Books Received & Reviewed

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While searching the back files for something else, I found this poem I thought I would include as an amusement? a disclaimer? a confession?

Book Review as Confession

This is the book I wasArtwork by Gene McCormick
meant to review and these
are the words describing
how the floods came,
how the forests burned
and how all pleas for help
went unanswered.

These are the images
rendered on canvas as Art
or sculpted into forms
pilgrims bowed before,
travelers inquired after
and the meek avoided
preferring a road that
harbored shadows instead
of light.

These are the well-thumbed
pages, often riffled, referred to,
imitated, in the vain hope that
something less drastic, less
tragic, less meaningful for so many
might occur.

These are the places where
I looked: in vast ruined cities,
desolate plains, dead seas made
inhospitable, unable to sustain

These are my thoughts,
the ones I was asked to have,
the ones I was paid to think,
the ones I cannot escape, even
now, now that I know the truth

Moira Egan, Hot Flash Sonnets, Passager Books.

I confess to a severe prejudice against formal poems, especially sonnets. That said, I’ve read Vikram Seth’s sonnet sequence novel twice, and revere sequences from Shakespeare to George Meredith, whose collection, “Modern Love” is one of the  most brutal, self and spurned lover, eviscerating collections ever written.  I’ve always found Moira’s work both canny and witty; sly little devil that she is.  If I were going to compare Egan to anyone, it would be Daisy Fried, both of whom are fearless, erudite, brilliant poets. Despite the particularly female subject, menopause and its intendent consequences, physical and emotional, this is a book any reader can appreciate, enjoy, savor...

Bill Bauer, Last Lambs: New and Selected Poems of Vietnam, second edition  BKMK Press. 

Well over half of this collection, including the cover photo, was included in Bauer’s first book of reflections upon his war experiences. They were, and remain, a vivid, firsthand account. What is new and important, is the authors preface, a brief interview and a selection of poems written since the first edition.  Apparently Bauer was told by a therapist that he should not write, speak about, or even think about his time in Vietnam.  That he should just let it all go. As if could he simply forget the most important, life altering experiences of his existence?  The war is never over.

Books and anthologies from Silver Birch Press:

Summer: an Eclectic Anthology of Poetry and Prose.
Chris Forhan, Ransack and Dance.
Gerald Locklin, New and Selected Poems edited by Paul Karen Tayyar.
Bukowski: An Anthology of Poetry and Prose About Charles Bukowski.

Give the sample of a chapbook, two full sized anthologies, one a coffee table sized paperback (Summer) and a regular, 250 page, large format paperback, plus a substantial selection of poems by a deserving poet, this is a press with an fairly ambitious agenda. That said,  I am instantly put off by an anthology that includes work by out-of-copyright, famous writers,  especially the really famous ones,  such as Shakespeare, in particular. By using these guys it seems as if the editors are trying to give the book credibility it lacks otherwise.  Ironically, this anthology has a number of living, highly recognizable poets of  stature as Diane Wakoski, and doesn’t really need the help.  There is the usual wide range of the good, the bad, and the ugly, that are generally associated with anthologies linked to a seasonal theme.  You can always skip the work of the famous dead writers, as I did, and confine yourself to the living and find some rewarding work. 

The chapbook is by a recognizable, highly competent, well published poet Chris Forhan Of note were the poems, ’”After Slipping and Floundering Down the Ladder” and “The Severing”.

Artwork by Gene McCormickOn the other hand, even attempting to reduce Gerald Locklin’s varied and massive (150 plus books published) output to 150 pages seems like a  fool’s errand.  Gerry is an extremely accessible poet as a rule, highly enjoyable, and a really decent, likeable person. Some people react strongly against what can be considered his sentimental attachment to friends and family, but that’s who Gerry is. Take it or leave it. 

His  intellectual side, the Ekphrastic work, is well-represented here, as is the rowdier Locklin, in is his pre-heart trouble, beer drinking, pub crawling days.  Given this book covers some forty years of writing, it feels somewhat inadequate in the end.  I, for one, would prefer a larger selection, volumes even, of similar length by decades (as the book is organized) or by subject but that’s just me. And, I admit, not an entirely realistic proposition.

  So if you are looking for a nice, representative overview of the life and times of Gerald Locklin, through his poetry, it is unlikely you will do much better than this, though it is curious a book with a 2013 publication date stops collecting in 2008.

The Bukowski volume (poems in praise of, autobiographical writings about, brief essays on, well illustrated by photos and interpretive art….) shows once more just how durable and how far reaching an influence he was on modern poetry.  The intellectual community, academics and such, still insist his poetry is crap but his novels were his true work and what will last.  Volumes like this prove, once again, that the intellectuals spend way too much time looking in the mirror and not enough time living. Read what the real writers have to say instead.

Of note, as well, is R. D Armstrong’s recent, second coffee table sized Lummox Anthology. This one centers around the theme of Place which turns out to be mostly California and the West, but not exclusively.  I refrain from reviewing it as I have a piece in it.  I will say there is a wide selection of poems, personal essays and brief non-fiction also lavishly illustrated.

In complete contrast, ayaz daryl nielsen recently published what will probably be a one off; bear creek haiku anthology: the poets of bear creek.As the title suggests, these are short poems, not necessarily haiku, by fourteen poets who had regularly appeared in nielsen’s print magazine, bear creek haiku. As I have several pieces in this collection, I will refrain from any critical commentary.   

 Lori A. May, Square Feet, Accents Publishing. Poems about domestic life and love.  Neither sentimental nor overbearing but mature and intelligent on the moods and modes of living together as a couple.  Of particular note, the three Coping Mechanism Poems on the aftermath of a miscarriage.

Doug Draime, Dusk with Carol, Kendra Steiner Editions, beautiful, small edition , basically broadsides stapled together.  Brief poems in various moods and styles from the poet’s life. My favorite was, “A World Without Me Crawls And Staggers By When I’m Turned Upside-Down The Blood Rushing Like an Ocean”, a piece whose title is longer than some of the poems.   

Ros Barker, Marlowe Papers, St. Martin’s Press.  Okay this is a commercial press but it’s not every day you see a 400 page plus novel mostly written in Elizabethan blank verse. What can I say about it?  It was Herculean effort, too long and based on a extremely tenuous, perhaps, even ludicrous assumption, that Christopher Marlowe faked his death and lived on to write all of Shakespeare’s work, using the latter’s name as a front.  Oh, yeah, and it was great fun.