Thursday, December 12, 2013
Endicott College/Ibbetson Street Press Young Poet Series Releases The Girl Who Wore Sunshine by Meghan Perkins
Meghan Perkins' poems are a pleasure to imbibe. They are straight-shootin' charms of incidental show-downs and revery of memory. Her endings are crafty without being too lick and she seems right at home in her bones and her vision of things. These poems represent a very promising first collection, sharp, concrete and humorous, walking a line between a reverence for life and a discerning and ironic laughter at its ironies and twists. --Lo Galluccio (Cambridge Populist Poet) With disarming precociousness and pearl-like insights Meghan Perkins pulls on life's loose threads and unravels them before our eyes. Her poems speak to what she knows best and her powers of sassy observations amaze.--Dennis Daly (Author of The Custom House)
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Lyn Lifshin 2013
New York Quarterly Books
Many years ago Lyn Lifshin submitted her poems to the Wilderness House Literary Review where I was new to the poetry editorial position. When an email arrived with at least fifty poems, I was overwhelmed. Who was this poet, Lifshin? I learned to take to reading her poems slowly.
Reading the poems one at a time I came to understand or at least I thought I understood what the poems were saying or not saying. Sometimes Lifshin would submit the same poem written three or four different ways and ask me to chose which one to publish.
Through that experience, I realized a poem could work in many different forms and words began to take on many meanings at the same time. The word choices were not better for the poem or not worse for the poem, the words were just different, inferring differences when read in the same context. Instead of thinking of poems as revisions, I thought about poems as individual, momentary explanations, in which one word's meaning could differ, depending on the location the poem presented:
Don't you want to just
be invisible? Go out
in one of those full-body
The beginning verse in 'Some days' we find how, line end words, as in the first two end lines, 'just' and 'out', are short, curt and set the tone, the poem rhythm, which then lends the writing its atmosphere. The poem severs itself, meaning, the end line words, are not extending, to make an easy turn, instead, the end words invite us the reader to pause, to come to an explanation, of the, 'just'. The poem asks us to read, relate, take each word as one would in a haiku, fraught with intention, seen and unseen, visible and invisible. By the time we get to read the word 'burkas' we understand why we are dressing ourselves with the poem. Lifshin uses subject matter, in almost every word, just as early Hebrew writing, uses each word to depict God. Lifshin can be recognized for the writer she is, her mood, her juxtaposition of mood and phrases:
of course even
then people would stare.
Those two lines reveal through the use of 'even, and stare.' I take 'even' as equality. An emphatic equality, even in wearing a burka the poem is seen as naked. We come to be seen, at any moment, even when we cover ourselves, this poem uncovers us from our need to please, to profit from being seen in the right out-fit, shoes, labels, the right body parts lifted to heaven:
“Haven't you ever wanted
to at least get rid of parts
of your body you can't
Wow! Who would write such a thing! Only a woman? No! Yet we are sure the poem is about a woman because the only word so far that references woman, is the word burka, until we get to the “I.” The drama, the burka invokes leads us to an uncovering or cutting off from what is meant to be hidden:
Belly and chin,
maybe thighs and every -
thing that isn't as it could
be? I could tell something
was happening when I
stopped lusting for clothes
as if they were a man's
body, stopped dialing
VS late at night like
whispering to a taboo love.
Again a line cuts off the meaning, 'every – thing. The poem is being written by and with a simple gesture, a hyphen, as Dickinson inserted her hyphen. Make of that what you will. I see the hyphen as a fragment, a space in time to meander into the unseen. Just as a nun might cloister herself, as an anorexia girl who seeks the body perfect, which seems demanded of her by her environment, to be perfect, untouched by life or even untouched by sight:
In fine – line diary entries
I often put down a favorite
or hated dress. Other
friends still bury depression
in shopping. Tho I did, it
no longer works, ineffective
as certain long – used drugs.
“It”, that word, 'it'. “tho I did, it”. The poem reduces itself to, 'it'. I am it, “tho I did, it.” the saving grace becomes the word “did.” Did, becomes or takes us to the past and we lose the tense feelings, “it no longer works.” First we the reader must get around the corner after it stops the line with its it:
look at me now, at the
kitchen table in faded yoga
pants and mismatched top
and my hair hardly flowing.
Don't you want to some -
times just not make nice or
Just as we read 'just' in the first part of the verse, we encounter, just, in the middle of the poem. Finally the poem finds comfort in being itself and perhaps asks the reader to read the poem on its own terms. The poem becomes a poem because it doesn't have to look nice or read nice. It just has to be accepted as the poem it is:
keep the phone
off the hook, stop checking
email, not have to hear
about anybody else's prizes
or degrees, new books and
just decide to never again
go to any graduation,
any place you have to pretend
to be anything you're not?”
The poem, Some Days, asks questions. Do we have to pretend we are reading a poem. Do we pretend to read a poem by comparisons, by our cover – up phrases, we expect, from a poem, instead of the poem as it being its own poem? Lifshin's poetry continues to challenge me and I’m glad 'it' does:
Things I have and
come from this
smoke. I've been
waiting the way
brought inside two
years ago stays
suspended, hair in the
wind it seems to
float, even its
black seeds don't under-
stand how any-
thing could stay
Every poem in this giant of a book, A Girl Goes into the Woods, leads the reader to an entirety. Each reader will be able to clarify for themselves what the poet is saying and how the meaning effects each life in different ways. We are privy to the way poetry grows wild, as we walk into a woody area where one can find an assortment, vegetation, sky, animal, bug and leaf. The poems teem with wilderness. “sometimes I'd come in I couldn't tell it was me except for my shape.”
I think this is the best poetry book of 2013.
Poetry Editor: Wilderness House Literary Review
Reviewer: Ibbetson Street Press
Reviewer: Cervena Barva Press
Sunday, December 08, 2013
I Am The Beggar Of The World
Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan
Translated by Eliza Griswold
Copyright © 2014 by Eliza Griswold
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
New York, New York
Hardbound, $24 (tentative),147 pages
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
I call. You’re stone.
One day you’ll look and find I’m gone.
The teenage poet who uttered this folk poem called herself Rahila Muska. She lived in Helmand, a Taliban stronghold and one of the most restive of Afghanistan’s thirty-four provinces since the U.S. invasion began on October 7, 2001. Muska, like many young and rural Afghan women, wasn’t allowed to leave her home. Fearing that she’d be kidnapped or raped by warlords, her father pulled her out of school after the fifth grade. In her community, as in others, educating girls was seen as dishonorable as well as dangerous. Poetry, which she learned from women and on the radio became her only continuing education.
Thus begins the introduction to this most compelling book of two line poems called “landays.” A landay, according to Ms. Griswold, “has only a few formal properties. Each has twenty-two syllables: nine in the first lines; thirteen in the second. The poem ends with the sound of ma or na. Sometimes landays rhyme, but more often not.”
And with these two explanations begins an astounding volume of poetry with two line poems which while are often jokes or insults, reflect the heart as in:
Unlucky you who didn’t come last night,
I took the hardwood bedpost for a man.
Embrace me in your suicide vest
but don’t say I won’t give you a kiss.
My love is a suicide bomber who stalks
the home of my heart and waits to attack.
These poems show the insight of women as in the first poem where the woman taunts the man for not making love. The second poem explains that the woman would rather be blown up than lies told that she won’t kiss her lover. While the third says the man cannot confront her directly.
Two landays regarding American forces in Afghanistan show that race can be a factor:
My lover is fair as an American soldier can be.
To him I looked dark as a Talib, so he martyred me.
Because my love’s American,
blister blossom on my heart.
In the first the obvious is that the white American soldier cannot distinguish his Afghan girlfriend from the Taliban and so she expects to be killed by him during a battle. Griswold notes that in this landay American replaced British when England controlled Afghanistan in the 1800s. In the second landay Griswold points out that American replaced the word liar. And so you see, even American lovers are viewed poorly by Afghan women.
There are many more landays in this compilation. They deal with war often in a fantasy such as the ones which put down Russia and America or which hope to destroy President George W. Bush even if they know it will not be accomplished, though they consider themselves victorious over Russia and see the same for America.
This is an exciting, thought provoking collection of two line poems, with commentary by Griswold and photographs by Seamus Murphy that put faces and places to the Afghanistan battlefields. A highly recommended volume for those interested not only in the events, but the people—especially the women—of this far off battleground.
Zvi A. Sesling
Author, King of the Jungle and Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books, Brookline, MA
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 8
Thursday, December 05, 2013
|Center for the Arts at the Armory http://artsatthearmory.org/|
The Center for Arts at the Armory 191 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143
Ibbetson Street Reading for Issue #33 and #34
Date: Tuesday, December 17th- Starts at 7:00 P.M.
Hello to all my poet friends,
I hope that everyone had a pleasant Thanksgivingkkah.
Here is the final list of those contributors who have signed on to read their poem that is published in either issue #33 or Issue #34 of the Ibbetson Street literary journal.
This reading is part of the First and Last Word Poetry Series curated by Somerville residents Gloria Mindock and Harris Gardner. Please remember that there is a $4.00 admission charge, per person, to the event even though you may be one of the readers. This is because we have to pay rent no matter who reads in the First and Last Word Poetry Series. It’s not so bad when you consider that it supports Arts at the Armory, a non-profit.
