The Centrifugal Eye Poetry Journal May 2010 Volume 5 Issue 2
Renewal, Revision, & Recycling
The 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 Quarterly Review Columnist: Karla Linn Merrifield Proofreader; Ed. Assistant: Ismail Ishaq Art Assistants: Dallas J. Bryant, Mandi Knight Staff Reviewers: Dallas J. Bryant, Simon Lloyd Dunbar, Ocalive Mwenda Staff Readers' Circle: Anonymous Reviewers
Cover Illustration: “Mixed-Media Nude” by Phoebe Mürer, 2010. Artist Phoebe Mürer is a Philadelphia-based painter whose work combines a spirit of rebellion with her background as a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Her work is imaginative, and frequently characterized by themes of transgression and social malaise, as well as an irreverent regurgitation of the popular culture and consumerism that inundates our daily lives. In addition to being a painter, she is known to look to other media — from collage and print-making to audio recording and the written word — to meet her expressive needs. She is also active as an advocate for autism awareness, animal (in particular, rat) rights, special education reform, and the development of new approaches to art therapy. To see more of Phoebe‟s artwork, please visit her website. (http://www.phoebemurer.com/)
Copyright 2010 The Centrifugal Eye — Collected Works — All Rights Reserved.
Contents Editorial & Book News — Eve Anthony Hanninen 4-5
Featured Poet — Richard Schiffman 6-20
“Future Nature Three” By B. L. Pawelek 2010
Essays Chris Crittenden Ellaraine Lockie
Review Karla Linn Merrifield on Jim Daniels a little R & R … & R
22 Patricia Wallace Jones 23 Drew Riley 24-27 Carolee Sherwood 28 Daniel Wilcox 29 Vincent Renstrom 30-31 Karla Linn Merrifield 32-33 Bruce Lader 34 Bill Jansen 35 M. J. Iuppa 36-37 Mary Marie Dixon 38-40 Chris Crittenden 41 Paula D. Anderson 42-45 Laura Ciraolo 46-49 C. E. Chaffin 50 J. E. Allman, Jr. 51-53 Michelle Barker 54 C. Albert
Editorial Eve Anthony Hanninen by
Stockpiling Solutions: The Ecology of Poetics A little more than a year ago when I first moved to Prince Rupert, a small city on the northwest coast of British Columbia, Canada, I quickly discovered there were no municipal efforts to provide recycling services. To make matters worse, garbage collection was limited to 2 medium bags per household per week, and the landfill restrictions included the ban of corrugated cardboard. Having migrated originally from Seattle, Washington, a progressive and environmentally-active city in the U.S., I was more than disturbed to find myself stuck with garbage I normally considered renewable. My creative mind quickly turned to looking for alternative solutions for reusing containers and materials that had me stockpiling all kinds of junk for “future art projects.” Some of this trash was suitable for immediate use, like making notes from scrap paper, but one can only horde so many plastic tubs and tin cans for storing paintbrushes, or oddities for papier-mâché crafts. I was most puzzled about what to do with pizza boxes, as they were not allowed in the garbage nor landfill. The local pizza restaurants were also cutting costs and wouldn‟t put liners in the boxes, so the cardboard always had greasy food stuck to it, making it inappropriate for storage uses. I turned to the extra task of kneading homemade pizza dough to eliminate the stack of boxes on my back porch. After 3 months of this, and running out of ideas and closet-space for empty tea cartons, I saw a little ad in the regional paper for recycle pick-up services run by a young, local couple. Apparently they were as distressed by the lack of Prince Rupert‟s civic and environmental resource-solutions as I was. And they came up with a way of helping the community deal with it. They offered to run around town and pick up your paper, glass, metal, plastic and cardboard and haul it off for you to a town with a recycling center 50 miles away, twice a week. For a moderate fee. Worth it, if you run out of attic, basement, and closet space, and don‟t want to spread old hub caps, boxes of milk cartons and pickle jars in your side yard. I will remain grateful to the Bosco family for the length of our stay in Prince Rupert. But what has this to do with poetry, you ask? Why, everything! Poets and writers are the master word-recyclers. They are faced with reusing a basic vocabulary and finding ways to be creative with diction. One group of words becomes a wholly different arrangement of sentences with the renewing efforts of each author. Every poet revises and reenvisions an image, a concept, or even the language itself, when fashioning the new from the existing. And this is what our May 2010 issue of The Centrifugal Eye is all about. Sometimes eco-solutions are fashioned by hand, in the physical realm of recycling materials. Sometimes they are fashioned in the mind and implemented in the realm of the intellectual or spiritual. In the shape of an emotionally-moving poem or an impassioned and convincing essay. You‟ll find all these renewing elements in the following pages of TCE.
Eve Anthony Hanninen
Eve Anthony Hanninen — an American poet in Canada — writes, illustrates, and edits from beneath the dripping fronds shading a North Coast, B.C. town. Her poems have shown up or are forthcoming in Magnolia: A Florida Journal of Literary and Fine Arts, Long Story Short (interview, May 2009), east to west: bicoastal verse, Sein und Werden (print and online), Moondance, Wicked Alice, and other fine poetry journals, as well as in the anthologies, Crazed by the Sun and Trim: The Mannequin Envy Anthology. She edits and publishes The Centrifugal Eye poetry journal. Contact Eve (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Renew Your Relationship with the Green Earth New Book Picks
How-To Follow NYT‟s bestselling-author Sophie Uliano's advice in Do It Gorgeously: Simple Steps to Living a Less Toxic, Less Expensive and More Beautiful Life. She shares secrets on saving money while being environmentally savvy. She explains there are hazardous ingredients in many manufactured products and demonstrates how to create your own homemade versions that are cheaper, safer, and greener. Subjects range from beauty to baby to food to gardening and maintenance solutions. Publisher: Voice. Spring 2010. History Find out how preserving trees has influenced the U.S. and its people in Eric Rutkow's Out of the Woods: How Trees Shaped America and America Shaped Trees. Rutkow tells of how a land of woods grew into a great nation, explaining that during industrialization, war and peacetime “razing and clearing and conserving and preserving trees have shaped … the people of America: settlers, explorers, builders,” et al, reported Publishers Lunch this winter 2010. Publisher: Scribner. Publication date unknown. Memoir In One Last, Green Home, Mark Harris relates a story about his elderly parents, who were recognized in the state of Georgia as having built “the most eco-friendly house” in the region. Harris also covers the topics of aging and family, as well as revealing environmentally-sound construction techniques for those interested in making their homes green, too. Publisher: Scribner. Slated for 2012. Debut Fiction For fiction, try Sabina Berman‟s debut novel, The Woman Who Dove into the Heart of the World (trs. by Edith Grossman). Berman is a 4-time winner of the Mexican National Theatre Prize for playwriting, and also writes film scripts, poetry, and prose. The novel “explores themes of globalization, animal welfare, and individualism,” and is reported (Publishers Lunch) to be “about a young autistic woman whose life takes an unexpected turn when she takes charge of her family's tuna fishery.” Publisher: Holt. Summer 2011.
TCE Editor Eve Anthony Hanninen and
Poet Richard Schiffman discuss the need for creative, personal, and universal rejuvenation, and in particular, the poetry of renewal.
EAH: In late winter, Richard, you took off for Bali — what were you doing in such an exotic place? Was there writing involved? RS: I went to Bali to learn a wonderful Balinese shamanic practice called “shaking meditation.” Bali is a Hindu island within the largely Moslem country of Indonesia. I‟ve spent several years studying the Hindu tradition in India and have written a couple of books on this. In Bali there is a tradition of arousing spiritual energy through rigorous movement. I feel physically and spiritually renewed by this month-long retreat. Friends say I look ten years younger! As a writer, I find that it is important to periodically get away from it all. In New York City, where I live most of the year, it is easy to lose touch with the natural world, which is the wellspring of my poetry. I have an adobe house in the mountains of northern New Mexico, where I go for two months every summer to recharge the batteries. What a change to live off the grid without TV or the Internet! I‟ve got a couple of solar panels on the roof for the lights, and a cistern to store rainwater. EAH: Did you plan it as a “green” home? RS: I didn‟t have any choice, as the property is far from the nearest utilities. It turned out to be a blessing for my work. It might not be a bad idea if in those MFA Poetry programs they sent the students off to a mountain cabin for a couple of months to write and meditate alone. It gives you a unique perspective on our modern culture to spend some time outside of it. EAH: And what do you do to renew yourself while staying in the city? RS: I find that poetry writing requires a certain contemplative space — and large chunk of time. That's why I like to get away from the apartment and phone to write. I do some of my best writing while walking through Central Park! I am a frequent visitor to the New York Botanical Gardens, also a rich source for my poems, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I have my favorite benches to sit on and write, surrounded by the glories of art. EAH: How else have you been active in “renewal?”
Featured Poet Richard Schiffman Interview
7 NYC Poet Richard Schiffman Portrait by E. A. Hanninen & B. L. Pawelek, 2010 Author photo supplied by R. Schiffman
RS: I was an outdoor education teacher for a stint, teaching basic ecology to sixth-graders, then worked as a journalist for National Public Radio. It was exciting to be part of the national media, but also creatively limiting in ways that ultimately drove me in the direction of poetry. Mostly, Iâ€&#x;ve shied away from direct activism, though Iâ€&#x;m a great supporter of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the most effective environmental groups working on the legal front. And I did spearhead a campaign a few years back to limit the cutting of trees in the Carson National Forest, which borders my property in New Mexico. But I think that writers have their own contribution to make by speaking for the Earth and all her creatures. I write lots of poems from the perspective of animals, and especially birds, whom I regard as our great teachers.
