Friday, March 15, 2013
A Long Poem Triptych & A Poetics Fragment
by Eileen R. Tabios
Copyright 2013 by Eileen R.
Softbound, 59 pages, $16
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
9 1 1 / My Forty-First Birthday –
Notes for the Poem That I Will Not Write
This is a poem of heartbreak and tragedy. It does, of course, refer to the 9/11 attack on New York and Ms. Tabios’ very personal recollection of that day, she having worked on the 95th floor of One World Trade Center. The poem follows an exchange of emails with various people she knew/knows documenting the emotions, the landscape of fright into terror, anger into anti-American policy with a last line that leaves you...
The final poem, The Awakening Of A is another masterful tour for Tabios as she takes through lines about her child, about herself. Do not take her poetry as confessional, it is revealing, yes, yet it speaks certain truths about other matters such as
our founding fathers
Native Americans are
or these lines about Afghanistan
BK means below
means above the
(It is easier to make a BK prosthesis)
The final piece is a prose work From Babaylan Poetics which Ms. Tabios presented a panel, Bay Area APIA Poets and Avant Garde. This piece is part of that presentation, perhaps best explained that she is “…a Filipino, including Filipino-American poet…”
She explains “…the space, from which I attempt to create poem. In the indigenous myth, the human, by being rooted onto the planet but also touching the sky, is connected to everything in the universe and across all time, including that the human is rooted to the past and future – indeed, there is no unfolding of time.”
Another line which captured my sensibility is “I don’t believe it’s the poet’s role to say whether a poem succeeded—and I believe this because I believe a poet only begins the poem and it’s the audience or reader that completes it.”
And finally “If I am an avant garde poet, it’s not because “I” am avant garde. It would be because we, all of us, are. This We, that is holding my hand writing the poem.
Want to get your socks knock off, like to read an intellectual or an avant garde poet, pick up an Eileen Tabios selection of poetry. To quote Betty Davis, “Fasten your seatbelt you’re in for a bumpy ride.” Albeit one that is most illuminating and pleasing.
Zvi A. Sesling is author of King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street, 2010), Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011) and the soon to be published Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva). He is Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review, Bagel Bards Anthologies #7 and #8.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Somerville poet Afaa Michael Weaver has a new collection of poetry out The Government of Nature. I asked poet Dennis Daly author of The Custom House ( Ibbetson Street Press) to review this book....
The Government of Nature
By Afaa Michael Weaver
University of Pittsburgh Press
ISBN: 13: 978-0-8229-6231-1
Review by Dennis Daly
These poems of Afaa Michael Weaver take you by the hand, like a trusted grown-up takes a child, down a landscaped and stylized pathway of disturbing memories, family ghosts, and familiar, even endearing, internal landmarks. The cadences are well wrought, formal (in the sense of elevated language), and beautifully rhythmic. In some poems the rhythm delivers a near chant. In others it becomes a strangled but pulsed whisper.
Weaver covers some dangerous territory here. The power of this poetic collection derives from his meditations on his own experiences as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by an uncle. So much could have gone wrong in the writing. But it doesn’t. Without hatred or self-pity Weaver strikes just the right tone with intelligent contemplation and a pretty remarkable understanding of evil’s context.
The poems themselves seem to bridge a psychic divide between the horror of past predation and the solace of a future life. In the poem The Path Weaver describes his trek into an alternative peace this way,
With my umbrella I stumble, too lonesome
for the way water soaks into the skin in the thunder,
listening for the sound of the eagles circling
above the lost children of wild pigs or what can be
caught and carried in the talon. My hands are
not free, too busy with trying to keep cover
on my head. The stones have another meditation,
a kind of counting to music. Touch me, they say,
and a thousand stone paths will make their way to me.
Once in the night when it is dry, when the pretty
rain of mountain springtime was suspended,
I walked this path to the dream of where we live.
