Saturday, November 03, 2012

DIVINE Madness by Paul Pines

DIVINE Madness by Paul Pines

New York: Marsh Hawk Press, 2012

Pages: 64

Cover: Paperback

Price: 15.00

Reviewed by Pam Rosenblatt

With a beautiful, colorful, abstract cover painting by Douglas Leichter, Paul Pines’ DIVINE Madness deals with a lot of things: religion, mythological figures, death, life, communication and of course mental illness, etc. His book is divided into three sections: Book 1: The Serpent In the Bird, Book 2: The Absent One, and Book 3: Who Knows The Knower.

In Book One:The Serpent In the Bird, Pines reveals his intentions for the 64 page trilogy in his first poem, “1 ● It’s not about us”.He suggests what we as readers should expect to discover throughout in DIVINE Madness:

It’s not about us

but what

connects us

a world

forged of links

the parrot’s beak

in the lion’s jaw

divine madness

encrypting our sleep

like Puritans sniffing out

God’s fingerprints

messages born again

and again from the rubble

of our assumptions

what we listen for

as if decoding

the depth

of diamond

or entering a winter landscape

suddenly don’t know

what we thought

until a child


for a moment lost

reappears full grown

to tell us

we need not

fear death

if touched by

the consciousness

of the gods

in men

Pines has introduced gently introduced us to DIVINE Madness. He begins with “It’s not about us/but what/connects us” and ends his poem “1 ● It’s not about us”with his advice that “we need not/fear death//if touched by/the conscious/of the gods/in men”.

Pines suggests that like the mythological serpent who lives inside of the bird (as the first section’s title reads), there are “gods [whose ‘consciousness’ lives] in men”.Some psychiatrists would call this mental illness. And since this book is titled DIVINE Madness, the readers may think so also.

As George Economou blurbs on Pines’ book’s back cover, “With extraordinary daring and inspiration, Paul Pines has dedicated the art he has exquisitely crafted for a lifetime to the service of the divine madness that has always distinguished poetry from mere writing.” He also comments on how Pines “captures the universal analogy anew by ‘connecting us to the consciousness of the gods in men’ …. ”

The way Pines writes about this ‘divine madness” is intriguing,after all perhaps this contact with “the gods” is a gift, or - better yet - maybe it’s mental telepathy. Whichever Pines is implying, the analogies/metaphors are there.

Throughout civilization, there have been myths and legends about serpents being powerful, evil, and frightening to humans. Now, in 2012, Pines suggests that, like The Serpent in the Bird, there are “gods” inside the minds of men. How creativeand brilliant, yet how disconcerting at the same time.

DIVINE Madness is filled with metaphors, vivid imagery, and has a pretty consistent experimental structure. While an abstract poet, he uses similar themes with different twists throughout his book. One topic often written about is birds, especially in Book Two: THE ABSENT ONE. His love for these feathered friends can be seen in “20 ● Did Audubon”:

Did Audubon

In the woods around Natchez

think of birds

as aspects of

his inner landscape

a mockingbird

in the marsh

the secretive

part of himself

the pileated woodpecker

his relentlessness

and what of

the thrush

whose song

bends the spectrum

filling the pine grove

of his heart?

Did December’s long beams

touch something

that moved in him


which he could neither identify

nor tame

but knew

only as a shadow

at day’s end when brandy

staves off dampness

that accompanies

the dark

a shadow

that moves still in his drawings

of flightless wings

stiff legs and talons

in stuffed owls looking down

from mantels

decoys on shelves

or paneled walls

did he imagine these too

had their place

fragments of unrealized


known to him only

as shadows at day’s end?

While this poem is about mental illness or how “December’s long beams/touch something/that moved in him/unseen/which he could neither identify/nor tame/but knew/only as a shadow/at day’s end when brandy/staves off dampness”, Pines describes various birds so beautifully that we can almost visualize them: “a mockingbird/in the marsh”; “the pileated woodpecker/his relentlessness”; “the thrush/whose song/bends the spectrum”. Even “the stuffed owls looking down/from mantels/decoys on shelves/or paneled walls” have a place in his world where everything is “touched by the consciousness of the gods

in men”.

