Saturday, February 12, 2011

Laying the Spirit Bare, Surfacing the Subtext: WHITE AS SILVER, poems by Rane Arroyo

Laying the Spirit Bare, Surfacing the Subtext:
WHITE AS SILVER, poems by Rane Arroyo

by Michael Todd Steffen

The poems in Rane Arroyo’s eleventh published book of poetry, WHITE AS SILVER
(Cervena Barva Press), display an abandon which is also a freedom of the swan’s and of a youthfulness perceiving the potential disorganization of the world in its intimate mirror of that creative silence and secrecy of the artist’s meditation. Odd sequences abound. Time and place lose their specificity in the poet’s far-in-reaching visions:


am I crossing bridges at midnight
as if a twenty-year-old again who
wants to parachute off Miss Liberty?
My America isn’t on a staid map. (“Short Version”, p. 3)

Chicago wears a burning
birthday suit. We can go,
oh, anywhere. Why not
Fisher’s where the thin
poets are all we have for
needles? (“Freed of Innocence”, p. 17)

The liberty of arranging unlikely juxtapositions bespeaks a bearably open spirit directing acceptance from within outward instead of the self being subjected to an impinging, critical environment. In so doing, Arroyo’s text, what we have before us, advances the gambols and surprises we normally only get glimpses of while reading up through the suggestions or subtext of a work. Surprising transpositions of terms spark out from this unusual kiln:

The graffiti artists are now grown-ups,
returned to childhood in prisons for
crimes not about art. Some of them
are in maximum security art galleries. (“Modern Hometown”, p. 4)

When the mortar of undertone becomes the subject, the masonry itself, the imagery of the poem, takes on a hovering disconnected quality, leading to a puzzlement of appearances:

I resist you and take a walk on
a long pier on a shrinking lake.

Women in rowboats whistle down
currents. Men build a lighthouse

for UFOs. I spend the currency of
my eyebrows and leather coat in

shuttered bars on eerie Erie Street.
Men in raincoats ply me with shots

and chagrin… (“My Sex Life”, p. 5)

Everything gets turned around here. More emphatically than most books of American poetry, WHITE AS SILVER, in its literal claim on eminence and assurance, eschews the lucid connectivity of accusative reason in a criminal character:

Under gods, under gaming stars,
under our most honest skin,
waits joy and flight from logic’s thugs. (“Listen”, p. 16)

That is a turn of mind, a sense of humor and defiance, reminiscent of Surrealism, with which Arroyo flares in his frequent use of the copulative structure for odd centaurian terms:

My shadow is a bodyguard
never to taste champagne.

The streets are a tambourine’s
autopsy. Home is a pool

made translucent by breathing
furniture and blue windows. (“Life without Maps”, p. 35)

At the sunset of his day, Arroyo exhibits a zest to demolish common structures, risking the venture of leaving his guests behind in a uniquely understood assembly of language, in his unyielding sequences that do not fail to miff and intrigue us:

A call to pray for Aaron who
is brittle with his bitterness
after seeing his buddy turn
into a bursting chandelier in
a desert darker than thought. (“Radio Evangelist”, p. 26)

Arroyo prestos an astonishing literal surface that will communicate to readers of mosaics. There remains to consider the true reader who is on the quest of acquiring vocabulary and patterns of thought that will guide her or him throughout life, even on life’s tangents, barring some event that demands rethinking and reaffirming everything learned. WHITE AS SILVER (maybe not unlike Pound’s Cantos, or The Book of Revelations, though in a very different, much more modest, personal reach) requires a certain invitation. Lacking common objectives and familiarity, it will not sing to a general audience. Though this can be one of the book’s intimate gifts.

WHITE AS SILVER by Rane Arroyo, 54 pp
available for $15
from Cervena Barva Press
P.O. Box 440357
West Somerville, MA 02144-3222

Friday, February 11, 2011

Historic Diary by Tony Trigilio

Historic Diary

Tony Trigilio

Blaze Vox [book]

ISBN: 978-1-60964-012-5


“Oswald's 'Historic Diary,' which commences on October 16, 1959

the date Oswald arrived in Moscow, and other writings he later

prepared, have provided the Commission with one source of information

about Oswald's activities throughout his stay in the Soviet Union.

