Friday, March 24, 2017

Message from the Memoirist Poems by Paul Pines

Paul Pines

Message from the Memoirist
Poems by Paul Pines
Art by Marc Shanker
Dos Madres Press
Loveland, Ohio
ISBN: 978-1-939929-28-0
135 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Tick Tock Tick Tock. Hickory, Dickory, Dock…. The various concepts of scientific time tell us almost nothing with their deconstructing conundrums. Nursey Rhymes do conjure up a sense of play and curiosity but then abandon us to the immediate. Only when time intersects with the eternal or the pinned-down specific does meaning appear, gleaned from the residue of the fiery crossover or the accelerated collision. Paul Pines, in his wonderfully illustrated poetry collection entitled Message From the Memoirist, uncovers precious pieces of memory from the dreamscape of mind and transmutes these quark-like particles into summonses that evoke the true nature of fundamental things. The spectacle or rather spectral results can be unsettling. Or exhilarating. Even funny.

In tracing his expansive memories back to the “time before thought” Pines, presumably dressed in a cowl and carrying a torch, leads us through a primordial darkness. Shades appear and vanish from our reach. A cock crows and dawn’s light drenches with creation all who have passed over the River Lethe again.

Early in the collection, in his piece entitled Toward the Creation of a Perfect Science, Pines considers the importance of memory to the present, as well as the positive attributes and the capacity for natural healing that society also assigns to forgetfulness. The poet puts it this way,

One forgets and then
When one remembers

It seems so important
Not to forget again

I want to say that
Forgetting is a merciful act

But when what is called
Feels essential to being

Who one is in the present
I am not sure

We all live through what
we see and don’t see

When older people lose a lot of weight, one of two things could be happening. Pines dwells on the positive in his poetic meditation entitled Yesterday’s Conversation. As time speeds up and the present merges into memory and archetypal moments the poet’s response becomes more and more physical. I sympathize. We’ve done this before. We can beat this. Consider these lines,

              I see myself shrinking
              Not like an old man
but slipping back into the young one
who ran through Coles Woods
the day after his wedding
and think,
                  “You may be in denial,
                  but look at you go!”

I will once again lift weights
put on a glove to field grounders
observe overweight guys
on the basketball court at the Y
and scream,
                  “I can run rings around these suckers!

In the end
I want to laugh all the way
to where ever it is
we’re going    

A Message from the Memoirist, Pines’ title poem, begins as a narrative with the poet’s persona reviewing the efficaciousness of a soon-to-be-given lecture on memoir writing in the early morning hours. Evolving into natural imagery until a central, a core template seems to emerge.  The piece introduces a subconscious nesting of fractals. Here is the conclusion that doubles as a beginning,

                        … what’s re/membered
                        is made whole

patterns from which
all patterns
are born

                        the field
                        in which we
                        are embedded
                        in us

the Genius
who begins to whisper in our ear as soon as our lips
touch Lethe

                        and we drop
                        into the

If we are not looking in the right direction our creative function from the “fields before thought” might enter our souls in such a way that the end result resembles possession, demonic or otherwise. One recognizes this possession immediately because of its referential patterns. The patterns complement what we already know. In his poem entitled The Field Theory According to Mel Blank Pines alerts us to the deep comedy hidden our origins. He uses Mel Blank, the legendary voice of cartoon characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig.  The poet spins possession into a telling vignette at the end of the piece’s first section. Mel Blank’s son recalls,

a moment after

an auto accident
and two weeks

in a hospital bed
he remained

until a neurologist

asked him, How
you feeling Bugs?

and Mel answered
 What’s up Doc?

Ties between the world of forms and human kind are many. Symbolism plays its part. Pathos too. Toward the end of the book Pines places a prose poem entitled Remembering the Memoirist. He raises a lantern on the psychology of time and emotions embedded in that concept. The poet relates a narrative fragment that illuminates the beginnings of a creative life,

…Fifty years ago,
grieving my father’s death, I listened for messages to quiet
the explosive anger and desperation of a boy who found
himself homeless. In a tenement on 9th St. & Ave. B on a
winter’s day sans heat or hot water, maybe a few chicken-
hearts in the fridge, I sat with a Ouija board on my knees.
The furnace in the tenement basement, like the one in my
heart, no longer burned. The hood of my sweatshirt cover-
ing my head, I cried out to whatever voice might rise from
the cave within. Scared of what the future held, I framed
the question: What will become of me?

