Friday, January 27, 2012

The Lamp with Wings: love sonnets by M.A. Vizsolyi

The Lamp with Wings
love sonnets
by M.A. Vizsolyi

Harper Perennial
New York, NY
Copyright © 2011 by M.A. Vizsolyi
ISBN: 978-0-06-206901-6
Softbound, 63 pages, $13.99

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

This book was selected as one of the 2010 National Poetry Series winners, the one selected by poet Ilya Kaminsky and it presents to us the love sonnet in a way that
Galileo or Copernicus presented the solar system to an unprepared world.

When we think of love sonnets we immediately focus on Shakespeare, but Vizsolyi writes love sonnets the way Shakespeare could never have imagined. Perhaps the way J.S. Bach could not have imagined Philip Glass, though connections between the two composers can be hear, the line from one poet to the other can be read.

[hello little one I no longer glue] is one example:

hello little one I no longer glue
the starfish together with direct &
understandable sadness if you want that
go to mcdonald’s where the
romantics supersize everything
if you want the flower which will
walk with you & bear your pain
I recommend angela’s on 3rd she has
such nice flowers there the daffodils
are in & narcissus will barely
raise his head to meet you such
a beautiful girl if I gave you the
heavens you’d tear down the roof such
a beautiful girl if I gave you sea
stars you’d skip them like stones

Love sonnet you say? Absolutely and Vizsolyi notes at the end of the book that the spirit of his wife, Margarita Delcheva’s spirit dances through every poem. So it does. You will find many references to her – without name. For example:

when we find it in the river
without realizing its weight
& you will look at me & I at you
from:[in the heart of pennsylvania there]

Or from [I imagine the knocking of your hooves]

about the cat with a wooden leg who
ran out of the house to save
your life the seventh knock on
the wall was hers the dead are not lonely

What makes Vizsolyi’s love sonnets compelling is a combination of sight and sound. The poems have no punctuation so whether you read them silently, or out loud, you provide the stops and starts. There is also a one & one-half line spacing which also affects your reading and, course no capital letters, only an occasional apostrophe will do for him. Then add the bracketed titles which are always the first line of the sonnet, unexpected language, images, metaphors, and you a poem which shakes you to the core of what you think a sonnet is supposed to be. Forget Petrarch, Shakespeare, or other sonnet writers who you have read in the classical mode. Instead, experience Vizsolyi as you might any writer who has creativity and the willingness to put it out there for readers to absorb.

Kaminsky says, “This book will knock your socks off. This is real poetry.” I agree.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Somerville Bagel Bard Zvi Sesling gets Poet Laureate for Brookline

I am a lover of irony. It seems that a Somerville Bagel Bard Zvi A. Sesling( Who resides in Brookline) lobbied and spurred the city on to have a Brookline Poet Laureate. I told him about the lack of interest in our beloved burg and it inspired him to get one for his town...they finally saw the light. The light in Somerville is still way, way at the end of the tunnel...sadly. Here is an article by Sesling about how he did it...

Somerville Bagel Bard Zvi Sesling gets Poet Laureate for Brookline

Back in June 2008 I brought a proposal to the Brookline Board of Selectmen requesting they create a position of Poet Laureate for the Town of Brookline. I suggested the Brookline Council on the Arts, together with a citizen or two and a Selectman take applications, filter them and select one person for a two year term.

I thought the idea was a “no brainer.” I thought, despite the many difficult issues they had to deal with, they would, among their more trivial issues find a few minutes to approve the concept.

However, I guessed wrong. Perhaps they did not know or understand the wisdom, joy and education poetry imparts to readers. I had already explained to them that the cities of Boston and Cambridge have Poet Laureates as does the State of New Hampshire, where the legislature, in the middle of pressing issues of the economy, gay marriage and taxes still found the time to appoint a Poet Laureate.

Yet, Town of Brookline Board of Selectmen could not find even five minutes in one
year of meetings to take an action and could only benefit the town. I wrote letters to the local paper, asked four of the five Selectmen for help and got no where. One Selectman promised my wife to do something and then would not return phone calls.

Then, last year when I went to the polls to vote in a local election, I was telling Selectman Ken Goldstein about the idea and my frustration with the Board. He was in the second year of his first term and he said he would undertake the project. A few months later he and I appeared before the Brookline Council on the Arts with the proposal. The Council then undertook the project and did months of study, including looking into the Boston Poet Laureate contract. They moved forward, meeting, creating a contract and finally having Town Counsel (Brookline’s in house lawyer) review it. Selectman Goldstein and the Council on the Arts then brought it to the Selectmen who voted unanimously to approve the position for an initial two year period with a stipend of $1,000. Two banks, Bay State Federal Savings and Century Bank each contributed $500 to fund the position.

