Centrifugal Eye Poetry Journal August 2009 Vol. 4 Iss. 3
he Centrifugal Eye Staff Editor-in-Chief; Art Director: Eve Anthony Hanninen Contacts Editor; Ed. Assistant: Karla Linn Merrifield Art Editor; Ed. Assistant: K. R. Copeland Ed. Assistant: Sam H. Kerr Ed. Assistant: John Thomas Clark Quarterly Review Columnist: Karla Linn Merrifield Art Assistant; Reviewer: Dallas J. Bryant Staff Reviewers: Gram Davies, Simon Lloyd Dunbar, E. K. Mortenson, Ocalive Mwenda Staff Readers' Circle: Anonymous reviewers
Front Cover Illustrations: ―Night Visitor‖ by K. R. Copeland, 2009. ―Picket Fence‖ by E. A. Hanninen, 2009. Inside: “Moths, Ladybugs & Miscellany” — various graphic spots, by E. A Hanninen, 2009
Copyright 2009 The Centrifugal Eye — Collected Works — All Rights Reserved
“To make a long story short, I had come to Montréal in the summer of 1970 to study French composition and diction at McGill’s excellent École française d’été, and met, quite by accident, a young Uruguayan who had, also quite by chance, struck up a friendship with yet another Uruguayan— a young man in several of my classes. Hugo was a friend of his, and we met at a student gettogether in the quadrangle at Douglas Hall one evening in July.” ~ Catherine Chandler
Contents Pgs. 4-6 Editorial & News – Eve Anthony Hanninen
Pgs. 8-20 Featured Poet – Catherine Chandler Interview, Poems & Essay
Poems Pgs. Martin Willitts, Jr. 21-23 Ajay Vishwanathan 24-25 Lynn Strongin 26 Janice D. Soderling 27 Adam Settingsgaard 28 l. a. seidensticker 29-31 John Riley 32 Erik Richardson 33-35 Oliver Rice 36-37 Vincent Renstrom 38-39 Scott Owens 40-41 Burgess Needle 42-43
Nicholas Messenger 44-45 Karla Linn Merrifield 46-47 M. J. Iuppa 48-49 Kenneth P. Gurney 50 Howard Good 51 Paul Fisher 52 Darren C. Demaree 53 Carol Lynn Grellas 54-55 Paul Davis 56 Nicelle Davis 57 Santiago del Dardano Turann 58-59 Mark Cunningham 60
Articles & Essays Pg. 7 Dallas J. Bryant ~ “Vaulting the Gate” Pg. 62-64 Marvin Stern ~ “Man or Quail?”
Reviews Pgs. 65-69 Karla Linn Merrifield on Laury A. Egan Pgs. 70-72 Helen Losse on Scott Owens Pgs. 73-77 E. K. Mortenson on Simon Armitage Pgs. 78-79
A Host of Details
All in Good Company By Eve Anthony Hanninen, Editor
few years ago I wrote and had published a poem, “Oregon Medley,‖ about a camping trip in Oregon State that finished out its last days in a campground visited with morning magpies. If you’ve ever heard these birds’ voices, you know how loud they can squawk. In chorus. Such as when they’re gathered in competition for a shady tree branch or a scattering of campers’ breadcrumbs. At 5 a.m.
And you may know that magpies are also reputed to be thieves — particularly of colorful, shiny things — rather like the famous packrat gang, and the lesser-known kitten-nabbers, who will abscond with many of your tiny, personal items and horde them in dark, human-unfrequented corners. I’m a bit of a magpie. Okay, so most writers are. Not the stealing-plagiarizing kind, but the muse-swapping, shiny-concept-borrowing, what-if-evolutionizing kind. Now and then I read something by another author or poet that gets me to thinking about things that take me over and under the original postulation, and next I know, I’ve grabbed the glistening core — tucked in arm like a football — and I’m running doggedly along a new length of green, intent on grandstanding at my own goalpost. Grandstanding’s still allowed in literature, especially if it’s all in one’s head. That’s exactly the sort of scenario that occurred before I came up with the theme for The Centrifugal Eye’s current issue. I’m sorry that I can’t credit the actual poem that generated the Unbidden Visitors theme, but when I first read it, I had no
idea how it would stay with me, an uninvited guest with no departure date. So I didn’t jot down its title or author (lesson for me — but how can I possibly write down the name of everything I read? With a note pertaining to something I don’t yet know will be pertinent? Must save that string, button, nail, dried petal, decorative wrapper, empty box . . .). In the unidentified troublemaker-ofa-poem, the subject arrives at the home of her terminally-ill ex-lover, at his request, and must endure the jealous resentment of the past lover’s wife in order to spend time with him. Imagine being in that situation as each of the main characters. I did try to imagine it. I put myself in each of their places. I was both the welcome visitor and the intruder. I was the put-upon wife, and the wistful, grateful, guilty, declining husband/lover. And that got me to thinking about all the various instances in which a person might find himself either the unbidden visitor or the unexpectedly visited-upon. And let us not ignore the permutations that may occur when these visitations might include creatures or abstract concepts.
I thought some of these ideas might turn up in a new poem or two of my own, but after a few weeks of newlyarriving, unbidden circumstances parading through my thoughts, it occurred to me that this idea would make for a great themed issue. Boy, did TCE’s contributors have plenty of their own such visions to share with me and staff! I’m glad they did, because there were more than enough poems to select from —
each poem with its own uncomfortable story to tell or delightful impression to make. But rest assured, readers, unlike most of the characters and situations in these poems and articles, you are invited to hang around and enjoy the host of literary accomplishments gathered together in this upstart issue of The Centrifugal Eye.
Eve Anthony Hanninen is an American poet, writer, editor, and illustrator who resides in the weather-lashed, Kaien Island harbor-town of Prince Rupert, BC, Canada. Poems may be found in east to west: bicoastal verse, Sein und Werden (print and online), Moondance, Wicked Alice, Origami Condom, Shit Creek Review, and The HyperTexts, among numerous journals. Other recent publications include 3 poems in the new anthology edited by Lynn Strongin: Crazed by the Sun (2008); another appeared in Trim: The Mannequin Envy Anthology (2007). A limited artist'sedition chapbook, as well as a collection of poems under 15 lines are both in the works. Her latest bookjacket illustrations adorn Ellaraine Lockie's Blue Ribbons at the County Fair, and Patrick Carrington's Hard Blessings. She also contributed artwork to Lana Ayers' Late Blooms Postcard Series. Eve was the Poet’s Corner Interview Poet for May 2009 at Long Story Short, with Russell Bittner. http://www.alongstoryshort.net/ThePoetsCorner-May2009-Hanninen.html
Books! Books! Books! Revisiting the Prairie:
Revisiting Dylan Thomas:
Alison Arngrim, actor in the original television series, Little House on the Prairie, has written a comic memoir centered around growing up as one of the 1970s’ most memorable devious characters: Nellie Oleson, the bad girl whom nobody in Walnut Creek liked to see coming up the walk. Arngrim's Confessions of a Prairie Bitch features stories of her bohemian Hollywood upbringing, behind-the-scenes anecdotes from on set, and advocacy for both abused children and HIV awareness. Publisher: It Books.
The late Aeronwy Thomas’ memoir, My Father‟s Places, is reported to be out this summer (Publishers Lunch said Aug. 10th, although WalesOnline.co.uk states in September), shortly after her passing away on July 27th. She was 66, the only daughter of Poet Dylan and Caitlin Thomas, and patron of the Dylan Thomas Prize. The book is said to furnish a “glimpse into the chaos and joy of her early family life,” as well as Aeronwy’s impressions of the locations that “became integral to her father’s life,” such as his New York nightspots, Brown’s Hotel in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, Wales, and the nearby Boathouse where he wrote his plays and poems. Publisher: Constable & Robinson.
TCE House News Revisiting Contributors to The Centrifugal Eye: New Book News
Congratulations go out to TCE authors Martin Willitts, Jr., Lynn Strongin, Cassandra Robison, Karla Linn Merrifield, Liz Gallagher, and Paul Fisher. Martin Willitts, Jr.’s Hummingbird and Secret Language of the Universe (March Street Press, 2009) http://www.marchstreetpress.com/
Lynn Strongin’s Spectral Freedom, Selected Poetry, Criticism, and Prose will be published in Summer 2009 (Casa de Snapdragon Publishing) Cassandra Robison’s Leaving the Pony (Finishing Line Press, 2009) http://www.finishinglinepress.com/NewReleasesandForthcomingTitles.htm
Karla Linn Merrifield’s chapbook, The Etowah River Psalms, will be published in September 2009 (FootHills Publishing) Liz Gallagher’s first collection, The Wrong Miracle (Salt Publishing, 2009) http://www.saltpublishing.com/books/smp/9781844715671.htm
Paul Fisher’s book-length, poetry manuscript, Rumors of Shore, won the 2009 Blue Light Press Book Award, and will be published in Fall 2009 (Blue Light Press)
Awards News The National Winner and Finalists were named recently for the Indiana Authors Award. The National Author winner is James Alexander Thom, who receives the inaugural award from Indiana’s Library Foundation, and includes a $10,000 prize. National Finalists were Scott Russell Sanders and Margaret McMullan. TCE contributor Jared Carter (2006) is a finalist in the Regional Author category, along with James H. Madison and Susan Neville. The $7,500 prize goes to a writer who is well-known and respected throughout the state of Indiana. The winning author in the regional category, as well as the emerging author, will each be named on September 26th, 2009. The Emerging Author prize is $5,000, and goes to an Indiana writer with only one published book. Emerging finalists are Kathleen Hughes, Christine Montross and Greg Schwipps.
Vaulting the Gate by Dallas J. Bryant
It was 1967 (Magda Radu, “Promenades and Refrains”) when Polish-born, Romanian-raised André Cadere arrived in France, a total unknown to the homegrown, Parisian art scene. It’s been said that André decided to use public spaces to display his artworks because he couldn’t gain access to the local galleries. He first made the public aware of himself and his barres de bois rond — long, wooden poles crafted from colored, cylindrical units that were assembled in what he claimed was a mathematical system (which included an anomaly in the pattern) — by “promenading” through the streets and in all sorts of public spaces (including at times strutting into posh, private galleries, such as when he was in New York), especially where other artists’ works were being exhibited, just to steal attention. These uninvited appearances might have made him the ultimate parasitic “guest.” Despite the frequent irritation caused to both his artistic peers and gallery owners alike, Cadere made a name for himself. When he did secure gallery exhibitions of his own, keen curators sometimes created smart foils for his objects, for example, by positioning the barres in galvanizing ways, such as at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden building in Germany: the poles were inserted into the creases of a cornice just below the high ceiling, snuggled on top of a baseboard, or above a door frame. Perhaps one of Cadere’s most invasive acts was rumored to be that he once copied down the business addresses from a private file belonging to an art gallery in Turin, Italy . . . and then went about visiting — uninvited, of course — all of the clients listed. Born in 1934, André Cadere lived only until 1978, when he died from cancer, at the height of his dubious welcome in a mostly traditional art scene. Learn more about Cadere online. ☼ Dallas J. Bryant is a U.S. West Coast photographer, graphic artist, critic and occasional poet. He's also a part-time staff-contributor and reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye.
Readers of TCE’s print version may visit online for references included in this article: http://www.frieze.com/issue/review/andre_cadere http://www.flashartonline.com/interno.php?pagina=articolo_det&id_art=360&d et=ok&title=ANDRE--CADERE
“Ubiquitous Shadow Man” by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
Featured Interview Poet:
Saint Lazare Poet, Catherine Chandler Photo supplied by author, embellished by TCE art dept., 2009
Knock! Knock! Who’s there?
The Centrifugal Eye’s editor,
It’s us, Granny! Us, who?
shown up in the big picture, and in her life and works.
C’mon Granny, open up! You know you love to entertain us!
Eve Anthony Hanninen, asks Catherine Chandler about who’s
CC: As often as possible. My eldest child, a daughter, has three daughters, one almost 14 and twins going on 11. My son’s daughter is 3. My “For Moriah” (Soundzine, 2009), was written in a form called the ovillejo, with the eldest granddaughter in mind. People told me I’d love being a grandmother. They were right. We also have family and friends in South America — my husband, Hugo, is Uruguayan — and spend part of the Canadian winter in Montevideo and Punta del Este, Uruguay, and also Buenos Aires and Los Pueblitos, Argentina. Hugo and I have been as far south as Ushuaia, but are always glad to return to our children and granddaughters and to our wonderful adopted country, Canada. EAH: Then you know how difficult it is to raise a family, work a job, and still be creative. All kinds of things, expected or not, can interfere with your writing endeavors. How have you coped to minimize the effects and occurrences of unwelcome interruptions? CC: When I was raising my family and working full-time, I had very little time or energy for writing. But I took mental notes of much of what I felt and observed. Once my children were grown and off on their own, I was able to translate or transpose many of these feelings and observations into poetry. EAH: Did you ever keep a journal of your impressions during these busy years, or did these observations just come to roost and stick around until you were ready to do something with them?
CC: No, I never kept a journal. No time for that, either. I kept the ideas simmering on the back burner with the puchero for decades. When the time was right, so was the stew. EAH: Spoken like an experienced cook— and of course, not all writers keep journals. Yet, like many writers, you had a variety of jobs before settling into your current career. Hopefully, you’ve never suffered through the trials of the unwelcome, door-to-door salesperson; in what other ways have you made a living? CC: Well, I have been a department store salesperson . . . also a waitress at a greasy spoon, a furniture factory worker, trilingual secretary at a consulate, purchasing assistant at a large corporation, Spanish-English translator, and most recently, bilingual (French and English) project financial administrator, one in McGill University’s Faculty of Arts (Montréal, Québec), the other in its Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. I also worked to supplement scholarships in my undergraduate years, working at the university library, running errands in the Language Department, babysitting for my French professor’s son, in order to make ends meet! Ironically, or perhaps understandably, the jobs that left me most room for creativity were the ones where I dealt with numbers all day. One poem in particular (actually one of my favorites), “Lines,” was inspired by the factory job:
“Meadowlark Opera” by Karla Linn Merrifield, 2009
EAH: So, you really have four granddaughters, Cathy? Do they visit with you often?
