Saturday, April 02, 2011

Holder to his readers: "Take a walk."

The famed poet, Rock musician and memoirist Patti Smith told a graduating class at Pace University in New York City that if she had to tell students one thing about the creative life it would be to get good dental care. She said in her day ( She is 64), artists were pretty poor and they let their teeth go. She went on to say that you want to pace back and forth in your garret because you are in close contact with your muse, not because you need a root canal.

One thing I would add that is a necessity for a poet or writer is walking. I've written about it before. You know the old slogan " I 'd walk a mile for a Camel." Well, I'd walk 10 miles for the hell of it. In a recent article in the American Poetry Journal poet Ed Hirsch explains very nicely why walking is the right stimulant to get the creative juices flowing:

" Poetry is a vocation. It is not a career but a vocation. I have associated that calling with my life's work, with walking. I love the leisurely pace amplitude, the spaciousness of taking a walk, of heading anywhere, somewhere on foot. You cross a threshold, and you're on your way....Poetry is written from the body and mind, and the rhythm and the pace of a walk gets you going and grounded. It's kind of a light meditation.. Day dreaming is one of the key sources of poetry--a poem often starts as a daydream that finds it way into language--and walking seems to bring a different sort of alertness, an associative kind of thinking, a drifting state of mind."

If you have one book to read I would try Alfred Kazin's "A Walker in the City." Kazin remembered the walks he took as a child, and captures his neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn--the dark and dank tenements where immigrant Jews from Russia and Poland lived lives of cramped desperation in the Depression Era. His walks lead him past the mysterious Irish and Italian neighborhoods, and even the enigmatic horizon of Manhattan, a veritable Emerald City for this provincial boy. By reading this book, and walking Kazin's walk, you will learn what it takes to be a writer--a close observer. You will the read streets like you are reading a text--with a discerning eye for details, and for what's behind the surface of things--a critical reader, indeed.

Walking through Boston and Somerville is like walking through different phases of my life. And with each walk I take I am flooded with images and memories that enter my writing. Walking down Bay State Rd. through Boston University I can recall stumbling home to my Brownstone dorm from some keg party at Shelton Hall across the street. I was told F. Scott Fitzgerald had a room in Shelton when it was a hotel. I could imagine the great writer sleeping off yet another bender in a room that was now occupied by some kid pulling an all-nighter. Walking further down into the campus and hitting the Nickerson Field football stadium I suddenly remember the streakers who traversed the field in their birthday suits on a chilly fall day. I never had the body for that.

I might find myself walking on the streets of Chinatown, looking for the drooping, fat-sweating ducks in the window of my favorite long defunct haunt the "Ying-Ying. All those pungent smells, the chattering Cantonese of the customers, the mass produced wisdom of the fortune cookie--all those ghosts that walk by me on my walk.

And if I find myself in Somerville, and I am walking up Ibbetson Street;I might come across that orange colored Victorian that first housed my independent press Ibbetson Street. This was the first apartment my wife and I lived in when we were married. I remember the day we took a photograph of 30 poets sitting on our front porch, old hippies, Hip-Hoppers, graybearded leftists from the New York City East Village scene , young women with peasent skirts and long flowing hair blowing in the fragrant spring breeze. I remember the bemused gaze of the neighbors when we posed for that shot.

So if you have writer's block, grab your coat, grab your hat, leave your troubles at the doorstep, just relax your feet on the sunnyside or even the darkside of the street, and that pensive pen will hit the blank sheet yet again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011



By L. E. Bryan

After reading, Guy R. Beining's, latest chapbook, Nozzle 1-36, and never having read any of his work before, I wasn't quite sure, at first, whether or in what way his conceptual poems appealed to me, a poet from the school of the concrete. So I sought out and read more of Beining's work, discovering in the process that he often creates arresting artwork to both accompany his poetry and as art on its own. So I read his current chapbook again, and began to see a fascinating correlation and relationship between poet and visual artist, the way his poems create quick, contrasting images in rapid succession, generating with words collagist images reminiscent of such artist as Max Ernst, Anna Hoch, Romare Bearden, et al.

The first five lines of the poem Nozzle 17. read,

who is the ringer now,
in this bellhop urgency of things?
The intruder wondered about
the difference between a
bellhop & doorman.

