Centrifugal Eye Poetry Journal
February 2009 Vol. 4 Iss. 1
Ephemera from Advertising and Paper Arts to Etherealism
he Centrifugal Eye Staff
Editor-in-Chief; Art Director: Eve Anthony Hanninen Contacts Editor; Ed. Assistant: John Thomas Clark Ed. Assistant: Sam H. Kerr Ed. Assistant: Rebecca Cross Quarterly Review Columnist: Karla Linn Merrifield Art Assistant; Reviewer: Dallas J. Bryant Staff Reviewers: Gram Davies, Simon Lloyd Dunbar, E. K. Mortenson, Ocalive Mwenda Staff Readers' Circle: Anonymous reviewers
Cover Photo and “Soul Card: Dream” Postcard Art by Cecelia Chapman. Visit Chapman‘s website to view her artistic videos.
Back Cover Art by E. A. Hanninen, TCE Art Director
Copyright 2009 The Centrifugal Eye - Collected Works – All Rights Reserved
“I almost always start with paper. I may jot down a word or two, maybe a whole sentence, or an idea. Later I'll add more words and/or sentences until the page is pretty covered with a hodgepodge of pell-mell verbiage reading this way and that”. ~ K. R. Copeland
Contents Pgs. 3-6
Editorial–Eve Anthony Hanninen
Pgs. 7-16 Featured Poet – K. R. Copeland Interview, Poems & Essay Poems Pgs
Karen McPherson 17-18 Donal Mahoney 19 Nicholas Messenger 20 Karla Linn Merrifield 21 Michael Opperman 22 John Milbury-Steen 23-24 P. J. Nights 25-26 Erik Richardson 27 Wanda Schubmehl 28 Ken Pobo 29-30 Janice D. Soderling 31 Ken Whitmore 32 Margaret A. Robinson 33-34 Martin Willitts, Jr. 35 Gary Beck 36
Alan Botsford Saitoh 37 John L. Campbell 38 C. E. Chaffin 39-40 David Chorlton 41 Laura Ciraolo 42 Antonia Clark 43 Brent Fisk 44 William Doreski 45-47 John Thomas Clark 48 Gary Lehmann 49 Hugh Fox 50 Laury A. Egan 51-52 Paul Fisher 53-54 Ed Higgins 55
Essays Pgs. 57-58 Pgs. 59-62
Ellaraine Lockie “A Writer’s Secret Weapon” Hugh Fox “one”
Reviews Pgs. 63-65 Gram Davies on Gary Metras Pgs. 66-70 Karla Linn Merrifield on William Stafford Pgs. 71-74 E. K. Mortenson on C. E. Chaffin Pgs. 75-76
3 A Preface, An Introduction, A Letter, A Plethora of Ephemera By Eve Anthony Hanninen, editor
A Preface to Virtual Pleasures
f you‘re a long-time reader of The Centrifugal Eye, you‘re probably already grinning with pleasure over the new electronic format, and if you‘re not, what‘s wrong with you? Just kidding. Yes, it may take a little time to figure out what some of the buttons do, but it‘s well worth the exploration; you‘ll quickly learn how to view and read using the great features that the Issuu platform provides.
My favorite feature is turning the pages. Easy to please, I know. You can also enlarge any page for a close-up view. You can skip around by clicking on the visual index. You can download or print content, too. Did I mention you can turn the pages? Really, it‘s almost like flipping through a real magazine! Wait— I‘ve always considered TCE to be a ―real magazine,‖ but some of you feel you need the familiar look of bookbinding before you‘re comfortable calling electronic journals ―magazines.‖ TCE‘s new format is still primarily virtual, but you can now also print out the entire issue, if you have the patience. This is a happy improvement, in my opinion. I hope in yours, as well.
Let‘s back up to Autumn, after the November 2008 issue came out. After struggling through editing existing web pages that became invisible in my main browser after its latest ―upgrade,‖ I started looking into new webhosting sources. Besides needing an accessible text editor, I also wanted a lot more storage space, as the popular Eye takes up more megabytes with every quarter. What I typically found offered to me would require I learn new mark-up languages, scripting codes, and the phone number for a local headshrink. Okay, that last part I made up. But trying to figure out how to improve the TCE experience for 2009 was making me feel a bit loopy.
An Introduction to Literary Change
My focus for design solutions shifted several times over the last 3 months, just as it‘s shifted somewhat for this column — natural, when you consider that almost everything changes with time, sometimes even rapidly.
Welcome to The Centrifugal Eye‘s annual February-redesign issue for 2009. I wanted to come up with something spectacular this year. I knew I had to make some big changes anyway, because my host server was no longer serving my needs. My main and test browsers have updated 4 times in the past 12 months, but TCE‘s site host-server hasn‘t made the necessary compatibility upgrades to keep up with current technological improvements.
In the case of The Centrifugal Eye and its current Ephemera theme, overwhelming schedules and life-altering events temporarily made key staff members unavailable for most of the planning months. Producing this annual redesign was a lot more complicated than originally projected. Add to that setback my growing recognition that (despite our Internettechie-brethren‘s push for newer, better, faster web-coding languages) continued website
4 design-limitations have added to my publishing burdens by demanding I spend more time and money (I don‘t have to spare) to learn those complicated mark-up languages and scripts that still can’t produce the effects I want to achieve. Nor can they reduce the hours upon hours I spend every quarter ―fighting‖ a forced set of underwhelming web-design principles. This is not progress. As a thoroughly-trained designer and illustrator, I don‘t want to be told by a non-artistic programmer (I‘m not referring to the artistic ones — they‘re another bunch) to forget everything I‘ve learned or mastered, especially when that learning came attached to a $20k price tag. So what do I want? I want a technology that allows me to improve on my current skill sets. Give me better tools to complement my resourceful knowledge base. It might sound like I‘m putting down websites on the whole, but don‘t get me wrong — I like cruising and using them as much as most internet-users. There are great sites around for doing things, gathering information, and for being entertained. But in general, easy-to-use, quality site-design tools meant for terrific showcasing are a long way off. You know why? The majority of webhosts can‘t afford to continually develop programs that are compatible with constant upgrading of browsers and operating systems. Websites — the whole concept of them — in my opinion, are dinosaurs. And someday, maybe sooner than we all think, they will be extinct as suddenly as when they appeared magically on ―the Internet‖ at its ―invention.‖ How‘s that for ephemera? Yes, technological things, like shining-new-but-cheap gadgets, have life-cycles, too. The Internet will probably be around to stay for awhile longer, but I‘m willing to bet that technological advances in personal-computing hardware will continually evolve in ways that will make many websites yellow, become brittle and crumble away — and at a faster rate than a lot already do.