The shop floor foreman hasn’t got a clue to where the new employee’s coming from— the incense and the ice of Xanadu, the flame and fury of Byzantium. He knows for sure she doesn’t give a shit about the piecework in her packing crate— she checks the clock; at five, she’s first to split. It’s no damn wonder that she can’t make rate. He’s noticed, too, the woman can be seen each morning scribbling in a steno pad, an island in the boisterous canteen. Whatever’s eating her, she’s got it bad. He’s right. Her day job’s pretty hard to take with grace and grit; and she won’t last too long, demanding honey-dew on coffee break; for no good reason, bursting into song.
“Lines” first appeared in Umbrella (2007).
EAH: Yes— the predicament of someone working at something other than what they’d hoped or even intended. Not the only time you experienced something like that. When you moved to Québec from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1972, you weren’t given quite the academic welcome you’d planned on in your early university education. Why was that? CC: My undergraduate studies had prepared me for a career as a French teacher, but when I settled in Québec, I found that there were no openings, as French teachers here at the time were a dime-a-dozen, so to speak. So, I fell
back on my university minor, Spanish, and have been a course lecturer in Spanish at McGill University for many years. Reminds me of Frost’s “Two roads diverged . . . !” I was also part of the initial Spanishlanguage teaching team at Concordia University's Language Institute in Montréal (the only "gringa" on staff!). EAH: Since you teach Spanish and are highly-trained in French, one would guess you might also write poetry in either of these second languages. If so, do you find it different than writing in English? And if you write poems only in English, why not in Spanish or French? CC: I have written several poems in Spanish, love poems for my husband (and he has written a few for me, too!), and a poem for my Argentine friends describing my impressions of their estancia near Saladillo, Argentina. I wrote one found poem in French dealing with the street children in Montréal, and translated my favorite Frost poem, “Reluctance,” into Spanish, because I wanted to share it with my husband. However, I have translated some formal poetry from both French and Spanish — poems by Québécois poets Émile Nelligan, Louis Fréchette, Louis Dantin and Albert Lozeau. The Spanish and Latin American poets I have translated include Alfonsina Storni, Delmira Agustini and Rosalía de Castro. But I usually turn to translation only when I am in a serious writer’s slump in English. EAH: Let’s back up a bit— how did you end up living and working (and translating) in Canada?
CC: Oh, dear. This could be a novel in itself, never mind a poem! To make a long story short, I had come to Montréal in the summer of 1970 to study French composition and diction at McGill’s excellent École française d’été, and met, quite by accident, a young Uruguayan who had, also quite by chance, struck up a friendship with yet another Uruguayan— a young man in several of my classes. Hugo was a friend of his, and we met at a student get-together in the quadrangle at Douglas Hall one evening in July. I hadn’t yet started my Spanish minor, or even envisioned one, and he didn’t speak English. But by the end of the summer, I had taught myself basic Spanish from a paperback. My French requirements having been met by the fall semester, I took a minor in Spanish, with a few courses in other languages, such as German and Russian. Hugo and I later decided to settle in Montréal, where he had found a job in his trade. We decided to stay, and the rest, as they say, is history. We visit the family in Pennsylvania as often as we can. EAH: Spanish from a paperback! Berlitz, I suppose? Having a spread of vocabulary from so many languages must also make foreign travel easier — likely, you’d be more welcomed by the locals. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt unwelcome? Did you later write about it? CC: As a girl, one summer I went through somewhat of a tomboy stage. I would hang around my aunt's huge yard that my cousins and neighborhood boys used as a baseball diamond, and hope they'd ask me to play. My poem, "Tomboy," illustrates my frustration (pg. 17).
EAH: Poetry certainly can illustrate emotions. Let me ask you, who embodies poetry for you — who jumps to mind — who, in your opinion, best illustrates emotions in their overall body of work? CC: Many jump to mind, but one in particular jumps to the heart. Rhina P. Espaillat. Whenever I’m in a writing slump, which is often, I repeat to myself Sir Philip Sidney’s famous line from “Astrophel and Stella:” “„Foole,‟ said my Muse to me, „Looke in thy heart and write.‟” And it is there, in my heart, that I always find my way back, though I tend to filter raw feelings through the mind, where I try to make sense of it all on the blank sheet of paper in front of me. It is Ms. Espaillat, with her incomparable generosity of spirit, plainspeakingyet-profound voice, masterful craftsmanship and musicality, who embodies poetry for me. Memorable poetry that communicates directly to the heart. EAH: The majority of The Centrifugal Eye’s contributors write free verse poetry, but I estimate that a third of the regular contributors also, or exclusively, write formal verse. You’re among the latter group — why don’t you write free verse? CC: It’s not only that I don‟t write free verse. I feel that I can‟t! Believe me, I have tried. But I get too confessional. The poems don’t seem “crafted.” They tend to run on too long and get sidetracked, or fall into the chaos I try so hard to manage and rein in with much of my poetry. And worst of all, I can tell they are not memorable. I don’t want a poem of mine to be a one-read wonder.
12 I belong to a fantastic group of poets, the Greenwood Poets, who meet in Hudson, Québec. Once, when I mentioned that I wanted to “branch out” into free verse, one of the poets asked me, “But why?” I think she may have been right. If I communicate my feelings and thoughts more comfortably in form, then why should I agonize over the fact that I am, in a sense, swimming against the current rather than going with the flow? Let’s mix a metaphor and just say, I made my bed, now I’m lying in it. EAH: Lying in your riverbed? Okay. Yet isn’t “comfort” at creative activities usually just an indication of being practiced? Despite the protestations, it sounds like there’s still a part of you that desires to learn how to swim against your usual current. Have you considered that maybe your free-verse writing-muscles aren’t yet developed? You’ve spent a lot of time learning how to control your poetry using forms and patterns. If someone you didn’t expect suddenly came along and offered you the solutions to getting around the writing problems you mentioned, as well as a number of techniques and exercises to practice that would give you similar control over your free verse poetry as do your forms, would you be willing to try your hand at free verse, again? Sorry, I guess that was a three-part question! CC: A few of us from the Greenwood Poets have recently formed a spin-off group for just this type of exchange, after all, because I really do wish to explore free verse writing techniques, as well as other types of poetry. I hope to learn more about writing memorable free verse — and I stress the word memorable — from some of my
colleagues, and I hope they, in turn, will try their hands at form. But I believe the fact that I write in form is not fundamentally caused by a lack of workshop experience in writing free verse, but rather it’s due to my sensitivity to chaos, probably linked to the upheaval I experienced as a child when my father contracted polio and my mother, three sisters, and I had to “leave him behind” in New York in a hospital, and make a new start in Pennsylvania. I was 5 years old at the time. The unpredictability of life was thus reinforced at an early age. I feel an irresistible urge to try to control and make sense of that chaos, or confusion, through formal poetry. As I wrote in the first stanza of my sonnet, “Sonnet Love:” I love the way its rhythms and its rhymes provide us with a promise, a belief familiar voices at specific times may modulate unmanageable grief.
It ends with the couplet: Life‟s unpredictability defies clean dénouement. I love the way it tries.
EAH: Great examples, clearly illustrating your love for orderly patterns and rhythms. We’ve learned why you waited so long to resume your musical verse after your early love affair with formal poetry (see Catherine’s essay, pg. 18), but just when did you start submitting for publication, and what are some of your recent achievements? CC: I've only been submitting seriously for publication since 2004, and already over 80 poems have been published.
I self-published a chapbook last year and the first and second runs of 50 each sold out to audiences at readings, and to other real and virtual (online) acquaintances. I was honored to be asked to read at the Carmine Street Metrics formal reading series in New York City, and felt I was almost walking in the footsteps of Millay in the Village. A favorite poem of mine, "Hunger," was recently published in The Flea. And having been chosen the spotlight poet for Able Muse‟s current issue (July 2009) was also a great honor. Being named a finalist in the 2008 Howard Nemerov sonnet competition has to be the recent accomplishment of which I am most pleased. There are thousands of entries in that competetion, and only 12 finalists. Although I didn't win first prize, my sonnet, "Missing," about a young girl in Trois-Rivières, Québec, who has been missing since July 31, 2007, will be published in the upcoming issue of Measure. Eminent Poet Timothy Steele chose the winner and finalists, and I am a great fan of Mr. Steele. EAH: Since you are familiar with attending poetry readings, for fun, let’s say you’re hosting a literary reading with a 30-minute “open mic” scheduled at the end, and the muses of four famous poets sign up for the open period. Two are poets you’ve always wanted to meet, and the other two just don’t do anything for your inspiration. What’s missing from the poetry of the latter two poets that the appealing ones incorporate in theirs? CC: Most “open mics” I've listened to at readings invariably have at least one poet whose work I have some degree of difficulty in appreciating. What I feel is missing from these poems may be many things, depending on the poem,
but usually they lack clarity and craftsmanship. Instead, some poems are so "sweet" and facile my teeth ache, and others so purposefully obscure I am totally in the dark as to what they are trying to communicate — that is, if they are trying to communicate, making me feel inadequate, stupid. Others are so confessional I feel like an unwilling priest. But I still try to value these voices and to find something positive about them. EAH: Like what? Can you give an example of the positive in one of these scenarios?
“Microphone Acrylic” by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
CC: For instance, I recently attended a reading where a man signed up for the open mic and read what, to my ears, was a poem that had potential, but was obviously an early draft. It was full of clichés, had some grammatical errors, as well as some unfortunate choices of words, way too many adjectives and adverbs, and told rather than showed. And yet, the audience liked it, probably because it was wistful and romantic. So I just chalked up my dislike of the poem to my own predilection for finely crafted, understated work. Chacun à son goût! EAH: It seems even amateur poets may find supportive audiences. If only we poets had supportive audiences all of the time, besides the ready-made ones, such as friends or family. Has your family been positive about your return to writing poetry?
14 CC: Totally supportive. Especially Hugo. He puts up with my getting up at 3:00 in the morning, jotting an “inspiration” down in a note pad; he understands my not being able to sleep sometimes because I just can’t find le mot juste! He has scrubbed charred pots for me more than once when, because I was too absorbed in my writing, I didn’t hear the kitchen timer.
With that in mind, let me finish by saying, one of the reasons I returned to writing poetry was not only that the slow-cooked puchero was ready to serve to my wonderful family, but also that I wanted to share it with poetry lovers everywhere. It’s simple, honest, basic fare; it contains no secret ingredients nor exotic spices. I did not learn how to make it at Le Cordon Bleu. But it’s all I have. So, bon appétit!
Readers of TCE’s print version may visit online for references included in this article: “For Moriah” (Soundzine, 2009) http://soundzine.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=317&Itemid=1
Catherine Chandler’s poems and translations have been published in numerous print and online journals and anthologies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. She is moderator of the advanced, formal-poetry forum at the online, poetry-discussion group, Eratosphere, and recently hosted its annual sonnet competition. A finalist in the 2008 Howard Nemerov Sonnet competition, Catherine is the author of a chapbook, For No Good Reason. Catherine has lectured in Spanish at McGill and Concordia universities in Montréal and currently lives in Saint Lazare, Québec. Contact Catherine (email@example.com)
Poems by Catherine Chandler Beach Dogs In memory of Alfonsina Storni
A man parades his paunch, and you can bet his wife, though dripping gold, will not get wet. His brother reads Clarín; a bored son pokes a jellyfish, while grandma smiles and smokes. They seem to sense that I’m not one of them— too tall, too plain, my hair too red. Ajém, I hear them warn each other as I rise to shift my chair. They weigh my gringa thighs. I notice how a scrawny mongrel winds his way along the shore. At last he finds a spot of shade; the worn-down, worn-out fella drops down beneath the nearest beach umbrella. Mine. My neighbors bray their disapproval, insist on vagabundo’s prompt removal; then take a different tack and whisper, Pleece . . . mayvee he hab dee rrrabies o dee fleece! That well may be. For sure, his skin is bruised and scarred; he’s been abandoned, bashed, abused. I feed the dog some water and a crust as the porteños gawk in dark disgust. Before the Prefectura comes, we fly, he to the sands of Mansa Beach; while I, adrift, no longer part of the décor, will drown at sea and later wash ashore.
(Playa Brava, Punta del Este, Uruguay, January 2009.)
“Jelly Boy” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
16 Quills Within a few short weeks it all was done — the woven nest, the incubated eggs, the battles with the squirrels, lost and won, the back-and-forth to nestling beaks that begged for nourishment for feather and for wing; the fierce protection of the fledgling brood, the final day together practicing for certain flight, before they left for good. The robins that inhabited the tree outside my window never guessed I’d viewed their world, nor that their volatility would hatch a poem; nor that the magnitude of stars I try to translate into words shall have a lifespan briefer than a bird’s.
Quills first appeared in Harp-Strings Poetry Journal (Spring 2005)
Mission You can’t go home again? Oh yes, you can. Just let me warn you — make the visit brisk. A day-trip’s fine. Draw up an exit plan. Be sure you know the elements of risk. You can go home again; but don’t expect the house to be as big, the street as wide, the people as you’ve come to recollect, your birthplace mellow, mom-and-apple-pied. Go home again. I dare you. Here‟s the deal: Forget the bags and baggage; make it plain; embrace the landscape, real and surreal, and be prepared for pleasure and for pain. It’s now or never. Why not take the chance? No more excuses. No more song and dance.
Lost and Found A key, a button, a leather glove. First love. A friend to cancer, a voice to grief. An old belief. An arrowhead, a perfect shell. The first bluebell.
Tomboy The baseball cards, the paper route— I never had them. Wasn’t done. Altar boy and Eagle Scout? Forget it! Summers, starved for fun, I’d beg to join the sandlot game. Their raucous jeers were less about a gangling girl whose swing was lame, than that a girl might strike them out. I thought I'd won them over when I spat and cussed and climbed a tree; but nothing swayed these "supermen" who saw green kryptonite in me. I gave them all a dirty look, and never learned to sew or cook.
Another version of Tomboy appeared in Bumbershoot, an Umbrella special edition (Spring 2007).
“Found Objects” by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
The river’s source, a taste for ink. Hope, I think.