EAH: What do they teach us? RS: Yesterday I was sitting in the Brambles, one of the leading birdwatching locales on the Eastern Seaboard at the heart of New York‟s Central Park. I just closed my eyes and listened to the rising and falling away of birdsong and felt the stresses of urban life drain out of me. It literally lifted me out of myself. I used to have that experience sitting with my spiritual teacher in India. So the birds have become my gurus. There is a purity in their voices that touches me deeply. Our fellow creatures have so much to teach us about how to live with greater wildness, simplicity, spontaneity, and joy. EAH: As a long-term student of bird wisdom, how have these lessons helped you contribute to creating world-bettering solutions? RS: As a poet, I tend to be suspicious of large-scale solutions. I‟m not sure there are any grand programs out there that are going to heal all our societal ills. I think we each need to heal ourselves first. The word “heal” comes etymologically from the same root as the word “whole.” So we heal by returning to a vision of wholeness, that is to say— a living apprehension of our unity with all of life. A big task! Meditation can certainly help us to recover this larger heart. I host a weekly shaking meditation here in my apartment. Contemplative arts like poetry also have a role to play in this inner opening. Mostly, I write. I don‟t know if words change anything. But clearly our society cannot survive unless we fundamentally revise our values toward peace, nurturing and mutual caring. Can poetry, and art in general, play a role in this re-envisioning? I hope so. Poets were once equated with seers and prophets. We've largely relinquished this role. But there are a few prophetic voices out there: poets such as Mary Oliver, who speaks so eloquently for the natural world; Coleman Barks and Robert Bly with their contemporary mysticism; Carolyn Forché and Brian Turner with their unflinching portraits of the reality of war. We need a poetry which speaks to larger, less-narrow, personal themes. EAH: You mean poetry that appeals to universal understanding, I take it? RS: Exactly. I've been thinking lately about the connection between spirituality and poetry. By spiritual, I don't mean religious per se, though in some cases there may be religious themes and images, but poems that touch on the deepest levels of our humanity. For me, the "Spirit" is the core "transpersonal" level of ourselves, or the universal imbedded within the individual. The most powerful poetry for me has always been that which points us back to the universal. Poets like Whitman, Blake, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Yeats, and others were my early teachers. These writers were not afraid of tackling big ideas and issues, including our connection to a transcendent Source— call it God, Beauty, Spirit, Truth, Love, or whatever you like. It seems to me that most poets today tend to be more cautious and less ambitious. I know many people who enjoyed reading poems when they were in school, but have fallen away from it, either because they find contemporary work "difficult," or unduly negative, depressing, narcissistic, or what have you. While these characterizations are obviously too broad, there may be some truth here that we need to examine. So the question is: how do we as poets create work that is attractive, accessible and also — dare I say it — "life-affirming," even "inspirational," without crossing the line into sentimentality, or naiveté?
EAH: Yes, and in contrast, I know lovers of poetry today who have also had the opposite reaction: a dislike of classic poetry taught them in high school, but who say they found a new passion for contemporary poems because of a language that reaches directly to touch their emotions in a universal way. Obviously there‟s a need for poets to examine, as you say, the varied means by which to attract readers that include both “spiritual” accessibility and recognition of modern sophistication or practicality. What‟s one of the ways you think that‟s achieved? RS: Well, that is what I am struggling for in my own work. I don‟t know if it is still true, but there was a time when the Sufi, Jalaluddin Rumi (largely in Coleman Barks‟ translations), was the best-selling poet in America. If a living poet were to write like Rumi, however, I‟m not sure that readers would accept that. A thirteenth-century mystic can get away with saying things that would sound overblown, or even false, from a contemporary writer. We clearly need to write from out of the full complexity — and ambiguity — of our own time. But if our words are going to “fork lightning,” in Yeats‟ immortal phrase, then they need to come from a very deep place within ourselves. It has never been easy to write from that place. It has always required courage, and maybe a touch of recklessness. The bottom line for me is that poetry should offer a broader, more encompassing view of life. Those of us who love poetry often love it because it helps us to feel ourselves and our experience as being part of something larger. I think that poems, at their best, come from an impersonal, Truth-telling layer of ourselves, which belongs to everyone equally. Therefore, we speak of "the muse," because we recognize the archetypal nature of these creations. EAH: How does this connection of the spiritual to poetry also incorporate a respect for the natural world? RS: We are, all of us, the cells of nature‟s living body. Love for nature is nothing other than enlightened self-love. This separation from nature that people talk about is a form of schizophrenia, a dissociative disorder, which threatens our continued survival. Poets speak for the whole body. They should give voice to the voiceless parts of ourselves and of our larger body, the world around us. So, getting back to your earlier question, Eve, about ways of contributing to the world, I believe that the writer has a responsibility to speak up for all that the greater society has marginalized and neglected. That is why I regard all great poetry as being political. It helps us to see how much of life — both within ourselves and in the outer world — we‟ve cut ourselves off from. Yet, in my opinion, the best poetry is seldom solemn or preachy. In fact, humor is one of the most powerful, if sadly-underutilized, tools in the poet‟s arsenal. The great Sixties comic and social commentator, Lenny Bruce, said that humor allows us to accept truths that would otherwise be bitter and hard to swallow. I sometimes wonder why so many “serious poets” look down on funny poems. It makes me think— what are they protecting? Laughter is a revolutionary act!
EAH: Former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins would agree with you there — at least about humor, playfulness. Although, Collins has been quoted as having some unfavorable opinions toward revising, whereas I‟m a fan of judicious revision — little surprise for an editor — but I‟m also ever-conscious about process; just as or more important to the craft of writing as revision, is “revisioning:” taking an image, a concept, a word or line, and reshaping such an element to represent and suggest new ways of visualizing. Would you tell The Centrifugal Eye‟s readers a little about your process? RS: Occasionally, a short poem happens quickly, comes almost fully formed, but that is rare. More often I take notes first — words, phrases, images around a broad theme or observation — which I'll sleep on, then work into a first draft of a poem the following morning. I‟m usually surprised by what direction the poem takes. I love to revise, and often continue to do so even after the poem is published. It's always a good idea to keep a poem for weeks or months in my active editing file before sending it out. But sometimes I violate this rule. Rejections are useful because they goad me to get the poem out and work on it some more. Handwriting the work helps to feel more connected to the words. Putting it into the computer is usually the last stage. EAH: In another conversation with me, you mentioned coming to poetry late in life — in your fifties — and that it‟s your “great love.” Another renewal of sorts? And why do you enjoy it so much now, as opposed to earlier in your writing career? RS: Writing poetry, or exploring any art form seriously, is an experience of growth. I feel like a rank beginner with so much yet to learn and to express. There is an excitement in this process like growing up. Who will I become? What will I write in the future? Moreover, the kinds of things that I want to say as a poet exist on the edges of language. So there is this ongoing challenge to say things that are barely sayable at all, and to reach ever deeper inside myself, to say them. For me, the creative process is not complete until the work is received by another. A poem is like a stone thrown in the water. The ripples may go out and touch someone far away. That is a wonderful feeling, that something I've created could touch someone else, as I have been touched by so many poems. A poem, unlike a piece of journalism, say, can stick with one for a long time, be learned "by heart," be recreated by the reader, made very much their own. EAH: You‟re getting a lot of attention lately in various poetry venues. For example, you won the Lucidity poetry contest last year. Other recent accomplishments of note? RS: Like many others, I‟ve been nominated for Best New Poets and the Pushcart, and am beginning to be pretty widely published, but I don't think these things are really important. The best prize of all is when somebody takes one of your poems and puts it up on their refrigerator, or reads it at their bedside. If I ever write anything that puts a smile on someone's face or brings a little touch of beauty, hopefulness, kindness into their lives, that would be the best award!
EAH: I‟m certain your poems bring smiles to our readers. But you don‟t write only poetry — how did you first hone your craft? Through what writing projects? RS: You know, doing radio journalism for several years was a great practice in writing concisely and to the point. I have also published two biographies of spiritual figures from India, where I lived in a small ashram for five years, and I have recently completed a manuscript, a mystical interpretation of Moses and the Exodus, which is currently seeking a publisher. A poetry editor once called my work “reader-friendly.” I‟m not sure she meant this entirely as a compliment, but I take it as a legacy of my work as a nonfiction writer that I try to write clearly in a medium that rightly prizes multiple meanings and a degree of ambiguity. I‟ve also been learning TV production at a local cable station where I‟ve been working on some pieces on older New Yorkers. I hope to do a profile shortly of the octogenarian poet, Gerald Stern. It has been a dream of mine to someday make a film on the poetry of the spirit. I think we need to get poetry off the page and into new venues like film and the Internet. It is already happening. Your own journal, Eve, is a wonderful example of an online melding of visual art with poetry. EAH: Why, thanks! So, any other projects in the works, Richard? RS: As you might expect from a Hindu- and Buddhist-inspired writer, I try to live in the moment without too many plans. But God willing, I‟d like to publish a first poetry book, expand my “Spiritual Poetry Portal” webpage, and share the fabulous shaking practice that I learned in Bali with lots of people. And, of course, I want to continue to shake up myself and others with weird and — I hope restorative — new poems.
Learn more in the following pages about Richard and his “weird,” restorative poems! Readers of TCE ’s print edition may find more information about this reference online:
Spiritual Poetry Portal (http://multiplex.isdna.org/poetry.htm)
“Curb” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Recycling All day long as the snow melted, as it sloughed off the hedges calving like glaciers, as it dripped and runneled and thumped to pavement, as it crashed and splattered, as icicles shattered from eaves, as runoff tinkled the gutters, and seeped down brick walls, as it soaked the crotches of oaks and slid like christened ships from the boughs of pines, as it glissaded off slate roofs, streaked panes and stained sills, as it gurgled and purled and puddled, an ooze, a slush, a slick, a curbside pool, as sparrows drank of it and the roots of grasses, as it collapsed like a lung, as it was rammed and shoveled and trodden underfoot, then rose as a mist, then coalesced as a white tent of cloud, I thought to myself— all day long the world pours into itself. It gives and it takes with the very same hand.
Been There, Done That Richard Schiffman It is snowing again today on yesterday‟s snow, which rests on last week‟s icy slush. It‟s what they say to actors— keep it fresh. But won‟t the eye blear over from all that white on white? Still, it‟s what the world does with days— each one so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, each one reinventing the wheel all over again. Why do we wash our clothes, clean the dishes, the car, the kitchen sink, armpit and crotch— again and again and again? Wouldn‟t once be enough? One whole-hog, no-holds-barred cleanup per lifetime. Just think, you‟d finally have time for those hard-to-get-to corners, spots of rust, stains in the curtain, wax in the ears, kinks in the brain— all of it scrubbed impeccably and forever, made squeaky clean in perpetuity. Couldn‟t God have done that? One flood, one apocalyptic battle, one Mother-of-all snowstorms to cleanse this tainted world for good. It‟s not as if it never crossed His mind. Do you think He wants to spend His whole life cleaning up after us? Do you think it‟s easy making each snowflake different, blizzard after blizzard, winter after winter? Then again, maybe He likes dreaming up all of those loopy snowflakes, maybe He likes getting down on calloused knees scrubbing the linoleum of the world, buffing tarnished hearts . . . making days. Though God knows, He‟s been there, done that.
Corn Plant Called variously a corn plant, a ribbon plant, a dragon tree— a common ornamental. You‟ve seen it by the water cooler at the office, with floppy, sow‟s-ear leaves veined green and golden green. It does not need much sun. You can forget to water it, it won‟t complain. It will sit where you put it. It will live for years. You can repot it, or not, it doesn‟t care. I long ago installed this migrant from South America in a corner of my living room, where I‟ve mostly ignored it, as some rich women ignore their maids. It thrived, if not on love, then on the public air with a vegetable persistence that should have amazed— life clinging to life a hemisphere from home, a dragon breathing leaves of flame. But the dragon stayed dormant in my imagination until one day it sprung a stalk, and my apartment reeked of paradise for two weeks running. Nectar oozed from pinprick blooms, a dusky honey not made for me. I put it in my morning tea. Amazed, yes, finally amazed— not just at the unexpected sweetness of a common houseplant, but at my own strange, awakened sweetness to be the sole and privileged witness of this unlikely flowering. It did not bloom for me. Still, I take this blossom personally, a hopeful augury that after years of invisibility, and far from its soul‟s true home, a corn plant — who knows why — put out a poet-stalk and filled me with its dragon‟s breath.
Aftermath The Christmas trees sit stacked in beige body bags, or lean mute against stoops, or sprawl naked at curbside shedding a pox of yellowed needles, sagging stars and snarls of tinsel. The pavement pocked with puddles; rain, not snow this balmy New Year‟s Day. Sodden noodles of confetti streak the concrete red and green and cream, crushed noisemakers, battered hats. And I, one blear-eyed grunt, survey the field of battle, reading the wreckage like tea leaves. Or like an archeologist sieving for artifacts, reconstructing the caveman from all he threw away. There are dreams I‟ve lost, faiths escaped and fears long fled, shards of hopes discarded, loves I can‟t recall, wars I don‟t remember fighting, whole lives slumped to gutter, bundled at curbside, gifts once wrapped at the foot of a tree. I am my own debris. I am the Christmas tree aftermath. Some day— after it has all been pulped, made into paper, a book, this book, these poems culled from the heart‟s stiff wood, stitched from the cellulose of memory. Someday, I‟ll hand you the book. I‟ll wish you Merry Christmas!
“Recycled Seasons” By E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Richard Schiffman is a writer who splits his time between New York and New Mexico, and is a former journalist for National Public Radio. He is also the author of two biographies: Mother of All, and Sri Ramakrishna, A Prophet For the New Age. His poems have appeared or are upcoming in Poetry East, North American Review, Southern Poetry Review, 32 Poems, Rosebud, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and many other journals. Richard is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Richard (email@example.com) Website: Spiritual Poetry Portal (http://multiplex.isdna.org/poetry.htm)
Learning from the Starfish: The Poetry of Spiritual Renewal By Richard Schiffman I have always been fascinated by the fact that starfish can grow back a severed arm. We humans, unfortunately, are not so resilient. Like the starfish, we, too, live in pretty rough waters, where many forces tear at us physically and emotionally. Someone close to us dies, perhaps, or we break up with a lover, we become seriously ill. It may seem at such moments that we are far less fortunate than the starfish. He has lost an arm, but we have had our very hearts torn out of us! I watched a news story recently about workers who had been fired due to corporate downsizing. I can only imagine how someone in that position feels. How do we recover from traumas of this magnitude? Yet these are only dramatic examples of what happens to all of us as we age and gradually lose our strength, looks, health, even our memory. When I was growing up, I easily memorized poems by Robert Frost and soliloquies from Shakespeare‟s plays. Nowadays I am lucky if I can remember my own phone number! There are also spiritual losses, which are harder to put one‟s finger on, but are equally devastating. Modernist poetry in the Twentieth Century reflected a keen awareness of the way that contemporary life can rob us of our individuality, and ultimately our sense of meaning and purpose. T.S. Eliot wrote in “The Hollow Men”: We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
I am reminded of the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, who felt hollow and without substance. The poem continues: Our dried voices, when We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rats' feet over broken glass In our dry cellar...
If there are any readers out there who have never felt like the Scarecrow at some point in their lives, I would like to meet them. But I also remember what the Wizard told the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion: that they already had everything they were searching for— a heart, a brain, strength, and courage. They only needed to seek within to find out that these qualities had never been lost, and indeed were fully available to them.
This latter part of the Wizard‟s message, however, seems to have been lost on many of the great thinkers of our age. The last century was an era during which many traditional beliefs and ideologies were radically questioned and ultimately abandoned by the intellectual elite. Existentialism came into vogue, which taught that life has no overarching meaning or purpose other than the ones which we impose upon it by an act of will— while physical science presented the world as an essentially blind play of material forces. Freudian psychology portrayed an equally mechanistic view of the human psyche as being largely the product of brute and unconscious instinctual forces. The poets of the era, though deeply influenced by these skeptical trends, as evidenced by the work of Eliot and others, never fully bought into the idea that life was random or purposeless. As a high-school student growing up in the late Sixties, I fell in love with poetry, which offered glimpses of a deeper, more mysterious potential in our human nature. Raised in a nonreligious household, the words of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robinson Jeffers, and Gary Snyder became a kind of first scripture for me. These poets were clearly tuned in to a place within themselves that was connected to the larger rhythms of nature, history, and the human spirit. They had moved beyond meaninglessness to a mystical vision of our unity with the Greater Life beyond their skins. Look at Jane Kenyon‟s magnificent poem, “Let Evening Come.” Let the light of late afternoon shine through chinks in the barn, moving up the bales as the sun moves down. Let the cricket take up chafing as a woman takes up her needles and her yarn. Let evening come.
Through a series of vivid images of the onset of evening, Kenyon conveys a sense of enveloping mystery. The night is upon her. She is fully aware that life involves loss, that things end. Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned in long grass. Let the stars appear and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Yet she proclaims in the concluding stanza that, "God does not leave us comfortless, so let the evening come.” (Read the poem in its entirety on Poets.org http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16019)
We have moved decisively beyond Eliot‟s hollow men. There is darkness here, but no emptiness. The order of the world is not yet visible, but the poet senses in the darkness itself a presence which confers meaning. Consider the untitled poem by a much earlier, Japanese female poet, Izumi Shikibu. Although the wind blows terribly here, the moonlight also leaks between the roof planks of this ruined house. (Written ca. 995, translated by Jane Hirshfield, The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems..., 1990.)
Here, too, though “the wind blows terribly,” and she is exposed to the punishing elements of life, the poet sees the light of the moon, if only through the chinks in the roof planks of a ruined house. The moon in the poetry of Zen represents the pure mind or unblemished nature of ourselves. The poet is telling us that we can catch glimpses of our own true nature, but only in places where our defensive self-image has collapsed leaving gaps for something transcendent to filter through. Jane Hirshfield goes on to comment: “This poem reminds that if a house is walled so tightly that it lets in no wind or rain, if a life is walled so tightly that it lets in no pain, grief, anger, or longing, it will also be closed to the entrance of what is most wanted.” Which brings us to one of the themes for this issue of The Centrifugal Eye : renewal. We started out by looking at the kinds of losses that happen during the course of our lives. In my reading, both Janes, Kenyon and Hirshfield, are suggesting that loss can, paradoxically, lead us to a greater wholeness and deeper understanding. But only if we fully embrace the loss, only if fearlessly we open ourselves to the darkness and inherent mystery of existence. Here is one of my favorite Walt Whitman poems, “When I Heard the Learn‟d Astronomer:” When I heard the learn'd astronomer, When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
(Whitman becomes exhausted by the effort to name and quantify everything and wanders off under the night sky to experience firsthand the sublimity for which the learned astronomers can offer no rational explanations.) How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
Again, the idea that renewal is only possible when we leave the well-lit lecture hall of human reason and head off into the uncharted territory of the night sky. A theme echoed in the following Rainer Maria Rilke poem, “Sometimes a Man Stands Up During Supper”: Sometimes a man stands up during supper and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking, because of a church that stands somewhere in the East. And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.
I can relate to Rilke‟s observation that if the father does not go off, his children will have to do so in his stead: And another man, who remains inside his own house, dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses, so that his children have to go far out into the world toward that same church, which he forgot.
(Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly.)
My own father was a man of intense spiritual longings, who was, nevertheless, unable to move beyond the narrow rationalism of his upbringing into a sustaining faith. As a result, I took Rilke‟s journey to “the church that lies somewhere in the East,” spending over five years in India where I studied the Hindu tradition and practiced meditation. For me, writing and reading poetry is a continuation of this spiritual quest. To create a memorable poem it is necessary to enter into a kind of “poetic trance” in which I dive into the “meaning-making” place within myself. There is deep refreshment in going there. I have come to realize that it is not really necessary to head off to India, or engage in endless meditation retreats to experience the spiritual renewal that all of us seek. It is enough to open oneself to the wonder which surrounds us. I take heart from the poem, “Wild Geese,” by Mary Oliver. You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Oliver goes on to suggest, through a series of arresting natural images, that all we really need to do is pay attention to the world around us.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
(Read the poem in its entirety online. http://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/MaryOliver.html#anchor_14792)
The world “offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese,” Oliver tells us. The way to most deeply enter the world, in other words, is not through bare observation, or rational analysis, but the poet‟s art of imagination, literally “making images.” These images, however, are not arbitrary or merely “imaginary” creations. They are what the wild geese evoke from us. These wild geese can be likened to the muse, who is active not just in practicing poets, but in all of us who sense within ourselves the intuition of our “place in the family of things.” So while it is true that we humans, unlike the starfish, can never regrow a severed limb, the doors of regeneration are open to us. We may never again be as young, beautiful, healthy, and bright as we once were. Loss is an unavoidable fact of the human condition. Yet inward renewal is possible at any stage of life, if only we can come to see things through fresh eyes. This is poetry‟s task, and why I find it personally to be such a terrific blessing in my life. Let William Blake have the last word. If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narow chinks of his cavern.