So, will The Centrifugal Eye still have a web presence, now that its format is no longer web pages? Yes, it will. The Internet currently remains a valuable informational tool and affords great exposure for all kinds of creative people — writers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs. . . . TCE‘s main site will remain a viable way to promote its contributors and act as a transitional gateway to accessing its articles and poetry. But I do think its readers will discover that a virtual journal, with its resemblance to a glossy paper magazine, will be immensely more satisfying to maneuver than is scrolling and rolling (or too much clicking within links) through screens of basic blockhead fonts in a mere 5 sizes. Instead, being able to simulate flipping through eye-catching, designed ―pages‖ of material may re-stimulate readers to appreciate the beauty of real books and journals. Everything changes, so goes the adage. So do I. It‘s time to advance into a format that goes much farther in pleasing the aesthetic senses, and nearly as far in making the production of TCE an easier effort. After you‘ve had a chance to read through the new 2009 redesign issue, I‘m fairly certain you‘ll agree.
The Dear Editor Letter What I‘d intended to write about here before I‘d committed to launching The Centrifugal Eye in the Issuu platform was something else altogether — in keeping with this issue‘s ephemera-based theme, it was a letter. Mid-quarter, I received a letter from a man calling himself Chris. This Chris felt he owed it to me to let me know how I was doing as an editor (and as a woman, for that matter), what kind of magazine The Centrifugal Eye is, and what themed issues meant to him — especially the current one. In fact, Chris apparently feels so strongly about my being made aware of how terrible all of the aforementioned are, that he resent his letter yesterday. Perhaps he thought I didn‘t get the first one, because I didn‘t leap to
5 TCE‘s or my own defense and write him an equally insulting letter in return. Actually, I was too busy working on the magazine to do more than laugh in shock at the first reading, and then I sent it to a couple of writers and an editor, all from whom I wanted to get a little feedback; I felt it fair that Chris be taken seriously enough (at least a little), and that I consider his opinions before dismissing his statements completely. Later, when I had a few moments to relax, I sat back and examined his letter for any possible truths within. I‘m known for my objectivity — sometimes people wish I‘d be more subjective and show a little delicacy. I don‘t believe in speaking delicately, but I do embrace compassion and diplomacy, and make great efforts at self-examination. I won‘t put someone else down intentionally, and especially if I haven‘t taken the time to look at myself first before making value judgments about others. I think TCE‘s contributors and readers are a pretty savvy bunch of people. What they‘ve told me in their many complimentary letters over the years is that, in the main, they disagree with Chris. He seems to think that themed magazines are an affront to all good writers and literary journals, and that real writers never write to prompts or take assignments. I didn‘t long ponder the value of this philosophy of artistic exclusivity that denies credibility to journalists, for example, and assumes that creative challenges are demeaning and somehow akin to being ―told what to do,‖ let alone suggests that poems with any sort of subject matter can‘t possibly be crafted with quality. With clever, contemporary language, Chris said, ―Centrifugal Eye sucks,‖ implied and assumed that I hung out in bars to drown out the misery of my uncreative and wasted life, brain all a‘swirl with booze and horrible poetry subs, and that, most emphatically, nobody liked what TCE has been producing and showcasing for the past 3½ years. I‘ve never met Chris, nor had any previous conversations with him and am unfamiliar with what he does, but I do respect that he represents a minority of writers who seem to feel
threatened by the concept of writing for or submitting to journals with themed issues. But here‘s what I have to say to these writers: No problem. Submit elsewhere. There are hundreds of journals that will gladly take a mishmash of unrelated material. Submit to these markets instead of mine. If you can‘t find anything to write about (or haven‘t already written about) subjects that someone else suggests may be interesting to readers, that‘s perhaps your own short-sightedness. I understand that not all of your recent poems have anything to do with toilet paper, confetti, or fog — but maybe a poem you wrote last year did, and it‘s a really great poem that no editor has shown any interest in to date because of its specificity. So why stick your nose up at the journal that might have a place for it? You don‘t even have to try to sit down and rack your brain for a new good poem. But if you‘re not interested in a particular theme, skip it. Don‘t bother the editor with your complaints of why you don‘t like themed issues/journals. Here‘s what most long-time writers will tell you, Chris and Chris-ites — when they began writing with any regularity, they wrote about . . . drumroll . . . themselves. They wrote love poems and hate poems. They wrote about their family, about their lovers. Their pains. Their joys. About death. They wrote about everything they thought had significance. And then they wrote fewer and fewer poems, because they‘d exhausted their internal catalog of me-ness. This isn‘t a crime, of course, but rather the typical poet‘s-life-cycle. If they were great writers by the time they finished churning out their me-ness and they still wanted or had to write, they then turned outward to look for new subjects of interest. Here we go! Do you see where I‘m going, Chris-ites? The Centrifugal Eye is a market for mature writers — ones that are not only fabulous at their craft, but also those who have written so much that they‘re eager to write about all kinds of inspiring things.
6 Theme-writing is not for the weak-of-heart who have palpitations at the thought of a prompt. It‘s not for students who dread assignments. It‘s not for those who think their unrevised poems will be accepted just because they‘ve touched upon a projected theme. It is most especially for professional writers who are familiar with how to pitch an article, collaborate on revisions, and for those poets who have either exhausted their deep wells of biographical me-ness, broken out from their solely internal gazes, or know how to
tap both sources of self-awareness and worldly observation. Chris, you haven‘t succeeded in tearing down The Centrifugal Eye, nor me, with your intended spitefulness. My reply to you is that a writer can write about the same subjects, using the same self-driven words, only so many times before he begins to bore even himself.
Eve Anthony Hanninen is an American poet, writer, editor, and illustrator who resides in British Columbia, Canada. Despite having to relocate twice in 6 months, she managed to produce several new poems in the interim, some of which may turn up in future journals. Recent publications include Sein und Werden (print and online), Moondance, Wicked Alice, Origami Condom, Shit Creek Review, The Barefoot Muse, and The HyperTexts. She also has a limited artist's-edition chapbook in the works. 3 of Eve's poems appear in the new anthology edited by Lynn Strongin: Crazed by the Sun (2008); another appeared in Trim: The Mannequin Envy Anthology (2007). Eve's latest bookjacket illustrations adorn Ellaraine Lockie's Blue Ribbons at the County Fair, and Patrick Carrington's Hard Blessings. Artwork was also contributed to Lana Ayers' Late Blooms Postcard Series.
