Saturday, November 06, 2010
Elegiac: Footnotes to Rilke's Duino Elegies
Cervena Barva Press
Within this chapbook of longing, grief finds release, "It's true,
life reminds us of death and time, isn't that how life comes
to you…" The poems take flight, yet, grounded in history,
they swim on the surface of the wide blue ocean, yet, the poems
sink into our psyche:
"…I was cold
I was in the iceberg of myself.
wringing my hands,
washing my face without water.
Having forgotten each rhyming wish.
Every word is a word of praise,
even a curse, a word of praise.
Utter it, and you are a beggar…"
By the end of the reading the reader realizes it is a journey influenced
by Rilke and completely the poets own experiences and her references
become personal tributes, the mythology of carnival, angels,
…"The soft contours of an old photo.
Fine lines etched into a hill.
Motion stops. Smile locked
before it is imagined. A trip you didn't take,
bags you let go by without claiming.
There was the window, the line of light
that came between so we were separate.
What dawn pulled away, leaving us
to the normal operations of the world…"
Clearly this is the writing of an accomplished poets, with much to impart.
Cervena Barva Press gives us the most current writers, internationally as
well as our local voices. This is one of the chapbooks that implores us
to invest in our small presses.
Wilderness House Literary Review
Ibbetson Street Press
Friday, November 05, 2010
Pudding House Chapbook Series
"A school of Protestant fish
boats down the Ulanga
aboard Tuesday evening Bible study
pouring gillfuls of Gordon's gin
on the rocks of free will…"
'Inventing God' poses "on a console TV, stares at the finishing touch."
Robert Pringle deconstructs his relationship with established religion;
looking for his own god, "God should have stayed, adjective and phrase."
The poems present all the 'things' god is not. I think the poems are protesting
but I'm not entirely convinced of what is being presented as protest, except the
poems do protest very well:
"A man and a woman
have knocked on the door.
Ten a.m., near freezing,
I hear the shifting
of leaflets and feet.
They knock again,
brood in close voices.
Wonder what they think
of my custom Harley
parked in the driveway.
I knock in return -
a chatter of teeth
unwilling, it seems,
to trust their senses.
"We can lead the way
to His Heavenly Kingdom,"
quiet, a jangling of keys.
"I'm here to enjoy
His earthly Paradise,"
quiet, imagining that hot=
throated roar. "Are you
on the road to Armageddon?"
They could be easing
down the steps. "We know
the prophecy of Route 666!"
"I offer the joy of His
open road - hope the fuel,
charity a fair weather,
faith leaning into every turn."
Some of the poems read like a christian person on LSD
"Eagling from slits in spires, then race round
desks to shake His maiden-splitting penis,
flutter next the cloakroom coats as if
skirts in the face of Mrs. Spence
for all her harangues, hyperbole, finger-pointing…"
to the test pattern
on a console TV, STARES
at the finishing touch to a delicate hand
of The Galapagos Madonna,
to Darwin-in-Drag effigy
hanging from a Dollar Mark Cross."
Pringle experiments with word play, uses language poetry and sometimes
the poems are metaphysical in their meaning, in presenting the truth as
omnipresent; the poet references ubiquitous themes, trying to corral
individual thought, reflections on society; (Donne?) or the modern poet lament
(Ferlinghetti?) All this is written with religion and social issues as subject matter
"…Late in the game…"
"We could be sucking in sulphur fumes
right now, straight from Satan's inflamed
nostrils…But, Revelations in extensor
" 'To him who conquers, I will grant…life
in paradise'." "We conquered! and every
particle of 'them' is now our cannibal bodies;…"
Where the poetry fails is in the conjunctions. There is a disconnect that
might leave the reader wondering what one phrase or line or verse has
to do with the other. Forget what I just wrote: I can't find a good
enough example from the poems to substantiate or to make a clear
"…Molten curse of earth
perpetual, black land sinking, senseless
with good and evil,…
Kind of the boatman guide,
nodding in place of my name."
The writing is powerful and I recommend supporting this fine small press,
'Pudding House,' by investing in this chapbook or any of their books.
'Inventing God' is a book that will call you back to read again and again.
