the need to pursue the subject of selected poems which I  reserve the right to explore in a future, perhaps, ongoing series of essays by the editor.

Artwork by Gene McCormick