Thursday, July 21, 2011

beautifully alien refraction by Miriam E. Walsh

Review by Reza Tokaloo
Poetry Book Review

Book 1: Random Series

By Miriam E. Walsh

Ardornata Publishing (2011)

Miriam Walsh’s first book (*in a series of 4 books of her poetry) in her Random Book series titled: “beautifully alien refraction,” is a smattering of various poetic forms that are both visual and audible. The title of the book is taken from her poem “dispel 96” (p.14) and displays many of the themes that occur throughout this lengthy volume (140 pages).

In the first 15-20 pages of her work, Ms. Walsh hangs her poems like paintings, as they take on familiar patterns found in much modern poetry: spirals, donuts, steps, diamonds, words descending, and words ascending, etc... Much of this geometric visual art evaporates in favor of long prose in multiple stanza forms with stanzas between 3 and 7 lines long.

Thematically, Ms. Walsh sets her sights on much religious and philosophical metaphors in poems such as: “Of Gods 02,” “Mayan Amidst 00,” “Spirit Walk,” and “Leaving Eden 99.” The pervading imagery derives itself from a Catholic background that might be explained by Ms. Walsh’s residency in the southern Massachusetts town of Bridgewater.

Much of this work feels derivative as certain phrases and words appear consistently in many of her pieces such as: “I am,” “halos,””soul,” and celestial bodies appear play a heavy role in a quasi-mystic imagery: the sun, stars, universe, etc..

Overall, this volume of poetry display most of the common forms and musicality found in the greater body of work coming out of southern Massachusetts over the last 12-15 years. What I found to be frustrating at times (as a reader) was that Ms. Walsh was not ending her work properly. Her pen seemed to want to keep going, looking for that special phrase to captivate and enlighten when her poems had already made their justice fruitful enough. A good example is the last 3 lines of her poem “the quietening 97” (yes that is the title of this piece): “it is the quietening/ and it is anything/but quiet.”

Ms. Walsh has obviously amassed a large body of poetic work over the course of her life. Publishing 4 books of poetry attests to a high level of dedication to writing while working in industries ranging from the arts and health care. And it is not surprising the influence and exposure to these parts of her life have nurtured the stories and poems she has compiled into this collection. To me, it is not whether a poem is simply good or bad, it is what the poet leaves the reader (and the listener) with afterward that has relevance.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Broadsider

The Broadsider
A Subsidiary of Yossarian Universal News Service
Limited Edition Issue (numbered and signed) $50.00
Regular Issue (unsigned) $20.00
Individual Broadside signed: $5.00
Individual Broadside unsigned: $3.00

Review by Rene Schwiesow

“The Broadsider” only prints previously published work. Yes, you heard me correctly. Everything that “The Broadsider” publishes has already been found in print or online publications. The concept allows more exposure for a poet’s work and in a unique way. Each work solicited by “The Broadsider” is paired with a graphic and produced as a broadside on 65# paper. The collection of broadsides is unbound.

Broadsides come with their distinct advantages. Incorporating poetics into a poster-style piece of art often creates a wonderful presentation. However, the nature of combing print with a graphic can be a tricky situation for readability. While I found some of the broadsides to be very easy to read, many of them contained sections where letters and words blended into the graphic behind them. Thus, those sections of the poem were more difficult to decipher.

The edition I read re-published notable authors such as Hugh Fox with a work entitled “Dad at 73.” The broadside features a photo of a service man as the graphic, the stock is light blue and, for this particular work, black ink was chosen. The design allows the work to be read easily and Fox finishes up the poetics with wonderful phrases like “crickets like crazy, moon out.”

A piece entitled “teddy,” by leah angstman (No, that is not a typo. I am told she does not capitalize her name), is printed in green ink on a beige-toned paper. The shadowing of the graphic photo behind the poem means that one must expend a little more effort to read sections of the work if the lighting is not “just right.” The poem, however, is fabulous:

maybe now the windmills of
Nantucket can be spinning
on the hills of the sound
where the richies can see

blowin out there with
your legacy your depth
your final great roar as
the last congressional lion

Another notable, poet laureate of West Virginia Irene McKinney, gets my vote for her work entitled “Homage to Roy Orbison.” The piece is printed in black ink over a graphic of the legendary Orbison and, despite the shadowing of his sunglasses in the graphic, the work is very readable.