Publishing News: Awards Amongst 2009 award winners named in January by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), including author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Beth Krommes, was regular TCE contributor and poet Margarita Engle. Presented during ALA‘s Midwinter Meeting in Denver, January 23 rd through the 28th, the John Newbery Medal went to Gaiman for ―The Graveyard Book,‖ and the Randolph Caldecott Medal went to Krommes for her illustration work in author Susan Marie Swanson‘s ―The House in the Night.‖ The Newbery and Caldecott Medals are considered the most prestigious awards in children‘s literature and honor meritorious writing and illustration of works released in the United States the previous year. Also presented during ALSC‘s Midwinter Meeting were the Newbery and Caldecott Honor Books Awards. One of the four named Newbery Honor Books* was Margarita Engle‘s The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, published by Henry Holt and Company.
Engle also recently won the 2008 Pura Belpré Award-winner for her Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. Full Article
*The other three Newbery Honor Book Awards went to Kathi Appelt for The Underneath, illustrated by David Small (Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Simon & Schuster Children‘s Publishing), Ingrid Law for Savvy (Dial Books for Young Readers; Penguin Young Readers Group; Walden Media, LLC), and Jacqueline Woodson for After Tupac & D Foster (G. P. Putnam‘s Sons; Penguin Books for Young Readers)
―Leaves in River‖ ~ Stephanie Curtis 2009
The Surrender Tree tells the tale of Cuba‘s three wars for independence from Spain in lyrical free verse, using alternating voices. Engle combines ―real-life characters (such as legendary healer Rosa La Bayamesa)‖ with fictional ones, while focusing on ―Rosa‘s struggle to save everyone — black, white, Cuban, Spanish, friend or enemy,‖ reports the article on the ALA‘s website.
eatured Interview Poet:
K. R. Copeland EAH: In case any of The Centrifugal Eye‘s readers aren‘t already familiar with the prolific poet, K. R. Copeland, tell us— how long have you been writing poetry? KRC: I was bit by the lit bug in 4th grade, when I garnered a significant amount of praise for various stories and poems I'd written in school, but didn't attempt to publish any writing until much later. It was always just something I did, perfunctorily almost, like brushing my teeth. I had poems appear in a couple Chicago newspapers, Streetwise and The Reader, when I was in my mid-20s and then began publishing "regularly" in lit zines and journals around age 30. I suppose prior to that, I'd mostly written for myself, whereas now — if I may wax grandiose — I'm hoping to appeal to the masses, particularly those who wouldn't normally read, let alone read poetry. EAH: Just how many journals and other publications have you appeared in since 4th grade? And what‘s the best way to appeal to a general audience, in your opinion?
Chicago Poet, K. R. Copeland
The Centrifugal Eye’s editor,
Eve Anthony Hanninen, asks K. R. Copeland about the little pieces in her poet’s life.
KRC: Not to sound flip, but there have been so many publications over the years, I‘ve lost count. I‘ve found that my approach of penning entertaining poetry has been the secret of my (unpaid) success, particularly with non-literary types. Poetry, to me, is like any other art form. You go to the movies to be entertained, right? You listen to music for the same reason. Why should poetry be any different? Poetry should not be intimidating or confusing, but rather welcoming and accessible. I think the infusion of humor helps as well.
8 EAH: Speaking of ―unpaid success,‖ it‘s hard to make a living as a writer. Besides poet, you‘ve tried a number of occupations, including working in high-end fashion sales and restaurant management. Worst job you ever tried? KRC: Podiatrist's assistant (can you say, ―crustnasty feet?‖). Job I'd least like to do? Desk job (or, the feet thing, again). EAH: Weren‘t you also an associate editor for a couple of online journals? Do you dabble in other creative formats?* KRC: I am currently not acting in an editorial capacity, though in the past I've co-edited a number of issues of Worm, an issue of Stirring, and acted as Art Director for Unlikely 2.0. for a couple of years. I also moderated an online poetry forum, A Wild Iris Poetry group. I tend to bore easily and don't generally do any one thing too long, aside from writing . . . that's always been a constant. I do utilize photography and digital artwork as a creative outlet when I'm feeling linguistically challenged, but poetry is my true passion. EAH: Ah, passions! That leads me to the theme for this issue of TCE: Stationery stores have long been my ―addictive confectioneries‖ — as a writer, do you find you have any personal attraction to ephemera, or to paper, in general? KRC: Paper for sure. I love the smell of books. Yes, the smell. Also, the feel. Though I've a strong preference for non-laminated over laminated. I've slept with books in my bed on countless occasions and have been known to even kiss a book or two. That's um, normal, right? EAH: Certainly! Er, I think. Well then, when you compose a poem, do you begin working on feel-good paper or head straight for the computer screen?
KRC: I almost always start with paper. I may jot down a word or two, maybe a whole sentence, or an idea. Later I'll add more words and / or sentences until the page is pretty covered with a hodgepodge of pell-mell verbiage reading this way and that. Once I've got some decent ideas in place, I'll take my paper to the computer and start hammering away in Microsoft® Word. EAH: Pros and cons for computer versus paper? KRC: Paper‘s great for just getting started, but I type much quicker than I can hand write, so, when the muse is ripe and the ideas are running rampant, the computer is a more expedient process. However, I have learned the hard way it is best to back all computer documents up as soon as possible, so that an unforeseen crash will not eradicate all your work. These days I tend to keep several copies of my work on both disc and paper, just in case. EAH: What attracts you to TCE‘s ephemera theme more — the abstract or the concrete? KRC: Hmmm . . . I'd have to say the abstract. Abstraction lends itself more readily to multiple interpretations, and I'm a gal who likes a lot of layers. EAH: Applying that concept to your poetry, what sorts of poetic devices do you use for layering?
9 KRC: I'm a big fan of wordplay, specifically double entendres and innuendo. I love it when several different people interpret a poem of mine in several different ways . . . it makes me feel as if the words have done their jobs . . . and perhaps I, too, have done mine. EAH: And I‘m a fan of innuendoes and puns, which is why I admire your ability to combine wit with compact writing-style. You‘ve a knack for bare words in crisp lines that are packed with meaning and images. What have you done specifically to achieve these effects in your writing?
EAH: Literacy is a big issue for you; how did you become involved in tutoring kids to read? KRC: A teacher at my children's school called me and offered me a teacher's aide position just sort of out of the blue one day (she had been my son's teacher the previous year). I gladly accepted the position and sort of fell from there into the side job of 4th-grade reading tutor, which was hugely ironic, seeing as it was in my 4th grade when I'd fully realized my affinity for the written word. (Thank you Mrs. Ambercrombie and Shel Silverstein, I still have my copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends).