In his presentation Selectman Goldstein even read a poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to Julia Ward Howe which included a reference to Brookline.

The lesson I learned from all this is that it takes a committed city/town official, one who appreciates and supports the arts, who makes commitments and keeps them.

I know that Doug Holder has been trying to get the Somerville City Council to approve a Poet Laureate for the city – and there are some many wonderful poets in Somerville, many of whom, known as the Bagel Bards – meet weekly at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square.

Perhaps there is a City Councilor out there who will take up the issue and see it to fruition the way Ken Goldstein has done in Brookline.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ghazal-Mazal By Linda Zisquit


By Linda Zisquit

Finishing Line Press

Georgetown, Kentucky

ISBN: 978-1-59924-914-8

28 Pages


Reviewed by Dennis Daly

Poet Linda Zisquit in her twenty-eight page chapbook, Ghazal-Mazal, stretches the usually strict and demanding poetic form of ghazal into a playful set of variations—etudes really—that highlight this kind of poem’s potential in the English language.

Ghazal is an Arabic word that traditionally describes a type of love poem written in Persian, Arabic, or Urdu. It is also used in Uzbek by the legendary fifteenth century poet, Alisher Navoiy. Most ghazals consist of between ten to thirty lines combined in couplets. The first two lines end in the same word or phrase and there is a penultimate rhyme before that word or phrase. This end refrain is then repeated in the second line of each couplet. The couplets exit almost independently in the purer versions. And finally the last couplet is a signature couplet bringing the poem’s authorship in some fashion to the foreground.

In Ghazal: Routine Zisquit both intellectualizes the concept of routine and orders up some stunning images which brings it home. Like most young lovers she rebels against routine. She says,

…I scoffed routine

and while it was offered each stark morning

as I woke next to a graceful man of deep routine

I saw instead the gray offal of old snow

and the Buffalo dread embedded with routine.

Next the poet comes to an understanding of her own routines, which she has picked up from her mother,

my mother’s skin freckled at the public beach,

the way she shifted weight from leg to leg, a routine

I’ve taken on as I wait for the bathwater

to heat and in that movement mimic her routine.

Then the poem takes a surprising turn as the poet realizes the power for good that a routine possesses:

like a boat or barge on the water

that lifts mysteriously, moving rhythmically, in routine

and I, shot-sighted, dismissed its force

its holding power: the tension inherent in routine.

In Ghazal: Ache, Zisquit discusses the penultimate rhyme scheme that she doesn’t always use, and does it by using that rhyme scheme, albeit a bit flawed. She’s does this very well. Here’s a taste:

But the continuing line the couplet

with its penultimate rhyme, more ache

then comfort, especially when you break

the pattern at the start, core ache.

It doesn’t have to be the same each day

you can stare at the page, or go for ache.

Ghazal: Illicit Love matches form and reality with interesting consequences. The ghazel form itself becomes a metaphor,

The night I found you I found the form

for the poems already written! Illicit love

is meant for couplets disconnected

and a refrain at the end repeated: illicit love.

The poet speaks of form becoming essence,

… But illicit love

continued, or more accurately began

as vagrant habits ended. Illicit love

became the essence of my matter,

the single spark to light the fire …

And finally,

…illicit love’s

a filler that, once finished, reveals an empty vessel.

Now I search for subject without illicit love…

Ghazal: Havoc is an angry but deeply touching poem. It seems to be a love poem with mixed feelings about the sometimes- destructive nature of love. The unease with loss of control is telling,

All it takes is for you to appear and—havoc.

My heart, my house, nothing resumes its place, all havoc.

Why is it that your swagger, your foolish happiness

Is my undoing, and I cannot eat or sleep, havoc.

Another poem, which uses the ghazal form as a metaphor is Ghazal: Your Flaws. The poet argues through her poetic images that life’s flaws can be turned into virtues with a dose of awareness,

..your ghazals lack penultimate

rhymes, not to mention disjunctive couplets. For flaws

you are replete. You enjamb the lines as if the form

propelled you. Or unexacting, you respect your flaws.

The poet is literally playing with rhetoric through images and she is good at it.

Zisquit also includes seven non-ghazals in this collection. My favorite is Song for Robert Creeley because of this lovely image,

Early morning wetness

And this emptiness

Not of objects missing

Or someone gone—

As if a light rain

Cleared away dust

And the solemn desire

To embrace what’s at hand

Came shining…

This collection of Zisquit’s work may seem small, but the artistry herein speaks volumes.