Again using rain and water as unifying factors Weaver in his piece entitled The Ten Thousand constructs a gauzy memory palace in which reality must be faced and imagination deciphered. The poet says,
If I write without color it is to obey the gray way rain brings
the past to us. The ten thousand are one giant palace with a room
for remembering, where you must stand alone, touch and believe
while it seems you are touching nothing and have gone mad
in this life, this gift. We are sitting on a rock in the thick falling
of water, purple lilies are growing in the sun’s ocean shadow,
sheep with golden wool are flying in the trees, a patient monkey
is bandaging a wounded blade of grass, the garden is a mesa,
seeds are mountain caves, the moon has gone infinite, made
two of its own selves for each of our palms. Now we have faces.
This poem flows wonderfully. Between surreal images Eastern thought connects with Christian mythology. Doubting Thomas is even here touching the wounds of his Redeemer.
Some of these poems are quite explicit and troubling. The poet, however, has a point to make about the damage that can be done to a child and the burden that that child carries throughout his life. This image from Weaver’s poem Looking Up from the Naked Bed I found particularly affecting,
One Spring I find myself with a woman,
craving love’s raw way, getting high on sex,
thrill of skin and breasts, losing myself,
my medication for my heart failing to slow
my addiction until this door opens, above
what I call love. I see myself, a child,
feel the hands of the man carving
the cross I carry, its totem marks.
A little over halfway through the book the fiercely protective poem Remember crouches like a lion. Weaver dedicates this poem to his granddaughter. It begins as a charming childhood litany. Listen,
If I forget to plug the sun,
let me know
If I forget to tame the sharks’ teeth,
let me know
If I forget to stop the tsunamis
let me know
If I forget to tie up the bears,
Let me know…
The poem continues with the same rhythm but ends quite differently and quite grimly. Here’s the last three sections,
If I forget to outlaw nightmares,
let me know
If I forget to put perverts away,
let me know
If I forget that the divine thing
moved inside me to write this,
the thing that can do all things,
let me know
let me down easy
into the earth.
In his title poem, The Government of Nature, the poet addresses his body directly. He again goes to a place of memories in order to find himself and negate those same memories and confront the monster, who propagated them. He says,
I come with you to places I cannot go alone, as alone
I would be only the decision to be, not the things
I cannot explain to anyone, except in the privacy
Of a piety I have had to own, a profound saintliness
That came to me in places too foul to remain buried…
My favorite poem in this book and one that gives this collection a gentle and positive gravity Weaver entitles Scrapple. It portrays good people trying to do the right thing and make the best of life’s mix of good and bad. Here, for instance, is Weaver’s loving description of his father,
…in the good times, between
the strikes and layoffs at the mills when work
was too slack, and Pop sat around pretending
not to worry, not to let the stream of sweat
he wiped from his head be anything except
the natural way of things, keeping his habits,
the paper in his chair by the window, the radio
with the Orioles, with Earl Weaver the screamer
and Frank Robinson the gentle black man,
keeping his habits…
Weaver’s book transforms the unnatural nightmares of a damaged childhood into something transcendent, warm and wondrous. This is beyond poetry. This is alchemy.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Review of DOLLHOUSE, Poems by Elaine Terranova, winner of the 2012 award from the Off The Grid Press manuscript contest, Off the Grid Press, 24 Quincy Street, Somerville, MA 02143, www.offthegridpress.net, copyright 2013, $15.
Note: Cover photo “Kitchen of tenant purchase client, Hidalgo County Texas” by Russell Lee (1903-1986), Library of Congress.
Review by Barbara Bialick
Dollhouse is a collection of poems that are built around a conceit of a dollhouse from sometime between the 1930s and 1950s as the excellent glossy black and white cover photo indicates. Off the Grid Press only publishes works by authors of age 60 and older, but someone of any age could appreciate the theme of the doll house family reflecting on the life of the poet from childhood to adulthood.
In “The Importance of the Dollhouse,” Terranova writes: “It is the only safe place for them/…I may see myself passing through/the little house, the clay house of myself/walking quickly past the windows.”