Ibbetson Street Press
Wilderness House Literary Review
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Review of POETS FOR HAITI, An Anthology of Poetry and Art, Edited by Kim Triedman, Preface by Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahl, Yileen Press, PO Box 2828,
Vineland, NJ 08362, www.yileenpress.com, $20 donation benefits people of Haiti, ravaged by the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, of January 12, 2010, through Partners in Health (pih.org)
By Barbara Bialick
With its striking red cover on which a mysterious and mystical blue man made of geodes and straw, strides proudly, this exquisitely illustrated and classy collection of poetry, grew out of a benefit of poetry readings by 18 Boston-area poets held on the Harvard University campus last February, 2010.
This book is a testimony to the power of art and poetry to respond wherever the need is great and emotional. All the colorful, symbolic prints in the book are by prominent Haitian artists. The poems are written by American and Haitian poets, some about the horrors of the earthquake itself, others chosen for the way they speak to God, life and death, history, and the will to survive.
Some of the 30 poets included in the book are former poet laureate Robert Pinsky, Rosanna Warren, Gail Mazur, Afaa Michael Weaver, Daniel Tobin, Danielle Legros Georges, all from the U.S. as well as Haitian poet Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell, Patrick Sylvain and Haitian-American poet populist of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Jean-Dany Joachim, to name a few. There are 18 gorgeous, full-color glossy art prints, including the cover. Here’s an enticing sampling of poetry:
A compelling poem, called “Ports of Sorrow” by Patrick Sylvain, brings you right in:
“Early Afternoon, I stand in my own port of pain…/Port-au-Prince has become an archipelago of open tombs,/Consumed slowly by the sun and forming an everlasting covenant./…Port-au-Prince has neither port nor prince…”
In “Earthquake” by Marilene Phipps Kettlewell, a long, powerful poem, she writes about how the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus had an “immense Christ/who stood on top of the steeple, weightless,/…God’s son now lies/face down, open arms embracing dirt./…All hearts bleed as one heart.”
Robert Pinsky contributed his poem “Ginza Samba” from The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 where he writes about “the trading of brasses,/pearls and ivory,/calicos and slaves,/ Laborers and girls….”. that he himself becomes historically connected to through an old saxophone.
But as Jean-Dany Joachim wrote in the last poem of the collection, “This evening I will not cry for my Dead/…I give my tears in exchange for LIFE…”.
On that note I urge you to get this wonderful, sad, yet hopeful collection of art and poetry.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
At the memorial service for Jack Powers, the founder of Stone Soup Poetry of Boston, Mass., the famed street artist and Power's close friend Sidewalk Sam, made an eloquent tribute speech about Jack. A few years back I worked with Sam to organize Jack's 70th birthday, along with Margaret Narin and the the Rev. Louise Anderson. Sam graciously sent me the text of the speech.
A Tribute to Jack from his friend Sidewalk Sam 10/24/2010
Jack Powers spent every waking moment of his existence devoted to noble intentions and noble pursuits. He lived a noble life by practicing hundreds of little acts of nobility on a daily basis. He was a humanist. He was concerned with the condition of human-kind.
I was in awe of him for his devotion to the noble idea of poetry and for his absolute belief in the noble idea of Mankind. I worked with Jack constantly over the years on poetry and other artistic projects.
Let me tell you a story … Jack was the main person I relied upon when my wife, Tina, and I undertook a vast project to ennoble a loathsome passageway from Haymarket into the North End. Remember it? It was the Freedom Trail, a pedestrian footpath that meandered under the elevated expressway and was the principle entrance into the North End from Boston, before the Rose Kennedy Greenway was built. Rusty, decayed, filthy and forlorn, it became a dungeon-like flophouse for homeless people who panhandled tourists passing through.
Jack, Tina and I decided to turn the block long space from a dungeon into a noble medieval Italian cathedral that would provide an appropriate welcome to tourists into the North End. Jack helped us clean up three dump truck loads of trash that we containerized for the City to haul away. We installed trash barrels and Jack swept the block and cleaned up the area many times a day. Nancy Jameson built seven flower boxes, which Tina and Jack painted with Tuscan motifs and planted with flowers and then maintained daily. We got a lift from Modern Continental Construction Company for the entire summer. Jack donned breathing gear every day, raised himself up to the underside of the overhead highway two stories above us and cleaned and scraped away decades of filth, rust and debris.