DIVINE Madness’s back cover has a blurb by Robert Kelly that reads, “[Pines] is the quiet sage who makes everything in his room a tender plaything.” He refers to Pines’ poem “20 ● Did Audubon”.

Pines appreciates birds, living or deceased. He even writes about “birds in an ice storm/as if nothing were/more important than/the direction of our intention” in Book Two: The Absent One’s poem “28: Grief strips us bare”and about “… reef birds/feeding on life beneath/the surface” in poem “35: Starting out from a Spain” found in Book Three: Who Knows The Knower. Pines’ birds seem to have a purpose, or a direction, and have a functional existence.

Pines writes how it’s important to know one’s role in life, and to accept it, as seen in Book Three: Who Knows The Knower’s poem “33: The sea beyond bare trees”:

The sea beyond bare trees

under a winter sky

extends to the horizon

highlighting branches

mossed by wind

skinned by salt air

golden finches at the feeder

blue and white nut-hatches

pecking at rind

He understands the role of salt

the geometry of shells

the bios of ocean

how marine life

melts into stone shelves

hollows out

submerged cathedrals

for worship crabs

where the eel of solitude

electrifies its prey

as armies clash wave

upon wave

in the agitation of forces

seen and unseen

he can watch

the gods make love

in the privacy of

his heart

and continue to chop the carrots

dice the garlic.

In this poem, Pines hasthese non-living or living things do their normal routines. The poem’s voice “understands the role of salt/the geometry of shells/the bios of ocean”. Why “he can [even] watch/the gods make love/in the privacy of/his heart” and remain so detached that he can “continue to chop the carrots/dice the garlic”.

As he writes in the final poem “46: but shall we leave it here” in Book Three: Who Know The Knower, “but shall we leave it here/with a drop of dew/on a leaf//stars snaking through/the heaven//the underworld/in the Milky Way//to navigate/the world as it forms around us/the universe”.

Here questions are raised that are probably thousands of years old like: Is a god, or are there gods? How did the world begin?Is there a heaven and hell? And will we ever find the answers to such inquiries?

In “46: but shall we leave it here”, the poet also asks:

the voice

that asks us

is it hard

to look upon the fear

in your father’s face?

who calls the ancient one


Paul Pines presents and deals with difficult topics throughout this read. And if asreaders we keep an open mind, we can appreciate and understand Paul Pines’DIVINE Madness.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

Gloucester Writers Center Presents Nov. 14, 2012

Gloucester Writers Center Presents Nov. 14, 2012

Come see these great poets. Afaa Michael Weaver is a featured poet in the new issue of Ibbetson Street due out this month. Sam Cornish is the Boston Poet Laureate and author of Dead Beats ( Ibbetson Street Press), and I was proud to have poet Martha Collins as a featured reader at The Somerville News Writers Festival. This is a great new center in Gloucester, so all should come out and support it. And thanks to Endicott College Creative Writing Student Maxwell Snelling (An intern at the Center) for informing me about this!--Doug Holder/Endicott College/Office of Ibbetson Street Press

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Hungry Ear Poems of Food and Drink edited by Kevin Young

The Hungry Ear
Poems of Food & Drink
edited by Kevin Young
New York NY
Copyright © 2012 by Kevin Young
ISBN: 978-1-60819-551-0
Hardbound, 300 pages. $25

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

There are a lot of anthologies out there, a number of them about food.  Few, however,
top Kevin Young’s entry.  Young, an excellent poet in his own right, does a fine job of selecting gastronomical verse from a marvelous and diverse group of poets.