Even assuming the diary was intended to be a truthful record, it is

not an accurate guide to the details of Oswald's activities.”

-The Warren Commission Report-

Trigilio researches most-or-all the events that surrounded the life of Harvey

Lee Oswald. Some people remember the day president Kennedy was shot

in Dallas Texas. If the reader does not know about these events then this

book will inform and raise questions. My question is what is poetry?

I can place this book in an experimental category but some may find it

unconventional writing, that is, some may not regard the creative work

poetry. I think of this book as multi-poetic/investigative/explorations.

Trigilio melds imagination with factual information. The reader will

travel through poetic forms and factual elements.

The experimentation in this book is used as intellectual tools to expound

on what many readers may consider theories, or imagination, or cover-up.

I relate the contents to the poet Susan Howe who presented letters from a

library archive, as poetry. Howe did the research and then presented the

letters as is. The contents of Trigilio's book will intrigue and draw the

reader into a genre of poetry that is expanding its influence as a viable

way of presenting poetry, which makes it difficult to review since it is not

what one may expect of poetry. Trigilio presents events and the events

are presented as poetry. What I appreciate about his work is that he

manipulates his findings, making for a creative read.

“If something happens to...It was 1958 when...If something

happens to Richard...We drove the Skylark to Granville, Tx...

If something...It couldn't have been 1958...But how come

Tony doesn't visit his cousin Tommy, he lives in Chicago...”...

The above poem continues on for a little more than a page and is hinged

on repetition. Each verse or poem or page is full of explanations that thread

the poems together like an underground existence emerging in dead voices;

connections which seem to collaborate another world explanation.

“Marguerite Oswald

This is my life and my son's life

going down in history.

At grammar school graduation, I had the honor

of wearing a pink dress instead of a white one.

And sang the song “Little Pink Roses.”

I played the piano. We had house parties

in those days and a lot of gatherings-

and it was everything Marguerite.

I also played a ukulele.

.. .. ..

.. .. ..

Lee used to climb the roof with binoculars,

looking at the stars.

He read about astrology and knew about

any animal there was. I don't doubt

he studied the animals-their feeding habits,

sleeping habits, their secrets.

He could converse. At the Bronx Zoo.

That's where they picked him up for truancy...”

Irene Koronas


Ibbetson Street Press

Poetry Editor:

Wilderness House Literary Review

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A History of Yearning, by Kathleen Spivack

A History of Yearning, by Kathleen Spivack
The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, 2009 ($15)
Order at:

Kathleen Spivack certainly has all the credentials of a distinguished poet. Not only has she been published almost everywhere (The New Yorker, The Paris Review, etc. etc.), she has also received numerous prestigious fellowships and grants. Heck, she was even a student and friend of Robert Lowell!

Ultimately, of course, the only thing a reader can really respond to is the work. In the case of A History of Yearning, the work is—to put it very simply—terrific.

This modest volume, published as The 2009 Sow’s Ear Chapbook Competition Winner, contains a total of 19 poems, organized into three sections: A History of Yearning, Earth’s Burnt Umber, and The Lost World. Subjects include the experience of great art, war, personal and societal loss, and moments of transcendent visual beauty that may never be captured on canvas (but are perfectly painted and framed on the page by this exceptionally gifted poet). If we sometimes read human history as a book of yearnings that are derailed, thwarted or otherwise unfulfilled, Kathleen’s beautiful little chapbook is a huge achievement in the opposite direction: every page succeeds in giving us new angles and insights, a deeper understanding of the worlds that lie within and without. As readers, this is what we yearn for. As a writer, Spivack never lets us down.

It is always a luxury to read someone like Ms. Spivack—someone who has both a unique, masterful touch with language and a true intellectual’s grasp of several significant subjects. I’m reminded of Seamus Heaney’s work dealing with “the troubles” in Northern Ireland, or with the unique pleasures and trials encountered in a small farming community.

“After Night Hawks. Hopper. 1942.” is the second poem in A History of Yearning; it combines beautifully wrought observations of one work of art (the Edward Hopper painting) with images of World War II and its psychological aftermaths, plus a profound understanding of American culture during this time. The result is a multifaceted work of poetic art. In the concluding stanza, all the people in the painting

...viewed from outside
as from heaven, are frozen
before their perhaps
untarnished destinies.
The color ‘blood,” its sharp
metallic smear, is yet to
appear in this picture. In
Edward Hopper’s painting,
Night Hawks 1942, the man
with his back to us, waiting, half-
lit, has already figured this out.