In contrast, she writes in “Excluded”, “Because she sat on the doorstep/and her mother wasn’t there./No One was there. The key/on a string around her neck, tied to her, key to a whole world gone. An uninhabited/interior…”
While, on the other hand, in “Girl: Bicameral” she points out “Everything/in the dollhouse, (is) in perfect balance…”
The dollhouse is a symbol of every facet of the author’s life, even the spiritual—a missionary in a park gave her a card with a picture of The Virgin Mary: “The Virgin Mary sits, prayers in hand/…the Holy Spirit can come in…”
Finally, in the book’s Section III, the last section, she writes of herself as an adult,
still transfixed by dolls, dollmaking and collectibles. In the poem, “Collector”, she writes “A doll is an object, a trinket, a token./Yet the dolls are not collected/in a glass case, which would remove them/from their main function, life./Instead, they inhabit a dollhouse/based on our memory/of the real. In them we recover our history…”
ElaineTerranova is the author of five books of poems and two chapbooks. Her translation of Euripides’ “Iphigenia” is part of the Penn Greek Drama Series. Her awards besides the one for this book include, the Walt Whitman Award, an NEA, a Pew Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Sunday, March 10, 2013
THE BOSTON NATIONAL POETRY MONTH FESTIVAL
Now In Its Successful THIRTEENTH!!! Year
CO-SPONSORS: Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with the Boston Public Library, SAVE the DATES: Friday, April 5, Noon-4:00P.M. Saturday, April 6th 10:00 A.M.- 4:40 P.M. OPEN MIKE: 1:30 to 3:00P.M.; & Sunday, April 7th, 1:10 to 4:30P.M. Open Mike 1:30-3:00P.M.- Work Shop 3:15-4:30 P.M. The Festival will be held at the library’s main branch in Copley Square. FREE ADMISSION
Friday, April 5- Commonwealth Avenue Salon Room at the BPL:
12:00-1:00 P.M. Dan Tobin, Afaa M. Weaver, Christine Casson
1:00-2:00P.M. David Ferry and George Kalogeris
2:00-3:00 P.M. Rhina P. Espaillat , X.J. Kennedy
3:00-4:00P.M. Kathleen Spivack, Richard Hoffman, Judith Steinbergh
56 Major and Emerging poets will each do a ten minute reading; ALSO
Featuring 5 extraordinarily talented prize winning high school students: from Boston Latin High School,; Boston Arts Academy, and Harvard University, Daniel Schwartz. These student stars will open the Popular Poetry Marathon portion of the Festival April 6th at 10:00 A.M. SAM CORNISH, Boston’s current and first Poet Laureate will open the formal part of the Festival at 11:00 A.M. 55 additional major and emerging poets will follow with a POETRY MARATHON
Some of the many luminaries include SAM CORNISH, Rhina P. Espaillat, Afaa M. Weaver, Christine Casson, Dan Tobin, X.J. Kennedy, Alfred Nicol, Kathleen Spivack, Ifeanyi Menkiti , Richard Wollman, Doug Holder, Elizabeth Doran, Richard Hoffman, Lucy Holstedt, Kirk Etherton, Charles Coe, Ryk McIntyre, January O’Neil , Regie O’Gibson, Kate Finnegan (Kaji Aso Studio), Victor Howes, Lainie Senechal, Harris Gardner Susan Donnelly, Jack Scully, Rene Schwiesow, Tomas O’Leary, Marc Goldfinger, Gloria Mindock, Tim Gager,Barbara Helfgott Hyett, Stuart Peterfreund, Elizabeth McKim, Valerie Lawson, Michael Brown, Mignon Ariel King, Tom Daley, Molly Lynn Watt, Chad Parenteau, Joanna Nealon, Walter Howard, Kim Triedman, Zvi Sesling, Irene Koronas, Fred Marchant, Sheila Twyman, Robert K. Johnson, Chris Warner and a Plethora of other prize winning poets.
This Festival has it all: Professional published poets, celebrities, numerous prize winners, student participation, OPEN MIKES, WORKSHOP, BOOK TABLES.
Even more, it is about community, neighborhoods, diversity, Boston, and Massachusetts. FREE ADMISSION !!!
FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484- Library: 617-536-5400
Wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening devices available. To request a sign language interpreter, or for other special needs, call 617-536-7855(TTY) at least two weeks before the program date.