KRC: Ha! I‘ve no secret, really. It‘s just my style. I tend to be quite terse and find writing at length exceedingly difficult. My poems usually max out at fourteen lines, and that‘s if I‘m specifically writing a sonnet. Usually, they‘re shorter than that. When reading, I have a preference for short stories over epic novels, as well. In all likelihood this is a result of my nanosecond attention span. EAH: Then, quick, before I lose you— of all things paper you've ever seen, describe which sticks with you in memory. KRC: Interesting question. I guess the newspaper. I remember my dad always reading the paper when I was a kid and it was one of the first things I, too, began reading regularly. That was the Chicago Tribune. I've since graduated to the New York Times. EAH: But you started with the comics, right? KRC: While I'd love to say I prodigiously began with current events, I did in fact start with the comics. I'd look forward to reading the Sunday paper with my father and swapping stories . . . my Garfield (the cat) for his Carter (the president). Those literary sessions led me to peruse the newspaper more fully, and launched my love of reading in general. As such, I firmly believe that if you read to your kids, with your kids, or simply in the company of your kids, it will have an impact.
EAH: I imagine you‘ve kept prized books ever since. How many books in your personal collection of poetry, favorite poets included? KRC: My collection is comprised of roughly two hundred books including chapbooks, anthologies, handbooks / guides to writing, and single poet collections. Favorite poets include Sharon Olds, Emily Dickinson, Ann Sexton, e.e. cummings, Charles Simic, Sylvia Plath, Virgil Suarez, Rita Dove and Mark Strand, to name just a handful. EAH: Paper and books packrat that I am, I‘ve had to unload numerous treasures during several necessary moves — if you had to whittle down your possessions, including books, which 4 or 5 poetry-related titles would be must keeps?
10 KRC: Only FIVE? Whoa. Okay, let's see:
1) Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein, because, as noted earlier, it holds sentimental value, and, it's also one of my children's favorites. 2) Chicago Poems, Carl Sandburg, which I purchased approximately 20 years ago after seeing Marc Kelly Smith perform "Chicago" at the Green Mill. 3) Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems. This book has been a favorite for years. It's one I always go back to. Emily's brevity and musicality make for many a delightful reading hour. Also, my copy boasts a cloth cover, making it cozy to hold. 4) Good Poems, selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor. This book offers a lot of variety by classic poets, as well as some of the best contemporary poets around. 5) New Selected Poems, Mark Strand. This brilliant compilation includes most of my favorite Strand poems. His signature style of surprising imagery is abundantly displayed.
EAH: Great list— and I think you should keep a copy of your own chapbook, Anatomically Correct, as well. Any recent news to share in your world of poetry? KRC: Biggest thrill as of late, having my poem, "Guilt Induced Riff with Eyeballs and Fish" chosen as a finalist by Mark Strand in the Border‘s Open-Door Poetry Project. Anthony Tedesco, who co-hosts the program, notified me by email and I was simply ecstatic . . . even though I hadn't won, I was tickled that one of my favorite poets found merit in my work. EAH: That is thrilling! So, I‘ve got to ask the witty K. R., what else is important to you besides writing? KRC: YOGA has become an integral part of my life. It helps me relax, focus and stay mentally and spiritually fit. Listening to music is something I do daily and couldn't live without. Also, tarantula wrangling. Odd things in my bedroom: 3 tarantulas, 2 scorpions, 1 ball python and a breeding colony of hissing cockroaches.
Photographs courtesy of K. R. Copeland 2009 *After our interview was completed, I roped K. R. into contributing several pieces of her artwork for placement throughout this issue — you can expect to see more of them in upcoming issues, too. ~ E.A.H.
K. R. Copeland
P When the Written Word Conjures Concupiscence
he love poem you wrote me in your signature chicken-scratch style rendered my legs limp linguini instantly, caused my lips to drip and I spent twenty-seven seconds in heaven's crest.
The Aftermath of Magic
he things that can fly, fly, while things that can't fly flounder. Turn your eyelids inside out, reveal their pinkness, or pull a coin out of your ear, you are a geniusâ€” to a kid, of course, who thinks these tricks are better than a woman sawed in half. You'll get a laugh, a gasp, a wow, a how'd you do that? Remember, damn it, magic cannot last. Let loose the doves from your top hat, and then the rabbit, silk scarves, rat. Free the snake from the tin can. Explain that all things slip away, and disappear no matter how we rig them.
12 From Moonrise to Dewfall
he raindrops plip, slicken minutes, drown the drowsing hours while the sky‘s dull bulb casts cuttlebone below — not so much a glow as lowly dapple. Shadows grapple. The roundness of night‘s light becomes a button, half-undone. I listen, listless, sadly hum, thumb through a heavy book — yesterday, a stranger, page by page, today, a crook.
he charcoal soul of winter sends us whisky-lipped indoors, in search of one another‘s sordid warming. Livened by a wild-thighed draft, the hearth-flames stir to rapid dance, with Latin flair; flamenco or lambada. Our skin, in close proximity, plays host to shadow‘s sinful licks from rhythm sticks to timpani desire. Flesh-nestled on a faux fur rug, a guitar-strum of hips and chest; the prolix crick of lumber plumb afire.
―Moonbuttons‖ Collage ~ K.R. Copeland 2009
13 More (or Less) than Breakfast
his is the way things fizzle; a baconed skillet quickly cooled by unhappy tap water. A lot is lost. The steam upheaved toward nowhere. We are here, barehanded, stranded in this kitchen without air. Kneading dough without so much as one forsaken vowel. How heat has flown from blow torch to Bic lighter. The brighter side â€” our rising bread proves we are not yet rotting; two strangers bent on lukewarm foods to sate our sunken bodies.
K. R. Copeland is a widely published Chicagoland poet, digital artist and Pushcart nominee. Her poem, Guilt Induced Riff with Eyeballs and Fish, was recently chosen as a finalist in the Borders Open Door Poetry Project by Pulitzer Prize winner, Mark Strand. She has one chapbook, Anatomically Correct, available through Dancing Girl Press, and is currently at work on her first full-length compilation. In her spare time, K. R. volunteers as a reading tutor and mentor for grade-school children. K. R. is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Anatomically Correct
14 Poetry: Permanent Ink or Impertinent Art Form? By K. R. Copeland
hile it can be argued that poetry is less prevalent today than it was in the 19th century, when it seemingly reached its peak, it is by no means obsolete. In this essay, we‘ll consider numerous venues where poetry is still very much alive, wildly kicking, and defiantly making its presence known.