Hardly any metal held that highway up when Jack finished. He removed tons of rust! Once cleaned, we painted the beams and supports that held up the highway to resemble ornate marble church pillars. The entire block long underside of the highway was painted like a royal-blue cathedral ceiling - a painted "heaven." Jack placed hundreds of gold stars in it. We painted dozens of cherubs flying among gold laced clouds in the blue, star-studded sky. We read poetry daily. We had violinists perform and singers sang arias along the walkway.
Jack thrilled to the whole enterprise and devoted himself entirely to it. It consumed five years of our lives. It was a celebration of the streets! It took one of the worst examples of public spiritless-ness and turned it into an exalted expression of high art.
It was what Jack was about. He was a poet … but he was so much more. He believed in people. He acted like a high priest of people in daily life. He believed in Boston. To him Boston was his temple. He tried to make daily life in Boston a holy experience. He was high-minded. He believed in the power of the little guy, you and me, to exalt ourselves and make of daily life a paradise.
Jack thought immense thoughts and lived an immense life and was completely undaunted by poverty and class disadvantages. He went about the City as a humble street servant, doing common day labor – like a serf, like a peasant, like a ditch digger, like a grape picker. He was proud to be identified with them. And as he grew more and more into that role, I thought more and more that he was like St Francis of Assisi and I was in awe of the hundreds of tiny corporal act of mercy that he would bestow on Boston streets daily. As he went about his appointed rounds, Jack was a holy man. He lived his last years a misunderstood saint, a downtrodden seer; sweeping our streets. His broom was like Demosthenese 's lantern – instead of looking for an honest man, Jack cleaned the pathways of Boston for us, because we were all honest men.
He saw our beauty and our worth. He saw beauty in the mundane. He was a Johnny Appleseed of the streets. In his character as Jacques DeBris, he collected trash trophies and set them on little stages like sculptures. They were beautiful! They were wiser and kinder than anything Marcel Duchamp ever did.
Wisdom, vision, insight, hard work, deep down goodness, great humor, unending love… Jack was so beautiful.
Jack had no faults, or none worth mentioning. Certainly none to be mentioned on the glorious level on which he lived. His spirit… ah, that is his story! And we all have a story about Jack ...
The Great American Poetry Show
Edited by Larry Ziman, Madeline Sharples, Nicky Selditz
The Muse Media
West Hollywood, CA
Volume 2 Copyright © 2010 by Larry Ziman
Hardcover, 157 pages, $35
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
This book of poetry really is a “show.” It is 8x10, hardcover
and provides 157 of poetry, followed by a bio of every
author. Moreover the authors are presented in alphabetical order
which is especially useful if you want to find the poem or author
As for the poetry, it has some old poetic friends like A.D. Winans,
Lyn Lifshin, Alan Catlin, but for the most part I am not familiar with
the poets, though their poems are of high quality and belong in “the show”
which is baseball talk for the major leagues.
Of the many poems a number caught my eye let me name just three: To My Daughter on a Fine Fall Day, by Carol Carpenter, Big Daddy by Carrie Jerrell, Remembrance by David Parke about a lost love which closes: At night when I stand in the chilled desert breeze/ and feel it lightly kiss my face,/I close my eyes and feel the phantom of your lips against mine.
The magazine has a penchant for personal poems as a good many of them are first person, though Lois Swann’s short poem (8 lines) is quite enticing:
The frost has left a simple beautiful pattern
on the black car roof
Like stars clustered or marcasite
threaded with silver.
Shivering, undressed, I find such marks sparkling
on the skin of my inner thigh,
The sign of you I am loathe to bathe away,
fearing to squander diamonds
To be sure there will be poems you do not like, but in 157 pages can you really expect
every poem to grab you? No, but in The Great American Poetry Show my guess the
majority (probably more than a simple majority) will be enjoyable, and since every reader is different, many readers will connect with a number of the poems and poets.