“Future Nature Two” By B. L. Pawelek, 2010
(from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: A Memorable Fancy.”)
“Handmade Paper Feather Bowl” Made By Ellaraine Lockie, 2010
Our Lady Under Pressure Patricia Wallace Jones She knows what she sees in discarded junk, a rusted pot, the bent knotted steel Brazilians use to tie rebar into bundles for shipping. Knows, too, the hoots and smirks when a yard foreman says, Hey Lady,
you want scrap, load it up and it's yours.
“Well-Coiffed” By Patricia Wallace Jones, 2010
He and his buddies don't cotton to sculpture, a decaying tank done in mosaics, kettle for a head and an oil-pan face, but their irmãos in Rio still swear by her curls.
Patricia Wallace Jones is a life-long artist and retired disability advocate who began writing poetry after retiring from the Midwest to the northern California coast. Her art is in private collections and her poems and/or art have appeared in Avatar Review, Lily, Tilt, Lucid Rhythms, The Guardian, 14 by 14, The Chimaera, The Shit Creek Review and in various regional shows and galleries. When time allows she tries to post daily on her blog, ImagineII. (http://imagineii.typepad.com/imagineii/)
“Strange Shapes” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Snowy Robes Give Way To His Right Hand Drew Riley The Han farmer who left his paddies to travel to the capital wondered about the men in the city, and the strange shapes of their bodies as they sat in chairs to collect his taxes. His wife cooked with potato peelings for herself each night while her husband slept under bushes he thought might keep his pack, which he had stuffed with silk scraps, dry. The bush rained like the sky, delayed by the illusion of the opaque leaves.
Drew Riley is a graduate student at Fairleigh Dickinson University and lives and writes in Helena, MT. He has work forthcoming in Breadcrumb Scabs, as well as a poem in an online anthology of health and illness poetry hosted by fieralingue‟s Poet‟s Corner. Contact Drew (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I am lost
inspired by a woman posting a missing-pet flier
Carolee Sherwood Exhibit A: This poster with the heading — Missing — in black marker, desperation in all caps:
PLEASE call if found. A photo of me with my head tilted to the side. Physical description: red collar, floppy ears, brown spots, friendly. Exhibit B: This footprint and that one right next to it. I‟m going in circles. I‟ve been at the base of this giant oak twice already. Exhibit C: The gas station on the corner and its stern attendant. She won‟t give me the key to the ladies room anymore, says she knows I‟m washing up in there every morning. Exhibit D: The man in the woods from whom I try to hide my panic. He watches me come and go, asks if I need drugs, tells me he‟ll get me some if I watch him jerk off. Exhibit E: What I can‟t hear from this spot — moving water. Exhibit F: A green sign that says, Leaving City Limits. I thought I was heading to the heart of it.
“Found” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Exhibit G: The phone book with no listings for my last name (my husband‟s) or my maiden name (my father‟s). The section for each of those letters has never existed. Exhibit H: This message from the dead. — Push play. Listen. — It‟s my mother‟s voice: Where are you? I haven‟t heard from you. Exhibit I: The missing poster again. Try to explain to someone on the street,
This is me. (She says, No, it‟s not.) Argue, This is me. Insist! (She says again, It‟s not you.) She shows me the reflection in a storefront. She‟s right. It‟s not me.
The romantic fantasizes about being inseparable from her lover (fails to realize she may be shrinking)
i recline in the hollow of your ear, a boy resting against the tree trunk where it joins the highest branch he can climb, vibrating with the first sounds of morning. i lie on my side along the brim of your coffee cup exactly where you place your lips for your first sip, exactly where you come back to drink again and again. i curl into the loop of the cursive "e" and nuzzle the comma each time you sign a note: "love," i look longingly toward your name. i slide into your wallet directly opposite your license photo, practicing our kisses, like a girl rehearsing with a pillow in the darkness.
“Victorian Spine: Thro‟ Love and War” By Stephanie Curtis, 2010
i grab your toe with one hand and your shadow with the other. i am the thing that holds you together all day long.
Carolee Sherwood‟s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Pirene‟s Fountain, Awakenings Review, Wicked Alice, The Mom Egg, Glass: A Journal of Poetry and Ballard Street Poetry Journal. For three years, she was part of the creative team that produced the online magazine and social networking site “Read Write Poem.” Currently, she co-edits Ouroboros Review and writes reviews for Poets' Quarterly. Contact Carolee (email@example.com) Website (http://caroleesherwood.wordpress.com)
Revision The leaves are furious with me. They smack the windows as though trying to break in. I step outside to scold them like the hundred times I‟ve sent my sons and their baseballs away from the house. Too quickly, leaves cover my feet, swirl around me, surge higher. A tide of red and orange overtakes me. Before I can run, roots conspire with them, wrap up my ankles and drag me to the ground. Within seconds, leaves cover every bit of me. I decide to let it happen, this vanishing, my body written so boldly only one minute ago, buried now beneath paper scraps, pencil shavings, eraser dust. I can‟t imagine what new torso awaits me in the next draft, but I hope it is trim. I find myself praying to my author for beauty this time around. The key to being a good writer is portraying every character as greedy. No one is grateful for an ugly life, even if she thinks it‟s the only one she has.
“Denture Diving” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
The Teeth of It Daniel Wilcox She lost her white teeth Like she lost so much of her life, only The whole set this time not one Tooth of accomplishment at a time; Her dentures, those fancy replacements, She set them out on her lunch tray In the retirement center and they got Discarded in the trash dumpster. Strange that the “has bin” swallowed them Since she and her husband used to drive Around in their huge Lincoln, Shiny and chromed, To behind apartment complexes And scavenge quality items — fans Mixers and toasters dumped by others, Making 2,000 dollars a week with the discards After fixing, selling them at the swap meet; But now who will recycle her, As she has even lost motor control Her body no longer a luxury car, Not even an old clunker? All grit and no bite. One's teeth at the utter loss.
Daniel Wilcox earned his degree in Creative Writing from Cal State Long Beach. A former activist, teacher, and wanderer from Montana to the Middle East, he casts his lines out upon the world's turbulent waters and wide shores in Moria Poetry Journal, Wild Violet, The Recusant, Counterexample Poetics, Right Hand Pointing, The Copperfield Review, etc. Dark Energy, a poetry collection, was published in 2009 by Diminuendo Press. "The Faces of Stone," based on his time in the Middle East, came out in The Danforth Review and Danse Macabre. Daniel lives with a speculative novel, The Feeling of the Earth, a second volume of poems, Psalms, Yawps, and Howls, and his wife, on the central coast of California. Daniel is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Daniel (http://seaquaker.com/)
Psalms, Yawps, and Howls (http://psalmsyawpshowls.com)
“Romeo” By Mandi Knight, 2010
Humming Afternoon Delight Vincent Renstrom Two dead hummingbird daredevils lay on the patio halfway biodegraded by the time I spotted them. Must have crashed into the glass door doing their little aerial acrobatics. They may have even been out courting come to think of it, or maybe they‟d just had their first fight and the one was speeding after the other trying to explain, and the other was all hmmph and then . . . BOOM! That glass door must have looked just like sky to the two of them, awfully young, and inexperienced in so many areas. What a tragedy. Oh, well. But those hummingbirds are so tiny they decompose in no time, man, our rotting Romeo and jellified Juliet.
“Juliet” By Mandi Knight, 2010
Vincent Renstrom lives with his wife and daughter in an angular blue house in Middletown, Ohio, not far from the Great Miami River. He is a former adjunct professor of Spanish (PhD, 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. Vincent is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
“Marine Jesus” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Dixie Crucifix Karla Linn Merrifield My souvenir of coastal Georgia‟s Bible World: Christ hung out to dry on a tiny upturned anchor, in light-gauge, injection-molded pink plastic, made in? God-knows-where, but I ♥ GA. I‟ve since recycled the two-bit (literally) knickknack as a tacky tent ornament. Faithfully, I suspend a relic of true-believer gullibility from a loop in the top of my nylon dome; the Savior/sailor‟s bleeding heart is worn away. While in downtown St. Marys, the erstwhile saintly emporium‟s unsold angel tchotchkes gather a film of dust on bitsy ceramic shoulders and dulled halos. The market for Precious Gifts and the Good Word has evaporated from the font of seaside tourism. I‟d heard the owner hawked at fire-sale prices her stock of Jesus and Virgin Mary gewgaws in a nautical motif. The End Time had come at last for Gloria‟s Glory Books & Kitsch. Rapture was cheap.
A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and 2009 Everglades National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield has had poetry appear in dozens of publications as well as in many anthologies. She has five books to her credit, including Godwit: Poems of Canada, which received the 2009 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for Poetry. She was poetry editor of Sea Stories, and is book reviewer and assistant editor for The Centrifugal Eye, and moderator of the poetry blog, Smothered Air. She is currently at work on a project with poet William Heyen, photo-illustrating his essay, “The Green Bookcase,” soon to be published by Janus Head. Karla Linn also teaches at Writers & Books, Rochester, NY. You can read more about her and sample her poems and photographs at her blog site. Blog (http://karlalinn.blogspot.com) Smothered Air (http://smotheredair.yuku.com/) Karla is also a regular contributor of poetry to The Centrifugal Eye.
My Body is a Nest One day hornets irritably mill and fidget in my eardrums. Everything you say hums with misinterpreted romantic lyrics. Wax gums up all sweet syllables of love; I will lose my sense of balance to the wingèd, stinging silences of grief. Another day ospreys jostle to roost in the generous stick bowl of my cranium. I‟m the birdbrain turned predatory whose mind wishes to feed its offspring the sad memories of taloned departure I think I remember once describing to you. Burmese pythons squirm home to my arms and legs like clockwork every week. My body is a nest of invasive snakes squeezing out only cancerous dreams. The horrific exotic caduceus supplants my lower limbs. I grow weak at the knees as you lay dying. I can‟t walk straight on a slithery-boned map. I shouldn‟t wander through old age by myself but am destined to one of these days or nights when my body is a nest of overactive packrats who breed in my heart. I shall dwell in the den of iniquitous loneliness. One day my body will know your body is a nest of ashes.
How to Bring a Marriage Good Luck Bruce Lader 1. At twilight, stop what you are doing and go outside. Balance on one foot twelve seconds. If a sweet gum branch doesn‟t fly through the roof, postpone lawn mowing, or another detestable task. You won‟t get into any quarrels for three days. 2. Listen to a woodpecker telegraph songs on a tree. If no cabinets collapse, then look at photos of you in the forest, splashing water, dancing, and the roof will be repaired. 3. Never throw underwear away and you will win all your arguments. 4. Remember to feed the cat or dog out of an old shoe and you will find a pot of gold. 5. Cancel seven business engagements. 6. Before bedtime, sip a steaming brew of asparagus root with damiana, light a candle; dab orange leaf, sandalwood, jasmine on pillowcases, * * * * * (The rest of the steps are missing) Repeat the above as needed. Less than ten minutes will turn your skeleton key to serendipitous fortune.
“Skeleton Key to Happiness” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Bruce Lader‟s recent books are Embrace, (Big Table Publishing, 2010) and Landscapes of Longing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2009). His poems have appeared in Heavy Bear, Blue Fifth Review, Earthshine, and many other journals. He is the director of Bridges Tutoring, an organization educating multicultural students. Contact Bruce (Bridgesbl@aol.com) Website http://www.brucelader.com.http://www.brucelader.com/
In a Previous Life A frolicsome cub bored with dead diet, toy snakes and mice, the stray roach or dizzy housefly, I hightailed it to woods, hunted in lots of untamed grass, lightning claws netting butterflies, lynx ears honed for traces of songs abuzz in free air. After napping (lids a hair open), I'd limber with mulberry bows and arrows, whiskers detecting clues of most-wanted outlaws, stalk through yards of prohibiting neighbors, scramble a tree like a leopard, scan the horizon, outfox prey. At nightfall, a tiger crouched in jungle, everything a forest of possibility, I‟d spring from cover, trip up villains like a cheetah, changing-moon eyes aglow, morph human again so my father wouldn‟t growl like the MGM lion.
You Won’t Be There Bill Jansen You won‟t be there, but we‟ll park at a locked gate. The sky might be quiet. A tall chainlink fence with strands of barbed wire On top of that. No tension, like parking near a tennis court In a neighborhood where no one plays tennis. Not much happening. Practice landings, piper cubs And other small planes. A black helicopter Wasting fuel. A municipal airport in the valley, condos and business parks. In satellite pictures it looks like a card table Upon which the occasional Lear jet is dealt. No big deal. Everything is relaxed. No one arrives to ask us what we are doing. We‟ll have to ask ourselves that question.
Bill Jansen lives in Forest Grove, Oregon. His poems have appeared in The Externalist, Triggerfish Critical Review, and most recently in Asinine Poetry, as well as other various ezines. Scholarly works on Thomas Weelkes, Thomas Watson, and others of that era have been published with Eric Lewin Altschuler, MD, in peer-reviewed journals.
“Quiet Sky” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
I could still be in love for all I know. Trapped by my seat belt in the wreckage.
. M. J. Iuppa
When I hear the scrape of rake against last year‟s twig & leaf, or the bark of the tractor‟s backfire, I know I should be out there, working in the garden‟s spa of heat & light.
“Lilac Chick Twist” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
I should be basking in fragrance of tilled earth & lilacs. I shouldn‟t be stuck at a crowded desk, in the mire of scribbled nonsense. My mood spirals to bits of graphite— I think chicken shit. Under the heat lamp, a puddle of feathers— 24 chicks— innocent until their irrepressible demands find me with half a heart— I give them water & seed and they fall back to sleep instantly— so unlike these sentences.
M. J. Iuppa lives on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Recent publications are her second fulllength 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, NY. M. J. is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
The Lady’s Mantle Mary Marie Dixon My body no longer can leap Among the perennials It is so heavy and sodden Rife with age Ready to suckle the wind Moisture-driven from the fields To nourish as if water were a flame Stirring the world round in flesh Menopausal, my body Sheds its final dew Like the alchemilla A styptic, the Lady‟s Mantle A wound herb Sapping, my joints Lever the hills and flatten the plains In sullen movement Traced over edge and edge A silver blood graces my head The plougher streaks my face In long diurnals Hours of the virgin Still, longing to dance It is not I who moves In the antapex, there In Columba, like the runaway stars I go, Noah‟s dove to pine The new olive In a wheel of stars No longer bound to my earth My succulent body A climber in fusion Sheds its latent heat
“Mantle” By E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Mary Marie Dixon, a visual artist and writer, is a graduate of Hastings College in Nebraska with a BA in Art, English, and Education; of the University of Nebraska, Kearney, with an MA in English; of the University of Notre Dame with an MA in Theology and an MFA in English Creative Writing. She has published creative works in periodicals and a collection of poetry, Eucharist, Enter the Sacred Way (Franciscan University Press, 2008). Contact Mary Marie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Vagabond Heart Perhaps the heart is just a single grain of sand on the riverbank of poplars and sprawling willows. Or, perhaps it is a bloom on the tender pedicel that splits its fragrance on shards of thistles. When the heart grieves the waste of wild plum‟s tear-drop blossoms in the killing frost, Perhaps it is a nomad whose fantasy burgeons in switch-grass dunes and the elderberry‟s petal-wings. Or a voyager lost on the green waves of winter wheat in the foaming snow that thwarts its autumn growth. What if the heart could be set, a ruby, in the ring of sky and bindweed stars, in the cloisonné of orb spider webs; Or lashed to the wild crabapple in the drought of its paltry fruit; Would the heart not rest? Let the great blue heron wade the grainy water and lift in slow wingbeats, to conceive its migrant path; then the wintered wanderer will return to nest a cottonwood stand in the river‟s crook.
“Owl Knows” By E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Spruce Rising Chris Crittenden a pale queen owns the bowed nudity of the trees, they who in junctures have cracked and broken. the tyranny will die and they survive; but at what price, to kneel for cold and next rise up for the sun? maybe spruces keep inside the secrets of their knotholes— from hackled bear to elder doe to pygmy owl face. if cyphers hidden in the bark contradict, it is not death. if the hieroglyphs play each other, rant like maskers under moons. every bird knows the forest is kin to ossuary; yet the shriveled skulls harbor seeds.
Final Hug the trunk yielded with the quietude of a sleepy dragon. it was like hugging a shedding skin. i'd known this ancient beast as ally and the loss was hard. the thought of old massacres came easily to bear. i'd sensed frogs, lichen and sphinx moths in the cryptic hues of the bark, even ashes from ice ages, and flukes of earth whales who had spruce trees for bones. the branches had blessed me with tears at midnight. flecks of leaf and ant medicine embossing my naked ribs. but today was hardest to take. we're all going to fall, she whispered. justice must stash some cushions, i replied. but we finished our ritual, cleansed the past as if sloughing off fate, and lifted our arms, full of eggs and thrushes, to the sky.
â€œGolden Lichensâ€? By D. J. Bryant & E. A. Hanninen, 2010
“Speckled Blue” By E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Chris Crittenden is maniacally dedicated to poetry, struggles at it full time (often in a hut in a spruce forest), and has been published widely, including work in Chelsea, The Portland Review, Of(f)course, and Barnwood International Poetry Magazine. He teaches environmental ethics for the University of Maine, which earns him a pittance in cash, a world of meaning, and a modicum of hope for humanity. He blogs as the mordant avatar, Owl Who Laughs. This is Chris‟ second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Chris (email@example.com)
Last Ride a vole scrabbles to unlock a cactus nest, cranes into the hush of owl talons, seeing with a last glimpse an earth-brown rattlesnake swallow a blue egg; and a moon that rears parched, hissing over a pilgrimage of tarantulas. beyond gallows of racked joshuas and tanblack capes, somber mesas confer, as close to a Great Judge as doomed squeaks will ever get. and farther away, tawny as sand, a dislocated cougar slouching through the heat waves, prowling their miles.
“Noise” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
The roar which is the other side of silence. —George Eliot
41 Paula D. Anderson
the ticking bird clock on the kitchen wall ting of the wind chime woodwind African bong in response when the wind pops wheelies on the deck the click when the TV is turned off ring of a telephone and its instant connection and pulsating purr of the laptop when I‟m composing hesitation in the voice of a first draft the squealing trash truck stopping outside the door and men‟s garbled shouts interpreted as reuse/recycle a red-bellied woodpecker announcing he‟s at the suet and two twitchy red squirrels, squabbling over sunflower seed the immortal sound of the moon moving steadily the noise of the truth against the lie.
Paula D. Anderson‟s work has been published in Icarus International, River Oak Review, Plainsongs Journal, Fox Cry Review, Free Verse, and other journals. Her books are The Bee Keeper and Electrified Hair, and she currently publishes Echoes, a small press, hand stitched, semi-annual poetry journal. Contact Paula (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Strategy of Seeds
. Laura A. Ciraolo
1. Seeds wait in white paper
in elegant script for spring. 2. Chance lightning strikes and seeds long dormant crack open wild in forest fire and flame. 3. Scar seeds so they will grow: sometimes use a hammer.
â€œSeeds, 1-9â€? By Mandi Knight, 2010
envelopes carefully filed and labeled
4. Roses can start from seed, not sprung mother-clone or cutting, hips haws hedge-pedgies, pixie pears, seeded bead, fruit of the rose. 5. I dig rows in soil dropping seeds in a line. 6. Can the sower ever really know what she will grow? 7. Seeds of weeds anywhere, anyway.
8. Some seeds fall on rocks, others fall among the thorns. Good soil produces a hundredfold. 9. Mustard seeds grow great expectations.
Laura A. Ciraolo was born in New York City and has lived and worked there as long as she can remember. After completing an MA in Theology, she sometimes teaches at a nearby university. She has new poems forthcoming in The New York Quarterly (#67) and Caper Literary Journal. Her poems have appeared in Agenda (UK), The New York Quarterly, Long Island Quarterly, Orbis (UK), iota (UK), MiPOesias, and The Comstock Review, among others. She is especially pleased to have a fourth poem in The Centrifugal Eye, where she is a regular contributor.
