Thursday, July 02, 2009

Journey: Anthology by Eden Waters Press review by Lo Galluccio

Anthology by Eden Waters Press
Edited by Anne Brudevold
Copyright @ 2009
by Eden Waters Press
pages = 136

Review by Lo Galluccio

Anne Brudevold’s latest issue by Eden Waters Press called, “Journey” offers an enticing and enlightening range of poetry and non-fiction reckoning with the concept of travel or personal transport. It’s too extensive a volume to cover in great depth, but here are some standouts (in my estimation) to consider.

First, the late Mike Amado’s poem, “We are here” wonders at a petroglyph “off in the desert where the Anasazi lived” through a personal cascade of revelations about how we are all interdimensional beings across space and time. In the second to last stanza, he affirms: “For nothing in the human heart is foreign.” And finally, “You and I exist.” “We are here.” In fact, though Mike’s not living and breathing on planet earth, his profound etchings remain, like his memory, in the desert-blasts of our terrain.

In “Drawing the Moon” Edward S. Gault writes of his daughter’s request of him to draw the moon for her, which he compliantly does, realizing in this delightfully compact piece, that there may well come a day when “you will not care what I can do.” Beneath the poem is a lovely black and white photo of a young girl with an over-sized hat negotiating her way on a rocky trail.

Yvonne Baginsky takes us to Shirati, Tanzania where in a place called Safi Safaris Arusha or “Jo and Judith’s Place” she has arrived to witness again the slow-moving tribal beauty with SOUNDS, SMELLS, TASTES AND MOTION. “The air is warm and completely full. It sort of sits effortlessly on your skin and makes you feel welcome.” She had been invited in 2006 by a volunteer medical association called Touru University Global Health Initiative to go to Shirati, a large village in rural Tanzania. There she ran a number of art workshops in local primary schools who were without basic art supplies. One of the products of the children’s work is pictured in the essay: a magical mural of fish and plants and clouds and flowers, intermingled and mosaic-like, now gracing the maternity ward of Shirati’s Hospital.

John Flynn’s “Four Cent Trip” takes us back to Depression-era Boston where a young Irish boy works two jobs, stocking boxes and selling newspapers, to keep his family going. It seems that John Flynn is Mickey Shea, the fictionalized name he uses, or maybe an intimate friend he knew as a boy. Of course I could be wrong, but the exactitude of detail makes me believe this is a work of non-fiction. Flynn describes the daily routine of awakening before dawn to catch the early morning editions of The Globe, The Herald, The American and the current issues of The Traveler, Life, Look, Colliers, Time and the Saturday Post to hawk on bustling street corners downtown for a few pennies profit. “Three years I took my lumps as a newsy and wore that apron with pride. It always bulged with change.” He writes lovingly of his evenings at home, after supper, when the living room was lit up with the entertaining voices of radio programs like “The Fat Man” and “the Whistler” – his father dancing a little in his silk smoking jacket. The heavy labor shouldered by the young boy, who consistently misses out on schooling, till his mother insists on transferring him to a tough parochial school – finally ends when he’s caught on the street dehydrated and sick with scarlet fever. In this case the illusory and real glow from his laboring life, burn down to a stay in a hospital, where his old boss comes to visit, going by the nickname Red. The boy can smell the decades of “unfiltered Old Golds” and “pickled herring” on his breath as he leans over and asks the barely recovered child, “Where’s my money?” At that point his parents realize that the exploitation of their son must end and pull him off the beat. But Mickey ends blithely saying, “In a way, I’m grateful to Red. He schooled me in what it meant to own a corner.” Thus his ingrained American pragmatism and not self-pity prevail.

Carolyn Gregory contributes several poems, all well-constructed , moving reflections; my favorite being “Among Crayon Flowers (for Peter)” about her own imagistic memories of a broken but hard-fought for marriage:

“I forgot my name in the depths
of your blue eyes.
Schubert flowing through the brook stream,
though we stumbled
when deception burned oil
across our vows and brought us to our knees.”

