Friday, April 27, 2018

The Sunday Poet: David Tisel

David Tisel

David Tisel grew up as an American expatriate in the Netherlands and Germany before moving to the U.S. at age 15. His poems often evoke a sense of place and in-between-ness, or nostalgia for the present moment. David is currently a graduate student in urban planning at MIT, and he lives in a cooperative house in Davis Square. 

White Chicago

Chicago, with grit in your teeth
concrete feet and steel bones
smokestacks for arms and
slaughterhouse stomachs:

your buses go straight down
rows of orange in the night
sprawling huge into the plains:
a circuitboard city

or, a sausage city
union shops and machine
politiciansgross, delicious,

Chicago, where people believe
they are white, but Slavic
vestiges remain, or German:
a polka parlor, potića,

Grandma's accent at the table
spots of color refusing
to be erased
but to create white

race riots and uneasy alliances
there must be black
and so the south side stretches bleak
worn from attrition and siege and

the Chicago Police, finally:
the fullest expression of the violence
of an idea--whiteness--that birthed
Chicago and kills Chicago nightly

but still Chicago will hum
and scream, gears turning,
furnace blazing, shaping
the myth that built America.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Not Elegy, But Eros by Nausheen Eusuf

Not Elegy, But Eros by Nausheen Eusuf, 88 pages, $14.91.

Review by Ed Meek

Nausheen Eusuf’s first book of poetry is a wide-ranging collection of both formal and informal poems, lyric and narrative. Quite a few are elegies for the dead, others are about everything from dogs, to street people, to language, to violence in Bangladesh (where she grew up). Robert Bly quoting Hammurabi said, “For whom dost thou write? For the dead whom thou didst love.” Eusuf seems to subscribe to this notion inasmuch as many of her poems are about family and relations who have passed on, and also because she refers to the many poets who preceded her. Among them: Auden, Dickinson, Eliot, Thomas, Hayden.  She pays homage which is always an admirable trait in an artist. In addition, her love of words is evidenced in her skillful use of language.

The sorrows of the dead

refuse to perish with their mortal masters.
The griefs they grieved, the slights they bore,

how can they not, once told, return to task
the living—a collector at the door?

So Eusuf is a poet who sees poetry as song. And like the rest of us, she doesn’t forget those who have passed on—a role poetry has performed for as long as it has existed. You can hear Eusuf’s love of song in “Street Music.”

Saturday morning on the brick plaza
at the corner of Fourth and Catherine,
amid the strollers and shopping bags,
the coffee and the canopied coffee talk,
a man in a tie-dyed African shirt
sways to the music of the marimba.

It’s refreshing when a poet has to the humility to observe and record without editorializing.

As a new dog-owner I appreciated Eusuf’s “The Love of Dogs.”

Of leash-tugging, hydrant-scenting walks
past grown-ups with baby strollers and kids
who stop to say, how cute! But he’s more
than a pair of floppy ears and a pink tongue.

We can hear Eusuf’s love of language and sound in many poems. Here is the beginning of one about a crab colony in Yarmouth:

How cautiously they emerge as the tide recedes:
a mud-boil pops, out pokes a tentative claw,
a pair of skinny legs, half a glistening carapace…

“Shining Shoes” is a take-off on one of my favorite poems, Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays”

Weekends, growing up, I’d watch my father
As he sat on a low stool in the veranda
Surrounded by half a dozen pairs of shoes…

Now that he is ten years gone, I recall how
quiet was his love, how mute his farewell.

Eusuf is also like many of us, obsessed with the light. In “The Analytic Hour,”  she asks for more of it:

The diaphanous curtains hung between
                        the light and me—I who see
but do not see. More light, for god’s sake,
                        more light. Let there be light.

That’s nice—"I who see but do not see.” And who doesn’t love the word diaphanous? Although I’m not sure any human can get away with saying “Let there be light.”

Something that should be a rule for artists: must exhibit skill. Instead, a lot of what we see and read just happens to capture the current moment whether it’s “Cat Woman” in The New Yorker or a poem about penises, written in sophomoric couplets in Rattle.  The bar isn’t just low, there isn’t any bar. It isn’t tennis without a net, it’s paddle ball on the beach. So, it’s rewarding to find a new voice like Nausheen Eusuf who brings her skills and study and love of language to bear on both the personal and the political in Not Elegy, But Eros.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Jon D. Lee

Jon D. Lee Poet

Jon D. Lee is the author of three books, including An Epidemic of Rumors: How Stories Shape Our Perceptions of Disease, and These Around Us. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Sierra Nevada ReviewConnecticut River ReviewThe Laurel ReviewOregon Literary Review, and Clover, A Literary Rag, as well as the anthologyFollow The Thread, and a craft essay on how humor creates motion and meaning in poetry is forthcoming in The Writer’s Chronicle. He has an MFA in Poetry from Lesley University, and a PhD in Folklore. Lee teaches at Suffolk University, and spends his spare time with his wife and children. 

Blackbird Grind


Seemingly undifferentiated lines
Of blackbirds. Seen in focused simultaneity,
Pointillist illusion of black against white
Mountainside of winter aspen. Distant enough
To occlude motion & sound, meaning reduced
To grayscale.


Less dully, but distal: webwork of limb
And body, breast replacing leaf, clear line
Of thicker branches. Resolution
Of wing, curve of bone beneath feather. Then
Sternum swell, hollow bone, space
Between ventricle snap. The eye dilates
As if it were our own.


Bird & bird & bird &
Bird weighing the lines. The eyes;
So much motion absent motion; an embarrassment
Of purpose delayed; the sky-egg
That clings to the oblique.


So much should be lost. But seldomly
The grind erupts the hollows, blossoms the tree line,
Rises to fragment the light and scatter the shards--
Reveals, newly, the clear unfrozen lake, whose still surface
Shows both sky and lake-bottom, bird and fish,
Branch and root.