Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Poems, Revised 54 Poems, Revisions, Discussions Robert Hartwell Fiske & Laura Cherry

Poems, Revised 54 Poems, Revisions, Discussions Edited by Robert Hartwell Fiske & Laura Cherry Marion Street Press, Inc. Oak Park, Illinois ISBN 978-1-933338-25-5 2008$18.95

if I were a poetry teacher this book would be required reading.“Poem, Revised” is like a self help book chock full of interesting discussions about revision; each author lends their process-up for examination by the reader. “in order to get back into the poem, I started by annotating it,as if it weren’t my poem at all, writing notes in the margins to clarify what I thought “the poet" meant, or wanted to mean."

Annie Finch “Revelry” relates her experience, trying to find the perfect poem for a specific situation, how she comes to write it, revise it, the poem. “and it had to be short enough to fit in the space around the perimeter of the ceiling…” she sets in motion, “the first drafts, most of them crossed out, scrawled on the back of a fluorescent orange Sit wells poetry slam flyer.”

Anne Harding Woodworth “Quiet Air” first two verses from the first draft: “come home, wind the old man cried,aware of its absence when only the sun shone and insects circled loudly in s-sounds against the window glass, and looking into the house through the screen door he saw swing the pendulum in the front hall” and from the final draft: “come back, wind, the old man cries hearing everything he’s not heardsince the last windless day when he lurched naked into the pine forest in searchof the missing Boreas he loved,protective tumult that curled inside his walls, into his pockets, his ears.”

Gary J. Whitehead “monument” his concise realizations about trisyllabic, quatrain and caesuras, within the simplicity of his poem “Pink granite moment-what we went to,my dog, my God and me” Whitehead takes us on his revision journey in similar ways as a Matisse painting, no one would suspect all the work which enters the cathedral of simplicity, the deleting, erasing, choices made by the poet.

Phebus Etienne “Meditation on my name” wrote about her name, “I did not want to include my name in any stanza, but I did want to provide many details about its origins.” she asked questions about the poem, “what was the origin of the name, is the person who carries the name in any way a reflection of that name?”

Rosma Haidri “Lottery” “by draft 4, I have begun to grasp the poem.” Rosma initially refers to William Wordsworth and his image of his spontaneous flow of poetry, but she comes to understand the word spontaneous might possible mean, “in the essay, I want to explore how through the hard work of revision over a long time, I was able to recollect the ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings that were central to my poem, ‘lottery’.

Poem, Revised, is a great gift to and for writers. the reader will use it as reference and support to their own way of writing. it is the book about the possibilities of revision, about how a poem transitions from one form to another, about the art of detaching from the poem so that the poem may take on its own life.

Irene Koronas/ Ibbetson Update/ Dec. 2008/ Somerville, Mass.

Monday, December 01, 2008

An Apron Full Of Beans by Sam Cornish

An Apron Full Of Beans
New and Selected Poems

by Sam Cornish
CavanKerry Press Ltd., Softbound, $16, Copyright © 2008 by Sam Cornish
ISBN-13 978-1-933880-09-9

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Sam Cornish is a unique, powerful and singular voice. He is an African-American who writes about his people past, present, fictional and celluloid. He is at times an angry writer, but not an angry person, in fact, in person, is almost shy.

Cornish’s America is not at all pretty or complimentary. On the contrary, he gets to the grit of slavery, segregation and how blacks were portrayed in the cinema.

There is, for example, the three line poem Runaway Song that sums up a slave’s thoughts:
bird in the air
eyes above the tree
Negro goes north

And the longer Harriet Brings Runaways North which ends:
Journeying North
Walk them easy
Don’t Leave them Behind

In Cornish’s book you will meet Harriet (Tubman), murdered teen Emmett Till, movie star Dorothy Dandridge, great singers Ruth Brown and Billie Holiday, writers Zora Neal Hurston, Langston Hughes, and fictional characters like Nat Turner just to name a few. You will meet white men who kill blacks for no reason, or for some perceived white reason.

Most of all you will meet powerful, compelling poetry that does not preach, but delivers a powerful message about who we were, who we are and what “they” think of “us.”

There are so many great poems packed into 173 pages of An April Full Of Beans it is truly difficult to have a favorite poem, but if I have to pick one it is not about slavery, hate, love, the movies or fictional characters. It is about Cornish’s grandmother:

When My Grandmother Died


a black

An Apron Full Of Beans is one great book poetry. Sam Cornish, who is the City of Boston’s First Poet Laureate shows why he was selected and what an outstanding poet he is. This book is highly recommended and deserving of widespread recognition and reading.

--Zvi A. Sesling * Zvi A. Sesling is the founder of The Muddy River Review and a regular reviewer for "The Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene"