Friday, March 13, 2009

The Light of Fields by Michael Kriesel

The Light of Fields
Michael Kriesel
Propaganda Press 2009
Pocket Protector Series: book seven

two inches by about three inches; this book of poems fits in the palm of a hand like something new born; the soft tiny words barely audible:

“how to come to the frozen numb
speaking of fields showing gold

knowing no cold
that the warmth of flesh cannot survive

and to come to these starving
whose tongues sing their stomachs of

telling of bodiless songs rising in them
whose sight follows stars against

to come to those silhouettes
pressing themselves against ledges
to listen for wind

and to tell them of others who listen

and know it is true”

the succinct continuality is established from the first poem to the last poem,. they read like a small novel, a small telling, “with a terrifying love I’ve seen, unreasoning, clings past its season…” don’t let, ‘the light of fields’ slip out of sight, or off your hands. keep the tiny flecks written within the yellow pages, “go beyond the poking stubble to the stand of spruce.”

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor
Ibbetson Street Press

A Z Two: Words of Travel by David Giannini

A Z Two
Words of Travel
David Giannini
Adastra Press
ISBN 10: 0-982249500
2009 $18.00

David Giannini slows the process of reading poems, of thinking about the surroundings, the space and all therein. letterpress print on a hand-feed C&P, the
collating and hand sewing of each book, each book becomes the entire world memory:

the rasp of something
owning very little-

perhaps an old man
filing the edge

of his voice, wanting
to receive

and be received
only if

outside of

the taught lessons in each poem, the way the cliffs jut, make shadows, seem stuffed. like a prayer book, A X Two, follows the up and down of a spring stream, river rock, muddy boots stuck by the door. the poems run their current:

ahead at my
tracks already
there as if

spiritual is a word that wants to describe everything, anything in nature, anything someone thinks is beyond nature or one-self. Words of Travel, has all
the elements of leaving behind, letting words go, lighting a fire and sitting with a song of sorrow, the sunset rose peach motions, time ethereal passing..

highly recommended.

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor
Ibbetson Street Press

Monday, March 09, 2009

Poet Rebecca Schumejda: Pens a Collection of Verse “ Falling Forward”

Poet Rebecca Schumejda: Pens a Collection of Verse “ Falling Forward”

Rebecca Schumejda stopped by my interview show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer” for an interview on her way to visit the New Hampshire poet Nate Graziano. Both are young writers who have published books with the former Somerville, Mass. press “sunnyoutside.” Rebecca’s latest book of poetry is “Falling Forward” ( sunnyoutside-2009). Rebecca lives in Kingston, NY with her husband and daughter, and teaches English at a local alternative school. She got her B.A. in English from SUNY New Paltz and her MA in Poetics from San Francisco State University. She was the coeditor of the little magazine “reuben kincaid” for a number of years. She has a number of collections of poetry out the most recent is “Falling Forward.”

Doug Holder: You wrote that your father Doug, a roofer, was the first advocate for your poetry. You had a troubled adolescence, and wrote “‘dark” poems. What did your father see in your poetry that the authorities in your school didn’t?

Rebecca Schumejda: My father and I didn’t get along, but he had energy, and that energy he saw in me. I had a lot of energy with writing—that was my thing. I think he wanted me to be educated. He wanted me to get out there and say what I felt, whatever it was. I had actually gotten in trouble with school officials and they were looking at my dark poetry and were saying:” I think she needs some help.” My father said: “No, she is just writing. This was the first connection I made with my father that was through my writing. He wanted me to write. And he said write whatever you want. He kind of laughed at the school administration, and the school teacher. So I became comfortable with my writing.

DH: Philip Roth said you have to be honest in your writing, to the point of insulting your own mother if need be. Your take?

RS: I am willing to insult myself in my writing, as well as anyone else in my life. But I wouldn’t insult them in a way that would hurt them as people. You should share your experiences whatever they are.

DH: Do you think poetry provided you with a “center that held” throughout your life?

RS: I don’t think I would have survived anything in my life without writing. Anytime I am going through a difficult time I write. It’s grounding and it is a way to save a lot of money. I would have spent a lot of money on therapy. I might as well spend my time on writing.

DH: Do you write with a specific audience in mind?

RS: I am not about getting my work out there and published as much as some other writers. I do write for myself. I write because I can’t imagine not writing. You record your history—the way I see it, my perception. But of course I want people to read my work—I want people to read a good story.

DH: You published an early chapbook with Ian Griffin of the very prolific Green Bean Press. Can you talk about Griffin and the press?

RS: I was sixteen or seventeen when I met Ian. I had submitted work to him. We both grew up in Long Island, NY. He published me in his literary magazine “brouhaha” We got together and hung out. He no longer has the press. He lives in Brooklyn, New York presently.

DH: In your new collection of poetry “Falling Forward” you write about your fears around having a baby. Is there a similarity between a birth of a baby and a birth of a poem?

RS: Yes. Because when we decided to have a kid we had these ideas where we wanted our lives to go. Just like when you start out to write something and it comes out totally different.

DH: How do you handle motherhood, and writing?

RS: At this time I am writing more than I have ever written, in this last year—the year I had my child. We have childcare. I work fulltime as a teacher—but I still find time. I write at school, on my lunch break—a lot of inspiration comes my way. My husband and my mother also help with the children.

DH: You tell me you are working on a poetry collection on pool halls?

RS: Yes. My husband and I met at a bar in New Paltz ( while playing pool) where I was going to college. It was my husband’s dream. We opened one but it didn’t work out. The economy in Kingston, NY was depleted. Pool, the game, isn’t what it used to be.

DH: Who frequented your hall?

RS: Old school players. The stories they told! Pool players are poets. I got to watch them in their element—a place a lot of young women would not be allowed to go. So I got to hear stories about their lives. There were stories about life around the game, marathon pool matches, etc…There were outlandish stories, drug stories…you name it.

DH: Do you know the celebrated upstate New York poet Alan Catlin?

RS: We have been emailing each other lately. He was a bartender in Albany, NY for many years. I will be reading with him in Schenectady real soon at the CafĂ© Luna. He has a great poetry collection out; “Only the Dead Know Albany.”

When the Check Clears

he’ll buy a package of corn-dogs
a bottle of ketchup, seven boxes
of macaroni and cheese
a newspaper. A spider weaves
a hammock across the trophy,
he won in a third grade spelling-bee.
A fly buzzing around the room
crashes into the blinds over
and over again; he chuckles,
life melts like ice cubes
he chews
to forget

He wants to be cremated:
no obituary notice, no flowers
no grave marker, just ashes tossed
indiscriminately into the wind.
After the days’ second AA meeting,
he assures himself that good times
are waiting between the serenity
prayer and the horizon, so he
keeps walking past gas stations,
laundry mats, parked patrol cars
back and forth across
the same bridge
six times
as the sky turns
dusty feet sore.

Back at home, he waits for the spider
to notice the fly, twisted in the web.
For a brief second, he considers
running his fingers through the web
to sever the fly from its fate
but he knows better than to prolong
the struggle, instead he walks
to the window, peeks out through
the blinds to count the cars that pass by.
He considers the icicles clinging
to steering wheels, hopeful fingers
and searching
for direction.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Woods Have Words: Poems of Tribute by Mignon Ariel King

The Woods Have Words: Poems of Tribute by Mignon Ariel King

The Woods Have Words: Poems of Tribute
by Mignon Ariel King
Ibbetson Street Press
Somerville, MA 02143
Copywright 2009 60 pages

To order:

Review by Lo Galluccio

Apparently, Mignon had a Grammie too, to which she dedicates this vivid, rooted, musical collection of poems that seem to grow like the sycamores, out of Boston’s earth. My Grammy was on the Welsh side of my family, but I must confess it really grabbed me; Mignon’s little portrait of the old North End –obviously Italian-- where you are hard-pressed these days to buy a Ricotta pie on Easter. In “Mario the Tailor Works on Wednesdays” she writes:

“and bistros where the bisotti
is mwah and the gelati a tapestry
of smooth, rippled almond.” p3

In Mignon’s book, the City issues reverence, imagery and drama in formal and idiomatic language and so much more -- out of objects and food and people of all stripes….including visceral scenes in institutions, job-sites, apartments, and historical avenues. In King’s book, it’s not just the graceful trees talking, though they do pack their wizened meaning along rivers and parks in Greater Boston, a Greater Boston Mignon knows inside and out. It makes me realize how much of a snob I am for always touting New York as the truly great metropolis in the USA, “fire of my loins,” my Gotham.

What I especially like is the fable-like-realism that Mignon is able to employ for most of these exquisitely concrete episodes of life as she comes of age and then colorfully sketches her fair City’s environs and happenings. Shut up in Brigham and Women’s Hospital, after some procedure, Mignon is fiddling with the oxygen tube and the CD player to get a pumped in bang of Aerosmith, the great Boston rock band. In a delightful punk unraveling, Mignon envisions Steven Tyler in his “nails shiny black, sculpted face and perfect teeth pleading for me to dance with him.” p.14 “Oxygen and Aerosmith {To Steven Tyler.} In her pneumonia-induced dream-state she must decline a dance with the Cherokee-boned rockstar and in the end, humorously reports,

‘Steven was truly hurt, but very forgiving:
Maybe another time, then?”