“Seed Harvest” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
. C. E. Chaffin
I have been spiritually poisoned by the unclean, in ignorance blessed their springs. In consequence I withered and drifted down from green crown to brown humus, thinned to a fishbone pattern of cellulose threads. I washed into a stream past stones squirming with black question marks of dragonfly larvae, slid through reeds into eddying pools, where I stalled until the rains delivered me to the sea. My last proteins fed the plankton the humpback swallowed, whose song woke me, the ghost of a ghost of a leaf, to the shocking green astral body from which I speak:
You who seek thrill without sustenance, love without burden, light without heat— hollow, hollow men, Tom O‟ Bedlam slim: Your greatest feat each workaday morning is to pull the sheet from your own faces to avoid being wheeled to the refrigerated cases. “Proteins” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
The Junk Drawer It was the last repository of things uncatalogued, unnamed, in a world of firm organization. It held rubber bands (thin pink ones from throwaway papers) wrapped around a Band-Aid® box containing rusted paperclips and tarnished brads. There were loose scissors, dull and nicked, cheap tools culled from my father's cache, adhesive tape, nails, coupons, tacks, cardboard, pencils, felt pens, maps, bent compasses and a few stamps of awkward denominations. Still, the drawer had a method. Each category found a row in the old, cracked silverware tray but the rows weren't always pure— not even Plato could have distinguished the essence behind each division, for there were too many compromises: tacks lay with emery boards, tape with string. I'm sure this pained my mother. I can still see her pinching a lost bracket in her strong, knobby fingers and interrogating every family member as to the origin and purpose of such an inexplicable thingamajig. “It must have a purpose!” she'd insist. Once ignorance was confirmed, the thing qualified for the drawer. She knew one day she would be vindicated when the thingamabob was missed and she, heavenly packrat, would descend like Prometheus bearing fire.
Last Poem of My 55th Year I I was thinking of how a whale‟s white ribs, a tunnel of staves gnawed clean by the sun and offered to the sandy wind, symbolized something— the largest reach of mammalian largesse encased in Gothic ossuary, a housing for the most mammoth heart to suffer a sea-change? II You enlarged my heart, like a surgeon parted my sternum and blew Arabian skies into my cove, whispering the ocean‟s white gossip through stony arches so that the sea‟s rhythms afflict me by ever-changing alarms, announcing what? That I belong to you? That you changed me? III How can we ever belong to another, how can we graft our souls‟ limbs together, what is the fruit of that tree? What Eve left, whatever rind or seed survives our sorrows? Or is love more deep and durable for having suffered unattended moments to their harshest conclusions? IV In the bird‟s throat is a note not to be sung until the calling of all things become themselves, like sea foam lightly blown over the high-tide line in a gesture of weightlessness and fertility. Through anamnesis you called me to yourself by green and silver, your eyes and hair.
C. E. Chaffin, M. D., FAAFP, is a contributing editor for Umbrella. Credits include Alaska Quarterly Review, The Pedestal Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer (book review), and Rattle. He published the Melic Review for eight years. His new volume, Unexpected Light, was released by Diminuendo Press in 2009. He also
teaches an online poetry tutorial. Inquiries can be made at his website. (http://www.cechaffin.com) C. E. is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
â€œPom Piecesâ€? By E. A. Hanninen, 2010
This is your dumpster, beaten by usage, misshapenly blue, blotched with rust and dented by time, still serviceable. Throw in what you can bear: the broken torso of his vision of you in clay and wire, the discarded water heater and the towing chains. Throw in your father who faded to senescence, your golden retriever, arthritic and blind, whom you boost up the steps. Throw in the plastic tarpaulin that shields what feeds on darkness, spore of fungi. Throw in the bitter pomegranate, the purifying hyssop, the man-shaped mandrake, the hemlock and the yew, all wilted keels of earth's tear-propelled boat.
49 Throw in your confidence, your job, your mother bearing the bad news of your birth, the late discovery of deafness and your persistent striving to acquit yourself more equal than those spared your handicap. Throw in the cigarettes that killed him, the blackened chest that housed his far-seeing eye. Throw in your only child, an empty gas can begging for a fire, the broken storm windows and the endless papers. Pile it on a camel, send it into the desert to empty you of that terrible emptiness that feeds on hope.
Dumpster was 1st published in Poetry Sz in an earlier form.
Anatomy of a Sock Turned Inside Out
James E. Allman, Jr. Most days are like stray socks in a corner chasing forgetfulness— watching the dust bunnies dance the can-can at the Quarter Round. They drink Sazerac, Old-Fashioneds and Sidecars; stagger, pass out in the filth of their soiled crumples, and wake unremembered with their yarn-ends and cotton pills exposed; but occasionally, a toe slips into its own event horizon, crawls its gusset through its cuff and curls itself like a time traveler cozy in a wormhole, where its present gathers into its past—turns its heel into instep into sole, and nestles thickly into folds; where it rights itself: extrudes backwards through tucks and wads, ribs and years, reverses its flow and drips. As if what is today‟s has always been yesterday‟s, only waiting for its gold-toed child.
“Dustbunny Redux” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
James E. Allman, Jr. is a Southerner, with degrees in biology and business, and sees life neither dissected nor austerely economized. He lustfully admires the poetry of T. S. Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mary Karr, B. H. Fairchild, and Charles Wright. He was a semi-finalist in the 2009 New Millennium Writings Contest, and is published (or forthcoming) in the following online and print journals: The Anemone Sidecar and Black Words On White Paper. Contact James (email@example.com)
Working Forest Michelle Barker “On Haida Gwaii, as elsewhere, old growth forests are perceived as „decadent‟ by a timber industry determined to liquidate these threatened ecosystems and replace them with managed tree farms, also contradictorily known as „working forests.‟” —Ian Lordon, SpruceRoots Magazine, July 2002
There go the trees on their way to work at the tree farm lunchboxes tucked under one branch punch in every day at 7:12 a.m. stand in a straight line and work it is a forest assembly line same damned thing every day you can see it on their trunks the monotony the way they live for that glass of whiskey waiting for them when they get home
the chance to put up their roots and watch the sky until the next morning when they have to come here and do it all over again.
“Working Trees” By K. R. Copeland, 2010
(Queen Charlotte Islands, B.C.)
Time has worn the wood smooth the totems of this ancient Haida village sun-bleached tilted or fallen the carvings mostly faded though on some you can still see the dulled bumps of bear claws or where the fins once were of the supernatural whale We are the tourists
the white man
the reason — besides smallpox — this village is no longer here And we don‟t get it
Why allow Time to have her way with History shrug and watch the longhouses surrender We don‟t see the beauty in the cedar that has grown straight through an old totem We don‟t see the whales or the possibility of transformation We see only weakness in surrender.
“Longhouse Totem” By E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Why not rebuild repaint plan tours charge admission
Michelle Barker‟s poetry has been published in Room of One‟s Own, Descant, Cahoots Magazine, Cicada, The Mitre, carte blanche, The Antigonish Review, and Taproot IV, with work forthcoming in The Mitre, Tesseracts 14, and Autumn Sky Poetry. She has published creative non-fiction in Event, which won a gold National Magazine Award (2002), and in Grain. She‟s also published non-fiction in The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, Cruising World Magazine, and Reader‟s Digest (Canada). Her short fiction has been published in Words Literary Journal, and in Taproot II, and recently won honors for the Storyteller‟s Award in the Surrey International Writers' Conference Writing Contest. Contact Michelle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Old Soul Tree
(Queen Charlotte Islands, B.C.)
It‟s supposed to bring in business the old sole tree that stands outside the souvenir shop in Charlotte City a couple of planks nailed together and covered with lost sandals a gumboot high heels worn sneakers the outgrown shoes of children contribute a shoe and you get five percent off I can‟t help but think of the trees I‟ve just seen at Spirit Lake moss hanging in long fine strands — what spirit has passed this way and caught her hair upon the branches of these old souls?
Today Her Name is Annie
. C. Albert
Wearing her favorite four shirts two skirts two pairs of pants one long scarf twirled around her head no shoes — too confining Annie salvages newspapers from the garbage can stacks them on a ledge beside stained coffee cups empty soda cans and fast-food plates with dried ketchup decides they all might prefer to be disorganized and stashes her refuse in the cart taken from the grocers
guesses the time by the angle of the sun blankets the cart with a purple towel pushes it across the street stops traffic to rescue a scrap of worthy paper.
C. Albert lives in Seattle where she divides creative time between making collage and writing. Her poems and some collages appeared recently in Pirene's Fountain and qarrtsiluni, and this is her second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. A feature of her art is upcoming in Triggerfish Critical Review. She has two portfolio sites of collage and poetry: Runaway Moon (http://www.runawaymoon.blogspot.com) and Aerial Dreams (http://www.aerialdreams.blogspot.com)
“Shopping Cart” By C. Albert & E. A. Hanninen, 2010
scatters a mosaic of cigarette butts in mud to smoke later
Chris Crittenden Ellaraine Lockie
â€œCigarette Mosaicâ€? By C. Albert, 2010
Karla Linn Merrifield
Essay Chris Crittenden by
The Fluid Looking-Glass Nestled by the woods, fifty miles from the nearest traffic light, it is easy to forget the reach of homo sapiens, billions strong. My neighbors are trees and a cavalcade of seasonal birds and flora, which punctuate the adventures of year-round residents like moose and deer. Certain reclusive habits of mine tend to magnify this fond idyll, until in my soul‟s ostentatious eye I become the equal of Thoreau or some sylvan bodhisattva, penning away in rapt tranquility. Delightful as this fantasy might be, it quickly becomes a hazard, a step toward the paralyzed self-awe of Narcissus, staring at his fluid looking-glass. Perhaps there is a role for the ethereal poem about ideal Nature. But ours is not a planet of unbridled wilds. Exploitation through rampant power has brought us to the brink of the unnatural, or even the anti-natural. Poets should not be gilding lilies in garrets, even if there is an audience for such literary opiates. Although it is fun to fancy myself a hermit, the truth is much less insular and far more aggregate. Kathleen Dean Moore, reflecting on the interconnections of all things, outdoes the famous “No man is an island” with her well-researched update: “Not even an island is an island.” We are all — flesh, plant, and mineral — holistically bound. Bound together. Bound to travel together. The truth of this day and age is not a paean to the individual. One must take off a few veils of pride to see: we are integrally wound up in a strange new epoch, which could be called the Epoch of Circuitry. We are users of circuits and their industrial ilk; in many ways we are circuits ourselves, conducting money through a series of purchases in a large rapacious marketplace. The word “marketplace,” though, is not adequate to capture the dynamism of this globe-wide collective. The momentum of the beast hunts independently of the best wishes in our hearts. Clouds of pollution waft across continents, much as clouds of passenger pigeons flew in Victorian times, before scatterguns brought the last of them down (the birds apparently made a good soup and their feathers styled ladies‟ hats). Tailings from coal mines inflict a monstrous thumbprint far downstream. It took a brilliant writer and brave soul, Rachel Carson, much vilified by chemical companies, to make us realize that DDT was the greatest thief of all, had snuck inside everyone‟s skin — human, beast, bug and plant — to sip away at the vitality and beauty of the food pyramid. I used to brag that poetry was the simplest art, requiring nothing but pen and paper. But even in this rarified scenario, it must be asked, “Whence do these staples of the bard appear?” Paper comes from mills, which links to logging, which links to trucks, which links to oil, which links to refineries, which links to everything everywhere. An anthropologist from another galaxy could learn a great deal about our culture from a scant bit of evidence: a single sheet of bond. Bond. Bound. Wound in the circuitry of commerce, which is a blood circulating. The muscles are technology. The beast hunts. Of course, how many of us employ pencil and paper anymore? Who without means hasn‟t jumped off that stable perch, enjoying the flux of the Net, where perks and titillations abound, and yet subtly exert an insidious grip on our time?
