Books Received & Acknowledged
Gene McCormick, La Vie en Rose: Paris Today.
Illustrated by the author. Available from him at PO Box 51 Wayne, IL 60184. Our multi-talented editor, poet and artist chronicles a month in Paris. A real poetic journey in the City of Light. Take the trip with him. He’s booked for this year as well. Expect a sequel of equal quality in the months to follow.
Catherine Norr, Return to Ground. Finishing Line Press.
An extremely tight, well honed collection mostly focusing on the natural world and the poet’s relationship with the earth and the cosmos. Some deeply personal poems shatter the natural calm to great effect. “The Professor” a piece on the last days of the poet’s father remains one of my favorites read in any collection of late. A wonderful debut collection
Philip Good, From Where We Watch Weather, Benevolent Bird Press.
Philip Good, Bernadette Mayer, Marie Warsh, Hibernation Collaboration, illustrated by Sophia Warsh, Mademoiselle de la Staples Press.
From Where We Watch Weather is another of The Benevolent Bird’s fine, handmade collections. While many of these poems have a veneer of whimsy to them there is something much more serious going on. From Where We Watch…. can be seen as both the physical place of our home, and as the mind inside the body observing a world in flux. It is not merely about harvesting rhubarb or the proper time for making maple syrup but as “Parents with Guns Kill Children” the signature piece, for me, don’t be fooled by the calm exterior. A brief but excellent collection.
Hibernation Collaboration features the work of three poets and unlike most collaborative efforts really works both as poetry and as a progression of shared ideas, talents and perspectives. Readers familiar with Bernadette’s work will probably be able to figure out, on occasion anyway, which contributions are hers. I’m not sure who the lady with the stapler is, maybe Bernadette’s daughter, ( I presume she is, anyway) Marie. This is a fun, deceptively clever work, with an original center fold art piece which can be seen as any of a number of objects. I am not going to reveal what my initial impression was but it is good enough to eat. This collection was so new when I got it, I believe I have the first ever sold at a reading hours after the collation was completed.
John Bennett, Cobras and Butterflies, Mystery Island.
This small chapbook is a compilation of some of Bennett’s ongoing Shard series presented in a clear, handsome format with an arresting cover illustration. Of the 13 poems in this limited edition, it would be impossible to pick a favorite as I love them all. Contact Mysteryisland. net for a copy while there are still some left.
Florida Speaks is an anthology of work focusing on the Florida experience from Poet Plant Press editing by Chris Bodor, a transplant form downstate New York like myself, mostly by Florida natives. I have a four page contribution so I will not review the anthology. Why am I in this anthology? My father and step-mother died in Florida five months apart. That in itself was a transformative experience.
Richard Kostelanetz, Mini Maxims, Adastra Press. This is the latest, a pocket sized book, from a long standing letterset press noted for its craftsmanship and individually designed books. No two are exactly alike except in their expert craft and fine design. Here is Kostelanetz trying yet another form to exercise his considerable wit and inventiveness. No one can more out of a one word poem, that is words divided into parts that become a poem, than Richard. Here he takes mostly three line short sentences that sort of go together and make something unique, surprising, and sometimes profound statements. If brevity truly is the soul of wit, Kostelanetz is the most expert practitioner of the form, whatever that form maybe, there is.
Will Nixon, My Clone, Post Traumatic Press. I may be sounding one note here but this is another beautifully designed little book featuring two arresting woodcuts on the covers and twenty one poems by the author inside in a clean, easy to read, with generous spacing, format. The poems are what you would expect from Will, a bit quirky, humorous, personal and always generous to its subjects. The opening poems feel like a sequence of leaving home and setting up a life on one’s own, both severing ties with the past and establishing new ones. Living over a Clam House has its moments to be sure both in the poem and in stories the poet has to tell about it. Later poems are more introspective, melancholic but stay true to the poet’s keen observational abilities of living close to the land. If you are not familiar with Will’s work this is a place to start, if you are, it will be a welcome addition to your shelves next to his master work, My mother as a Ruffled Grouse”.