I think that in the voice’s rise
and wail we finally wake and hear the voice
of an angel, “Sweet dreams baby” Roy throbs.

The sheaf of broadsides makes for interesting reading and visual stimulation and if one or more really strike your fancy – put them on the refrigerator with a poetic-looking magnet, or pin it to the bulletin board above your writing desk. Check out their website at the above url link to read more of “The Broadsider” online.

Rene Schwiesow is a co-host for the popular South Shore poetry venue: The Art of Words. You can reach Rene at

Monday, July 18, 2011

Primitive Awe By Miriam E. Walsh

Primitive Awe
By Miriam E. Walsh
Ardornata Publishing, 2011
142 pages

Reviewed by Pam Rosenblatt

Miriam E. Walsh’s Primitive Awe published on June 4, 2011 is 142 pages of fantastical along with experimental poetry that intrigues and arouses curiosity. A former mental health worker at a detox unit, a drafter in the field of engineering, and a graphic designer, Walsh has written a series of four books released in 2011. Primitive Awe is the second book of her random series. Her cover of the book is her own design of a body, complicated yet simple at the same time.

A complex poet, Walsh rarely makes the read simple. But it is a read well the while, though straight answers may never develop, even after analysis of the poems.
In the beginning pages of Primitive Awe, Walsh uses words that may require a dictionary to decipher and often refers to Greek mythological gods. The “difficult” words slowly ease into “easier” words as the book develops. Her metaphors and use of description through economy of words are articulate and wonderful, as seen in the poem, “eros of thanatos 03”.

For better understanding of this poem, “Eros” is the Greek mythological god of sexual love and beauty as well as a god of fertility. He’s known as “Cupid” in Roman mythology. His father is “Ares”, the Greek god of war; his mother is “Aphrodite”, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.

“Thanatos” is a less recognized Greek mythological figure who “was the daemon personification of death.” Throughout ancient Greek literature, “Thanatos” was often implied to but rarely seen. He’s the son of “Nyx” (night) and “Erebos” (Darkness). His brother “Hypnos” (Sleep) is a twin to “Thanatos”.

Now, in “eros of thanatos”, Walsh combines Eros, Thanatos, Aphrodite, Ares, Nyx, and Hypnos to create a somewhat confusing and vividly descriptive work. For instance, Walsh writes:

I am picking upon
a wound again,
licking upon this cut
just to feel it,
just to taste it,
just to bleed
and make sure my heart
is still beating.
Here Walsh suggests Ares and his calling for war, while in the poem’s final stanza Walsh implies that Nyx, the god of night, Erebos, the god of darkness, and Hypnos, the god of Sleep “exist” through economy of word and precise, simple word usage:

to exist
as if it never happened
to glow
when it would be
too easy,
to grow dim,
to stop,
to disappear
to sleep.

As the poems progress in this 142 page poetry book, the poems tend to be clearer, though sometimes they center around the world of the poet herself and are still not easily understood.

this 03

a rebellion
against the hope
imposed upon us.

it is a quiet honesty
that makes a cavern
of your throat
for all it wants to say;
with its quiet
fire-lit paintings;
its primitive awe.

it is an empty place
for that
which will never form.
a space that is
a memory
of a shape
it had imagined
and decided
will do just as well.

but it is also

a hollow
that breathes,
a grass
receiving snow.

and it is the
only place
where threat
has no echo.

like all things
in life,
merely a ritual
to forget dying

and daily prepare for it.

In “this 03”, Walsh uses the words “primitive awe”, two words that make up the title of her book. Perhaps this poem is filled with “awe”, a word that gently explains the whole meaning of the book. Yet, perhaps not.