Many years ago Wolfgang Pauli, the famous physicist and pioneer of Quantum Theory had a vision of The World Clock, a contraption of wheels and pendulums supported by a large black bird and emitting pulses. The experience gave Pauli a deeper understanding of his scientific work and a psychological feeling of well-being. 

Pines references this World Clock in his poetics and Marc Shanker interprets it in his accompanying illustrations. As the reader pages through Pines’ provocative collection, led by his young persona in a hooded sweatshirt (no cowl this time) illuminating the awful truth, it strikes one that these pieces and their intersecting memories make up a clock not unlike Pauli’s. Pines’ poem Epitaph for Icarus III has this passage,

a dust mote
his presence

fills the space

and waking

through Time-

to land softly

re/minds me
to listen for

what follows

Remember to take the time (steal it if necessary), let this book unfold, and soak in the compelling and quantum landscapes of master poet Paul Pines.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Doug Holder interviews poet David Blair

     We start out talking about his new collection of poetry Arsonville. David Blair grew up in Pittsburgh. He is the author of three books of poetry, Ascension Days, which was chosen by Thomas Lux for the Del Sol Poetry Prize, Arsonville, and Friends with Dogs. His poems have appeared in Boston Review, Ploughshares, Slate Magazine, and many other places as well, including the anthologies, The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Devouring the Green, and Zoland Poetry.

He has taught at the New England Institute of Art and in the M.FA. Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter, and he has a degree in philosophy from Fordham University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

Holder interviewed Blair on his Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer program on Somerville Community Access TV

“Elemental: A Dissection of Parts” by Ivy Page Review by Timothy Gager

“Elemental: A Dissection of Parts” by Ivy Page
Review by Timothy Gager
Paperback: 68 pages
Publisher: Salmon Poetry
ISBN-10: 1910669261
ISBN-13: 978-1910669266

While reading through “Elemental: A Dissection of Parts” by Ivy Page, I was struck not only by the metaphor of the building blocks of the human psyche, but the ability of the poet to place me on the outside looking in, and on the inside looking out. The book is divided into four sections: F i r e, Air Child, Dark Water and Earth Eater, all classical elements in popular culture. Within the basic building blocks of these, Page explores growing from child to adult, finding love, having a child but also our fragile existence—our own building blocks of life, growth, losses and death. All of these existing simultaneously at all times for us, leaving it up to the individual to pick through these elements.
Ivy Page defines her poems within our senses, both from the again from the inside and the outside of the narrator. It’s personal, private but also can be distant---as if to say, don’t get too close, be amazing but still stay detached when necessary. We, as humans, have the ability to protect ourselves, process our instincts and create what we can be safe with in our world. Page does this admirably, drawing us in, and pushing us away, when required. We become intimate with the poet, the subject, the time and place---but we are reminded that we also fear this exposure.
In the poem, Just in Case, Page summarizes
I didn’t tell you, when I woke-up this morning
that your wordless face left me wanting more
song in the world, and that the way
you had discarded the sheets and exposed your
bare body made me linger as I put on my clothes.

Even the day to day rat race can be solved by words, within art. This is brought out in, On A Dusty Shelf in the Corner

The working mothers are tired,
and the working fathers are looking
for their epic to be written on Wall Street,
not between the pages of this book

Come in and hide with me.

Then on the very next page, in Spine, Page writes personally, to ease oneself open, “above two half-length pieces”—written about both opening a book, but indeed opening oneself up emotionally and also leaving oneself open by exposing one’s words to the world. Quite complex, this trifecta, if the reader, as a reader should, decides to go all the way in. Page does it with words of lips, tongues, taste, touch---all exposed within the pages of “Elemental: A Dissection of Parts”.

In the section Air Child, Page again explores the fragility of being, and how much we need words in times like these:

Nothing seems right
My fingers feel fat
my hair greasy.

I long to find a way to the place
where creativity can let the sun set
in the upper left hand corner of the page
and magic will happen.

The fourth section, Dark Water, is the most playful of the four. Again, the reader is dared to go deeper than meets the eye. The musical poem Coal Train, engages the reader with terms from music, but alas, John Coltrain—is the homonym. In Ode to a Vein, Page opens with, “Like a trampoline I bounce fingers across skin to find your rivers laid deep, down below.” Here I found, a play on, love in vane (vein), but was there intent? I would like to think so, because what we uncover within ourselves, within this poem, is sheer brilliance. Again, it’s the outside looking into the inside looking out.