18 An Uninvited Guest or
How Puff, the Magic Dragon Almost Ended My Poetic Career
~ By Catherine Chandler
y love of formal poetry and its rhythmic expression of human emotion is inextricably linked to my love of music. A cognitive neuroscientist might say that the arrangement and flow of sounds, the tone color, chords, phrases and sequences, textures and subtexts in the lullabies my mother sang and the popular music that played — and with which she sang along — almost non-stop in our kitchen in the ’fifties, became encoded in my developing brain. I prefer to think that what I heard found a special place in my heart. My musical consciousness — as opposed to my visceral love of songs — began with my formal piano training when I turned seven, insisted on by my mother, with the addition of the organ at the age of nine. I’ll never forget my first piano lesson — the octave and the tones within it, and that, no, there is no “h” note. Other “rules” followed — key and time signatures, and the allimportant measure, modulation, and cadence. These rules would apply both to my first recital piece, “Trot, Pony, Trot!” as well as my last, Chopin’s “Polonaise, Op. 40, No. 1.” The notes and notation were like secret codes just waiting to be broken. Another language that translates symbols into beauty, as the words of a finely-crafted sonnet invariably will do. The first time I wrote a poem to accompany a musical piece was when I wrote the lyrics to our class song in 1968, but I’d been writing poetry long before that. One summer, when I was around eleven years old, I heard the Muse whisper in my ear. As I already had four sisters and a brother at the time (we were eventually seven), I knew there were only two places in the house
I could find some peace and quiet in which to write — either the dark, damp, musty cellar or the hot, stuffy attic. I chose the attic. With much difficulty, I moved an old, oak desk and chair as near to the window as I could, so I could have a “window tree,” as well as some fresh air (yes, I was already into Frost by then), and sat down to write. However, my first creation was not a poem at all, but a crude crayon sketch of a flower and a Pillsbury biscuit declaring, “Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” (I’d been reading Sandburg, as well.) I tacked the poster on the attic wall and wrote my first poem, “Autumn.” The almost unbearable heat of that July day must have been my inspiration. A few years later, the poem was published in my high school journal. Ironically, though, it was music that drove me from my attic refuge, nevermore to return. We lived in a double block with my numerous cousins next door, and our connecting attics allowed for the transfer of sounds between our two sides. Unfortunately, that summer my cousin Ricky was learning to play
the guitar, and the one constant mistaken chord in his favorite song that he would practice over and over and never get right was more than my budding poetic sensibilities could take. I took to reading so voraciously, my mother finally made me go outside to “blow off the stink.” She had a way with words like no other. When adolescence arrived, poetry was relegated to the back burner while other feelings simmered and boiled over. At fifteen I fell in love. At sixteen he dumped me for a religious vocation, and to this day, I have never gotten over that devastation. Around this time I discovered Millay and memorized her “Time does not bring relief” in under five minutes, drowning my grief in its truth as some might drown theirs in drink. Though time never did bring relief, it brought other joys. Marriage, children and a full-time job left me with little time or energy to write. I had turned my back on my Muse. And she knew it. Worse still, I knew it. But she hadn’t turned her back on me. In the ’nineties her former whisper now became a reprimand. I wrote several poems, some rather lazy free verse and some crafted formal poetry, ballads and sonnets mostly, and submitted them to a few journals. The free verse got a thumbs down, understandably. But I was saddened and surprised by the formal poetry rejections. Having never been in an MFA program (my undergraduate studies were in French literature and Spanish), and having spent the last few decades rereading my old formal favorites like Frost, Dickinson, Wordsworth, Hardy, Millay, Shakespeare, etc., little did I know that formal poetry was in the process of losing a “war” that had apparently been raging since the time of my autumn poem, if not earlier. However, I was encouraged when SPSM&H (Spenser, Petrarch,
Shakespeare, Milton & Hopkins) accepted two sonnets. Unfortunately, the journal ceased publication before the sonnets saw the light of day! Fast-forward to 2004. My two children were now grown and on their own. I already had three granddaughters. At fifty I had earned my master’s degree in educational philosophy at McGill University and was a regular course lecturer in Spanish at McGill’s Department of Languages and Translation.
“It was music that drove me from my attic refuge, nevermore to return.” ~ C.C.
But my Muse was no longer simply reproachful. She was livid. I needed to get serious. Time was running out.
Where to start? It turned out to be easier than I thought. I began writing again where I had left off when my cousin’s fractured rendition of “Puff, the Magic Dragon” had sent me fleeing my attic sanctuary over forty years earlier. The first poem I wrote when I resumed my long-abandoned vocation was a new autumn poem, a sonnet entitled “Equinox.” The floodgates opened and I wrote dozens of poems that year. Then doubt set in. If no one had wanted to publish formal poetry in the ’nineties, what chance would these poems possibly have in the 21st Century? Going for broke, I sent out 2 packages of sample poems to two poets whose opinions on formal poetry I respected highly, because of the excellence of their own — Rhina P. Espaillat and Richard Wilbur. Both wrote back with praise and encouragement. The Lyric sent me my first acceptance that summer, for two sonnets, “Franconia” and, yes, “Equinox.”
20 It’s been five years since that fruitful summer. Many of my formal poems and English translations of French and Spanish formal poetry have been published in print and online journals and anthologies. Two sonnets have been nominated for the coveted Pushcart Prize. I’ve recently joined the staff of Eratosphere as one of the moderators of their advanced, formal-poetry forum. I’ve met both Rhina P. Espaillat and Richard Wilbur.
Back in a little town in Pennsylvania, there is a beautiful, blue-eyed, 79-yearold woman who must be given the credit for putting me on the poetic path I now travel with near indescribable joy: my mother, who — whether it was “Rock-a-bye Baby” or “This Ole House” — never, ever, missed a beat. ~ C. C.
Readers of TCE’s print version may visit online for references included in this article: Time does not bring relief ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay http://www.bartelby.com/131/19.html
“Puff Sings at His Reflection” by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
“Paintblush” by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
Martin Willitts, Jr. Roses and Tulips Based on the painting, Roses and Tulips, by Edouard Manet, 1882 “He was greater than we thought.” — Degas about Manet
There were always flowers in his studio. His friends would bring them in to brighten the décor. The flowers would pose. And the flowers would sing for him and no one else. Especially when he became sick from locomotor ataxia, a nervous disease from undiagnosed syphilis, making it hard to handle brushes, let alone pruning shears to cut his own garden flowers. The flowers languished as they waited only for him. He painted smaller and smaller, while waiting for the cure that never seemed to come. There were so many flowers in Rue d’Amsterdam, like there are so many different ways to be in love, just like there are a thousand types of roses. He could paint forever, making the flowers become forever, as forever as forever can ever be, as the flowers sang what he could hear.
Based on the painting, Nude in the Sunlight, by Renoir, 1876*
Dr. Gachet, you must cure her, for my paint cannot keep up with her dying. They say, this painting is too abstract. I say, death is too real, too cruel. Like the harshness of light. Like the distance of stars. Like bath water that chills too quickly. Dr. Gachet, open your bag of cures. Those green bottles must keep her alive so I can paint her with love that is only in my eye. My brush strokes are loose as the death we cannot see. Parts of my canvas are bare as her breasts, as incomplete as life itself. Dr. Gachet, please go see her. See what you can do to keep her alive. Meanwhile, I will rush to paint her, rushing like her labored breathing. I will keep her alive in colors. *The nude is believed to be his model, Anna, who died at 23-years-old.
“Ladyslipper Orchid” by Karla Linn Merrifield, 2009
The Maiden Locked inside a Glass Hill You do not have to rescue me. I am not really a captive. I own the key. I can leave whenever it suits me. I could break the glass with a tiny hammer, but I have been a captive so long, I have fallen in love with my captor. Some call this the Stockholm Syndrome. I call it passion. He prunes white roses for me. He leaves them on my glass doormat. He leaves them quietly, like he is afraid of waking me, like I, too, was glass. I sew stained-glass buttons on his shirt. I choose him and his soundless ways. He is a glassblower and he makes glass unicorns, just for me. He knows what a woman wants and he makes sure she gets it so she does not need anything, not even escape.
Martin Willitts, Jr.’s recent poems have appeared in Blue Fifth, Glass, Flutter, Coal Hill Review, New Verse News, The Centrifugal Eye, Quiddity, Autumn Sky Poetry, and Sea Stories. Chapbooks and books include: Lowering Nets of Light (Pudding House Publications, 2007), Farewell — the journey now begins (www.languageandculture.net, 2006), News from the Front (www.slowtrains.com, 2007), Words & Paper (www.threelightsgallery.com, 2008), The Secret Language of the Universe (March Street Press, 2006), The Garden of French Horns (Pudding House Publications, 2008), and The Hummingbird (March Street Press, 2009).
24 Ajay Vishwanathan Mom Doesn't Like Dad's Dad There are reasons plenty, some unforeseen, and others, justified, why my mother still thinks inviting grandpa home was a catastrophic callâ€” her adjectives bleed excess. He hates dryers, so ran a clothesline in our front yard, tying it from bay window to closest branch, then wrapped the tree trunk before letting the line sag against the million-dollar house, where we conceal our satellite dish. He chose an ugly orange-colored rope that stands out like bright tape gagging a shaken hostage. Now our neighbors know he wears only bottle-green underwear, and cloth diapers that he washes daily. He shares my mother's passion for growing vegetables, but she thinks itâ€™s ludicrous to be growing cucumbers and red peppers in front of the house next to her prized roses, lilies and cannas.
He giggles loudly at the dinner table after perfectly timing his burp and his fart, leaving us to assess which one is stinkier. He reads dirty magazines about male strippers and secret Chinese massages, and commingles them in our guest bathroom with mom's books on breathing, meditation and Hindu deities. Right now he’s in Vegas with a group of guys in their 70s, and has my dad's cell phone, which we only just discovered when my mother tried to call my dad, and instead, some sexy-voiced, teenaged tramp answered.
Ajay Vishwanathan, published in over 40 literary journals, including elimae, Haggard and Halloo, and Boston Literary Magazine, lives in a world of words and viruses. He has an obsession for one, appreciation for another. His world is based in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Out of Line” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
26 Lynn Strongin We Meet Pippi in the Playing Field at Dusk
Lynn Strongin, who currently resides in Victoria, BC, is an American-Canadian poet with half a dozen highly-acclaimed poetry collections to her credit, including the new Lace-Covered Darkness (Erbace Press, Liverpool), Rembrandt's Smock (Plain View Press), The Girl with Copper-Colored Hair (Conflux Press), and her collection of short stories, Albino Peacock: Tales of a Jewish Girl in the South (Plain View Press). She also edited the anthologies, Crazed by the Sun and The Sorrow Psalms, and is "Special Guest Reviewer" for New Works Review. Lynn is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Website (http://members.shaw.ca/stronginweb/index.html)
New Works Review (http://new-works.org/)
“Sweater-hipped” by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
Opposite an elderly streetwalker in her shadow a small dog. Pippi has just turned forty. She wears her hair back dark & tight, blue jeans, shirttails out Her hips balloon she has a double chin She who wore flowered dresses with belts and dark blond hair loose when she worked at Avenue Chintz & China. She has seconded her husband, ex-sportscaster, to shine the windows of Vanilla Box, her very own shop. She needs more stock: has an old chamber potty with ash rose & chipped enamel, bird houses by the half dozen. She has a Little Lady corner: earrings, sachets. Her first daughter was so placid they had to pinch her to see if she was alive. Under no shadow but shade, she’s breathed for thirteen years Has just had braces removed from front teeth is best friend of Rosa Felicia’s daughter. Felicia, whose husband is Muslim (she is Catholic) — he has left her to woman the florists’ shop alone: They never knew they had red-hair genes, she & hubby, till they had their second & third, Lori & Khol, a daughter a son, Who like Bobbsey twins mirror each other coppery, shiny as new pennies. They drab out the older Liza blond. Pippi in mid-age doldrums Has taken youth off like a faded mumu, replaced it with a feather-duster in hand. She turns as if flicking the rein & the horse yanked her: a piece of history a place of memory, Vanilla Box: youth she wears around her hips as though it were an old sweater to be retired soon. She smiles at the closet she's just emerged from: She looks back upon the playing field as on the Rubicon.
Janice D. Soderling â€œPeonies & Shoestringsâ€? by K. R. Copeland, 2009
Going for a Ride Oh, ho, you can't fool me, mister, with your polka-dot tie and varnished nails, and your you-dee-cologne. And poor Mary Mulligan dead in bed, emptied bank book in hand. No, I would not like to go for a little spin. That rattletrap looks like it's held together with baling wire and bubble gum. They say you had a wife down in Chickshaw County. What? Well, I'm sorry to hear it. Gardening eases grief? I never thought about it that way before. I don't know much about begonias, but I understand about heartache, Mr. Smythe. Luckily, I never been in a hurricane. I like roses though. And peonies. My late husband was a cautious man too. He said, Steer clear of foreigners and liberals, and men who don't tie up their shoes properly. Look at the shoestrings, Mazie, he always said, that's how you can tell a man who keeps his word. Well, I've seen hotter nights, lord knows, when the heaviness of honeysuckle lies like hands in the folds of cotton clothes, and breathing comes harder than tonight. No, we were not blessed with children. Yes, a little house, not much but it's mine and not mortgaged, I'm proud to say. Ha, ha, yes, I see your shoestrings are securely tied, but I don't care for a cooling ride all the same, thank you, John. Mary Mulligan was overwrought. Pretty face but no brains. I don't need no brains. We got oil on our land, she used to tell the teachers. I don't disparage a man because of his car, Johnny, honest I don't. Goodness of heart, that's what counts. No, I don't think it would be a good idea. Well, just a little drive then, to cool off. Promise you'll be a gentleman.