In Part Three of the three-part poem “Photographs Already Fading, “ Spivack recounts her 2003 visit to an exhibit at London’s Imperial War Museum, which features World War One Poets. Here, work by famous survivors of the trenches, such as Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, can be listened to on rented headphones; it is all “ beautifully by contemporary actors.” In another section of the exhibit, presented behind glass and resembling

...perfectly sliced limes in aspic, letters
to their mothers are preserved in cases,
as when photographs are taken underwater, idealized,
the scholar-warriors made more luminous by time.
They wave to us, frond-like, going down,
as if telling us something urgent, moving away....

I could give additional quotes from the book, but I’m fairly certain you’ll get much more enjoyment from reading the poems—and this collection—in their entirety. (In a similar vein, it’s always better to be told by a friend, “You will really love this movie, because it deals with (X), and (Y) and (Z) give great performances,” than to be subjected to a bunch of five-second fragments which have been plucked from the whole film and then edited into a three-minute trailer.) So, I’ll end with two thoughts that may be of use.

1) If, for some reason, you do not enjoy the poetry of folks such as Heaney, Richard Hoffman, Galway Kinnell, Grace Paley, and Jim Schley, then you probably will be less than thrilled by Kathleen Spivack.

2) Buy a case of A History of Yearning (if chapbooks are sold by the case), and whenever you’re invited to a party, present a copy to your host. After all, there is always plenty of wine around. It’s great to open something that leaves one feeling clear-headed and invigorated. with senses heightened rather than dulled.
2009 was a very good year.

Kirk Etherton, Somerville, MA
February, 2011

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Boston Area Small Press Scene/Ibbetson Street Press Exhibit at the Halle Library at Endicott College/Beverly, Mass.

Well there is a display of Ibbetson Street Books and other books on the main floor of the Halle Library at Endicott College. The display is titled: Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene/Ibbetson Street Press. And if you want to contribute a book you penned, be it poetry, or fiction, then send it to us and we will catalogue it and put in the Endicott College Poetry and Literary Arts Collection. Here are the books currently on display:

Out of the Ordinary / Robert K. Johnson

PRESA 13 / Editor Eric Greinke

From Mist to Shadow/ Robert K. Johnson

Missing Moments/ by Robert K. Johnson

Blossoms of the Apricot/ Robert K. Johnson

Blood Soaked Dresses/ Gloria Mindock

Wren’s Cry/ Dorian Broooks

JID Jesuit / Andrew Gettler

Anytime Blues/Linda Lerner

City Woman/Linda Lerner

Entering Dennis/ Dennis Rhodes

East of the Moon/Ruth Kramer Baden

King of the Jungle/ Zvi Sesling

Steerage/Bert Stern

The Dark Opens/Miriam Levine

Living In Dangerous Times/Linda Lerner

We hope to have an extensive collection and we would love for you to be part of it. Send your donations to :

Endicott College
Halle Library
ATTN: Brian Courtemanche
376 Hale St.
Beverly, Mass.
Boston Area Small Press Scene/Ibbetson Street Press Exhibit at the Halle Library at Endicott College/Beverly, Mass

The Yoga Divas by Rob Dinsmoor

The Yoga Divas
Rob Dinsmoor
Zingology Press

Review by Rene Schwiesow

Rob Dinsmoor, a yoga teacher, tells us he did not choose yoga as a career, it chose him. The word yoga is Sanskrit, the root of which means “to yoke,” or to unite. During yoga one may find that they are “united,” with what Deepak Chopra calls, “the field” [of consciousness].

Dinsmoor is also a free-lance writer with many articles published on health and medical issues and has a background as a comedy writer with a group called, Chucklehead. Chucklehead was the subject of his first book: “Tales of the Troupe.” On the back of his second book, “The Yoga Divas,” Dinsmoor refers to an experience during a Kundalini yoga class from which there was no turning back. He goes on to say that he “became inextricably connected with the universe.”