The list is as follows:
Krikor Der Hohannesian
Robert K. Johnson
Michael Todd Steffen
Armory for the Arts is located at 191 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA. There is some free parking behind the building. If you are coming from Davis Square, you can take the #88 0r #90 bus; get off at Benton Street.
*****Ibbetson Street, is a Somerville-based literary magazine founded in 1998 by Doug Holder, Dianne Robitaille, and Richard Wilhelm.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
By JP Reese
Cervena Barva Press
Review by Dennis Daly
I shuddered off the first poem of profound sadness, set in an abortion clinic, then scanned the second poem of damaged childhood, then glimpsed at the third poem of spousal estrangement, then passed over the fourth poem of lost innocence, then, moving through other equally painful-looking pieces, I found and quickly shunned the poem of famous suicides. Not my cup of tea, I thought, starting to put aside this poetic collection entitled Deadletters by JP Reese. But… in fairness I returned to the opening poem, Orphelia, and read it in its entirety. It was damnably good and floored me with its complex profundity, perfect pitch, and intelligence. So here’s my review.
Reese’s poem Ophelia intimates deeper background knowledge of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet than most of us have. Connecting Ophelia to abortion is not as outlandish as it sounds. In Hamlet, Ophelia says to her brother, Laertes, “There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me,” shortly before her death by drowning. Rue means regret, of course, but also is a poisonous herb with abortive powers. Reese’s poem continues this line of thinking and feeling with Ophelia taking her own life. Here are some of Reese’s beautifully done, yet gut-wrenching lines,
Another infant girl or boy unknown.
The nurse hovers, lowers her gown, says,
“All that could have been is undone.”
It is a good saying, she thinks, it is true.
In the evening as the sun fades to brown,
Orphelia invites her friends and her friend’s friends
to wash the color from her hands,
some with whiskey, some with wine.
She lingers beside the river, feet bare on rocks,
anxious to touch the water, to return. God
is not in his heaven…
In the poem Father the poet’s persona exhibits compassion, understanding, and overall admiration for her father, who, without book-learning or lucky breaks or wealth, makes his way in life despite life. The poet, speaking of her father’s photograph, says,
Here, washed in sepia, is the younger face of one
who never concedes to roots sprung from poverty
or speaks ill of a mother who tithed to the Jesus of Catholicism
over the rumblings of her children’s empty bellies.
Here, too, blow the bitter winters of Madison,
deep hunger leading you over ice-bound lanes to find work
—never a pause to warm your hands at the fire,
No time to read…
Unrequited love rises from the poet’s essence in the piece entitled Touch. Her love exudes, in turn, eroticism and religiosity. Make no mistake, her lover does not exist in the flesh but that does not seem to dissuade the poet. By will alone she demands his existence. The poem sings its incantation, its passion to the heavens. The poet opens the piece this way,
If you are,
then find me,
sluice wasted time
If you breathe
then breathe me
away from night…
Reese delves into her feelings of mortality in a poem entitled Autumn. The poem’s protagonist imagines her dead lover as a boy facing the eternal sunlight of summer. The whole world is “just coming on.” There is acceptance here and something resembling hope. The poet opens the poem with an autumn’s brisk chilliness,
The field lies stubbled.
Its carapace brittles
under November’s drowsy
song. My hands chill,
and I warm them
beneath my arms.
I stand on the edge
of this empty earth.
The jacket I chose
doesn’t ease the shivering,
but I stay because
I have come here
Resurrections appear out of the fertile earth of Reese’s poem On the Third Day. Ernest Hemingway who shot himself, John Berryman who jumped off a bridge, Harte Crane who jumped off a boat, Anne Sexton, who suffocated herself with auto exhaust, and Sylvia Plath who suffocated herself with gas are all brought back to life to no avail. They simply continue as their art continues. The bridge between oblivion and art appears to be two-way—at least in our universe. Reese uses black humor to release an overflow of tension. Consider these lines,
Sexton could reduce her carbon footprint, wait
for a newer model, one in candy apple red with doll’s eyes
winking from the radio dials while Plath entwines
with Otto in the back seat. The three could move east,
race to beat the rising sun, anxious to be the first
to see the angel roll back the stone.
The poet finds relief and pleasure in the present as she compartmentalizes, shutting off the scars of the past and the uncertainty of future in her poem Now. There is hope here and there is an expanding space. The poet says,
The thought is heavy;
it staggers under its own heft.
Stay with me tonight and dance,
safe from the ruin
beyond these bolted doors.
Reese’s poems, in spite of their dark subject matter, do not descend into despair. Strongly rooted and elegantly composed they offer the green shoots of a new world’s first life.