Poetry in education:
Poetry in advertising:
Widely used to teach basic rhyme schemes and rhythms to toddlers, metaphor and simile to teens and in-depth craft to college students, poetry is a staple in classrooms everywhere. In addition to the scholastic environment, Poets House is making great strides in the field of poetry as education. Their collaborative project, ―The Language of Conservation; National Replication Project,‖ funded by an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant, has proved hugely successful at the Central Park Zoo, N.Y., where interpretive signage featuring entire or partial poems has proved to be among the most powerful tools available to communicate meaningfully and empathetically to zoo visitors.
Advertising has always been a terrific vehicle for poetry. It is prevalent in slogans, campaigns and even mission statements. In fact, some of the most effective advertising is poetry. After all, what is poetry, if not creative, concise language? And, what is creative, concise language, if not memorable? In the following examples, you‘ll find all types of poetic devices employed, from rhyme to simile, allusion to allegory, figurative language to neologistic word play:
This project is being replicated in New Orleans, Milwaukee, Little Rock, Jacksonville and Chicago. In conjunction with these cities‘ local libraries, each institution will provide resources and programs designed to broaden public outreach and deepen understanding of the issues (i.e., conservation) and the literature implemented.
―Don‘t get mad. Get GLAD.‖ ~ GLAD® Trash Bags ―Sleeping on a Sealy is like sleeping on a cloud.‖ ~ Sealy® Mattresses "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is." ~ Alka-Seltzer® ―Fun anyone?‖ ~ PlayStation®2 ―Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.®‖ ~ State Farm Insurance® ―Don‘t live a little, live a lotto.‖ ~ Lotto (formerly The National Lottery, UK) ―Drinka pinta milka day‖ ~ The Dairy Council, UK. National Milk Campaign
15 Oftentimes, music is combined with the poetry to create ―jingles‖ that are usually quite infectious. For instance, who doesn‘t know the Oscar Mayer® Wiener ditty? Or, how about this little number from one of the major American burger franchises, McDonald‘s, back in the day: ―Big Mac, Fillet-o-fish Quarter pounder, french fries, icy Coke, thick shakes, sundaes and apple pies.‖ Catchy, no?
1) Replicant Batty‘s (Rutger Hauer) intentional misquote of part of Blake‘s, “America: The Prophecy,‖ in Ridley Scott‘s Sci-Fi thriller, Blade Runner. The misquote, which changes the words, ―fiery the angels rose,‖ to ―fiery the angels fell,‖ was intended to suggest the fall of American Democracy. (1982) 2) Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) reciting Robert Frost‘s ―Nothing Gold Can Stay‖ to Johnny (Ralph Macchio) in Francis Ford Coppola‘s film adaptation of The Outsiders. The poem is used to excellent effect in order to convey the temporary nature of beauty, youth and innocence. (1984) 3) Walt Whitman‘s ―O Captain, My Captain,‖ shrewdly used as a plot device in Dead Poet’s Society. The emotive closing scene being particularly noteworthy. (1989)
Advertising Label, ca. 1915
Poetry in the movies: As a child of the ‗80s, some of the most memorable appearances of classic poetry in films for me include:
More recently, and much to my delight, the Sean Penn film, Into the Wild, opened with one of the lead characters reading from contemporary poet Sharon Olds‘ collection, The Gold Cell. The poem, ―I Go Back to May, 1937,‖ (which happens to be a personal favorite), alluded to the universality of parental imperfections. Educator / film critic Vittorio Carli has compiled an extensive guide to ―poetry movies,‖ including documentaries, nondocumentary films about poets and films that use poetry as a plot device. To peruse Carli‘s selections and assessments, which span several decades, click here:
16 Poetry commingled with other art forms (or, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down) and poetry goes solo (the cheese stands alone):
Literary journals that feature a variety of entertainment genres — movies, music, essays, stories, visual art and reviews along with the aforementioned ―p‖ word — are becoming increasingly popular. Some longstanding A-listers include The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and The Paris Review. And let‘s not forget mainstream publications such as Reader’s Digest, which delivers a monthly dose of poetry, is available in thirty-five languages, and is read by 100 million people globally. Likewise, live poetry readings, ―open mics‖ and slams are in abundance in both the U.S. and abroad. Poetry Slam Inc. does a fine job keeping tallies on the latter and offers a handy-dandy map of events online at poetryslam.com. In world poetry news, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were present this year (2009) at Japan's imperial poetry reading ceremony. The festivity, a 1,000-year-old annual tradition, boasted the theme of ―life‖ and several of the poems presented were filled with both concern and hope for the natural world. 21,180 pieces were submitted, according to the Imperial Household Agency. Of the entries, 184 came from overseas, including 69 from the U. S.
Empress Michiko‘s entry spoke of life‘s fragility: “How sad and dear The creatures living their lives — In early spring light The midges dance, forming An ephemeral column." Here‘s a universal theme delivered simply and poignantly; the waning nature of existence, which brings me back to the topic at hand: the permanence versus the impertinence of poetry. As illustrated above, poetry is a mercurial entity, a literary shapeshifter, able to fit many a niche in mainstream society. And we‘ve only touched the tip of the proverbial iceberg, not having mentioned poetry‘s tremendous Web presence, best-selling compilations, etcetera. As such, it can be concluded that poetry, while not always Shakespearean in ilk or ability, is only as finite as life itself.
―Esma Turam‘s Curtain‖ ~ Dallas J. Bryant 2009
K. R. Copeland is joining the staff of The Centrifugal Eye as Assistant Art Editor, beginning with the next issue.
17 Karen McPherson
Three Photos — Four Generations 1950
omeone composed this scene: sunny patch of grass circled by tall trees' shade and off to one side what would be splash of color along a winding path long shadow in the foreground of marble birdbath (not in the picture) and at the focal point fiercely present on an iron garden chair holding your infant daughter on her lap your grandmother stares down the camera. You shyly behind, hand resting on your mother's arm. She is looking off somewhere toward the flower-lined path. You are looking down at me.
1984 It's her ninetieth birthday she's put on her light blue satin church dress pinned her hair up with special care closed and locked the door of her room at Red Oaks Manor. She's here to spend a boisterous afternoon at Austin's where we've gathered from every corner of the country: it's a party! how splendid! Darlings, you shouldn't have! Someone snaps a picture: my thirteen-year-old daughter Eden leans in grinning you're bending down behind your mother's chair as if about to speak, she's smiling her uneasy picture-taking smile, half in the picture I'm sitting sideways holding Eden's hand looking at my mother looking at her mother.
2002 Eden's brought her digital camera. We scrutinize the photos on its tiny screen— in this one I'm holding the baby making silly faces she‘s arching laughing her mother's laughing squeezing my hand we're all laughing all eyes on the baby. Later Eden describes the wonderful strangeness being both daughter and mother and I know and then I know what's missing here.