In those lines we see and feel, equally, Beining's words as opposed to our understanding of a conventional path to meaning. Beining brings to his chapbook, Nozzle 1-36, a in past poetry, a dynamic and iconoclastic vision. In doing so, he chooses then paints his words upon a personal canvas consisting of a blank page. He draws abstract imagery from its original sources, in particular, Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism, transforming them into a matrix of words emphasizing conceptual value. Referring to a previous chapbook, Botola (Trapdoor), Beining reveals wit and a sense of play he brings to his poetry when he says about the book, it's a collage lover's delight: smutty, eccentric, and profound like 'neon on nylon.'”

What I also find interesting about Beining is a certain mystery about the man himself. I've yet to find a picture of him. Biographical information is sparse and illuminates very little about his life as poet and visual artists. I found the following information: Born, Guy Robin Nicholas Beining, in London on September 26,1938. Mother a Russian aristocrat. Norwegian father. Confined to his house with rheumatic fever from 1951-54. Schooled at home. Attended University of Indiana from 1955, University of Florida 1958-1960. Discharged from the Army in 1963. That same year he moved to New York City. Relocated to Connecticut in 2000, where he continues to live.

French-American artist, Marcel Duchamp seemed to have defined the poetry of, Guy R. Beining, when he made this observation: The creative act is not performed by the artists alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.

***** Louis Edward Bryan is a New Jersey native, a published poet, journalist, and fiction writer. His work has appeared in the Hayden's Ferry Review, The Wisconsin Review, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and in various other literary and commercial publications. Awards include those from the Seattle Arts Commission, Jerome Foundation, and the Anna & Perry Lee Long Prize for Poetry. He lived and attended schools in the U. S. and overseas as a former Army dependent, a background that has given impetus to Bryan's extensive travels as an adult, more recently, residing in Paris from 2002 to 2004. Having lived in Massachusetts during his youth, Bryan returned to the Boston area in 2009.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wrestling Angels: Poetic Monologues by Freddy Frankel

Wrestling Angels: Poetic Monologues by Freddy Frankel

Wrestling Angels
Poetic Monologues
Freddy Frankel
Ibbetson Street Press
ISBN 978-0-9795313-7-8
2011 $14.00

“Abraham takes my hands unschooled
in love to brush them with his lips.
Passion wrinkled and approximate...”

Frankel's poems; each vertebrae connects the verses, the reader is then
invited to join the monologues; “you made me in your image, without cunning,”
making a complete body of poetic work:

“...He admires Esau, loud, rebellious;
leans toward him, craves his brash
assertiveness. I lean toward
the gentler Jacob, he shows me
love, the only one who does”

Wrestling Angels, speaks from, as well as, biblical histrionics, foist characters
shape shift like shamans cruising through the blood each page generates
in gentle reprimand:

“Victory accumulates throughout the night
on sweat – stained grass.
I hold Jacob in a headlock, stare

into his leopard eyes, the slits don't flinch-
we grasp and grip the bulging sinews,
naked shoulders, naked waist

wet and smooth as oil – slick. We press against
each other's flesh we both resist.
Fingers sweep the texture

of our body skin smooth as glass. Who are you
he gasps, clinging – sharp as a blade I
twist his hip, flee into the dawn.”

While reading the poems I think about Joseph Cambell's delve into myth.
Frankle demystifies the messengers by latching onto the surface reality
of the man – made intentions, taking on larger messages and then perhaps
missing the mark, using the message:

“Conflict in the open at Mohammed's
death, a Shiite in the Prophet's house
wanting to succeed him. That dream
was blown away like desert dust.

Who should succeed the Prophet.
Neither branch of Islam yields. Will we
forever bow, some with foreheads
to the ground, on opposite sides

of Mohammed's mountain. Silent
violent ambush after ambush spills our
blood. For whom, Allah?”

The book florets, pierces motivations, culture, the cut foreskin. The poems
wrestle with illusions of control – cotton threads history sews together, belies
the under current themes, starting from page one. Freddy ties a knot, making a bunch
of flowers we can smell, scent our minds, he also present us with, the politics
of religions, like stink weed repels and pricks our touch:

“Inform this morning's heavy
fall of snow;
the earth that breathes
out murder in its layers;

inform its twisted cartilage;
the pollen blown
to white indifference.