In ‘Ol Woman, Page gives us play with in dialect. In A Ride with Milton and Jonson, you are a passenger being driven by references to and by the playwrights and poets, John and Ben. The section finishes with Call ---  I Will Answer,  allowing the books familiar themes to explode once more.

it will get better
         how you used to think I was amazing
just hand in there,
         I pretend to be a little case on the outside,

The book ends with the section, Earth Eater, which doesn’t summarize the book but rather takes us to additional places. The poem “Broken” stands out to me, as an affair has occurred, and though it was described as just something which happened with a friend, the broken is not the relationship, but rather the now broken inner safety of the narrator, as the poem concludes:

Echo of who I used to be resonated
like an empty drum against your ears---
I let myself slip
into loving you and
hating myself.

Thus,“Elemental: A Dissection of Parts,” by Ivy Page leaves me blessed with the largeness and the smallness of the world, with all the pieces and the individuality of each and every piece. It is the way life is observed by the observer and by all of us—pulled in and pushed back.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

“Questions for a Poet” Interview with Kevin Gallagher author of LOOM."

Kevin Gallagher


“Questions for a Poet” Interview with Kevin Gallagher author of LOOM.
Interview conducted by Mikayla Brasefield


In a small corner of the writing world, poetry exists as the beating heart of literature. It has existed for many centuries in numerous parts of the world - from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh to the Japanese “haiku”. Poetry has inspired many, and has been inspired by the events of the world and their effects on humanity. On blustery March 2nd, a poet by the name of Kevin Gallagher visited Endicott College to speak to the young poetry community about his recent poetry book entitled Loom. It holds the truths about the connections between Northern capitalists and Southern slavers during the days of civil injustice and prejudice against the blacks. Brilliantly written in such a way as to merely hint at the novel behind his words, Gallagher sheds new light on a part of American history that most of America had previously tried to remain ignorant of. But what makes the poet, the poet you might ask? In this short, yet enlightening interview, I was able to discover a bit more about the “man behind the curtain” as it were.
1. Your passion for Loom's overarching theme is apparent in your poems. What was your drive going into such a controversial topic?
Well, the race relations in the US have become quite heated.  I was living in Washington DC for a year and two things happened. First, my son was in school and getting a very different picture of the Civil War.  Second, the Freddy Gray murder happened in Baltimore.  Rather than going at it face first, I took the path of Seamus Heaney, Charles Olson, Muriel Rukeyser and others—and dealt with the present as an artist by confronting our past.
2. In an article from you talk a little bit about how lyric poetry hits you and in the next moment, disappears. Do you carry a poetry journal with you to write down fragments of poems as they come?
Sometimes.  Or, backs of envelopes and so forth.  I live a hectic life now with kids and a demanding job.  More often than not the lyric poems disappear before any of it gets on paper.  That is why the narrative project has become good for me at this point in my life.  When I have time I can sit down and 'pick up the story.'
3. Various articles have mentioned a few of your favorite poets as Walt Whitman, Fanny Howe, and Kenneth Rexroth - whom your dog is named after I noticed. What did you find about their works that drew you in so much?
Purity.  Empathy.  The struggle to make sense of the US and be an American at the same time.  Rexroth to me is the best—so many wide ranging poems.  And, whenever I feel really harried, I go to his nature poems and to the Sierras.
4. Do you ever have writer's block? (If so, do you ever give yourself little poetry prompts? If you do, what are some of them you find useful?)
I'm older now and realize that if you are truly a poet you are always one.  So, sometimes poems fly out of you on a daily basis, sometimes nothing happens for months.  After seeing that happen for the past thirty years I never let a dry spell get to me.  If I ever feel like it is too distant I find a new poet to read or go back to my favorites.
5. You are a professor, dad, husband, and poet. How do you manage balance?
I have a full life, and it makes for good poetry.
6. What advice would you give to young, aspiring poets?
            Read and memorize lots of poetry.  Live a full life.  At some point full poems come.

If you’d like to learn more about the amazing “artist of words”, hear more from his works, or find out about his newest poetry book “Loom”, you can find him on the following interweb sources:

 Mikayla Rose Brasefield (19) is a sophomore Nursing major from Vernon, CT, with a previous history in Creative Writing. She was featured in her high school’s student-written and published magazine, titled War & Pieces (2015), was awarded an honorable mention in the Nancy Thorpe Poetry Contest (2014), and has won several silver medals and a gold medal for some of her poetry/writings in the annual Scholastic Art & Writing Contest.