Janice D. Soderling hails from the United States, but lives in a small Swedish village at the edge of a forest. Her poetry, translations and fiction appear in online and offline venues ranging from Canadian ditch (surreal poetry) to Glimmer Train Stories (first-prize fiction). A runner-up story is included in Our Stories anthology. Current and forthcoming work at Anon (Scotland), Shakespeare's Monkey Revue, Boston Literary Magazine, Tipton Poetry Journal, (USA), Unsplendid, Soundzine, Right Hand Pointing, Alba, and Now Culture (online). Janice is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
28 Adam Settingsgaard Photospheric Fortunes I imagine a world where the more money you have the brighter you are, skin glowing, with each dollar earned a lumen gained. Some people shine like little blue-white dwarfs, so infinitely bright, these financial stars, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros, so hot the air around them catches fire; their smiles melt people, cast permanent shadows. So bright people go blind looking at them after just a second. Some stars would be luminous like our own yellow sun, plants turning
Adam Settingsgaard lives in Binsfeld, Germany with his wife and son. He loves Billy Collins and Bob Dylan, Long Island Iced Tea and Hefeweizen. Traveling is his favorite pastime. He is currently working on a book of poems and editing his first novel. He is twenty-six years old. Contact Adam firstname.lastname@example.org
to greet their warmth, and primitive people would worship all of them, much as we do. Gods on earth, ineffable and shining with the power of the universe. I imagine a photograph of the earth at night, the brightest spots moving like comets in private jets, Seattle and New York breaking dawn all the time, while most places would be black holes, in Africa, Asia, maybe candlelit with savings and in America’s heartland around the stars there would be darkness, so much darkness.
“Fortunate Ones” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
“Torch Sleep” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
l. a. seidensticker Lighted Torches that Flatter the Ladies His people call him the beautiful man. He is and silent, like a young drover in a painting, ruminating under cider light which slips through an upper pane of a blemished window. How they disdain his bride. A dark woman, older and with an eye that is not quite right. Quashed against her brow and jaundiced cheeks, bruise-like stains fade, flourish, fade. Emboldened by the general condemnation, he abandons her in her seventh month. Alarming, the immense, distended belly forwarding her round each dim switch-back of the hall, an addled, spraddle-footed woman who imagines now things done to her as she sleeps, kissings, sighs . . . all torch-stuttered night long.
“Torchlight” By E. A. Hanninen 2009
30 Looking out from High Places These are the people let go, watched without pity from an upstairs window as they hasten along a city street past caged saplings and dented refuse bins. From the hard skins of buildings, inscrutable scrawls and stains impend, tongues of ash slubber denunciations. The invitations and memos of these people are left a long time on the hall table, their awkward kindnesses go unacknowledged. We step aside to let them get on with it; we keep clear of their undoing. Before their damp lives come apart like wet paper, we are reminded of something. A pitching buoy in disorderly fog? No. Small white moths lurching through rain.
I Go into Business I draw the sign for cents backwards with a charcoaled stick. Those black-bottomed fat feet in the gutter are mine (my bottom’s on the sidewalk where it is told to be). I could maybe get three dollars. Or two. Nana is racketing peas into the ironware basin, the one she uses in the night when you’re sick. When you’re sick, the house squats down on you. The whites get big as tents or oceans under skies ripping and falling and your eyes are like they’ve been rubbed into pennies. All the toys that are ugly I put in order on the edge of the sidewalk. The Ella Measles doll from my great uncle has no clothes. She is spotted with red paint he keeps in a jar in our basement. They are yelling, Nana has her fists on her hips. For the love of God. The doll-sized black-iron woodstove, with smoke stack (only 5 cents), is smaller than a recipe box, stove lids lift off with a black-iron pry and oven doors also. A woman in a spangling dress shoves the woodstove at Nana, showing her all sides of it. I thought not, she says. I write with my stick, circles on my knees, lines on my legs. I don’t know what things are worth.
Boomerang A moon bleared as soaped glass rocking in its own milk, Spring and a humid moon slumps and fades to sunken reef, dead white, dead bulk slobbing as she goes, oh Spring, oh green, oh fish and birdson-the-wing, slith’ry stoat afloat across turned earth. Black-trunked black-limbed trees redraw themselves to better the new bright, limned in charcoals limbered in green breeze. A deer skull on the edge of the road slenders with every rain. Nubs of old horn soften and blunt, the teeth loosened in the dirt-smirched jaw are fewer, sunk further into mire. From ink-dark trees Spanish moss hangs wooden as the spirits of scorned women, inflexible as the low-hanging fruit of women upon whom every back is turned, mothers of lost daughters, women who sleep on the wet feet of desiccated bamboo close by the river. What goes forward half likely to come back. This Spring is not for them, this skull so nearly washed away, this surly moon.
“Surly Moon” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
l. a. seidensticker’s poetry has appeared in Ambush Arts, Literary Potpourri, Ink Pots, Poetry Super Highway, Kaleidowhirl, and Stirring. l. a. says, “I am old enough I’m unlikely to survive beyond my remaining half case of Pears soap. I’m unlikely to qualify for Bread Loaf. I write poetry that even my husband won’t read — but I persist in writing poetry. There must be something to it.” This is l. a.’s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact l. a. (l.a.Seidensticker@Comcast.net)
32 John Riley
One evening as I turn the corner onto my street and pull for home toward the star we once held in our hands, you emerge from the wall across the narrow way. You loom like the moon left behind when heaven forewent swelling. I fail our star and close my eyes. You are fixed on the broken tree above the spinning creek. It is always summer on your limb. I— who lived through winters and learned to be old snow, I retreat again up the green bank. And you— you vanish like a door light turned off before the son stumbles home.
John Riley is the founder and publisher of Morgan Reynolds Publishing, an independent educational publisher in Greensboro, North Carolina. Before founding Morgan Reynolds, John worked as a freelance writer and teacher. His fiction and poetry has appeared in Corradi, Aberrations, Hardboiled, SmokeLong Quarterly and Hobble Creek Review. Contact John (email@example.com)
“Light & Dark” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
To A Friend Who Broke His Neck at Davis Water Gauge, Summer, 1967
Knights and Ladies of the Not-So-Round Table A Narrated Play without Dialogue
Act I [AT RISE we see a shabbily dressed character approach the door of a small house in the woods.]
NARRATOR: Let us begin our grail-quest story with a weary knight costumed in tattered peasant clothes (Aside: He does not know he is a knight and has not realized he is on a grail quest.) who comes upon a strange small keep (Aside: See how it is disguised as a cottage?) deep in unmapped woods where he is welcomed and given lodging. [KNIGHT enters as other figures, dressed in peasant array, bustle to be seated around a vast table as one lady attempts to set out dishes of food.]
No courtly gowns and shining armor, only beaten up hand-me-downs on a stage cluttered with dream-like disconnects. The dining-table prop is vast, a wooden rectangle (Aside: It is supposedly built with planks from the ark.) fit for a castle hall. He sits with them, breaks bread, each person like a character from a different play or roving bard’s tale— real and beautiful and messy and at least as mismatched as the vagabond collection of benches and chairs. Yet all the while he sees each person lit with a soft spotlight. Note the main character’s puzzled look. Like in any good tale, they are all much more than they seem. As Percival and Gawain can tell you (or a good narrator), an important part of the story is always a test to see if a young knight can look past appearances, can judge the good and the wise, as everything stands, in the end, for something else.
“Ace of Cups” by Erik Richardson, 2009
34 (Aside: But if you don‟t know you‟re on a quest, then of course you don‟t know what to watch for, and you won‟t know that‟s it, if you see it.) Noticing they glow, but he does not, he feels he does not belong, and rises, soon again on his way. [Lights down as Knight leaves. Curtain closes.] Act II [Lights come up on same table scene without the unlit Knight.]
NARRATOR: Each of the other characters, restless, noble lords and ladies disguised by their own self-image, rise in turn from the table, taking their leave, to follow their own quests— tangled and sometimes tragic storylines, but those are tales for different days and other stages. [Exeunt all characters. Lights down on empty table. Curtain falls.]
Act III [AT RISE: Lights up as Knight, slightly bent with walking stick, receives and reads a piece of parchment.]
NARRATOR: It is now some long years since. We see our farm-garbed figure, weathered now, with grayed hair receive a message: [Knight turns parchment to show the audience.]
Remember, you have always had a place here. [Lights come up to show a scene on the stage behind him.]
Middle-Eastern men in ancient robes, the true grail [Lit with spot.] sitting in the midst of a bustling feast around a big, old, dinner table, in a humble room. [Lights dim on background scene, only grail remains lit.]
Our peasantly character is surprised at the vision, realizing his storyline must be a grail quest. He takes off his battered tunic, discovers shining armor underneath. (Aside: Now he knows he must have been a knight all along. But it especially means they were part of his test, those illusion-wrapped knights and ladies in the disguised-as-a-cottage keep around their own version of the round table even though it didn‟t seem very round.) [Exeunt Knight. Curtain falls.]
Act IV [AT RISE: A soft spot behind NARRATOR lights the grail, on empty table.]
NARRATOR: He knows the grail could never be found by a lone knight, only in company with those he loves, like the circle of noble hearts that were more his family than he knew. Of course, he saw the light in them, but not in himself, (Aside: We covered that earlier.) yet all the while, he now knows, did likewise they of each other and of him— a simultaneous test for them all. He finds it hard to believe, of course, wonders if they would believe him, if he told them such a tale. And so he begins the long journey back, knowing that even knights sometimes fall before their quest is achieved, in order to show them the shining armor hiding beneath their hand-me-down costumes, to reveal a part of the script, to let them see their tragic tales fit into a grander play. Erik Richardson is a teacher living in [Curtain closes behind narrator, leaving him alone on stage.]
So if, by chance, a wise traveler, like one of you, dear audience, should happen to meet knights or ladies of the not-so-round table along the way on a lonely road just as day is sinking into dusk [Lights fade low.]
and — this part is important — if you know what you are looking for, so you’ll know what it is if you see it, you will see a faint light surround them each and all, like a candle glow and perhaps you, at least, will know them for who they are and not who they believe. [Lights down, Narrator steps through behind curtain.]
Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He teaches math at the college level, computers at the elementary level, and he is the strategy analyst for the non-profit Simple Living America. Some of his recent poetry has appeared in Arbor Vitae, Loch Raven Review, and Sein und Werden. Erik is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
36 Oliver Rice Elizabeth’s Eyes Her awakened outer eye perceives what her inner eye recognizes as her familial rooms, the curtains drawn at her kitchen window, sunlight on the maple, the yard, the gate. Like a camera, her outer eye (o) registers, without implications, only what the momentary light and proximity reveal of the street, a school bus, neighborhood pupils, the cat on the porch next door. Her inner eye (i) conceives only their semblances, augmented, however, by their imagined sounds, by memories of answering the knocks on Halloween, of the cat with a dying mouse in its mouth, the effect of chocolate on her digestive system. Neither o nor i detect a bully among the children. o can see itself in other people’s visages, in a mirror or an illustration in the Sunday Times. Can picture the gray matter in a cadaver. i can see only what her senses or the evidence or her memories provide. o does not evaluate. i always does. o closes its lids. i continues its rigors in her sleep.
“Cat & Mouse” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
Look for It in Brahms, She Says A sense comes to one, she says, of zones, grimy, ruthlessly urban, of rooms sustained by dismal occupations where rhapsodies nonetheless occur. She glances about the gathering as if they are strangers. I was once your age, she says, touching her glass to her cheek. You may some day reach mine. But I am the one who knows both. Things reveal themselves, it is written, passing away. Out of the litter of vulgarity, of discarded encounters and baffled yearnings types of the humanistic person rise to the day, to intuitive leaps, efficient outrage, a conscience for everything. I keep lists of such things, she says, as a white-haired man approaches to greet her. Unconsenting faces, she says. Doorways off the times. Homeless ideas. They will still be there, I imagine.
Oliver Rice has received the Theodore Roethke Prize. His poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies in the United States, as well as in Canada, England, Austria, Turkey, and India. His book of poems, On Consenting to Be a Man, has been introduced by Cyberwit, a diversified publishing house in the cultural capital, Allahabad, India, and is available on Amazon.
“Quijote in a Cup o’ Joe” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
Vincent Renstrom If You Bring Passion, Faults Will Be Overlooked Don Quijote and Sancho Panza cast their long and shorter shadows across my so-called workspace. I look at one and then the other, an act of pure semiconscious ambivalence that gets me nowhere while time speeds onward and the windmills revolve around it. Psst . . . Hey, Don Quijote . . . How about a cup of coffee? I swear I won’t make fun of your rueful countenance or ask about your home life or why you’re dressed like that. I promise not to question your lineage or scoff at your sorry excuse for a horse and I won’t ever take Sancho’s side or laugh too hard when you blather on about that whoredog, Aldonza, from Toboso. I really just like getting you wired and listening to you rant.
A Doggone Portrait My Mom used to honk when she came home from the grocery store so that my Dad or one of us kids would come out of the house to help her carry the groceries from the car into the kitchen. Our dog had a hypnotic relationship with food. He used to watch us eat breakfast, fixedly, waiting in exquisite desperation for a crust of toast. He used to run away for weeks at a time. He'd come home and everybody'd be happy to see him. He'd get extra attention, like he was gonna show us pictures of his trip or something. I remember thinking, "Man, I'd never get away with that." He used to bark once at the back door after he'd been out for the last time. He'd sit on the sidewalk, in the tree-shrouded backyard, illumined by the floodlight, and stare at the door. One of us would give him a cookie and say, "Here, Timmy, take this to your box. Good night." That had to be, for him, a nice something-to-look-forward-to every day. Timmy used to bark like a mad dog when my Mom came home from the grocery store.
Vincent Renstrom lives with his wife, Sila, and daughter, Alya Jean, in Middletown, Ohio. He is a former adjunct professor of Spanish (Ph.D., Indiana University, 1996) at various US universities, most recently the University of Dayton (2003-2006). Recent poetry credits include: Alba, MARGIE, Silenced Press, Slow Trains, and Tertulia. This is Vincentâ€™s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye.
40 Scott Owens
Certainly there was too little room, the windows curved around us, seats held in upright positions. Lightning pulsed blue above night clouds, not exactly fireworks, but maybe more divine. There was a field full of corn, a silver silo and silhouetted willows — a barn’s arch against the hill, the road empty behind us, the sky filled with rain, the distance we felt from nearly everything else. There was almost too much in it to go further. But then, there were destinations and time. There was fear and the long conquering of fear. There was your hand and my hand, your tongue and mine, the islands of your eyes, the dark pouch of your hip. There was rain beating its river of wings at the windows. There was a lifetime of shouldn’ts, or couldn’ts, or don’t deserve tos. There was discovery and the body’s bliss opening up before me the night, the sky, and the world, cream-colored, rose-tipped, bright with the promise of light.
Scott Owens has received awards from the North Carolina Poetry Society, the North Carolina Writer’s Network, the Academy of American Poets, and the Poetry Society of South Carolina for his four collections of poetry and more than 400 poems published in various journals and anthologies. He is co-editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review, chair of the Sam Ragan Poetry Prize, author of “Musings” (a weekly poetry column), and founder of Poetry Hickory. He also teaches creative writing at Catawba Valley Community College. Contact Scott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“The Reunion” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
Burden I find fault with you, harbor anger for no reason I remember, some imagined, vaguely-sensed animosity, something someone told me you might have said when half-drunk at a party too loud to hear anything clearly, something I can’t let go of, as tenacious as guilt or dread or the sour breath of mortality.
Coalescence The first time was the porch’s yellow light exploding into noise and blood and swirling reds and blues. No time passed between the shots and the hurried men rolling his body away. He was only a picture of a dark overcoat, the stain of a red rose crushed beneath it. In the fourth grade there was strep throat and a temperature of 106. Stepping outside, nothing moved, nothing made a sound, but he could see the fine lines dividing everything from each other. He could see the notes of blackbirds, the gaps between raindrops frozen in time. The next time everything unfolded so slowly it seemed impossible he couldn’t stop it. He saw the boys step off the curb, saw the car turn the corner, knew the driver couldn’t see through the rain. Inside, the scream took longer than anything. Now I see you like something I remember, resting too quietly, each breath a watched frame sliding seamlessly into place, your hands folded across your gown, a pastel still life of withered fruit, faded flowers.
42 Burgess Needle Somehow Not Safe at All Some days when he shopped at a Safeway market Chilled, half-blinded by fluorescence, what came To him were the early morning markets In a city on the Korat Plateau where The air was thick with water molecules: Dawn still a pale promise An elderly Chinese gentleman carefully sprayed The area around fruit stalls Stray leaves, minute debris washed away The supermarket’s automatic sprinklers kicked in Dousing vegetables grown too far away “Uninvited Dinner Guest” To be seen from a mountain with a telescope by K. R. Copeland, 2009 Faint scent of disinfectant lingered Behind the English cucumbers Dead fruit flies in the mango bins The Thai market’s produce was all local Fresh, green limes piled in pyramids alongside Passion fruit, pomelo, rambutans, guavas and papaya. Stacks of near-ripe bananas balanced next to boxes of coconuts He knew then all the ways coconuts could be prepared The not yet ripe ones sliced and dipped In salt water and nibbled like pickles At other times of the year coconut meat was boiled In a sweet syrup and eaten as candy. Sometimes The meat was dried in the sun until brown and eaten As snacks. His favorite way to eat Coconuts could only happen when they were fully ripe Served with sticky rice, drenched with coconut juice sweetened Even more with evaporated milk. Then there were The bananas. They had many types of bananas Each labeled with a different name Some had large black seeds that could crack The hardest teeth. Be careful with Thai bananas Farmers sliced green bananas, rolled them in sugar and fried Them crisp. Boiled bananas in coconut milk, sweetened With sugar was called banana like a nun‟s robe Because after boiling that dessert matched The color of the robes worn by Thai nuns. Shopping in America was too clean. People did not speak with strangers. He missed the bright red and green chillies The Thais call phrik yai that reminded Him of Christmas decorations.
In Thailand he thought of holidays In America he dreamed of brown and curly Ginger root and crisp snap peas, gleaming purple eggplants Strangely mottled pumpkins covered with bumps Seas of crisp kale and huge taro roots with red earth Still clinging. He plucked One banana from a Safeway display and peeled It much to the dismay of a nearby clerk; In his own country it was a crime to eat like that In his own country everything was far too clean He remembered all those years he missed America So why did he feel so uncomfortable in a Safeway That somehow did not feel safe at all.
â€œMarket Peppersâ€? by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
Burgess Stanley Needle is a Tucson poet whose work has appeared in or will soon appear in Gutter Eloquence, Raving Dove, Thirteen Myna Birds, Gloom Cupboard, Black Mountain Review (UK), Blackbox Manifold (UK), Zafusy (UK), The Hiss Quarterly, Origami Condom, Kritya (India), Free Verse, Concho River Review, Raving Dove, Autumn Sky and Iodine. Diminuendo Press will publish his collection, Every Crow in the Blue Sky (working title) in 2010. Contact Burgess (email@example.com)
44 Nicholas Messenger Parliament of Birds I wonder if there is still a parliament of birds? It’s ages since we have had any word out of that nation. Do the rook and wren no longer wrangle, or the heron not pontificate about the eagle? Was there ever any eagle? If so, will he judge again for good and evil? Do the lesser creatures wait in separate, doubtful houses nowadays and share a gruel of rumor with their wandering guest — the Unknown Visitor? It is hard to say how sadly, dully, and how little-heard a ping-pong of wan echoes is the chorus of birds.
On Such a Night . . .
“Parliament of Birds” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
The lions are down all over the area. The Lion's Men have been at work throughout the hours of darkness. Somebody heard growls and, nearby, softer coughing, and what could be purrs of thunder. Somebody saw flickering of bleary lightning bolts beyond the tines of rain. But it was gusts, and the rain that most disturbed our dreams, and the radio warning, over and again: lions down . . . The Lion's Men driving through the dark . . . Please treat all lions as alive.
Poem for Pomme dâ€™Epi, a Pig I've never seen such little eyes look out of such sad ugliness. They make me think of stranded whales. It makes me think of silted pools in the sooty bristle after forest fires where something wounded comes for water like an inadmissible tear. It makes me think of a fairy tale where the prince gets kissed. It makes me think of crippled old age when I see his terrible ill-fitting shoes of untrimmed toe-nails, and it makes me think of rheumatism. It makes me think of the inconsolable wisdom of an old fat woman singing blues. It makes me think, to see him standing in the dark straw looking out at me, of dungeons where the waiting years no longer waiting, gnaw despair. It brings to mind Pietro Longhi's curious penned rhinoceros among the ogling elegant, all coruscations and neglect. It conjures up a dream of pampered butterflowers that signal with the blink of yellow wings the wish they weren't, then were again with long low longing. It makes me think of great reproachful platters-full of charred pork; and it makes me think of life; however, almost anything can make me think of that. It makes you think. It thinks life stinks. Nicholas Messenger had his first poems published in New Zealand as a schoolboy. He won the Glover Poetry award in the 1970s. In recent years he has had work published in a good number of online magazines. He has written plays for children, fairy tales, short stories and five novels which await a publisher. He was born in 1945, completed a degree at Auckland University, traveled extensively, and lived at various times in France, England and Japan. He has worked at many jobs, including seaman, security guard, demolition worker and laboratory technician, and for a long time made his living as a teacher of science, art, and languages in high schools in New Zealand, and as a teacher of English in Japan. Lately he has been running a home-stay business in Hokitika, NZ, but is currently living in Nelson. He has been married twice and has two grown-up children. Nicholas is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Nick (firstname.lastname@example.org)
46 Karla Linn Merrifield Farewell with Lines from the Chinese Masters This time I am not going anywhere. I stand on the south shore at sunset trying to conjure Meng Haoran images, his limpid river, his ruined city-wall that overtops an old ferry terminal. I would much rather be among the High Tang Dynasty poets, than by the neglected docks at Cape Vincent. In lieu of ancient and exotic Chinese peasants, I watch a few weary tourists in this fishing town stumble aboard the final outbound ferry. My brother takes passage with them, heading across with a one-way ticket to Canada jammed in his denim jacket pocket. He’s carrying a pistol, loaded, concealed, safety off, sufficient to accomplish his task. Stashed inside Wal-Mart shopping bags: Box of rut-gut Chablis, one more day’s supply. And a black-market pack of Marlboro Lights, enough for one more night. I long to wish for him the little blue islands, the five misty lakes, the forgetting words of the Lizhou Ferry in a poem by Wei Yingwu. Instead, I bow my head as deckhands free the cables and quote a hokku attributed to Zhang Hu, willing myself back to his storied third century. The ferryboat moves as though someone were poling. But this late evening twin diesel engines groan with the stinging north wind as my brother departs. I do not see the other side in sullen Ontario, have no desire to, am grateful I am unable— my aging eyes too weak, our childhood too far. So I whisper as my brother disappears toward Wolfe Island into grim distances and shadow: Where is the ferry? Will somebody tell me? It is growing rough. It is growing dark. The venerable Wen Tingyun almost consoles. My heart is old. It perceives the danger under way. With wrinkled hands at a loss, I cannot wave him on.
River of Memory
Like the ancient Greek’s Eridanus, the twisting blue path Aquarius streamed across a mythic sky, the river hisses past me. There is no ferry. Like the archaic Anasazi’s San Juan, green wanderer in the desert, legendary canyon meanderer, the river slips away from me. There is no ferry. Like the coal barons’ Monongahela of my childhood, brown lord of commerce, brimming with barges and tug boats, the river bounds beyond me. There is no ferry. I arrive expecting to depart, but find only the abandoned landings of stars, of sand, of dreams. I have no white desire to dive in and swim to the far side of history.
“Old Ferry Dock” & “Pier Marker” by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
I reach the river but there is no ferry.
2009 Everglades National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield, has had poetry appear in publications such as CALYX, Earth‟s Daughters, Poetica, The Kerf, Negative Capability, Paper Street and Blueline (print zines), and in The Centrifugal Eye, Terrain.org, Elsewhere: A Journal of the Literature of Place, and Elegant Thorn Review (online zines), as well as in many anthologies. In 2006, she edited THE DIRE ELEGIES: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America, from FootHills Publishing; in 2007, FootHills issued her Godwit: Poems of Canada, and will issue The Etowah River Psalms in September. She is also author of Dawn of Migration and Other Audubon Dreams (2007, RochesterInk Publications). Karla is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Karla (email@example.com)
“Mulberry Leaves with Robins” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
M. J. Iuppa What She’s Waiting For While sinking into the ether called summer, she lost her heart’s rhythm to rolling fields of wheat and suddenly felt weightless— The air, sweet and moist, grazed the length of her body— No noise except the sudden syncopation of rain’s bass and treble notes snared in the darkness of daylight— And the mulberry, with its wide expanse and distracting fruit— a curious shade that concealed a boys’ dormitory— so many robins huddled side by side, the sound of sleep in their throats. She thought this a comfort, knowing they were there, hidden among a sea of leaves; anticipating the fluster of their departure, like her heart quelled beneath her ribcage, ready to explode—
Portrait of Lighthouse with Irises “Lighthouse Flags” by D. J. Bryant, 2009
Against a sapphire sky, this whitewashed lighthouse, constant solemn face, searches the wide sea for any breach— whale or ship, rising up in the swell of tide . . . Noise of buoy bells, a rusty gate’s hinge, gulls’ wheedling cry— morning and night spent leaning forward— open-eyed indigo irises grow brighter than torches set to burn— no one can say how long eternal will keep.
I tell you, it’s real: M. J. Iuppa lives on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Recently published are her second full-length collection, Within Reach, from Cherry Grove Collections, and her chapbook, As the Crow Flies, from FootHills Publishing. She is Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Arts Minor Program at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, N.Y. M. J. is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Inside this unfinished cottage, a cherry tree has grown taller than fifteen feet, reaching into the roof’s ribcage where shadows overwhelm the ceiling. Heated conversations over cards at the captain’s table make its bark glisten like chrome. Hats, of every kind, hang from its crooked fingers, waiting to be plucked by sore losers who leave in a hurry— brims pulled down tight— a whistle set loose in their teeth. Outside, the porch light flits with no-see-ems— silence is a temporary dry spell— we take bets on who will be back tomorrow.
50 Kenneth P. Gurney Fluid Shape of an Empty Womb
Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM, USA. His poetry finds its way onto online poetry journals far more often than in print publications, due to his habit of spending SASE & reading-fee monies on flowers for his lover. His latest collection of poems resides in a book titled Writers' Block. For fun he creates postcard poems and mails them out to friends who complain they get no "real mail" from the postman. Kenneth is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Website (http://www.kpgurney.me/Poet/Books.html)
I am holy, Delphi murmurs to herself, as she turns a rose quartz pebble over in her hand, recites an invented, non-linear rosary where the crystal is all of the one hundred and eight beads simultaneously.* She weighs the idea of soul in her left hand and then her right and measures a difference as stark as a red-canvas tennis shoe half buried in the river bank and the steady V of cranes traversing the vernal sky. Delphi mulls in her left mind a theoretical diploid cell with a simple count of neutrons, protons, atomic mass of varying isotopes assumed average, and in her right the connected expanse of zygote to the stone she sits upon, the river with its muddy banks, the old railroad bridge with its rust and bird nests where the swallows take insects back to feed their young. She holds her longing up to the sun, examines it in both light and shadow, fails to determine if it exists in her as an emptiness or substantial mass, but her longing weighs upon her eyes and halts her nightly reading of constellations. I am holy, Delphi repeats to the budding tree and fingers the branch that tangles her hair when the breeze exerts just enough force to bend the bough and brush her. A soul stands outside of gravity’s application, speaks its own language, points out the billowing clouds as they slip under the bridge on the deceptively calm face of the merciless river, which, by bits and wholes, carries the dead down to the sea.
“Soul” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
*The Buddhist Rosary, as it is known in the Western Hemisphere, has 108 beads.
Howard Good Unexplained Lights
Cheer up! These aren't the last days, as the door-to-door prophets contend, only the next-to-last ones. There's still time for the schoolchildren to forget the words to the anthem and for the mothball fleet to sink in a storm, still time for the blacksmith in his long leather apron to mysteriously appear, bearing remnants of aphoristic wisdom, and for us to comment on the terrible burns on his palms, still so much to join hands with or be woven into audacious crowns of battered red blossoms. “Fire Roses” by Dallas J. Bryant, 2009
Howard “Howie” Good, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, is the author of nine poetry chapbooks, including Visiting the Dead (Flutter Press), appears widely around the Web, and has garnered several poetry-prize nominations. His first full-length poetry book, Lovesick, is forthcoming from The Poetry Press. Howie is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
52 Paul Fisher The Sun Again The sun again glares down our drying sea of guttered streets the first time this side of many muddied weeks. Accustomed to our filtered light, we dare not stare him in his face. We wear brimmed hats, draw down blinds, squint through shades and tinted glass. But when the long clouds congregate in rows as dark-redundant as cathedral pews, we dart outdoors — umbrellas up — pretend he never came.