―4 Generations‖ ~ K.R. Copeland 2009
18 Echo Chamber
step inside and there are no whispers no warm currents suggesting presence. It is empty as the Shield,* blank as snowswept prairies. Walls of stainless steel, floors of polished marble, ceiling domes of flawless glass with cloudless sky beyond. If there is a desk it is bare and broad. I write here without tapestries or cushions or rugs or paintings â€” for these all hold impressions and breath. I write in the absence of cupboards. There are no baskets of letters no stacks of magazines no hanging files and no one making breakfast in the kitchen. I can write here without anyone listening or waiting or tiptoeing in with tea. This is the place of pure expression. There will be no readers. No questions no comments no acclaim. Any word I put down on the page will vanish like a kiss on the cool surface of my mirror.
*The Canadian Shield (also known as Bouclier Canadien, the Precambrian Shield, and the Laurentian Plateau) is a massive geographic area of bare rock covered by a thin layer of soil, taking up roughly 8 million square kilometers of central and eastern Canada.
Karen McPherson is an Oregon poet. She has published poems in a number of journals, including Poetry Motel, Fireweed and Descant, and in the 2006 Lane Literary Guild chapbook Dona Nobis Pacem. She is also a professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Oregon and author of Incriminations: Guilty Women / Telling Stories (1994) and Archaeologies of an Uncertain Future: Recent Generations of Canadian Women Writing (2006). Contact Karen
Death a Bear
dd the way the very old pick a winter day to fall, break a minor bone, be assigned to bed and death a bear napping out the winter rises in his lair, instantly aware here is Spring and ultimately honey.
―Death a Bear‖ ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
Donal Mahoney has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press, McDonnell Douglas Corporation (now Boeing), and Washington University in St. Louis. He‘s had poems published in or accepted by The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, Commonweal, The Beloit Poetry Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, The Davidson Miscellany, The Chicago Sunday Tribune Magazine, The Road Apple Review and other publications. Contact Donal
―Natural Propellers‖ ~ Dallas J. Bryant 2009
The Solar-Powered Plane Falls nother lovely toy destroyed, its several engines slung below its wings of bending crystal, that turned oh-so indolently, buoyed by light or air. A graceful thing designed to paddle on forever, like all reverie for the moment, at the limits of the atmosphere. A trifle gauche, for all that, being stubborn as a bathysphere‘s abysmal tarantella, or the silvery bewilderment of a straying planetary rover. That we have begotten beauties like, will have to stay unproven evermore, if such inventions will not fly into the ages for us, having been forgotten, in a gentle flutter of propellers, far out in the sky.
Nicholas Messenger had his first poems published in New Zealand as a schoolboy. He won the Glover Poetry award in the 1970‘s. In recent years he has had work published in a good number of online magazines. He was born in 1945, completed a degree at Auckland University, traveled extensively, and lived at various times in France, England and Japan. He has worked at many jobs, including seaman, security guard and demolition worker, and for a long time made his living as a teacher, of science, art, and languages, in High Schools in New Zealand, and of English in Japan. Now he is running a home-stay business in Hokitika. He has been married twice and has two grown-up children. Nicholas is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Nicholas
21 Karla Linn Merrifield
his summer the weather (some of the hottest on record for August) conspired with the lake to stage a population explosion of spiders. Countless nests plugged soffits and lined up in dense files along cedar shingles and aluminum sidings. Orb weavers each night spun anchor lines twelve feet and longer, then cast elaborate lacy wheels well placed for everyone to walk through the next morning, day after day; that‘s what people wore last season. The entire order Araneida wove a silky chaos well into September, for with the weaving family came jumping spiders and wolf spiders, to fling from their spinnerets dominion over the human landscape of deck grills and patio furniture, each thickly festooned with threads, each dawn bedewed.
2009 Everglades National Park Artist-inResidence, 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. She is also author of Dawn of Migration and Other Audubon Dreams (2007, RochesterInk Publications). Karla is poetry editor of Sea Stories, and poetry book-review columnist for The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Karla Sea Stories
See pages 66-70 for Karla‘s review on William Stafford‘s The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems
One woman in the neighborhood, who happened to have been reading up on Lakota cosmology, learned that a fondness for spiders can lead to things. It is believed among some tribes that a man or a woman in need enough can unroll great lengths of a great spider‘s web and use it as a way across the Great Mandala of the heavens. *** Long after she disappeared, those who believe whispered that she had last been seen nearing Mira, homing in on Cetus, the Great Whale. The ubiquitous arachnids in their generosity had provided; she had enough on her spool to take the scenic route to the nearest galaxy.
―Spiders‖ ~ K. R. Copeland 2009
22 Michael Opperman
World's Best List Faced with complexity, we descend to pattern.
he soft orange in the deranged sunset. National Geographic awarded a number on its best sunsets in the world list to Lake Erie. The damaged water glowing against the matins light, petroleum and regret in glorious luminance. He thought, as he fixed another garage door, painted another diningroom wall, that he‘d logged enough hours in domestic aspiration. Smiled through dinner parties & greenhouse excursions. Picked china patterns for marriages that, mercifully, never happened, wall colors for houses in which he would never remain. Adopted dogs & neighbors & friends & morning routines.
―Sunset List‖ ~ Dallas J. Bryant 2009
Did he tire first, or did they? Exhausted by the achieved balance, the enviable functionality that bored them both through long nights reading together in bed, cooking dinners, sharing coffee. A car too carefully maintained. A park in Erie overlooked the bay & lake beyond it. The sunset practicing again for its world-record beauty contest. He stood on the brink of years of his own practice, never anticipating the inertia ahead.
Michael Opperman lives and works in Minneapolis. His work has appeared in the Coe Review, New Hampshire Review, Maverick Magazine, Dislocate, and MARGIE Review. He was a finalist for the Marjorie J. Wilson Prize for Best Poem Contest and winner of the Academy of American Poets James Wright Prize for Poetry. Contact Michael
23 John Milbury-Steen
y mother needed a creative outlet, for example, sculpting: why not sculpt? but sculpting marble would require a grip and marble is recalcitrant to chip. She happened on an ad for sculpting soap and sent away for a super-duper kit of wee assorted scalpels and rongeurs with which to scalp and ronge, i.e., to cut. She cut loose from a bar of Lifebuoy® soap a dog that looked like a chihuahua pup, but had an eye of wolf and mouth of grr like you wouldn't mess with, so we were (dad and I) surprised to see an attack disposition marring a knickknack. That's the trouble when you yield your soul to art, like playing with a ouija board, and suddenly a demon lord comes out. Your hand is taken over by a force. The net result is everybody's shock. As father told the barber, "Then, of course, I tell myself that it is only soap. I do not have to load up at a quarry and break the shock absorbers of the car or build a studio where chips can fall or put up with a house of marble dust. At least I tie the wasted bits of soap into a sock and it suds up, so I have a cloth with its own soap supply."