Maybe the laptop is the equivalent of Narcissus‟ fluid looking-glass. I have a screen saver that is hypnotically similar to a glossy pond slightly caressed. We, as writers, have a responsibility to remember and emulate Carson, who saw through the wonders and conveniences of her day. Lovely as a poet, brave as a prophet, she dared worry about the future. And we should, too, while gazing at our rapturous magic screens. We should ask, Where did this come from? What is it doing? Where are we
bound? Has our genie become our bind?
“Future Nature One” By B. L. Pawelek, 2010
Read more about Chris and 3 of his poems on pages 38-40
“Robin’s Breakfast” By Ellaraine Lockie, 2010
“Wings” By Ellaraine Lockie, 2010
Essay Ellaraine Lockie by
Twelve Steps from the Art Studio It's all Eve Hanninen's fault, this latest addiction. I've missed sleep, appointments and deadlines, haven't paid bills and have ignored family and friends for two months. Ever since I was lured by The Centrifugal Eye's come-hither Renewal, Revision, Recycling theme, with its emphasis on the environmental and physically creative, my relatively balanced life went into the art studio and stayed. Oh, I've been a poet, papermaker and collage crafter for years, but never before had marrying these three passions occurred to me. Now their thirty-first progeny has entered the world. I'm calling them "Poellages." The process has evolved from paper pulps that I make, often from inedible parts of fruits and vegetables, and color with mostly natural dyes. Once the sheets dry, I let them tell me what kind and what length of poems would work best in each, depending on the composition of the fiber and size and shape of the papers. After the poems are applied, the poems tell me, through their contents, how to continue each collage. Then for the final touches, I look again to the fiber for guidanceâ€” from its color, shape and texture. It's in this last step that I look around the house, yard and studio for interesting tidbits to add. I have a vast supply of materials from the collages and openbindings that I do on handmade folk art books, where I construct the collages on recycled leather covers. It's nostalgic and thrilling to incorporate the stamp collection I inherited, fancy yarns from a designer line of scarves I've knitted, and memorabilia from travels. Other frequent additives are dried flowers, leaves, bark, twigs, moss, feathers, foliage, flat rocks, raffia, seals, embroidery threads, metallic strings, confetti, maps, tickets, buttons, charms, beads, seashells, rubber stamp designs, and magazine, catalog, and greeting-card cutouts. After Round One with this new obsession, I've had to temporarily lock the studio and give my husband the key. I feel as though these Poellages must be something I was meant to do. Okay, so maybe Eve isn't entirely at fault, but rather destiny's right-hand woman.
Ellaraine Lockie Ellaraine Lockie
â€œWriting Journal Coverâ€? By Ellaraine Lockie, 2010
“Single Drop” By Ellaraine Lockie, 2010
“Fern Falls Prey” By Ellaraine Lockie, 2010
Ellaraine Lockie is not only an essayist and “poellagist,” but also a poet and non-fiction author. She‟s received multiple writing residencies at Centrum in Port Townsend, WA, as well as a literary fellowship in Kenya, and a writer-in-residency stint at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, NM. Besides numerous award nominations and wins, hundreds of her poems have appeared in both U.S. and international journals. She‟s had 8 chapbooks/collections published, including the most recent: Stroking David‟s Leg (FootHills Publishing, 2009), Love in the time of Electrons (Pudding House, 2009), and Red for the Funeral, which just won the 2010 San Gabriel Poetry Festival Chapbook Contest. She also teaches poetry/writing workshops, and is poetry editor for Lilipoh. Ellaraine is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
“Red Hair” By Ellaraine Lockie, 2010
When “the moon bites its lip” Opening Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies is like stepping into a Bob Fosse Broadway production in words. The book dances. It is jazzy, sassy, sexy. Then it slows to a long, dramatic melancholy pause. It is fragile on one foot, strong on the other. There are finger-snapping, knee-slapping poems. Many have steam heat; they hiss. And they sigh. Jim Daniels‟ poetry sweeps on tap shoes across its stage through the pages in the reader‟s mind. And in certain turns in the book: on the softest of poetic shoes. The poems are breathless and exhilarating in their drumbeats, gritty and real with Daniels‟ brassy language of an Everyman, writing the lyric narrative and choreographing contemporary America — and giving us the sweetest of charity in the gift of his book. The glitz of Broadway meets the grit of The Way of the Crash-Test Dummies. And this time “the way” — the Zen of Poetry — was to swirl me where “our hot street holds no secrets.”
“on the long / perfect necks of the beautiful young.” I used “sexy” above to describe an aspect of this collection. While the book offers up its share of spiritual dilemmas that the poet has (and we readers may have) faced over the years, it is firmly rooted in the body, the physical vessel that moves us through time. One of the most sensual passages in contemporary poetry I can recall is this one from “Todi Landscape.” Out the large, arched window of our ancient house, the world spread itself humbly at our feet. April, the hillside‟s plush green eruptions liquid with curves and sex, the sparkling silver sweat of olive leaves, the stoic stone town in the distance, layered circles of walls to mark centuries of illusions while we gloated over our warm, moist skins.
Daniels also celebrates the body in “Esperanza.” This time it is his wife‟s body he celebrates. Awaiting the birth of his daughter, he hangs curtains in the nursery, then writes: “I climbed down from the ladder / to feel her stir inside you.” In the last stanza, this: You nurse her to sleep. The exotic word for hope rises unspoken. We are still here.
I find that sexy, sensual; my own body is viscerally aware not only of the pleasures (and pain) of childbirth and nursing, but of the act of love that preceded conception. I can feel the couple‟s steam heat.
Book Review Column Merrifield’s Tao of Reading Poetry Karla Linn Merrifield
Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies Poems by Jim Daniels
Eastern Washington University Press, 2007 Paper/ 85 Pages $15.95 US
“the elevator music in me.” If there is finger-snapping and knee-slapping to be performed, you‟ll find it in poems that transcend the purely personal to reflect on society at large — what I think of as Daniels‟ contemporary Everyman poems. Poetry Previews‟ review of Daniels‟ 1990 book, Punching Out, observes that Daniels has been able to “redefine the subject matter of contemporary poetry.” He has — by revisioning what it means to live in this day and age in this America. Not since Campbell McGrath‟s Pax Atomica have I felt the pulsing rhythm of contemporary society so deeply. Daniels launches Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies with a rollicking poem: “You Bring out the Boring White Guy in Me,” which struts and high-kicks its way through its single stanza of 32 lines, in what amounts to a list poem. Here are the first 4 lines: the Ward Cleaver in me. The Pat Boone in me. The K-Mart in me. The Slurpee in me. The boiled hot dog, the mac and cheese in me. The Tang in me.
It‟s the 1950s; the Age of Consumerism is upon us. Daniels continues: You bring out the Hamburger Helper in me. The Twinkie, the Cheese Whiz in me. You bring out the bowling trophy in me. The student council in me.
The years may have flown by, but “The fast-food drive-thru window” is still very much with us, as is “elevator music.” In “White Guy,” the lines jeté along to a “medley of TV-commercial / jingles” and we toe-tap the rhythm with the poet. As you might expect from the book‟s title poem, “Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies” is another reflection on American culture — a warmongering culture. In the opening 2 lines of the first 4 of 5 stanzas, the single-page poem teaches us: Generals calculate the best weather for killing. ............................. The generals calculate the appropriate amount of uppers ............................. The generals calculate the appropriate syntax and diction ............................. The generals eat the latest in sugary cereals.
Then the clincher last stanza: The dummies drive off in clown cars, disappear in the distance. The generals wipe their glasses. They cough. With each cough a door slams shut.
Bring on the kettle drums: bodies are coming home in body bags. Only the Crash-Test Dummies escape. We humans die a little each time the generals get itchy “to wipe that smirk / off somebody‟s face.” This dance number is a funeral march. Hippest, most contemporary of Daniels‟ Everyman poems is “These Days They‟re Wearing Their Haloes Tight,” which is set, as Daniels imagines, in “the State of Grace,” a state “seceding from the Union.” These are not the “slack haloes” of a more innocent American time when Daniels reminds us Albie Pierson played baseball with the Angels (and I am reminded of Fosse‟s 1955 musical, Damn Yankees). These are not the “tilted haloes” of prime-time ‟60s TV that Daniels alludes to with his reference to Roger Moore playing Simon Templar in The Saint series. These are not the “lightweight / FDA-approved aerodynamic spy-proof rustproof” haloes we‟ve seen of late. (There‟s a line that gets your fingers snapping!) In today‟s world, against all odds, what kind of haloes can we hope to wear?
No, the State of Grace is seceding from the Union, mythic and proud, slender and glowing, the haloes are tightened another notch, leaving no room for air, for give, for spin or sin. Turning every mean into an amen. In the State of Grace, everyone is governor. No one ever drops a Frisbee. In my basement, I‟m hammering away on a thin wire, hoping they‟ll take me in.
