Saturday, November 26, 2005

To order make check out to Mike James $6. Yellow Pepper Press POBOX 27010 Pittsburgh, PA 15235--

"" A.D. Winans

Wrestling With My Father, Doug Holder. 42 pages. Yellow Pepper Press, PO Box 27010, Pittsburgh, Pa 15235. $6

Most family poetry books more often than not focus on unhappy recollections of the author’s childhood, and the authors perspective of how the parents failed to live up to the poets expectations, so it was a welcome surprise to see Doug Holder present the other side of family upbringing.
In this small chapbook of poems Holder explores the roots and bond between a father and son. From Benson’s Deli With Dad:
Dad’s loving adornment
of his hotdog
a true work of abstract art–
a colorful phallus
of juice and savory meat.
From here we move on to the son observing an aging father at three in the morning:
he walks like the lonely
sentry he was
during the "War"
between bedroom and bathroom.
I no longer hear
a youthful stream
pierce the water
all is tentative
and a struggle,
and I barely
can contain my tears
when I see
his shrunken frame
hunched over
pressing out
what is left of
so late
in the
There is no bitterness in these poems, no disappointment, just a quiet reflection, which leaves the reader feeling like he were sitting in an old time country store in rural America listening to a wise elder spin tales of the old days.
No fancy, dressed-up academic imagery, just laying down the words on paper with a warm heart felt feeling.
Writing in a narrative voice Holder speaks with conviction about his family experiences from his first recollections of childhood to the present day. We almost feel as if we are there with him as we take a train ride that like all train rides must ultimately come to the end of the line.
in its lurid light
my gestures
are warped,
Each word
I write
engulfed, consumed.
The love
I feel
comically ephemeral.
But still in
this frightening
endless expanse,
I dance
It’s a waltz, not a fast dance. Embrace it, and you’ll hear the beat of the heart,
and the rhythm of the soul.
---- A. D. Winans

A. D. Winans was born in San Francisco and graduated from San Francisco State College (now University). He is the author of over 40 books of poetry and prose including North Beach Poems and The Holy Grail: The Charles Bukowski and Second Coming Revolution. From 1972 through 1989 he edited and published Second Coming Magazine/Press. He worked for the San Francisco Art Commission (1975-80), during which time he produced the Second Coming 1980 Poets and Music Festival, honoring the late poet Josephine Miles and the late blues musician John Lee Hooker. He has received numerous editor and publishing grants from the NEA and the California Arts Council, and writer assistance grants from PEN and the Academy of American Poets. In 1983 he was awarded a San Francisco Arts and Letters Foundation cash award for his contribution to small press literature.
His poetry, prose, essays and book reviews have appeared in over a thousand literary magazines and anthologies, including City Lights Journal, Poetry Australia, The American Poetry Review (APR) and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (Thunder’s Mouth Press). His poetry has been translated into Spanish, French, German, Japanese. Croatian, Polish and Russian. A song poem of his was performed in April 2002 at Tully Hall in New York City. His work has been praised by such noted poets and writers as Colin Wilson, Studs Terkel, James Purdy, Peter Coyote, and the late Charles Bukowski.
He is a member of PEN and has served on the Board of Directors of many arts organizations, including the now defunct Committee of Small Press Magazine Editors and Publishers (COSMEP). He is listed in Who’s Who in America, The International Directory of Who‚s Who in Poetry, The Gale Research Contemporary American Authors and the Gale Research Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. His archives and those of Second Coming Magazine/Press are housed at Brown University.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

by David Ray, 2004, Howling Dog Press

Leave aside the question of whether art can change the world. There are times when the world, being what it is, demands the artist’s attention and involvement. To not speak to certain pressing injustices raises questions about an artist’s sincerity, presence of mind, perhaps even his or her sanity.
David Ray’s DEATH OF SARDANAPULIS is a 240 page volume of well-crafted poetry. Ray’s book is also a scalpel with which to excise the bullshit and spin that permeates even the few media outlets left that still adhere to standards of journalistic objectivity.
In “The Homeric Proportions” Ray says of George W. Bush:

When he mocked another Born Again
Christian for begging for her life just

before her execution, we should
have noted what we were dealing with--

Ray’s is not a carping, negative voice. He also offers the reader moral wisdom. In “Friends” he says:

Bill Stafford called the world Friend,
and that’s the right attitude for sure.

But it is Ray’s moral outrage and refusal to look away that brings the poem to its close:

but it takes some doing on a day when

the front page is devoted to full-color,
a father holding his bleeding son in his arms

as he cries to the sky, Why? Why?
in a language no one bothers to translate.

Ray’s poetry brings us the news we won’t find on the 6 o’clock broadcasts. He tells us Colin Powell, trying to sell the Iraq invasion to the UN, had the Guernica that hung in the background draped while he was being interviewed, not wanting Picasso’s powerful depiction of the truth about war to counter the Bush Administration hype. In “A Captivity Narrative” he tells of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch and says:

Yet it was an Iraqi doctor who risked

his life and trudged across the desert
to summon her rescuers--

But when it comes to myth making
the truth must not stand in the way

even when the heroine objects.
We like to stick to the classic formulas

David Ray’s THE DEATH OF SARDANAPALUS is a beautifully bound book. It features a full color center fold-out of Delacroix’s famous painting of the same name. It is a book that belongs on the shelf of every poetry lover and every enlightened, “reality-based “ person. It is available from HOWLING DOG PRESS (www.

Richard Wilhelm, Ibbetson Update, Nov. 2005