Saturday, March 08, 2014

Lynne Savitt Relics of Lust New and Selected Poems

Lynne Savitt
Relics of Lust
New and Selected Poems
NYQ Books
New York, NY
© Copyright 2014 by Lynne Savitt
Softbound, $18.95, 256 pages

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Sex. Forty or more years of it.  One would think there’s too much of it.  Forget the thought. There’s not enough!  Lynne Savitt, as the blurbs say, has been writing poetry since the early seventies, mostly about women and their sexuality.  In this book, as well-known poet A.D. Winans states, “Savitt is the queen of sensual poetry, with a sense of humor second to none.”   He must have been reading Everything I Know About Life.

Everything I Know About Life

can be summed up
in just one sentence

he forces her legs
open with his knee
and before she can
fantasize about tahiti
it’s over

Or, if you prefer something a bit different, perhaps from someone who is a bit more mature and doesn’t particularly consider herself a cougar but still sexy in a poem try this one:

Your Lover Is Too Young For You If

he puts your pantyhose on his head
doesn’t know the words to You Made Me Love You”
thinks Jack Nicholson is old
drinks any light beer
uses inexpensive condoms
lass as long as you do
was born the same year as your son

Savitt’s view of writing is also a bit different than some might expect, but leaves the reader with plenty to fantasize about, in fact it goes the reader something to write about.


my friend leo says
it’s okay to get
old & fat
to be remembered
as a blonde
dream carrying a rose
a pink velvet
ass bent over
a car fender
a warm mouth
wet as the tropics
all you need
to write, he says,
is the memory
he continues through
the phone wire
as you put yr
fingers under
the elastic of my
mauve lace panties
memory blazes
poems poems poems

There are also poems entitled “For My Pals, Penises, Poets & Penitents Who’ve Passed In The Nineties,” “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished,”  and many more whose titles belie the serious aspects of her poems.  Take for example

What Do I Tell My Granddaughters
About The Movies & Real Life

husbands punch their wives after beers
with the boys losing at cards or racetrack
the come home smelling like sachet from
lingerie drawer not yours checkbook lost while
kayaking glue themselves to their glasses
cheaters, brutes, idiots, sissies they kiss
or beat the crap out of their respective
spouses who are all unfaithful blondes
with great tits & ass acting cool as blue
plastic ice cube trays or brunettes in
pale pink cashmere & nylon stockings
cheeks peaches as produce from augusta

get grade A education love your limbs like
branches of the weep willow write poems
in linen clouds dance like a vengeful rain
hump like sweet bunnies paint canvases big
as arizona canyons travel the world ten times
over paint yr lips 7 cheeks with pomegranate
kiss the lover back of any human who shares
yr joyful pain & macro photography don’t ever
care what others think of yourselves as warrior
princesses deserving of the universe & own it

Undoubtedly there are those who will (or do) not like Savitt’s poems, but I for one have become a fan of someone who can mix the serious with humor and make sex into the kind of something we can experience through her.  Men are the all-conquering heroes of their sex while Savitt bares the truth.  Her poems can be funny or touching. Playful or serious.  You don’t last some forty years successfully publishing poems unless you have something say.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8

Thursday, March 06, 2014

New Orleans Variations & Paris Ouroboros By Paul Pines

New Orleans Variations & Paris Ouroboros
By Paul Pines
Dos Madres Press
Loveland, Ohio
ISBN: 978-1-933675-92-3
92 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Whether crossing the French Quarter in New Orleans with Dancing Jesus (often mistaken for Moses) or flying over Parisian rooftops, circling the Eiffel Tower birdlike, accompanied by the pagan god Hermes the reader of Paul Pines’ new collection of poems, New Orleans Variations & Paris Ouroboros, won’t be burdened and bent by the linear and mundane.

Pines’ unusual techniques ignite magic on the page. He creates surface texture and then mines it for wisdom using ancient myths, singular intellects, artists of seemingly every ilk, and the wife of an astrologer, who wears knee socks.  In a large number of these poems Pines drops allusions citing intellectual and artistic subjects. I‘ve seen a few other poets attempt this sort of thing and it never works. Here it does.  Pines has an obvious and deep understanding of his citations and it shows. Because of his erudite knowledge they flow into his work naturally. There’s joy in these pieces and a lot of it. Pines writes like a lover enamored by the historical wisdom compressed into his recreated people and places. He orders up a truly movable feast. To accommodate the density of his meditative citations Pines composes in short breathable lines and sometimes spreads his poems over the page in what used to be called field poetry.

The first poem in this collection entitled First And Last Things At The Croissant D’Or opens a universal spatial door in oracular fashion. Poems convey theological information; they are physical scars left over after a mystical connection. The poet explains,


thinks she must be cold
and wraps her in his arms

to stop the stuttering flesh
he confuses with

the winter light
that shudders in a courtyard

at dawn on Ursuline St.
following 12th Night

knowing that where
a god erupts

into the world he leaves
a scar

visible as a comet
or wake of smoke…

Later in the same poem Pines channels Baltasar Gracian, a seventh century Jesuit, who advocated, among other things, a style of maximum significance with a minimum of form. Pines introduces his citation this way,

Knowledge without courage
is sterile, Gracian

calls out from his Jesuit cell
as if to warn us against

what the age of reason
never realized

that the world might become
so crowded with proofs

there’d be nothing left to feed
its hungry mouths

starving for mystery…

Costuming oneself for Mardi Gras in delirious jest can deliver some interesting undertones. The poem Hello From Nola being a case in point. Pines chronicles his transformation,