Joseph Hutchison & Andrea L. Watson, Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai, Future Cycle Press. Rarely does a tribute anthology offer such a wide range of excellent work to celebrate its subject without any sentimental or untoward emotionalism. Rare as the subject, Malala, a girl targeted for assassination by the Taliban for having the effrontery to demand an education. The consistency in this volume is consistent, ranging from the particular to the universal, all worth reading individually. Given as a whole they are a blessing as is Malala, a young woman of such courage and conviction she was asked to speak at the United Nations and earned the respect of all who saw and heard her. Consequently, it is difficult to pick a few poems from so many good ones that especially caught my attention. But pick I will: Diane Anhalt’s, “Priorities” is typical of the particular, taking her young teen priorities and matching them against Malala’s, who nearly sacrificed her life to have what we take for granted. Carol Alena Arnoff’s “A Touch of Fashion: Letter to the parents of Prospective Suicide Bombers” approaches the universal question of life and love from a unique perspective that typifies the writing in this book; the self-destructive blind adherence to a lost causes, for nebulous reasons, ends in self-defeat for all concerned. Why do we support these causes? A riff on “Diving into the Wreck”, in terms of the Middle East is incomparable, and on and on these wonderful poems go. I ordered a Kindle reader copy so I can’t comment on Laura Eklund’s cover photo accurately but having seen her work represented on her website, I suspect strongly it is a fine compliment to the poems inside.
A note of caution: This anthology is a Good Works benefit for a Malala fund , with all proceeds from it to be donated directly to this fund. Another volume with the same title, Malala, was released concurrently with this volume which I suspect strongly is not a benefit edition and is by one of the contributors to the anthology, Lyn Lifshin. While her poems in the anthology were a fine compliment to the original book and deserve the praise they may earn as being among her best work of late, her choice of title is unfortunate as it may create confusion for prospective readers of the Anthology. So Buyer Beware, if you wish to see the anthology, check that it is the edition edited by Hutchinson and Watson and not the Lifshin collection.
Noelle Kocot, Soul in Space, Wave Books. Kocot is one of the more energetic poets working today and this books showcases her multifaceted talents. Whether she is writing about her immediate surroundings in ways that can be described as hyperkinetic and endlessly fascinating, as it is unique with both verve and wit, or writing about larger topics of life, death and everything in between, her writing energizes. I have been a fan of hers since reading her apocalyptic, highly elliptical, Poems for the End of Time and later her intensely personal, death of her husband poems, Sunny Wednesday. Kocot amazes with her versatility, her candor, her wit and her mind boggling associations, sometimes totally elusive and beyond my understanding, but so what? Reading her is an experience and poetry lovers should find this out for themselves.
Rebecca Schumejda, Waiting at the Dead End Diner, Bottom Dog Press. This is a book for anyone and everyone who has ever served anything, who has ever been to any kind of roadhouse, diner or burger joint. Rebecca captures this experience with an insider’s knowledge. She even went back to work as a waitress while she was composing these poems to recapture the feeling of place and the sense of the job. The people on all sides of the counter come alive: the boss, fellow waitresses, and crazy assed cooks( Anyone who has worked in a place that serves food, as I have, knows all line cooks are crazy-assed, like the drummers in rock bands, even more than bartenders and waitresses, as the cooks don’t actually have to show their faces to the public.) and the customers with all their wild predilections, off the wall mannerisms, and all too human foibles, are shown in rich detail with humor and grace.
One of the joys of waiting are the war stories: the bizarre people you have waited on and the impressions they leave behind. I read Rebecca’s with a smile, nodding in agreement, waiting for her trump card story, the grossest, craziest one of all. Been there done that and had the older lady, mine was a schizophrenic on some sort of major mood modifying drugs, who would periodically order food and lose her dentures. Happened to my co-worker, happened to me, happened to Rebecca. I assure you rooting through garbage looking for dentures wrapped in a paper napkin, is over rated as a fun experience. Rebecca never had a guy who always ordered surf and turf and never ate his friends the shrimp, that he talked to while he ate the beef, but she had her share of loonies to be sure. One constant is: drunk college students are the bane of all servers existence. Reading this book, I fervently believe in a different kind of conscription than military service: all teens should be made to work as servers upon attaining the age of 19 for one year so that when they chronologically become adults they will treat their servers better. Good luck with that, I know, but it is an idea worth considering.
This is a massive book that could be read as one reads a novel with recurrent themes, plot development, characterization. If she had flushed out the late-in-the-book Alaska experience she alludes to in greater detail, it might have become one but why engage in idle speculation when we have so much here fully realized and highly enjoyable as it is. Rebecca, following up her wonderful pool hall book, Cadillac Men, is the bright young narrative voice of the future in American poetry.