Chad Parenteau offers an elliptical haiku list through the movement of seasons that is quite striking in its strange spare imagery; each haiku an emblem for his feelings on the four seasons:

2. Winter
Find skeleton tree,
Stare, repeating mantra: it’s just

In Jennifer Lang’s “Sirens and Vows,” a young married couple weather a possible Scud missal strike on their adopted home, Israel, as they remain mostly hopeful and stalwart in their vows to “love cherish and protect each other, whether in good fortune or in adversity, and to seek with each other a life hallowed by the faith of Israel.” As they huddle in a sealed off room with plastic sheeting and duct tape on a blue sofa, these vows take on a greater gravity, as the young wife still checks in with her close friend to make sure she’s all right and their parents worry about them from California. The story examines in unembellished detail the exacting price of moving to a country that is potentially a player and a victim in the tribal factions of Middle Eastern warfare.

Hugh Fox turns in a hyper-real outline poem called, “Dreamland” -- a kind of stream-of-consciousness journey melding edgy existential awareness:

3. Clever-intuitive little ape people to be
able to

with the absurd irony of an America where:

7. A two day Epigraphic Convention, Westerville Ohio,
Christ-town reincarnated, Messiah town past the Arby’s
and MacDonald’s, the Olive Garden Fifth Third Bank, Taco Bell,
a rough stone Jesus ressurectus Est stained glass windows church

In Fox’s wild sensibility, there is great affect in juxtaposing Zen cosmic awareness with the objects of commerce and religious belief in our landscape. He’s always striving for greater reach of vision:

“If only I could change bodies
the way I change cities….”

There are other brilliant poetic turns by Tomas O’Leary in “A Monk Gone Larking” and Elizabeth Kate Switaj’s “Winged Leaf like Flight of Stairs.” – Beatriz Rio del Alba’s “Rest” who takes up Einstein as a muse and ends with the the lines, “My girl rest your tired head on this bed of roses and rest rest again.” And from Tim Gager’s “These Other Days:” looking nostalgically back at a doomed relationship:

“These other days
I had are plain, simple
not devastating, basic
as jokes about elephants
that left footprints in a cheesecake.
these are the ones
that made me laugh –
I wonder why they stopped.”

“Hanoi,” a travel essay by Anne Brudevold begins with her own awareness that the Vietnam War once caused her to flee America for Europe and this same country is now the adopted (at least temporarily) home and mission of her daughter who works as a psychologist for “trafficked children, children sold into sexual slavery and luckily rescued.” Her expectations of a “drab, battered country” are defied by what she finds in Hanoi – a city which “blows her mind.” With its booming tourist industry, packs of Moped riders which make crossing streets hazardous, and a constant Western-style bargaining and hustling in the marketplace. Threaded throughout are political insights and revelations about the aftermath of the war, and in turn of all wars. She writes: “I see Ho Chi Minh’s house. He’s a hero to his people, but of course presented as a villain to us.” And, “The Vietnamese War was, of course, a power-play between leaders, not ordinary people.” She even recalls Churchill’s famous quote: “Truth is so precious she must be protected by a battalion of lies.”

She captures a high-impact shot of the outside of the prison-turned museum where John McCain was jailed – a cement or wood structure in which are sculpted human skeleton-like figures. Some are bound by their hands; others face out in a line. They are somehow not gruesome, but ghostly remnants of what had transpired during the war years.

Anne plays multiple roles during her visit: mother, documentarian and tourist, eager to pick up souvenier bargains at the various market places. Her prize being a string of pearls she vows to treasure as long as they last.

This is a triumphal collection of fascinating paeans to journeys, both interior and worldy, personal and political – and the line blurring at times as how often can the two be adequately separated? This is one of many interesting questions we are left with after reading such a brave and distinguished collection.

Lo’s latest chapbook of poems will be released on Propaganda Press in the fall of 2009.

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