To name just a few, Mary Oliver, Seamus Heaney, Yusef Komunyakaa, Lucille Clifton, Elizabeth Bishop, Mark Doty, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, Charles Reznikoff, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Matthew Dickman, Jane Hirschfield, Charles Simic, Frank O’Hara, W.B. Yeats, Philip Larkin, Charles Baudelaire, Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath and a nice selection of Young’s own poetry.

On the humorous side Roy Blount Jr.’s Song to Bacon brings it home:

Consumer groups have gone and taken
Some of the savor out of bacon.
Protein-per-penny in bacon they say,
Equals needles-per-square-inch of hay.
Well, I know, after cooking all
            (You also get a lot of lossage
            in life, romance, and country sausage.)
And I will vote for making it cheaper,
Wider, longer, leaner, deeper
But let’s not throw the baby, please
Out with the (visual rhyme here) grease.
There’s nothing crumbles like bacon still,
And I don’t think there ever will
Be anything, whate’er you use
For meat, that chews like bacon chews.
and also: I wish these groups would tell
Me whether they counted in the smell,
The smell of it cooking’s worth  $2.10 a pound.
And how bout the sound?

And then there are some tantalizing opening lines such as Hot by Craig Arnold: 

I’m cooking Thai—you bring the beer./The same order, although it’s been a year/
--friendships based on food are rarely stable./We should have left ours at the table

There is Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Green Chile:

I prefer red chile over my eggs
and potatoes for breakfast.

Adrienne Rich begins Peeling Onions thus:

Only to have a grief
equal to all these tears!

There’s not a sob in my chest.

And finally there is Howard Nemerov’s two-line tribute to Bacon & Eggs:

The chicken contributes,
But the pig gives his all.

These are just a few of the selections in this volume worth devouring. In often intriguing or delightful verse there is discourse on melons, berries, meat, vegetables, fruits – enough to fill a supermarket or your refrigerator and pantry.  It covers appetizers, main courses, desserts, celebrations, holidays and the seasons. The views of food and their relationship to us are there for our discovery.

If you are a fan of food – and who is not, even if dieting – then this book will whet your appetite and crave a snack.

Zvi A. Sesling is author of King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street, 2010), Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011) and the soon to be published Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva). He is Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review and Bagel Bards Anthology #7.

Poet Manson Solomon: A well traveled poet with the wisdom of 'Solomon'

Manson Solomon fishing in Nova Scotia

Poet Manson Solomon: A well traveled poet with the wisdom of 'Solomon'

By Doug Holder

Early on Manson Solomon had a bad case of wanderlust--that brought him to many countries, advanced degrees, and a successful business. He is the rare bird that combines business acumen with artistic talent. Solomon wrote the News:

“I emerged from the womb with a mission to be a writer with a large trust fund. Said trust fund being inexplicably absent, I took the road more traveled, {acquiring graduate degrees in Economics, Psychology and Philosophy from the London School of Economics, Columbia and Harvard,] engaging in various academic, artistic and entrepreneurial pursuits — in New York, London, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Nova Scotia, Wellesley, Cambridge – I am currently a member of the Bagel Bards of Somerville, Mass.”

Doug Holder: What was it like for a Jew in South Africa in the 1950's?

Manson Solomon: It was like living in Newton or Brookline. It was like a ghetto. People were from immigrant backgrounds who would cluster in the suburbs. As far as the literary scene here is a clue. When I left and had my farewell party--I read from Emerson and Thoreau. There was no one local worth reading. Now you have a couple of people like Nadine Gordimer, Fugard, etc... that I read.

DH: Why did you leave South Africa?

MS: I left when I was 20 or 21. All my interests, all my soul, simply were with Western culture...particularly American literature and music. I loved Gershwin and Berlin--all that spoke to me. Again I asked:" Why am I here?" I didn't know. South Africa was too provincial and confining for me.

DH: You had a sever case of the wanderlust. You traversed Europe--picking up degrees--probably picking up fodder for your poetry--did you have any mentors at the time?