Like the Everyman-“I” in his basement, we realize tight-fitting haloes are possible for us, too.
“the fumes of bottled-up sin” The grand pas de deux in Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies is performed when the poet takes Guilt as his partner. The poem is the long (7 pages, 9 movements, a section unto itself), swirling “Sizing the Ring.” In it the poet makes his confession; the poem is his confessional booth, and the reader is priest behind the scrim of the page. The poem opens innocently enough with a reflection on puppy love as Daniels recalls 1969 and a girl named Carol Martin, who “gave me a ring / that I used to hold a scarf around my neck.” But then the poem takes a dramatic turn, an arabesque across time. Only two lines later, we‟re into the ‟70s, with every vestige of innocence erased: Four years before she disappeared pregnant and Catholic still. Seven years before her brother Matthew evaporated one night downtown, bullet in his neck.
And 12 lines later the second movement opens: Matthew died looking for a prostitute in downtown Detroit. Carol‟s father held the collection basket under my nose in church till I smelled guilt.
The poem is a tantalizing tango in this duet in which Guilt and Poet are partnered. What does Daniels say he‟s guilty of? Listen up, my reader-priests! The poet once whispered “masturbatory prayers.” The poet divulges:
We sang „Kumbaya‟ in church, holding up the hymnals with our erect penises. Well, some of us.
He further confesses in Movement 4: I get them confused from this distance. 7 light years and 21 dark. I once took flight in a confessional booth. I twice had sex in a phone booth. I denied everything three times. The cock crowed at the drop of a school jumper. I once believed in the Virgin birth and pulling out early.
Six quatrains later he opens Movement 5: “Sure, I admit to residual bitterness, / a host stuck in my craw.” Even as the Catholic lapses before our very eyes, the poet is absolved. Toward the end of this magnum opus, the poet in his grief stands solo on the stage: “I pulled down the pants / of Saint Grief and gave it to her from behind.” Grief conquers Guilt with self-forgiveness — in a long poem of superb form. Daniels choreographs his confession, varying the lengths of stanzas from movement to movement, with a preference for a 4/4 stanza beat. The dance sequences look like this. Movement 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Form 5 Quatrains 4 Quintain 8 Couplets 9 Quatrains 6 Quatrains + 1 Couplet 2 Quatrains 8 Quatrains + 1 Single Line 5 Quatrains 2 Quatrains
Like Bob Fosse once did of his dancers, Jim Daniels demands of himself perfect attention to form. The use of form in “Sizing the Ring” is masterful. You find yourself calling, Encore! Master poet!
“I wish I could say I was making this up. Inside I felt” This master of form is, as one might expect, also a master of the line break. The music stops at the end of the line quoted above and we are forced to think: Felt what? What did the poet feel? What do we feel at this point in the poem, “American Dream?” “The silence at the end of a line is crucial,” writes Bill Mohr in his critical analysis of Daniels‟ work, an essay titled “The „Where You At‟ of Jim Daniels‟ Poetry: Breaking the Machine, Line Breaks, and the „Here‟ of Silence.” Mohr goes on to write of Daniels‟ lines breaks — the poet‟s silence at the end of the line: “Perhaps it is that silence which must first be shared enough so that one can become comfortable with it as a kind of thinking; perhaps then one can begin to speak of the things that are difficult to speak of, things which involve the emotions of surprise and joy, as well as guilt and shame.” Let me demonstrate further with a few more lines from “American Dream,” one of several poems in the book in which Daniels returns to his blue-collar roots in Detroit. This time he‟s there with his family in tow for a tour of the Henry Ford Museum. Here‟s a central passage from “American Dream,” 5 of 29 long lines in another single-stanza poem where Daniels‟ family works “on a toy car assembly line:” My father and I had worked on assembly lines where if you couldn‟t keep up, you were fired. Where time controllers assessed how long each job should take and set the line speed. The family that took our places asked me to videotape the whole thing.
In addition to pleasing us with the subtle rhyme of “lines” and “fired,” the line breaks set up a significant juxtaposition; the poet invites us to pause and weigh “lines,” “fired” and “job” against “family,” then intertwines the industrial with the intimately personal into “the whole thing.” For me, Daniels‟ father‟s and his own blue-collar ethic emerges from the silences at the end of these lines: This breed of man works at mind-numbing jobs to provide for the family — the family that keeps them human. The silence at the end of the lines leaves me breathless.
“I take his hand in mine.” Daniels‟ poems twirl through time from his ‟50s early-boyhood through his ‟60s teen-years in jazzy, brassy poems such as “Rocking at the DQ” and “Charlie Holmes Blew up the Chem Lab,” and on into the present day where we find him the father of two children. Family is spotlit at center stage in the final section of the book, and the reader is mesmerized by the supreme tenderness of this father‟s dance with his two children. In “Dim,” Daniels announces in the opening lines: “Today my son realized someone‟s smarter / than him.” A few lines later, we read the boy “wants me to acknowledge / that he‟s dumb.” What‟s the Everyman-father to do?
His eyes glassy with almost-tears. The world wants to call on him. I take his hand in mine.
Loss of innocence is also the focus of “White Crayon,” a tender pas de trois that follows “Dim.” Yesterday we watched a man beat his dog. I stood speechless on the crumbling sidewalk holding my children‟s hands. Today, she [his daughter] wouldn‟t put her game away. She cried for an hour instead.
Sooner or later, every father — every parent — arrives at the same place; inevitably we must watch as our child‟s innocence erodes, as ours once did, as Daniels shows us his did in “Sizing the Ring:” “Sometimes a man kicks a dog / and you get a black smudge nobody can erase.” What we can do, Daniels tells in these two poems, is perform that one simple gesture. “I take his hand in mine.” Sigh. Thank you, Jim. I‟ll remember that.
“Somewhere in the distance, / the signals are changing.” In more than a nod to the theme of this issue of The Centrifugal Eye, I point to the book‟s promise of renewal. Follow the way of the Crash-Test Dummies on your inner stage and like Daniels, you too can revise your sense of self; you too can recycle your old beliefs. Why not forsake your version of “the arrogance of a young drunk” and the “botched prayers” of your youth for something more meaningful, more useful? Daniels seems to have. And I honestly think I have. All along the trajectory of the book, I felt myself transforming. I was renewed; I was revised as a human being — am much the better for it; and I was recycled: I now know to “let the photos / fade, as they must.”
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. From your stories I‟ll select the books and I‟ll review them for all our readers in future issues of The Centrifugal Eye. Give me something new to rave about! (http://home.earthlink.net/~tinyviolet/thecentrifugaleyepoetryjournal/id366.html)
I am grateful to TCE contributor Harry Calhoun for recommending Revolt in his Reader‟s Survey where he told me Daniels “is an old friend of mine . . . I read as much of Daniels‟ poetry as I can.” In a follow-up email to me, Calhoun elaborated: “While I know him better as the guy I used to play softball with and have a few beers with after in Pittsburgh, he‟s got an impressive list of credentials. . . . His style is very straightforward but somehow poignant and meaningful.” I go even further: It is not overstatement to say Daniels‟ Revolt can be lifechanging. Lively, energizing — his book is an eco-solution for the soul. This is life, people! Go dance!
Note: Born in Detroit in 1956, James Raymond Daniels teaches creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University, where he is the Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English. In addition to Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies, winner of the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize, he has authored Mr. Pleasant (fiction) and In Line for the Exterminator, among others. Readers might be interested in Brian Brodeur‟s interview with Daniels, posted on his blog, and Poetry Previews‟ review of
Readers of our print edition may find these references online at these URLs:
Karla Linn Merrifield Karla Linn Merrifield
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 issued The Etowah River Psalms in September, 2009. She is also author of Dawn of Migration and Other Audubon Dreams (2007, RochesterInk Publications). Karla received the 2009 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for poetry from the University of Rochester. Read more about Karla and 2 of her poems on pages 30-31 Contact Karla (email@example.com)
71 “Renewal of Cape San Blas Lighthouse #2” By Karla Linn Merrifield, 2010
Brian Brodeur‟s Blog (http://howapoemhappens.blogspot.com/2009/08/jim-daniels.html) Poetry Previews‟ Review (http://www.poetrypreviews.com/poets/poet-daniels.html)
Submissions, Archives & Press Releases
a little R & R … & R: Renewal, Revision & Recycling
Submissions If you are a poet, essayist or artist, and feel that your work is a match for us, please visit The Centrifugal Eye’s submission guidelines on our website. (http://centrifugaleye.com/)
Archives Back and Special Issues are still being stored at our TCE Archives sites for an indefinite period. Please be sure to visit the sites for 4+-years worth of great reading. Centrifuge: Special Project Archives (http://home.earthlink.net/~centrifuge/)
The Centrifugal Eye Archives
Press Releases The Centrifugal Eye is pleased to recognize the latest publishing achievements of several of our contributing poets. Make a note on your wish list for:
Ellaraine Lockie’s Red for the Funeral, the 2010 San Gabriel Poetry Festival Chapbook Contest winner, will be available in June at Creekwalker. (http://creekwalker.com/index.html)
Harry Calhoun‟s The Black Dog and the Road, available from Dimenuendo Press.
Skeleton Says, by Scott Siegel, out from Finishing Line Press.
Ask the Editor Writers & Poets: Have a crafting or technical question? Something you‟ve always wanted to get an editor‟s opinion on? Submit your question to firstname.lastname@example.org, addressed to: Ask the Editor, and if we find it interesting or educational, we‟ll publish your question with our answer in an upcoming issue of TCE. (Due to the high volume of emails received, we can‟t reply to these questions personally.)
Casual discussions about poetry for the working poet & student alike. Write & hone your craft in a casual online community setting. Receive valuable feedback from peers.
PoetrySpeaks.com PS●Voices SpokenWord YourMic For Poets & Poetry Lovers
Would you like to see your artwriting- or publishing-related ad here in
The Centrifugal Eye? Please query TCE’s editor about rates and ad sizes available for upcoming issues. (email@example.com)
“Untitled 79” By Andrew McIntyre, 2010
“Rivoaltus Legatoria” By Sharon Auberle, 2010