I dress up for Mardi Gras
in a costume provided
by my hostess

on the package
         “Jesus, one size
          fits all.”

a long white gown
a red sash
a wild wig of auburn curls
down to my shoulders
and a beard
I can’t secure
to my ears which
are too small
must finally pin to
my “soft” crown
of thorns

In the poem entitled Walking Down Rampart Street Pines connects his two subject cities by focusing on the raw portrayals and contradictory lifestyle of the artist Edgar Degas, a very great painter and an infamous anti-Semite. Degas was a Parisian, who stayed for a time in New Orleans with family members. Here’s how the poem begins,

Degas the perfect gentilhomme
at home in Montparnasse

and Creole New Orleans
anti-Semite whose best friend

is named Halevi describes
woman as the curse

of wise men but hangs out
in brothels sketching

the hilarity and sadness
of whores sprawled

on a couch in the salon
waiting for patrons in bowlers

sporting trim mustaches
like his own…

Entering Paris Ouroboros, the second half of Pines’ collection, the first section of the first poem Voyage serves as an introduction of sorts. The poet cites Homer and gives a rather good rationale for poetry of place. Specifically explaining the traveler’s raison d’etre Pines says,

We leave home to find ourselves
says Homer
in whom we discover the first rites
                through which individuals
                and civilizations
                must pass
                as birds singing
        in the early morning streets
        of a distant city
        remind us

then why are we surprised
to find a voice
           in foreign stones
           that echoes
           our own

Throughout the fifth section of the same poem Pines paints a lavish tableau of his own reminiscent of Matisse paintings Harmony in Red and Red Studio. The perceptions move from impressionism to almost decorative patterns—the kind commonly found in Islamic Art. Both artist and poet seem to flatten dimensions of space and time. The poet says,

at the Café Fiorelle
in the hotel Leon

        red awnings
        and umbrellas

        over re geraniums
        red napkins

        on red
as Matisse
might have painted it

flattened under the weight
of a single

         immune to time

Dreamtime merges with reality in the second section of the poem entitled Alchemy. The poet’s persona along with Hermes, the classical god of healing and also the god, who invented poetic music, fly through the sky apparently attempting to decode from patterns the meaning of Paris. The concept is breathtaking, the poem equally so. Pine sculpts out the details,

together we fly
over the rooftops
of Paris
          an encoded message
                  of tiles and

          dome of Sacre Coeur
          blinding in
          the sun

                    the Seine
                    through the city

        circle Eiffel’s tower
                and the polished
        along San Michele

Poetic collections that question the very nature of consciousness—its geometry and by implication its ultimate fate though the wisdom and perceptions of fellow travelers are not books to be ignored. Pines serves his sumptuous banquet with eclectic humor and deep sensitivity. Take a chair at his artistic table and marvel.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Alison Stone delivers a life of poetry in her new book Dangerous Enough


Alison Stone delivers a life of poetry in her new book Dangerous Enough

article by Michael Todd Steffen

Poetry especially finds meaning in realizations of hardship, loss, age, disease, as our experiences tell us we are being dispossessed of the beloved world around us. Though what we find in writing poems, as the machine of our being struggles, is the miracle of the spirit and its attachment to and belonging with the world, upon the amazing grasp of memory, on the reach of words and their arrangements in language to name how we hold and keep, argue with and cherish those beings, their characters and the significant members of creation, frogs, birds, a turtle, a Republican father, that have met and stayed with us particularly and will accompany us forever.

It is this deeper, ongoing appreciation and knowledge of ourselves and of the world, which constitutes being human, this privilege and labor with life and things that Alison Stone’s poems talk about and document.

One of our shining poets Allen Grossman has noted that “Stone is not a ‘literary’ poet… Her text does not depend on other texts.” By the evidence in the poems, Stone has had to struggle to keep her intellect and insights from offending others, potential boyfriends with fragile egos, conservative parents. As for many others, poetry creates a private space for Stone where vital, persistent thoughts that are familiarly suppressed find a place for expression. Maybe the most constraining of her tyrants is censorship itself:

    That’s unacceptable, my father barks
    when I mention my toddler’s
    biting. Well, she’s frustrated

    and can’t… He cuts me off.
Unacceptable. Just
unacceptable. The drumbeat of his voice

pounds, biblical…

Unacceptable to Dad
when I was growing up:
noise, mess, backtalk, any type of lettuce

besides iceberg, lateness,
long hair on male heads
or female armpits,

mentioning the doors
my brother kicked in,
Democrats, dog sweaters, “Women’s Lib.”    (p. 54)
So when we find poems titled “Stripper Rules” and “Twat Ghazal,” it’s Stone’s motivation in the background to undo the severity of censorship that finds riot in the glaring subjects. Not just any poet can handle these materials and somehow keep them okay for readers. Not every street performer in Paris can entertain us by breathing flames.

For her plaintive cause on behalf of single mothers and their difficult lives, her unique scars and resilience, humor and toughness, Alison Stone’s poems in Dangerous Enough engage the reader, give us plenty to reexamine about whatever forming assumptions we may have, but above all these poems light us up and jab us with sincerity that affirms for us that we are in the presence of a genuine life and talent.

Dangerous Enough
poems by Alison Stone
is available for $15.95
from Presa Press
P.O. Box 792
Rockford, Michigan 49341