MS: I don't think I had any mentors. I learned from people who might have listened to me, people whose work I read, but I can't point to a teacher and say this person inspired me to do one or the other thing.

DH: For a while you had a life in the academy.

MS: I did. I majored in economics and business because I figured I had to make a living and I thought  how could I make a living from studying the literature and humanities?

DH: You left the academy, and poetry, when you started a family. Did the family life prevent you from having a creative one?

MS: For me there was no time to do anything creative. I had to pay the tuition bills. If I didn't have a family I probably would have explores a more creative life in writing and poetry.

DH: Do you think poets and writers are in need of more business acumen?

MS: Generally. I really didn't like business and economics but I came to learn it wasn't a bad thing. I can make money much faster for projects than say an artist or academic who is going for a grant.

DH: You got your PhD in Philosophy from Columbia University. What did your dissertation concern?

MS: It was a study of what goes into making a judgment of something. If you are saying something is good are you describing it? Or are you approving it; urging someone to like i?. I tried to tease out the different parts of making a judgment. My great contribution to philosophy. (Laugh)

DH: Why did you leave Columbia?

MS: Well it was during the tumult of the 60s. I finished my course work, and then I secured a fellowship to Hebrew University in Israel to teach. Then I took off with friends to live off the land in Nova Scotia. When I finished my dissertation at Columbia, I came to Harvard as a visiting fellow in philosophy. I spent eight years at Harvard.

DH: You started a successful real estate business. Why did you switch paths in life?

MS: It was an accident. I wanted to get out of Cambridge for the country. I bought up distressed real estate, rehabbed it, and sold it for a profit.

DH: A lot of your poetry is infused with nature imagery. Who or what influences you?

MS: That's true. What influences me most is going to my house in Nova Scotia every summer. It overlooks the ocean. I have been doing that for 40 years.

DH: You have had a number of poetry publication credits since you retired 5 years ago.

MS: Yes. I have been in the Muddy River Review, Bagel Bards Anthology, Ibbetson Street, Lyrical Somerville, and others.

DH: How do you write a poem?

MS: I'm walking a long . I see something--something happens--I jot down ideas--go away--come back--after awhile I flesh it out.


Winter has come


tumbling white

out of the grey

grey sky.

Trees stand

to attention

pointing blindly.

Scattered clusters

of dead oak leaves

snagged on the outstretched fingers,

orange-brown tatters, cling

to the stiff, empty coat-racks

stark witnesses

to the creep

of the insidious white

along the bark’s crevices.

Blanched bladelets accept

without protest

the enveloping ice

until they disappear



Forsaken by the sun,

starved into submission,

the earth yields

to the suffocating pillow of snowflakes,

life drained from its desiccated veins

it draws a final sigh,


and lies still

in its white, white silent shroud.

No birds, no squirrels, no blooms,

no song.

No gentle breezes stirring the

odorless air.

Only the steady drift

of the accumulating crystals



the colorless earth.

Nothing moves.

- Manson Solomon

Sunday, October 28, 2012

God Lights His Candles Poems By Dorothy Morris

God Lights His Candles

God Lights His Candles


By Dorothy Morris

With an Introduction by Sam Cornish

Ibbetson Press

Somerville MA

ISBN: 978-0-9846614-2-8

52 Pages


Review by Dennis Daly

Today’s society undervalues serenity and that is too bad. In other eras serenity has flourished as a positive concept promoting sometimes poetry and sometimes prayer and sometimes merging the two. Francis of Assisi, for example, could not have written his revolutionary Canticle of the Sun, combining both pagan pantheism and Christian monotheism, unless his soul centered on sereneness and a profound sereneness at that.

Dorothy E. Morris in her book of poems, God Lights His Candles, draws from an obvious reservoir of spiritual serenity to compose her quicksilver images of natural and ritual happiness. Her poem Images is a good starting point. Like all good imagistic poetry her three subjects interest us with texture and emotion. Here’s the first image,

On a looping wire

Myriad starlings squat

Like black Majorca pearls.