In her introduction: A City of Trees, she says she hesitates to call the book “autobiographical” because she herself is an embodiment of many women and their perspectives –“urban, multicultural, bookish, educated, creative, professional, happily single, nocturnal, or some combination thereof.” And what is striking about the collection is how comfortable with all these emblems she is while also capturing the love and ambivalence that reigns between the male and female, in poems like “Love without Sex” p .44 and “My First Love” p 37.

In “Another Creation Legend” she invokes the pagan origins of love and poetry from a matriarchal point of view. In a simple ode she runs it down this way:

‘When god was a woman….pagans worshipped
Mere human endeavors, like love.” And ends with:

“I guess when god was a woman
is when poetry was born.” p. 27

In “A Real Job at 9:11 am,” Mignon brilliantly describes the strictures she’s facing, the “prissy temp in wedge heels stuffing envelopes as of with valentines…..” And ends on an ominously poignant note: “Sink-water draining in the ladies’ room sounds like something being strangled.” In a couplet she sums up what others might have just called that sick feeling in the pit of their stomach when they’ve got to face a “real” or “corporate” job. She gives us something more….precise and scary.

Mignon pays tribute to her Daddy – gone now – while also in a kind of choked up nightmare poem describes how his going and coming imprinted her as a child:


“I know it seems finished.
You only left me once,
Yet in my dreams

you are always leaving,” p 30

The bond between them is manifested especially in another great poem about a Boston pub and its fare, pastrami, where she and her Dad used to go and imbibe the great messy stuff. In”Ken’s Pub: When my Father was Alive,” she describes:

“The pickles lured us in, floating like an experiment
In avoiding temptation. But the pastrami’s black edges
sealed the deal for me –“ p 32

That poem is dedicated at the bottom as many of Mignon’s works are to her favorite and local poets – this one to Ed Galing. There are many other finely crafted and fascinating scenes dedicated or let’s say influenced in some mysterious way, to Michael Afaa Weaver, Regie O’Hare Gibson, Doug Holder, Walt Whitman and Sharon Olds, among others.

In a tribute to Regie Gibson, (SCOWL: Ballad of a Face), the streets are the varied constructs (colors?) of race and they also shout their critical relevance:

“I still hear you, there in Roxbury! So here is
one truth written across the face of America.
Feel free to label it my scowl as it trails quietly down
the tan, bronze, caramel, mahogany, black street.”
p. 58

In “Freedom Trail” King perhaps epitomizes her credo as a poet and an artistic person, one which makes her poetry both fascinating and generous to those around her: in Ariel’s work there is an explicit balance between the objective and the deeply-felt subjective:

“Contradictions are okay. One hopes anyhow
that it makes cosmic sense to love both trees
and books, the city and the dirt trails, breathe salt….”

Freedom Trail, p 49

I very highly recommend this wondrous collection. Mignon Ariel King’s work encloses my spirit like a sister of the Boston-planet.

Lo Gallucio is the author of "Sarasota Vll" (Cervena Barva Press)

Bird Effort by Ronald Baatz

Bird Effort by Ronald Baatz, Kamini Press (Sweden and Greece)

By Barbara Bialick

When turning to read Ronald Baatz’ new chapbook, BIRD EFFORT, first you note it’s undersized with a handsome bird watercolor cover and some 24 pages of minimalist poems without much punctuation by an experienced poet. Will it be easy to read, you wonder, but no, the book is very deeply written about death as visualized through nature imagery, particularly of birds…

But who is the poem’s persona speaking to? That remains a mystery, though now and again he’ll mention either the presence of or a memory of his mother, his dead father, old girlfriends, his three-legged dog, a dead pet canary, and yes, the lord. There in the foothills of the Catskills in New York, nature and the seasons are always present, ultimately leading him to conclude “how soft my ashes will be…” He maintains sadness throughout, wishing he could be as happy as his dog “just being let in”…

You wonder who else is there because the goal or theme of the book is expressed early:
“You sing to the bird in me/I sing to the bird in you/an effort/we love to face/each dawn.”
With that line’s staccato rhythm, he also suggests a pace like bird songs.

“If time had a shadow…,” he says, “It’d be a swiftness having/no nest to return to”.
“enough/sleep is so difficult/now dreams of my dead father/have come to/spend the winter/Oh lord, let me stay drunk somehow/without all this drinking…”

The life in the poems is often cold to him. There are “crows in fog-/their backs turned to me/ignoring me”; and “winter’s white shoulders--just how beautiful and cold/they really are.” Or his old three-legged dog ”chasing after/a winter sun/that’s cold and/hobbling on one leg”.

To go on pulling beautiful quotes would be unfair to the author and reader. Readers there certainly should be. It’s a nice pocket-size book to carry with you on a nature walk when you might wish to ponder poems about the cruelty of death in the elegance of nature. By all means read them out loud…

By Barbara Bialick, author of Time Leaves (Ibbetson Street Press)