Saturday, November 11, 2006

By Corey Mesler
Edition 87 of 410 copies
$9 softbound
Wood Works Press

Review by Lo Galluccio

There is much to commend about this little elegantly made poetry book called, "The Hole in Sleep." In its gray softbound pages lie shortish but deeply felt lyrical elegies to night and its strange ecstasies.
"Being asleep is easy. Being awake is too. But the transitions between the two are ghastly.
--John Bishop
This uneasy declaration of emotional wisdom is inscribed in the opening page. It makes one consider the in between time -- that idea of something missing or absent in the transition into sleep and the subconscious mind from wakefulness.
The packaging includes two finely wood-cut postcards, one the opening poem of Mesler’s called "Night of Desolation," which ends with:
"Electricity recoils. I love you.
‘Who did you say you used to be?"
The other bizarrely enough is a quote from Richard M. Nixon, that deranged and derided President of ours who is known as much for Watergate and impeachment as for "Nixon in China" a post-modern musical.
Nixon declaring the importance of freedom of speech seems to harbor deep irony, but perhaps it is also a token of the good nature of the press.
There is a poem about the Zen Buddhist Ikkyu’s bird. The bird he had killed which he lays at his teacher’s feet. "In the morning the bird was next to Ikkyu’s mat, that morning and many more after. Ikkyu’s bird." So the bird is once again alive, bucking the transition or a ghost who Ikkyu must sleep with.
There are erotic numbers like, "Cock-a-Hoop":
"Your mouth on me like a poem.
Your slim backside bent over
me like a poem. Your sweet vaginal
lips in my mouth like a poem.
And afterwards the holycow feeling
of just being human and
satisfied like a goddamn poem."
I suppose what I like about Corey’s diction is that it’s natural, even corny to him. And for that reason these poems are treats – like slivers of chiffon cake or soda bread; whatever, they are satisfying and mostly very well crafted. I like the modesty of them and the architecture.
He even opens a poem called "Nightwork" with a Tom Waits lyric from his CD Bone Machine, "We’re innocent when we dream." This aligns with the whole hole in the sleep theme of this book. The poem is about a therapist’s transference onto Corey as a patient while he sleeps:
"I feel reprimanded. I want so to please him, don’t you know, he’s that father figure. I go to bed at night trying to dream myself a cure, a way out, a dream that will --- O sing! It’s all I can do to keep from waking."
Most of the poems presented were published previously in different journals and magazines. I think this book, so handsomely put together, and zen-like in its beauty, has been hard earned. I recommend that you read it.
Lo Galluccio
Ibbetson St. Press

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sweet Curdle. Cathryn Cofell. (Marsh River Editions M233 Marsh Rd. Marshfield, WI. 54449) $10.

Cathryn Cofell has written a beautiful and bloody collection of poetry about being a woman, mother and lover. The poems here scream authenticity; the language is evocative, and at times arresting. In the poem “Wrappers” Cofell traces her carnal life with men through the very blood she sheds. In these passages we see a portrait of a young girl’s sexual awakening, and an old woman’s sad/sweet resignation:

“You’re twelve and in love with the boy next door,
only you don’t quite know it yet.
That tingle between your legs
is something you fumble for while your sister sleeps,
while you are awake and dreaming.
You play married, practice that first boy kiss
against your pillow, hide pennies under
your tongue to imagine his taste.

The next day you’re doing laps in the pool
and suddenly blood is everywhere.
You check the water for sharks.
You dead man’s float but no one comes
to save you. This is how you learn
you are a woman: a pool of blood,
underwear packed with toilet paper,
a grocery bag handed over without words,
filled with pads and belts, too many loose ends…

You will bleed through two weddings, one divorce
twelve intrauterine inseminations,
twenty-five pregnant friends,
half a dozen bloated tirades on the way to the movies,
the gas station, through the lipstick aisle at Sears,
a thousand reasons to reject science or God or both
until your done,
done in,
chewed up like a piece of sugarless gum,
bled out like an old brake line,
scooped out like a pumpkin,
all your insides dumped, bagged, tied with a twist,
taken to the curb,
your outside shell washed clean
and grinning.”

In “Expectant Mother” the poet compares her poetry to her life as a doting mother:

“This is my life’s work
a conductor, open and waiting. Limp
from the weight of midnight arias,
afternoon rehearsals. Manic as sheet music,
holding notes like babies. Some will grow
to become riffs, songs, symphonies.
some will not; I will be so full
of the blues I will bang
their small backs until they are still.
None will be what I imagined. At best,
an anthem whistled in gauze, a myth of spittle."

Highly recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Grace. John Hodgen. (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pa. 15260 ) $14.

I had the pleasure to hear John Hodgen read at the “Out of the Blue Art Gallery” in Cambridge, Mass., as part of the locally popular “Open Bark” music and poetry series hosted by Deborah M. Priestly. Hodgen impressed me as a humble man with a great talent. Hodgen, is a man who I presume, has experienced a lot of the shit out on the street, and has the good fortune and talent to report back to us. Being a middle-aged man I would have to say I was greatly affected by Hodgen’s poetry. I think behind many of my ilk’s dour and doughy countenances, a visceral battlefield of broken dreams and unrealized ambitions still fester. And Hodgen acts like a spokesperson for our “quiet desperation.”
This brings me to the poem “ Men Lying in Fields.” I remember when I was in my late teens, lying down in the midst of a cornfield in upstate New York, and seeing each stalk wave in a fragrant summer breeze; a sort of pastoral symphony of movement. (I was stoned of course!) In this passage Hodgen wonders if in fact his long-gone grandfather ever took the plunge in a field before life chained him in with so much baggage:

“ And I wonder if in his twenties he ever wished to lie in a field,
simply that, the way Thoreau did, before wandering off to Walden,
if he plucked at sweet grass, whistled through it, wondered what to do with his life,
before giving it over to Allis Chalmers and God,
the promise and swath of eight sons in a row.
I wonder in the arc of his arable dreams if he ever envisioned me,
the way I think of him now, the way Noah thought of places
the sons of his flung birds might find, leafy with dreams and silt.” (5)

And in the poem “Proof,” Hodgen looks at the corpse of his father and imagines it as a work of art:

“ When they brought us to see him one last time,
sheet drawn, draped over his chest like chalice cloth,
da Vinci’s Last Supper, his body swollen, sweet tableau,
his torso, head, like Easter Island, Jobson’s Bay,
the turtle shell that holds the restless world.
Remember the blood vessels that had burst into burgundy,
into hieroglyphs, the blotches like brushstrokes,
like the scrawls of a graffitist stuck in a wrong century,
some tagger spray painting his zodiac sign
on the scrolls of the Houses of the Dead.” (28)

Hodgen has penned a masterful work that has left me deeply moved. Highly Recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Nov. 2006