Tell them this: in that sealed chamber
our lips shrank,
shrank to utter loneliness.
Where was God!”

Readers will become acquainted with who we have become because we
were and will be:

“...Your praise
is like bone china chipped to sentiment alone.”

Clearly the poems frame educated thought, present day musing,
prophetic learning into lessons. We may partake and we maynever
implement, or so it seems to me, the poems clarity. what has become
pruned wild bushes planted on roof top gardens, Frankel weaves
dry grass, he engages pluralism, he redefines purpose:

“Lord here in this place one thousand
miles from anywhere that cares,
there is no church, no shrine
to Mary, no cross. It seems
no one forgives the last crusade.
The Caliph makes demands: step
aside, Muslims have the right of way.

I sew our robes in darkest green,
they must reach the ankles.
We wear our skull caps inside out;
our houses must be small and stand
on sand; butchers sell us only lungs
and liver wrapped ion leaves of palm,
Dhimmi meat.”

Washing away certain directions or even tiny paths that characters
forge through books, holy books, big books, small books, is a big
endeavor that Frankel takes on and takes apart in well mannered
strophes. His astute observation to form and word juxtaposition lends
to the wonder of poetry:

“...How often since eternity has such ecstasy,
silent and celestial, slowed down
the human pulse, as men and women

stand and stare from water's edge...”

Irene Koronas

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why Is My Lemon Tea Red Jeff Fleming

(Jeff Fleming)

Why is my Lemon Tea Red
Jeff Fleming
Nibble Press 2011

"a delicate
clasping rice
paper wings..."

Love poems and all the different aspects of love; exploring spectacular views, emotions, "tell me, help me
because I can't stop trembling..;" even the lower case used for the poems and larger case for the title, lends
to the purity of what is being emparted:

"Every year on my birthday
mother would dress me
in my church clothes:
little wool suit, dark grey,
black shoes, leather belt,
white shirt and somber
tie, she would lead
me into the living
room, through the kitchen
and down
into the basement.

We would stand
for a moment
beside her hope
chest, emptied out,
she would lift
the lid and usher
me in, "lay down,
hands together
on your chest,
close your eyes."

I would hear
a tiny chirp
as the lid closed,
she would whisper
into the darkness
"this is death,
never forget."

Then she would let me out
take me in a strong hug
and say, "Happy Birthday, son."

Any words i use in reference to these poems seems small in comparison to Fleming's writing,
"from small speakers, filling the room." I'm giving the reader more poems to read because
they say what needs to be said in this profound plain talk poems:

"The ocean had finished
with us, tossing
our alien bodies
back on land
with a last great

we retreated inside
helping each other
out of wet suits
our hidden bodies
gone pink
nipples at attention
in the cool
conditioned air
of our bungalow

I took you
by the waist,
fingers splayed
across goose-flesh,
guided you beneath
borrowed sheets

and warmed
your shivering body
oh so slowly"

Love poems without all the frosting words, phrases I can nibble on; sometimes i laugh
sometimes i cry or feel quiet while the poems pull me in and hug me close. This chap book
is a gift, is humble and scrutizes the love of others as well as self, put succintly.

contact the poet to buy this chapbook a must have.

"laying in bed tonight,
reading Frost by the light
from a small lamp,
I look over and see
your breath and for a moment
I think you have died
and this is your soul
escaping, but no,
it's just December
a recession, and there is no
money to pay the heating
bill or even buy
a little bundle of firewood"

(another sample)

"Stumbling out
of the bar
you see a woman
against your Ford

Taurus, her ass
bumps the grill,
her right hand
flat on the hood.
In her left hand

a cigarette, or
a joint. She
seems pretty
but the overhead
street lights

throw deep
pools of shadow,
your eyes are
beered up.

Need a ride?
you ask, trying
to sound sincere
and suggestive.

She breathes out
a ghost
of smoke,
definitely a joint,
and nods.
Your pulse quickens.
You reach for

your keys and
some clever retort

but the moment
is already over.

My boyfriend,
late again.

You nod, your pulse
finds its regular
gear, your key
finds the doorlock.

Driving home you wonder
iof there was anything
you could have said

to get her back
to your bed, fucking
and somking weed
until dawn's early light."

Irene Koronas
poetry editor:
Wilderness House Literary Review


Ibbetson Street Press