Paul Fisher's manuscript, Rumors of Shore, is the winner of the 2009 Blue Light Press Book Award and will be published this fall. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Cave Wall, Kakalak 2009 Anthology of Carolina Poets, Main Street Rag, Mannequin Envy, Umbrella Journal, and Pedestal Magazine. A Seattle native, Paul has taught and directed cross-genre arts programs, been an environmental activist for Greenpeace, and held whatever other jobs he could find to keep body and soul together. He is the recipient of an Individual Artist's Fellowship in Poetry from the Oregon Arts Commission, and an MFA graduate of New England College. Paul currently lives in Nags Head, NC, with his wife, Linda, where he enjoys the sandy beaches, but misses the misty mountains and cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. Paul is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
We know each story worth our wait is written in the rain.
“Blinding Sun” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
Middle Age A zit blossoms like a moon, pocking the center of my forehead. Asleep, I am cradled by unblemished hands. Morning greets my third eye as if it were a lover. Sun says, "Welcome little chakra, out-of-season flower!" Unimpressed, mirror glares. Not yet done with all my dreaming, I blow gray snow from the windy ridge of my razor.
Darren C. Demaree Black & White Picture #112 Isabelle, twelve ounces of our flesh, we know now that it’s you in there. I saw your fist today, Emily felt it. I watched as you threw haymakers & gulped fluid & refused to show your ass so that we could look for parts. Belle, I have useless arms for you now, but when I started reading Sexton to you tonight, you started kicking & punching & I knew I had you. Lips, lips, black & white eyes that gave me new ghosts to love, keep listening, we’ve only just begun learning the violence & blood of poetry & what you’ll learn to love. “Blood of Poetry” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
Darren C. Demaree has been published most recently in the South Carolina Review, Meridian, Prick of the Spindle, California Quarterly, and Caffeine Destiny. At the time of this writing, he is currently embracing summer in Ohio, and finishing his masters in creative writing at Miami University. Contact Darren (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Carol Lynn Grellas Meet Me in the Countryside When you arrive, I’ll be waiting near the gate, dressed in my best black dress, silk stockings and high stacked heels. My handbag halfway open, one Hermes scarf spilling out of the corner bubbling in waves from the summer’s wind with a flower in my hair. It will be a rose, peach and white, with one leaf cupping the rim of my ear. Pearls will hang, knotted falling through the cleavage of my heartshaped neckline. One earring will jangle back and forth when I nod my head, as though I’m amused with the person to my right. He’ll be carrying on and on about this and that. A touch of Fracas will be dabbed behind my knees, as tuberose is my favorite perfume. My arms will be dusted with specks of silver, like a flickering rain of bright stars all the way to the tips of my stem-long fingers. You’ll know it’s me by my amusing laugh— the kind of sound so boastful it nears the realm of eternal happiness, as if a cluster of butterflies might be released each time I part my lips— full of heaven, colors will halo the air with every breath. Oh, you’ll say, how peculiar she is, how peculiar and strange. And I will see you there, so fantastical, drunk on faith and love, your eyes enchanted with what you’d hope to be true. Turn around when you see me— step back on the train. Nothing will be more than that very first moment. So much better to wonder what might have been. A prelude to ecstasy is all that I ask.
“Butterfly Breath by K. R. Copeland, 2009
“Butterfly Cloud” by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
Inconsolable Here I lay my tinfoil heart upon your altar, giver of grace, keeper of angels, maker of life, taker of days. The dove soars freely above your lakes, past shallow depths through hospice clouds and fields of yellow. Threads the summer with blossoms close, feathered strokes, wings spread far past wallpaper-weeds, rusted trees bowed with leaves. And I am chanting this broken prayer, this last-chance mantra; oh dreamer of saints. A sullen lens can pierce the shadows, find the darkness easy as light. Lie me down upon the grasses your birdlime bait; a hunter’s trick. Good rest is needed, my lips are open. I hear your calling my spirit flies out, one flutter— so quick. So quick, so quick.
Carol Lynn Grellas is the author of two chapbooks: Litany of Finger Prayers, from Pudding House Press, and Object of Desire, newly released from Finishing Line Press. She is widely published in magazines and online journals including most recently, The Smoking Poet, Oak Bend Review and Flutter, with work upcoming in decomP, Thick with Conviction, Poetry Midwest and Best of Boston Literary Magazine. She lives with her husband, five children and a blind dog named Ginger. Contact Carol Lynn (email@example.com)
Paul Davis Ascension In time’s elongated choreography, my senses carved all that was known into recognizable shape. I was kind to animals, gave humanity wide berth, loved a few people well. Light from the sun, longing questions from stars, the grasping great moon of November, drew answers from my looking. Trees with spring buds, snowladen like layers of white linen, angular and majestic, gave me growth in a kindness of wisdom. But no human can know another without missing them first. Forget me as you knew me, remember me as an interpretation of the world. Remember how I blew out candles in the dark summer night, the orderliness of my underwear drawer, how seldom my bathroom was clean. I walked on solid ground with you, shared words of breeze and brick; we became expansive sea. At the beach-edge, I ascend into the drowning resurrection, nonexistence will not contain me, I will swim in waves of eternal remembrance, nightwater weeps the natal song.
Paul R. Davis was born during the Truman Administration, has been happily married for 35 years— to the same wonderful woman the entire time, is owned by 4 cats and 9 parrots, lives between the equator and the North Pole, and has been sparsely published in print and online publications, including The Comstock Review, Comrades, The Externalist, and Hot Metal Press. His simple poetic philosophy is: the joy of expression and the necessity of communication. Contact Paul (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Gulls in Flight I & II” by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
Think of it as the flu. Go to bed. Stay in bed. Try not to think of what used to happen in that bed. Just think how sick you are. Indulge yourself with illness. Eat things like Popsicle®s, well maybe not Popsicle®s, too phallic, try instead chicken noodle soup— nothing sexy about soup. Chunks of meat drowning in their own juices. A meal made from chickadees with their beaks cut off to prevent cannibalism. Their faces, black holes of noise, opened to be fattened before their bones are broken and throats slit. Think of all that red. Don’t associate it with death, just think how much you like the color. Consider painting a small room with it, like the half bath. Avoid all direct associations. Remember how you broke up that fight between two female students in front of the school, because you didn’t want to see them suspended over a boy— how they laid together in the grass, grasping each other’s hoop earrings, blood running from small rips, making it appear that their chests had been tenderized with cleavers. You screamed for them to let go. But they didn’t. Couldn’t. I mean, it was love that they were fighting for. Think of their faces, startled, as though they didn’t understand where the pain was coming from.
Nicelle Davis lives in Lancaster, California, with her husband, James, and their son, J.J. She received her MFA from the University of California, Riverside. She teaches at Antelope Valley College. Her poems are forthcoming in A cappella Zoo, elimae, Moulin, PANK, Pedestal Magazine, Redactions, and Verdad. Contact Nicelle (email@example.com)
“Heartbreak” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
Chick Fights and Heartbreaks
58 Santiago del Dardano Turann was born in April 1968 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He grew up in rural Butler county. After a period of wandering, he settled in San Francisco, California, where he currently resides. He has worked blue-collar and retail jobs his whole adult life and does not have a college degree. His primary interests are poetry, karate, history and philosophy. Since beginning to submit compositions in August 2007, his work has been accepted by fifty journals. Santiago says Eros Awakening is based on a dream from July 25, 2007. Santiago is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Santiago del Dardano Turann Eros Awakening (Dedicated to Tyler Sorenson)
There on a high and central dusty plain Where earth and sky together meet in Spain, An ancient oak alone spread wide his boughs All long and winding cut the sky like ploughs. The leaves, a thousand nets to capture light, All glowed from hidden sun at zenith height. Their edges shimmered like the firefly To blend with yellow-gold and white of sky. I walked in awe towards this middle oak Where breezes whistle tunes of smooth baroque. Four Spanish boys played on in happy zeal And one of them rode circles on his Big Wheel. I saw a shape beneath the mistletoe, The gleaming plants-that-danced were hanging low; A Roman-carved sarcophagus against Its trunk was set and stretched out from its midst. There lay a naked youth, perhaps of twenty â€” The male perfection of Mediterranean beauty Cut sharp, his skin a bronze tone rich and deep And Samnite features angled, clothed in sleep.
Awakened burning life, his eyes of brown Shook off the fog of Sleep’s thinnest nightgown; He opened lashes long and sat up there To spread his wings broad-open to the air. He spoke to me in Latin three short phrases (One only wasn’t lost in Lethe’s mazes), Then walked across the plain beyond the children And down a cliff where woods primeval deepen. His words appeared engraved upon the ground; Distress within my chest began to pound. I shook from pain of loss, my eyes bled tears, “He’s gone, and no more will Eros be here!” I followed striding hopeless in his path, Descending came upon a stony megalithLike wall where Eros sat there patiently In jeans, T-shirt and bicycle waiting for me.
“Biking Eros” by Dallas J. Bryant, 2009
Here Eros lay in bonds of twilight Hypnos With dew upon him, kiss of rosy Eos. Within his neck in back were three small holes In line — I placed a plug within the right, his soul
60 Mark Cunningham Ellsworth Kelly
Pisces My mother figures I’m nine. When we buy the copy of The Wizard of Oz, she says, You give it to Aunt Barb. She‟ll think that‟s nice. Sometimes I’m fourteen. I’ve barely got my Pop-Tart before my mother’s off to make my bed. Sometimes she takes longer than usual. I think she’s looking for Playboy. We‟re proud of you, boy, my father says; I’m twenty-four then. Though when he snaps, You can change the appointment if you want to, and turns his back before I can answer, I’m about nineteen. My favorite sound was when I was in the delivery room and I listened over the monitor to my daughter’s in utero sloshings. I imagined her burly and athletic as a seal. She came out fine, ten fingers, ten toes, a loud squall. She’s still doing OK, I guess; I haven’t seen her in years. I wish I had a CD with that wallowing, that gurgling. I’d wait until late, and then listen, again— and again— the house dark around me.
Mark Cunningham is the author of three books: 80 Beetles, from Otoliths, Body Language, from Tarpaulin Sky, and 71 Leaves, an ebook from BlazeVox. Coming soon: two chapbooks, Nachtraglichkeit, from Beard of Bees, and Color Field, from 2River View. This is Mark’s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye.
“Cubist Alley” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
I’ve called him Cy Twombly and even Milt Jackson, another hard bopper. A week after I saw his paintings, I liked them: large squares and diamonds, only one or two colors, based on shadow flats and shine splays in alleys or corners of buildings. Optimism beams from them: there are no secrets, only lack of attention. Now I’ve decided that the fourth-floor restroom of Alderman Library in Charlottesville, Virginia, with two cracks jagging like negatives of lightning through the white tile walls, is my favorite public restroom. Maybe next week, you’ll watch an ordinary light scrap or shadow chip and remember how an overheard phrase or a photograph in Newsweek has stayed with you more thoroughly than a relationship that lasted three years. Maybe, maybe, you’ll recall how something started this mode of noticing — but what?
“Kitchen Crannies” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
Man or Quail? ~ By Marvin Stern
uring the afternoon of Saturday, 11 February 2006, the Vice-President of the United States shot a man. Later, in the intensive-care ward of the hospital, the victim — mistaken for a quail — was ―alert and doing fine.‖ A witness in Texas observed: ―It knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn't get in his eyes or anything like that.‖ This makes sense: the 78year-old was ―mostly injured,‖ after all, only ―on his right side.‖
Among the oldest challenges to thought and freedom is the effort of institutions of authority to direct, continuously, the eyes and ears of their audience to what “the authority” is saying — and nothing else. With each hour, it seems, we are brought up-to-date with the efforts of our government — the success especially — in keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, particularly in Pakistan. For most Americans, accordingly, whatever is on the printed page or the airwaves is, instantly, the truth. Without a doubt, the voice and appearance of “authority” like this has been the most unbidden visitor in American life. The reason is clear: such authority is always accompanied, and most of all sustained, by ignorance. And the murders, earlier in the summer in Kansas and Washington DC, have once again highlighted the immediacy of this problem in the United States. Movies offer unforgettable portrayals — and longer views — of those who wish to create unshakeable and unquestionable “authority.” In The Shop on Main Street — a great movie from Czechoslovakia — a screen of black and white is the parade ground for crypto-Nazi gangs that seize towns and villages. And their first action is rigging up outdoor loudspeakers that are constantly presenting the “news.”