―Soap Curls‖ ~ Stephanie Curtis 2009
Said the barber, "Great idea! Whoa! You might could patent that." "Do you think so? And did you ever think what happened to the marble chips that built up on the floor around the work of Michelangelo? He could have used them all as gravel for a garden walk or fill for a low spot eroded where his gargoyle barfed or put bags of chips made hip by his name on the wop landscaping market." Dad was shrewd. He could have called them Chips Off the Old Block, and auctioned off the famed unDavid lot. (In school they learn to even market un so customers compete to buy a ton.) Seeing eye to eye with dad at home, I humored mother and her shelf of dumb accumulating zoo of things with jaws scaring the hummels in the corner cupboard. A sculpting pause then lengthened to a halt. A phase had passed of child-of-her-adult. One by one her creatures, tamed, were put to their material work in the bathroom and then I got it: all along, it was a strategy for making baths more fun scrubbing with those tigers, bears and wolves going smooth, then down the drain as suds. I triumphed more than any boy could hope â€” a life of animal crackers and animal soap.
John Milbury-Steen has published in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Blue Unicorn, Bumbershoot, The Centrifugal Eye, Chimaera, Dark Horse, The Deronda Review (Neovictorian/Cochlea), Kayak, Hellas, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Listening Eye, Lucid Rhythms, The Piedmont Literary Review, Scholia Satyrica, Shenandoah, Shattercolors, the Shit Creek Review and Umbrella. John also served in the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa; did a Master's in Creative Writing with Ruth Stone at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana; worked as an artificial intelligence programmer in Computer Based Education at the University of Delaware; currently teaches English as a Second Language at Temple University, Philadelphia.
John is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
25 P. J. Nights for the sweetest lass on the return of her dogs (no thanks to her husband) “Here come real stars to fill the upper skies, And here on earth come emulating flies.” ~Robert Frost
o one dares write poems about fireflies anymore because fireflies have been well-written yet their tiny glimmers make the heart glad and I like to think these little points of light might shine for you, too and burn off that throb of solitude make the ancient emptiness a vestigial coat of arms today the lost pups came home and whimpered ‗round your bed after an unexpected outing in the thicket, yet you‘d not the nerve to write poems about liquid brown eyes and unconditional love because that has been done, too, but we allow that each deep look of love and musty river smell is not all about dogs but us and the day — lass, you deserve licks on the nose and grunts of contentment, dreams of cowboys with wide-brimmed hats playing guitar to soften a hard bed of clay— we might envy the stars and be left with sobs, we might draw maps of our hoped-for kingdoms charcoaling out the only roads to cities of sea roses and oklahoma dust in every poem, we might howl like babies yet we hope we are not pretentious, surrounded as we are by made things that take us away from the heart of the woods, the hollows we wish for our beds, wise denizens of the underbrush, and newborn things pushing through the detritus of fallen leaves this is a dangerous storm you weather, but I‘ve the umbrella and you‘ve the pretty house, and we‘ll make it a mere inconvenience— we‘ll write our clichés and turn them into topiaries of chicory blue, a pavilion of poppies bursting forth in a wave of joy
para pablo, paradelle
n all languages, she thought she knew the poem in all languages, she thought she knew the poem a mistaken reflection of the scarred side of the moon a mistaken reflection of the scarred side of the moon all she knew of the mistaken moon, the scarred languages the poem aside, she thought she knew what she'd bedded down in blind corners, fertile what she'd bedded down in blind corners, fertile fields of yellow yarrow and a welter of viceroy wings fields of yellow yarrow and a welter of viceroy wings the yellow of fertile corners, wings of viceroy fields she in a bedded blind a welter of yarrow shook teeth and veins, read fault lines to open Earth shook teeth and veins, read fault lines to open Earth crooned love songs to corner gang boys of wet metal crooned love songs to corner gang boys — wet metal songs open veins — songs crooned to corners of wet boys shook metal faults, crooned, open, open, open . . . love languages of Earth scarred a welter of boys to open veins in a wing she shook the viceroy side of a yellow moon, bedded fertile lines of song in the teeth of fields a blind reflection, fault aside she crooned love songs, shook yarrow and veins in all languages, she knew she read the poem ―Yarrow Patchwork‖ ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
P. J. Nights lives and teaches in the wild and ravishing state of Maine. She is the publisher and editor of the quarterly poetry journal from east to west: bicoastal verse. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies such as Mipoesias, Blue Fifth Review, Slow Trains, Agreeable Friends (Moonpie Press), Animus, Wolf Moon Press Journal, The Smoking Poet and OCHO. This is P. J.‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye.
Contact P. J.
“Pieced Together” Collage ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
The Magazine Me
am a cut-and-pasted self made of flat images stolen from cameras and the eyes of strangers. My meaning made from perfumed ads squeezed in between the plots of others‘ lives. Dull scissor-tracks trace my ragged edges in the constant rush to collage new pieces over the old, Fighting with other paper selves to grab the shiniest bits chased, nibbled at by the chisel-toothed mice In search of The New (always The New) with squeaking, flea-sprinkled fears seeking to nest in me.
Erik Richardson is an undecided polymath living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He does freelance writing and business consulting in the areas of green living and green business. He teaches math at the college level, computers at the elementary level, and is the strategy analyst for the nonprofit, Simple Living America. Some of his previous poetry has appeared in Free Verse, Apotheosis, and Arbor Vitae. This is Erik‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye.
28 Wanda Schubmehl
ast summer's nest — layers of twigs wound and tucked for strength, a cup lined with grass and here and there with fur for softness, abandoned late last fall when the whole flock wheeled into the air and headed south — today, in February, holds an egg, as white and oval as the ones it held in spring, surely frozen in the wind that, close to midnight in a storm of snow, pulled whole trees up and blew them, snapping, down, but left this nest unharmed. I‘m searching for some mystery this winter day, my mood so bleak that winter seems a metaphor for me. This egg, in just the right egg-place, but out of season, invites investigation. I shuffle closer in my rubber boots, and reach to touch before my eyes decipher what is wrong — no shell, but snow, a pile of snow egg-shaped around a bump on one side of the nest. The little mound collapses with my touch. My startled hands pluck out this winter koan: What hatches from an egg of snow?