The second image turns ducks into a line of obedient monks. Did I mention that serenity can, but need not, be eremitic? The poet puts a little twist in the third image,

It’s been three years,

I saw a crimson cardinal.

Was it you?

The sadness at a glimpse of that flamboyant bird offered here has no sharp edges. Serenity persists.

In Spring: Beach Walk the poet turns the sun into a toddler playing hide and seek, then, as he carries the burden of original sin, sends him on his way seeking redemption.  The poem ends with these lines,

Out of darkness

Night to light

Traversing the way

In search of

Eternal grace.

In our modern world bringing up grace as a poetic motif doesn’t happen. Brave woman!

I don’t believe the poem July Benediction works well independently. However it does further the context and sets up what comes after. By the way, the first four lines of this poem do create a wonderful stand-alone image. Here they are,


The sails are coming down.

Sun is waning.


Morris’ version of serenity again does not exclude melancholy. But it is a considered thoughtful melancholy. In Elegy the poet says,

A chill.

Was it only the fear of ice

Or the cold to come

That brought sudden despair?

Or something deeper,

A long-ago September

When summer ended,

Bringing regret, guilt or grief.

The poem entitled Advent 2007 takes place within the confines of the poet’s car. While listening to the Magnificat sung by the Mormon Temple Choir, she meditates on the sun’s reflection on the bay’s surface in front of her. Images of her childhood are recalled and the lost cleanliness that the water of baptism offered, and that strange word “grace” shows up again. Morris explains,

In my car mirror I watch the sun

Reflecting on the water of the bay

I think: grace

How one might dip one’s fingers

In the water

Or naked, immerse oneself

In the icy pool

To be clean.

Another poem which speaks of rebirth is After The Storm: Winter 2007-2008. It begins with childhood observations touched with pagan magic and then proceeds to adult images gleaned after a Nor’easter had struck. Once again a hint of sadness: the poet likens the iced up trees to a heart’s brittleness. On the other hand even the “the dead of winter” becomes a hopeful time of promise in this poet’s eyes. Morris says,

Why do they call it

The Dead of Winter?

When the tiniest blade

Brings promise,

And one can and must hope.

In Changeling the poet gives us a compelling image of the ocean personified. Morris speaks from memory of the sea’s many moods: the rage, the tempest, and the thunderous roar. The scene then changes to the present. The poet concludes,

But today

With the sun shining on you,

You seem almost serene,

Tranquil, gentle

As with a sigh

You glide gracefully to shore

Notice the use of the word “gracefully.”  These pieces are most assuredly imagist poems with a spiritual bent.

All religions use symbols in their rituals. Sometimes these symbols become so powerful they merge into the reality that they represent. Transubstantiation is one of them. Morris borrows this symbol from Catholicism in her poem Eucharist. Then she does something different. She describes the ordinary transference of the host from priest to communicant in a way that transforms her into a mother of divinity, a Madonna. Morris accomplishes this with these simple lines,

I hold the Host

Making a cup.

Like Mother Mary

I lift him up.

Another poem set in church is Holy Thursday. The poet begins in a tangle of trees, a pagan setting and ends at evening Mass where she observes the regeneration of human- kind. The poet marvels,

In the pew before us

A small blonde woman in a loose blouse


Her husband turns to look at her

Then gently, reverently pats her belly.

In the poem All Hallows Eve the poet espies one more mother and child moment. A three year old child hops off his bicycle and offers his nearby mother two dandelions. The poet continues,

“For you, Mom,” he said proudly.

She laughed, “Two weeds.”

“Lucky you,” I called to her.

Sometimes I wonder if God is three years old.

Neat finish. Nice sentiment.

Now find that quiet spot within your selves and give Morris’ book a try.

********** To order go to