While similar to other types of yoga, Kundalini yoga connects itself to Kundalini energy, which can be described as a sleeping, dormant energetic force that rises from the base of the spine – it is the energy of the Self and through its awakening an individual may be liberated from the constraints of Ego. I was intrigued by what I read, because I am an energy healer, very familiar with the chakras, and I have practiced yoga. I thought I was going to read about a profound spiritual journey, an awakening to uniting with “the field.”

The opening story, entitled “Kundalini Awakened,” was interesting and gave us a good look at the experience of Kundalini. He described well the pessimism that many beginners have when approaching a philosophy designed to awaken consciousness. He also described well what might happen to that individual once they complete the experience and walk out into the world again, craving something to ground them back to the earth. Dinsmoor grounds himself by eating a hearty breakfast filled with carbs and proteins. I was looking forward to the second story, entitled “Kali of the Night.” Kali, is the Hindu goddess of destruction. She is associated with time, change, removing the old and aiding one in implementing the new. Fitting, I thought for the story to follow a “Kundalini awakening.”

Imagine my surprise when I found out that the Kali Dinsmoor referred to was a woman who waked into a yoga class. A woman that Dinsmoor described as, “a feral feline. . .dark and sexy she-creature of the night.” Still I persisted in believing there may be a metaphorical connection to Kali, the goddess, and his Kundalini experience. No such luck. By the end of the story, Dinsmoor had finagled a lunch date with the girl, described their mad email liaison, and ended with their relationship drifting off into nothingness. Well, I suppose that could have a meditative angle.

The rest of the book contains other such stories, most of which include sightings of females and his interest in the curvy creatures. He offers some interesting glimpses into his travels, but only scratches the superficial surface of those experiences. Then Dinsmoor closes out the book with stories of his childhood that are not connected to his yoga. Perhaps Dinsmoor’s intent for the book was more comedic in nature, given his past writing acknowledgments. Bottom line, if you are looking for something more akin to the spiritual journey of a Yogi, you will not find that here. You will, however, find lots of allusions to the intrigue of the female form and some slightly comic romps through Dinsmoor’s life – many with a good foundation. It is a pity that Dinsmoor did not more aptly build upon those foundations.

Rene Schwiesow is the co-host of the popular South Shore poetry venue, The Art of Words in Plymouth, MA.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Review of “Gesangvoll – Songful” poetry by Hugh Fox

(Hugh Fox)

Review of “Gesangvoll – Songful” poetry by Hugh Fox

Pudding House Chapbook Series

ISBN 1-58998-812-4


Review by Samantha Milowsky

The opening poem “Gesangvoll - Songful” is a compressed neighborhood scene on a “neolithic Chicago Street” that “became a transplanted history channel province.” The poem is an indicator of where the chapbook is headed with a tapestry of characters and narratives, employing a compressed and humorous style.

In the poem “Always,” there are surprising assertions such as “Incas spoke Arabic,” and a questioning of identity, what informs it, especially with different ethnic groups and cultures living together and mixing languages. The speaker humorously ponders “maybe they should call it The United Wanderers from Everywhere instead of the United States of America.”

There is joyful, neurotic rambling in the poem “Afraid,” asserting “I’m not afraid of DEATH, because I believe in reincarnation,” which leads to questioning what the speaker may be reincarnated into. Perhaps “a beauty next time…or an Einstein…Ein, one, Stein, stone… lots of pebbles in that head.” Or perhaps reincarnated into a disembodied nirvana with “pizza forever, no weight to loose.” It is an acknowledgement of the power of belief, at least to quell fear, while also being a bit funny about it.

There is enjoyable wordplay throughout. In “Quarter to Nine,” there is apocalyptic humor in “Planet Earth is about to implode in/on itself and then move from/im/to/ex?” and in “Leaving,” the sarcasm of “getting Rest in Peace tickets to what’s the noseless, eyeless, breathless difference?”

There are also painterly translated poems of the poet’s. In “Sendo Felix/Being Happy” the poet extols:

Being happy, only this, nothing

else, nothing out the future or

past, nothing about “isms” or

“atics,” pre- or almost- human bones,

kings, the hungry, only the aggressively

green hills, the clouds, birds floating

between the clouds like butterflies,

miniature paintings, flying over the

hills themselves.

I recommend Gesangvoll - Songful for the achievement of scope in short poems, the rich narrative of a multi-cultural experience, the humorous contemplation of life and aging, and the beauty of the poems’ lines