The voices, the words, are inescapable. Even when milking cows in a barn or a sitting in an outhouse, the echoes — the lies — are mixed into everything, everywhere. But this was only the beginning to a new direction in Western Civilization. Everywhere, today, there is not merely “talk radio,” there is also “talk education.” At the lowest as well as the highest rungs on the educational ladder in America, “talk” equals knowledge and truth. This can be observed whether it is a weekly “discussion” section led by a graduate student in an Ivy League course — or in the appointment of “talkers” to teach courses in the humanities and social sciences at colleges and universities across the country. This easy route for those in authority — because it facilitates lying — is smoothed and polished by a gritty substance in language and the human mind as well: the apparent fine line of material that stands between intellectual ferment and authority-sponsored falsehoods. But even further, this struggle has roots deep within pure thought and controversy. And, on occasion, the final resolution can literally shake the heavens. After all, an abiding idea in British culture of the
17th and 18th Centuries is that real change in history is the consequence of CONSPIRACY. Now, the challenge facing Thomas Jefferson as he sat at his writing desk and considered events on the eastern coast of North America from 18 April 1775 on, was this: how to present what the British were doing as nothing other than a demonstration of CONSPIRACY, while at the same time asserting that the colonists were carrying out inevitable natural law sanctioned by the Divine. To the winners on the field of battle for political ideas and political truths in the early 21st century, there is an easy escape from such sweltering hot-boxes of crowded and crisscrossing thought. Available now, for vast populations especially, there are pleasant air-conditioned surroundings for a Woolworth’s or McDonald’s lunch menu where all brain-food has been simplified into a series of pictures. For contemporary leaders of the modern world, Elvis Presley’s manager is the chef-in-chief of the political morsels that every citizen chews and ingests regularly. The motto in this kitchen today: “Don’t explain it, Sell it.” What to do? Instead of “cooking” the news or the truth, there needs to be a reaffirmation today of education that relies on books, not plastic menus, boxes, and gizmos. Books can be the training-ground that will develop muscles and technique versus the pablum of fairytales. The training regimen is simple and obvious. And there are time-tested signs and goals: THE INSPIRATIONAL IDEA that motivated the author to take up the challenge of even writing the book. Then there is THE ORGANIZATIONAL IDEA — the method of analysis that the author uses to link statementsevidence-amplification. But, equally important is THE NAGGING IDEA —
the idea that really continues to boil within the thoughts of the author. THE NAGGING IDEA, for example, just might be at the heart of an abiding puzzle in the history of ideas. A nearcontemporary of Aristotle was the philosopher Epicurus. He was, actually, one of the most prolific writers in ancient philosophy. And the topic that appears most often, in the small remaining pieces of his writing, is death. The puzzle is, why? Neither Aristotle nor even Plato seems captured by this idea to the same extent that Epicurus appears to be. Looked at from a distance, the epoch of Epicurus — early Hellenistic Greece — seems riveted by the fear of death. Perhaps, even further, Greek culture fell into a trough of despair after the end of the independent Greek citystate, following the victory of Alexander at Chaeronea in 338 B. C. Above all, on the surface, the INSPIRATIONAL IDEA and the ORGANIZATIONAL IDEA of Epicurus draw attention to death with such regularity that it is hard indeed not to feel, today, that these people lived fully within an atmosphere of gloom. It is the NAGGING IDEA of Epicurus that provides a fundamentally different portrait though. When his words and encouragements regarding daily “practice” and his lofty extolling of the idea of “prudence” are added up, his thoughts about death are really those of a philosopher who is talking to a very well-to-do audience. And they are appalled not by death itself, but much more so by this question: When is it going to happen? The concern and fear for these rich members of Epicurus’ audience is that death will slip in at a time when they are about to close a deal, make a purchase, or in general interrupt the scrutiny required from their minds for doing
64 what they crave the most: adding to their wealth. The teaching that is required for learning this step-by-step unraveling of minds is, lamentably though, on the way out in America. Mention this danger at a faculty meeting, and someone is sure to raise a hand and point to a quick and glossy screen. And the more the big talk grows about “lifelong education,” the glossier the screens become. Yet the issue and the symbol of wealth that has taken hold of education in America can nonetheless lead to necessary intellectual substance, for example, in Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall. . . . Here is but another opportunity for the excavation of a “nagging idea” from beneath the edifice of Inspiration and Organization. At first in his grand History — and accompanied by much precise description and noise, as well — it appears that Gibbon is fascinated above all with the parade of imperial
color and power. Still, a careful examination reveals this: the first person whom Gibbon truly considers with comfort and envy is neither an emperor nor a military leader — but rather a man of wealth. Herodes Atticus, one of the great philanthropists of the early Empire, was Gibbon’s dream. Here is the family, and the life, that Gibbon truly craved to be a part of and to follow. For him, this was the avenue from which the awful memories of his past, and its penury, would be covered over and forgotten. Discovering nagging ideas of the past and present, while essential for real understanding of creative minds at work, is loaded with as much disappointment as enlightenment. In recent American history — and even going back to Jefferson himself — the challenge of “Man or Quail” leads, with trepidation, to this: is the intellect of the citizenry worthy of truth or deception? ~M. S.
“Quail” by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
Dr. Marvin Stern is an associate professor of history at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan, with degrees from Harvard, Yale and Brandeis. He is the author of Thorns and Briars — Bonding, Love, and Death 1764-1870, and numerous essays, reviews, and short stories for Cambridge and Oxford publications. He was also a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge and Oxford during 2001-2002. Contact Marvin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tao of Reading Poetry
Book Review Column
Snow, Shadows, a Stranger by Laury A. Egan FootHills Publishing Paper/ 79 Pages $16.00 US
“within this cage”
~ By Karla Linn Merrifield
aury A. Egan’s Snow, Shadows, a Stranger (SSS) is a first book. And I am honored to be the first to review it, especially in the pages of The Centrifugal Eye, whose writers, editors and readers have a keen, discerning eye for what’s best on the newest literary horizon. Egan’s first does not disappoint.
If you have a penchant for John Ashbury’s poetry, you may find Egan’s poems too lyrical (though I wonder how such a thing can be possible). There is nothing cerebral in them to celebrate. Nothing obtuse to puzzle over. No obscure literary allusions to halt your passage through the lines. Instead, if you are like Christine Angersbach, one of the handful of TCE readers who completed our survey, you will be much pleased: “Not usually a poetry reader, I think Laury’s work is accessible, by turns intense and wry and wistful.” Another TCE survey respondent, Caryl Sills, echoed Angersbach’s sentiment, noting that SSS is “written in accessible and meaningful language.”
Indeed, there is nothing you can’t understand in Egan’s poems here — and there is so much to feel. The book is dominated by a fearsome trio of unbidden visitors: silence, loneliness, and longing. By opening the pages of Snow, Shadows, a Stranger, you invite inside your mind and heart guests from a world where “there are no more seas / to navigate” as she writes in “Voyage.” Egan plays host to a host of sadnesses. We learn well what it feels like to live in her shoes. And, oddly, it’s refreshing — she bucks the cold, detached postmodernist trend. It’s okay to submit to emotion. As she has done through the creation of these poems, Egan gives us permission to do so.
66 First of the Unbiddens:
Second of the Unbiddens:
As editor of this largely autobiographic book and having written a blurb for it, I have traveled many times the shadowy — silent — world of Snow, Shadows, a Stranger. I made the journey one more time to write this review, vividly reminded of how horrifying a silent life can be.
In “Sensing Spring,” we are in a garden where “hyacinths thrust tentative / green fists through black mulch,” and “birds sing,” but the speaker — Egan/I — wanders forth, “ruing / the deep-ground cold of isolation” and observing, “April is no time to be alone.”
Like the silence of a failed relationship. You’ll find an archetypal one in “Peach,” where embittered lovers sit over a bowl with the “brownhearted” fruit that is “bathed in white milk.” All is far from peachy between them:
As we read on, we realize Egan’s point is that there is no good time to be alone. Pick a month, any month. It all sucks nothingness. In “December 23rd,” we listen to her confess, “Everyone I know is with someone else, in a place / where they choose to be.” What’s worse is that everyone else is “as far away as you’ll ever be,” the refrain in the poem, “As Far Away as You‟ll Ever Be.”
We could not eat the peach. It was too perfect, a staunch reproach for the harsh words sticking the silence.
And a few lines later we learn: Untasted, the milk soured in the warm breeze. My lover read this and knew.
It is also the terrifying silence of quicksand so we discover in the poem “Quicksand:”
“the deep cold ground of isolation”
Silence and loneliness gang up on the speaker of the poem “Midnight,” one of the eight poems in the chilling sequence “Snow.” I wait, too, as a trillion frozen flakes compress into the music of silence, a silence only I can hear since only those alone can detect soundlessness.
The lines are so strong and clear, the reader cannot fail to feel what it is to be alone, knowing that the lover of the sour milk is long gone.
It is also the silence that is “loud in the room,” as she writes in “Two Storms.”
Bookcover PhotoArt by Laury A. Egan, 2009
If dreams are the work-out zones for our lives, then mine harbor moors of quicksand, hidden, waiting for that one long stride that disappears into sucking nothingness.
Third of the Unbiddens: “an affinity for shadow”
Egan instills in us an overwhelming sense of longing. We feel it to the bones with the eponymic shadows that haunt the book. In several instances, Egan/I is longing for a corporeal body. Thus, in “I. Shadows,” not only does she have “an affinity for shadow,” but goes so far as to pull the shadow to me a lover I will never know a shrouded death without which light and life are dimensionless
At other times the speaker is longing for her imperfect body to be made whole. Egan, who suffers from a deteriorating mobility impairment, is forthright in admitting her desire for physical freedom in “Crows.” She observes a snowy scene, “worthy / of a Currier & Ives’ landscape” and concludes: I wish I could walk upon it, that my feet could command steadiness. Instead, I watch through windows and listen as black crows snicker at my infirmity.
In much the same way, in “Deer,” she envies those nimble-footed creatures: Beside my bedroom window, hooves rustle through brown oak leaves, pause, step again
when all the while Egan listens,
protesting tameness within the urgent wildness of my heart. How I wish to walk the night free like the white-tailed deer!
Her longing for wholeness intensifies in “Paths” to such a degree that she must acquiesce; she must, sadly, settle for memories, albeit lyrical ones: Though my feet no longer travel safe and sure, the path I walk is of water, flowing everywhere, from memories lyrical with words and music.
This longing is also perfectly expressed by a thematic motif: inside /outside. The two-stanza poem, “Stranger,” in her Either/Or sequence of 11 mood poems, takes its structure from the inside/outside dichotomy. In the first stanza, we meet “the outsider [who] remains within / and thus without others, disconnected.” Then in stanza two, there’s “the insider [who] connects to others, remaining a foreigner to herself.” Similarly, the outside /inside dichotomy is at work in the passages cited above from the poems “Crows” and “Deer.” The poet-speaker is inside, encased by windows, while the “fulsome forms of snow” and the snickering crows and white-tails are outside. The “cabbage-white butterflies” of the poem, “Flitting,” are free to flutter like “tiny flying ghosts” but, alas, Egan/I remains “sitting in air-conditioned briskness, / within this cage of bookcases.”
68 And the reader becomes witness — and empath — through the power of Egan’s words. We, too, experience the claustrophobia of being ever on the inside looking out.
in a series of six couplets beginning with:
Later, in the sixth stanza the visualaural marriage again pleases:
“seductive amusement” One of the most remarkable things about this book is that Egan does step outside herself to give the reader a reprieve from the snow and shadows. She is at her lyrical best when she turns her eye on nature. As I wrote in my blurb for SSS: “Her lush imagery of the natural world propels us beyond the shadows; she engages all our senses and we emerge from the book renewed.” Nature is a world awash in color and we sense Egan’s eye as an accomplished fine arts photographer at work in a poem such as “Weeping Cherries.” Here’s the first stanza, which presents an enchanting marriage of color and music: In crisp spring air weeping cherry trees cascade pink onto a green lake; wind skims surface, pleating landscape into squares, of jeweled mosaic into reflective magic.
And in my favorite poem in the collection, “Fog,” she deftly — colorfully — redefines for us this familiar meteorological phenomenon
Fog is the day‟s shroud. It teases greens from the trees‟ leaves and mutes the siren scream of reds.
Fog does not speak. It hums in a silver register only heard by stones.
In nature, Egan finds a “seductive amusement” and her readers find sensual pleasures in these “feathered caprices,” as she observes in the masterful “Fog.” ☼ What a breathtaking return to lyrical intensity, to the emotive. In Snow, Shadows, a Stranger, it’s as if Edna St. Vincent Millay stepped out of time (leaving behind the rhymes) and took up with Sharon Olds. I hope you have the poet’s courage to step into the ominous world of a stranger beset by silence, loneliness and longing. Any day these unbidden visitors could knock at our door. Egan prepares us. And through the glories of nature gives us hope. ~ K. L. M.
For more about Laury A. Egan, visit her website to see a portfolio of her photographic work and find links to a few of her published short stories.
“Weeping Cherries, Holmdel Park” by Laury A. Egan, 2009
2009 Everglades National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield, has had poetry appear in publications such as CALYX, Earth‟s Daughters, Poetica, The Kerf, Negative Capability, Paper Street and Blueline (print zines), and in The Centrifugal Eye, Terrain.org, Elsewhere: A Journal of the Literature of Place, and Elegant Thorn Review (online zines), as well as in many anthologies. In 2006, she edited THE DIRE ELEGIES: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America, from FootHills Publishing; in 2007, FootHills issued her Godwit: Poems of Canada, and will issue The Etowah River Psalms in September. She is also author of Dawn of Migration and Other Audubon Dreams (2007, RochesterInk Publications). Contact Karla (email@example.com)
Readers of TCE’s print version may visit online for references included in this article: http://foothillspublishing.com/2009/id44.htm http://www.lauryaegan.com/
Column Editor’s Note: What’s your story behind a poetry book that you’ve read and desire others to read? What path led you to that book? Tell me. Just complete our online Reader Survey (http://home.earthlink.net/~tinyviolet/thecentrifugaleyepoetryjournal/id366.html)
From your stories I’ll select the books and I’ll review them for The Centrifugal Eye for all our readers in future issues. Give me something new to rave about!
“Red Butterfly” by Stephanie Curtis 2009
The Fractured World By Scott Owens, 2008 Main Street Rag Publishing
Charlotte, NC 88 pgs / $14US
Revisiting the Child in The Fractured World by Scott Owens:
A Review By Helen Losse
cott Owens says the poems in his first full-length book, The Fractured World, are ―heavy, depressing.‖ Maybe I’m jaded, but I do not find them so. Instead, I see them as the path toward personal liberation, something with which many people can identify. Without revisiting the child, unbidden visitors may come again and again. Not that I want to pretend that Owens’ story is mine; but we do all have stories, and when a poet tells his story well, readers find comfort.
The poems in the book are divided into three sections: “The Fractured World,” “Suite Norman,” and “Smoke Dissolving in the Wind.”
Her life got better when the butter started talking. No more nights alone. No more mornings staring at the empty chair, across from the oatmeal. The butter was surprisingly liberal.
In the first section, Owens’ poems are intense due to the examination of child abuse, a “heavy” subject that deserves our attention. The details Owens uses are sharp; they are what draw us in, make us weak — drive a person to act. The details matter because they make each child real and describe the world of loneliness in which Owens lived as a child and from which he moved. In “The Liberation of Breakfast” (pgs. 20-21), Owens writes, concerning a young girl,
They agreed their lives must be leading to something more, that they would have a chance to live again as a butterfly, a dancer, a star in the sky. But secretly they both thought, “She will be a greasy spot in the ground. . . .”
But the germ of release is there already — even in the sadness and loneliness of a wrong belief internalized — in “We are the children / of straight-backed generations / of
red-faced fathers / hiding perversions in barns? . . . We are the bitch / the teacher / the painkeeper / children begetting children / help absorb the pain” (“Splinters,” pgs. 14-15). And “We’d hate them, you say, / if they didn’t look so much like us” (“They,” pgs. 27-29). The child who would hate cannot, and if he cannot hate, he must reconcile: break the cycle, shun the violence, heal himself, invite others to follow. In the second section, Owens uses the character Norman to represent anything useful in telling his story — the called-forth and the unbidden — anything needed in trying to grow up and make sense of life, anything hoped for. Afraid of storms, Norman hides under the table (“Norman‟s Storm Fear,” pg. 33) and tries not to cry. But how could a child be anything other than afraid, when he is told, “God is angry at someone . . . when the storms came over the housetop / like screendoors slamming, like headlights / flashing, like black walnuts rolling across the roof?” The violence and the storm have united against him. Who wants to remember that?
Try as he will, the youthful Norman cannot make the pain leave. It will take a fully grown Scott Owens to do that: A Scott Owens who is willing to face his demons. Through the years Norman grows up and experiences all of the discomforts of youth. And like any young man, he dreams. “He wants to think that his dreams mean nothing” (“Norman Dreaming,” pg. 51) because he’s been told he is nothing, and things seem easier that way; “it’s hard to look at Norman’s works / squirming with anguished life in every corner” (“Norman‟s Opus,” pg. 56). Then Owens, who grows to manhood both in spite of and alongside Norman, wants a life that is real.
Norman had a change of heart when they cut his chest in two. No more shell of swelling up inside him. No more closed door of keeping everything in. No more hard answers to anything not his own. . . . ....................................... he took the things he‟d made and held them for the first time to his chest, chest that ached, chest grown red with wanting to be healed.
(“Norman Had a Change of Heart,” pg. 57)
You want an excuse because you know it‟s not big to cry . . . and your stepfather offers to give you something to really cry about . . . Each tear, of course, brings another one, as if all the tears you‟ve ever cried were connected in some complex crystal of personal history, and suddenly you have everything to cry about . . . you‟ll learn to turn what flutters in your chest to a cold stone beating in the palm of your hand.
In the final section, the poems guide the reader toward the release. Though specific in every way, the conclusion deals with the universal search for balance and meaning. As Owens is becoming his better (now grown-up) self, Norman is becoming unnecessary, yet change does not come easily.
(“Norman Learns How Not To Cry” pgs. 34-35)
72 Every day we come to see the man we stayed away from for years. It has become easier to blame than understand. . . . [It always is.] My father moves toward me in the dark.
(“Holding the Breath We Feel Inside Us,” pg. 63)
Norman considers suicide. But why not give it another try. why not rise to another morning. . . . (“Obsession” pgs. 65-66)
In my opinion, the final poems are the best and strongest, most human poems in the book. Norman is a puppet by now, Scott Owens a real man. When Norman dies, body parts fly everywhere, and Owens shows us his genuine, masculine tenderness. From a battered child, through a troubled youth, and now at the fragile brink of normalcy, Norman’s “hard right hand / . . . gently turned into / a leaf that held wind, / . . . / then [Owens] let everything go.”
The Fractured World deserves to be widely read, both for its poetic and its social worth. These poems — so much more than a story of coming of age — are liberating. Throughout the book, the poet’s language is accessible. The poems speak even to those who do not read much poetry. The one depressing aspect is knowing that there are countless abused children who are not liberated — that we live in a “fractured world,” where, at least for some, demons live on, unbidden. Wounded people inhabit the earth. Heaviness of subject can lead toward emotional release, good mental health, and social responsibility both for poet and readers. Maybe understanding Scott Owens’ poems can lead us closer to an acceptance of children as fully human. Maybe this gifted poet — now in the early stages of his publishing career — can be a literary success, and a social one, too. My feeling is that Owens would like that. ~ H. L.
A version of this review first appeared in Adagio Verse Quarterly.
Read more of Scott’s poems in this issue on pgs. 40-41
Readers of TCE’s print version may visit online for references included in this article: http://www.mainstreetrag.com/SOwen.php http://helenl.wordpress.com/my-books/
Helen Losse is the author of Better With Friends, just released from Rank Stranger Press, and the Poetry Editor of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Her recent poetry publication credits include Lily, Ghoti, The Wild Goose Poetry Review, Right Hand Pointing, and Blue Fifth Review. She has two chapbooks, Gathering the Broken Pieces, available from FootHills Publishing and Paper Snowflakes, available from Southern Hum Press. Educated at Missouri Southern State and Wake Forest Universities, she lives in Winston-Salem, NC, where she occasionally writes book reviews for various literary magazines. She has published creative nonfiction in Muscadine Lines, and an essay on poetic craft in (and is a regular contributor to) The Centrifugal Eye. Better with Friends
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight By Simon Armitage (trans.), 2007 W.W. Norton & Company Hardcover, 198 pages, USD $25.95 ISBN 978-0-393-06048-5 Paper, 208 pages, USD $14.95 ISBN 978-0393334159 E.A.H. 2009
Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas Dinner? Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A New Verse Translation By E. K. Mortenson
here is the age-old debate about poetic translation: stay true to the meaning of the original work, or attempt to reproduce the prosody of the piece. Arguably, any mediocre-but-motivated student possessing a middling dictionary of the original language could produce a passing fair translation of a poem in a foreign tongue.
Well, wait a minute. Can foreign words ever really be translated into English words? What if the foreign word conveys a feeling that cannot be adequately defined in English? What if the one word requires an entire phrase, as is sometimes the case? The best a translator can ever do is approximate meaning. Can a translator reproduce a foreign tongue’s prosody if it relies heavily on metrics or rhythm or rhyme? Others would suggest that, since they feel literal translation to be impossible, the poetic translator has the duty to compose a poem that
approximates the original in style and form and general meaning, but is, in itself, a piece of art independent of the original. Let’s throw another wrench in the gears: what happens when the language one is translating into English is English? Or a form of English, at least. Simon Armitage’s 2007 translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is simply majestic. He claims an almost otherworldly set of coincidences that he took as “some kind of BIG HINT” (pg. 191, caps in original) that gave him the “conviction
74 that [he] was put on the planet for no other reason than to work on this poem” (191). If that is true, then Armitage has found the purpose to his life and has fulfilled it exactly. Herein he has almost flawlessly combined close-to-literal translation with the unknown Gawain poet’s prosody in order to provide as seamless a translation as I have encountered. As such, one feels what a medieval reader must have felt upon reading the poem for the first time.
A rush of excitement from the chivalric romance proper, a visceral thrill from the language, a sense of wonder from the imagery conveyed, and a communion of identity with a very human hero. As a piece of Anglo-Saxon literature, the verse is alliterative throughout and the volume provides a very brief, yet informative, “note on Middle English meter” (pg. 17). Therein one learns that
In Germanic languages [such as Anglo-Saxon English pre-Norman invasion], the tonic, or accented syllable, is usually the first syllable of the word. In romance languages, by contrast, the tonic syllable falls toward, or at the end, of words. Germanic poets therefore highlight the beginning of words with alliteration, whereas romance poets highlight the end of words with rhyme.
As such, Armitage takes great pains to translate the alliterative form of the original. He writes in the Introduction that, “alliteration is the warp and weft of the poem, without which it is just so many fine threads. In some very elemental way, the story and the sense of the poem is directly located within its sound” (pg. 12). Reading Armitage’s version of the romance demonstrates this assertion. When compared with the 2000 Merwin translation — and I am obliged to say it is a good one — which has alliterative passages, but is not an alliterative poem, Armitage’s translation is far richer, and therefore superior, in my opinion. Indeed, Armitage claims to have taken “certain liberties” in his translation to accommodate the sound, but on the one hand, every translator must do so, and on the
other hand, those “liberties” are relatively few. Of particular note is Armitage’s ability to utilize homophone alliteration and alliteration among words with second syllable emphasis. For example, upon the mysterious and undoubtedlyunexpected entrance of the Green Knight, Armitage’s translation describes the Knights of the Round Table as “mute with amazement” (line 233). Herein, his alliteration of “m” lands on the emphasized second syllable “maze.” As such, he is able to avoid numerous pitfalls that might stem from forcing an “mword” into the line. Armitage’s success as a poet allows him to understand alliteration depends upon sound, not simply upon the sound a letter might make. This is what I refer to as “homophone alliteration.” A random illustration can be found in line
1639 when Armitage writes: “He catches him by the neck and courteously kisses him.” While this example is not extreme in any way, one can imagine the result of the alliteration in the hands of a lesser poet: would all the alliterative words begin with “C”? With “K”? What would the resultant line be? Would the sense be the same? Thankfully, in both of these cases, Armitage’s versatility (and ear), as a poet, allows the poem’s sound and sense to be conveyed. We have, as a result, passages lovely and lush:
So summer comes in season with its subtle airs, when the west wind sighs among shoots and seeds, and those plants which flower and flourish are a pleasure as their leaves let drip their drink of dew and they sparkle and glitter when glanced by sunlight. The autumn arrives to harden the harvest and with it comes a warning to ripen before winter. (ll. 516-522)
Similarly, in the passage in which Gawain is presented as arming himself before his departure from Camelot:
He remained all that day and in the morning he dressed, asked early for his arms and all were produced. First a rug of rare cloth was unrolled on the floor, heaped with gear which glimmered and gleamed, and onto it he stepped to receive his armored suit. He tries on his tunic of extravagant silk, then the neatly cut cloak, closed at the neck, its lining finished with a layer of white fur. (ll. 566-573)
Passages such as these are informed by the “original” text on the facing page. As such, readers may easily compare Armitage’s work with that of the Gawain poet. Interestingly, the “original” text has been provided with contemporary spelling. That is, Þ and ð characters have been “translated” to their respective “th” and “eth” counterparts. This serves to demystify the poem a bit by giving it the appearance of “looking normal.” With these odd characters removed, even a casual reader is capable of performing a cursory comparison of the original lines with Armitage’s translations. As he admits, Armitage takes some liberties. Again, on the one hand, how could he not, and on the other, these liberties seem to me almost invariably in the service of the poem, itself. However, I find this translation so impeccable that the few missteps Armitage makes seem all that more glaring. Had the translation been merely pedestrian, we might more readily forgive — if not simply forget — questionable diction decisions. Here, though, these choices sometimes seem like fingernails on a blackboard, and other times they grind the rhythm of the poem to a halt. Again, when describing the Green Knight’s entrance, Armitage writes, “in the other hand [he] held the mother of all axes, / a cruel piece of kit I kid you not” (ll 208-209, italics mine). The facing original verse seems to provide an adequate enough description, at least of the axe, where the poet uses “hoge and unmete.” Why not, “in the other hand held an axe, huge and unmatched”? The next line is more complex, but the phrase “I kid you not” seems anachronistic, as to be jarring.
76 Likewise the euphemism “mother of all . . .” It is the translator’s burden to convey a sense of the culture of the poem as well as its meaning and sound. Had Armitage chosen to “update” the poem, this might have been of a piece with the rest, but to me, it seems radically out of place in his overall project. Similarly, upon seeing the knights of Camelot, the Green Knight comments: “hit arn aboute on this bench bot berdles chylder” (l 280). Armitage translates: “the bodies on these benches are just bum-fluffed bairns.” Bum-fluffed? Understandably, the Green Knight is leveling a bit of an insult at the knights, but why not “the bodies on these benches are just beardless children”? Two lines further the Green Knight states: “Here is no mon me to mach, for myghtes so wayke” (l 282). Armitage presents an incredibly contemporary and colloquial “these lightweight adolescents wouldn’t last a minute.” Again, these jarring choices are few and far between — indeed, I count very few (some consist of a sole word) that “offend” me — but they are enough to trip the verse at times. Despite the minor stumbles, this translation, with its masterful attention to the sounds and sense of the original, conveys the hypnotic power that swept up both Merwin and Armitage. The strangeness of the Green Knight, the lush description of nature, the parallel of the outdoor hunting scenes with the courtly love games indoors are all conveyed in dynamic fashion. The ultimate quandary of Sir Gawain, torn between his love for his life and his desire to be the perfect knight, is presented wonderfully in this new
translation and gives readers a taste of 14th-century life: one that waffles in the text between mortal peril and sexual temptation (ultimately related), between duty to one’s code and to one’s self. Armitage’s strikes me as an influential work of translation. His is what poetry is, in its original form or as translation. This work is a delight for lovers of Arthurian romance, students of poetry, and of translation, alike. This is a translation to read and savor again and again as poetry. Scholars have argued that only his geographic location as a northerner kept the Gawain poet from writing the seminal poem in English. Instead, that honor went to Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales. Armitage brings the Gawain poet into our ken in this new translation, and intelligent readers will see why that ancient poet deserves such an honor. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an extraordinary poem, filled with magical and supernatural happenings. The language of the poem is equally magical and the original Old English words seem supernatural, indeed. Armitage brings to us all the peculiarity of the poem, and like Arthur’s knights that Christmas Eve, when an enormous — and uninvited — green knight rides into the feast hall daring someone to chop his head off with a giant axe, we readers sit wide-eyed at the majesty and mystery of the poem. Like the knight, this poem is a curious and unexpected guest, but one from whom we shall learn much about ourselves. ~ E. K. M.
E. K. Mortenson is a member of the National Book Critics’ Circle and an MFA candidate at Western Connecticut State University. His reviews have appeared in RATTLE, Connecticut River Review, Rain Taxi, and Gently Read Lit. His poetry appears in a variety of print and online journals, and he was the 2008 recipient of the Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize. He lives in Stamford, CT, with his wife, son, and two cats. E. K. is a staff reviewer for and regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact E. K. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Readers of TCE’s print version may visit online for references included in this article: http://www.wwnorton.com/catalog/fall07/006048.htm
“Green Knight” by K. R. Copeland, 2009
Next issue: Autumn, November 2009 Battling Stereotypes:
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“Angel Visitation” by K. R. Copeland & E. A. Hanninen, 2009