Wanda Schubmehl lives in Rochester, NY, and works as a clinical social worker. Her work has appeared in or is upcoming in The Centrifugal Eye, Literary Mama, Rattle, and Ghoti. Wanda is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Wanda
―Ice Nest‖ ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
29 Ken Pobo
n a cement floor I made boxes for the fronts of TVs — boxes, stiff as Buckingham Palace guards — Elmhurst, Illinois, far from London. Hank Williams Jr. sang of being stoned at the jukebox— I wished he‘d invite me to play pinball but knew only fold up, fold to the side, fold down, insert frame. My boss demanded speed. I tried to make them perfectly, like poems or maybe the kind of songs the Beatles did on Rubber Soul, but I had no soul, only cardboard. Women behind punch presses lowered drills down, down, down onto plastic, breaking my concentration and ears until my shift ended and I drove home to Mom‘s supper, too beat to eat— I laid down on my bed, stuffed-dog Hector at the foot, and fell into half-loopy dreams ―Origami Boxes‖ ~ Dallas J. Bryant 2009
of boxes asking me to unfold them, to give them nothing to hold.
Praise for Some Things that Pass Away
raise for the portulaca, the moss rose, that opens for an afternoon, then goes. Praise for the moment when Ms. Margot‘s tail, tall again, whips around the corner. Praise that filthy laws die miserable deaths given enough time. Praise for snow before it blackens and hardens. And praise for love — the grave does last longer, but, like that portulaca, what a splendid afternoon!
―Portulaca Selby‖ ~ Mandez Arroyo Garza 2009
Kenneth Pobo had a new book of poems published in 2008 called Glass Garden from WordTech Press. Also published was his chapbook, Crazy Cakes, which can be accessed online. He teaches Creative Writing and English at Widener University. Ken is a long-time contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Kenneth Glass Garden Crazy Cakes
31 Janice D. Soderling
Runner-Up in the Waiting Room
ere is the obese woman in the mirthless waiting room, her narrow soul coiled like a rope on the dockside or a cobra, tongue flicking, flicking, tasting the content of the immobile air, the glossy magazines; her quivering dress a field of frenzied meadow flowers stretched from the riverbank to sunset; strange things happen in the dark, in the dark avenues of her razored arms and legs; beauty-queen runner-up thirty years ago, still she waits, as others come and go, an irresolute shadow under the sun's florid petals, a reflection in the wavering pale mirror where she leans, looks, waits.
―Silk River‖ ~ Stephanie Curtis 2009
Janice D. Soderling‘s fiction, poetry and translations appear in print journals and anthologies in several countries and at many online forums. Recent and forthcoming publications include Anon, Autumn Sky Poetry, Blue Unicorn, The Chimaera, JMWW, Literary Bohemian, Lucid Rhythms, Mannequin Envy, Mezzo Cammin, Orbis, The Shit Creek Review, Stirring, Umbrella. She lives in a small Swedish village rife with apple trees and cherry. This is Janice‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye.
32 Ken Whitmore
Rainbows (for Dan)
hristmas you kept forever like a poem cooking in your head One Christmas Day ate nothing but a plum Snow you adored, spruce, stockings and the pungent pages of new books The family table spread and paper hats and jokes Your presents were the best beneath the tree For me one year Chris Brasher boots Another time binoculars And that last year a crystal prism A glob of bluish glass with many sides Now it stands high up on our window frame And when the sun streams through we see you Throwing rainbows on our wall
â€•Crystal Crackerâ€– ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
Ken Whitmore is an Englishman aged 71 and lives in France. Born in Hanley, Staffordshire, December 1937, Ken is a prolific author of radio plays, stage plays, short stories and poetry. His writing is characterized by black humor and fantastic ideas, such as the complete disappearance of a man's house, family and dog (One of Our Commuters is Missing) and the need for all mankind to jump in the air simultaneously (Jump! - a work which was produced on radio, stage, TV, and as a book). His published stage plays are Jump for Your Life, Pen Friends, La Bolshie Vita, The Final Twist and The Turn of the Screw, adapted from the story by Henry James. Last year, he assisted his wife, Rosie, with the adaptation of her translation from the French of Topaze, Marcel Pagnol's masterpiece for the theater. Ken is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye Diversity
33 Margaret A. Robinson
For a Time In a snowstorm you rode up to a moose and he mistook your horse for another moose and trotted forward to meet you. In a snowstorm it always seemed, for a time, as though there were no enemies. ~Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
lizzards blur hate, sleet has no politics, deep drifts bury mistrust. White cleanness, driving whiteness - indifferent
to church, synagogue, mosque. Moose and horse stand close. Brown and pink kids, not allowed outdoors for recess, rub peepholes on clouded glass, yearn to tilt back their heads, catch dust-and-ice flakes, tasting exactly the same in their mouths. The wind, impartial, shrieks. For a time, blizzards blur hate.
â€•Frosty Windowâ€– ~ K. R. Copeland & E. A. Hanninen 2009
Thanks for Your Thanks
o show with a gesture what you meant, the Asian florist made a bouquet of butterfly stems, orchids you sent to our tall glass vase. They kept on bursting more than fifty-five days, maroon, chartreuse, and white. You sent us curved stems in a green tissue tent, bred in a jungle, shipped far away to show with a gesture what you meant.
â€•Flor de Papelâ€– ~ Mandez Arroyo Garza 2009
Spread far and wide, dandelion pests wilt in a flash and do not obey the gardeners' rules. The stalks you sent in their native land have a similar bent, grow like weeds on tropic decay to show with a gesture what you meant. Roses droop, their perfume spent but your buds last, pop open, stay to show with a gesture what you meant: still thirty blooms on the love you sent.
Margaret A. Robinson has been writing various things for a very long time. She has a chapbook, Sparks, at Pudding House Publications (2004), and another, Arrangements, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (April 2009). Other publications include poems in The Atlanta Review, Dirty Napkin, and Prairie Schooner. She gardens, teaches at Widener University, and lives in Swarthmore, PA. Margaret is a long-time contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Margaret Arrangements Sparks (see publications list)
35 Martin Willitts, Jr.
Sudden Chill Based on the painting, Gloucester Farm, by Winslow Homer
he gave him a ladle of fire-cold spring-water. He drank loudly and had forgotten to thank her. Afterward, water tasted like love ignored. The hoeing was hot, sweaty work. So he drank until his head was numb. He did not notice the icy-intense stare of a woman ignored too often. She did not understand his silence. When a farmer stops working, nothing gets done. He did not have time. The cows were lowing.
―Sudden Chill‖ ~ K. R. Copeland 2009
For her, love would be noisy butterflies. Or the moon, half-awake, in the rafters. It was the fence knocked down by hunters. It was a paper cutout opening into two hearts. It meant what it meant. If she could explain it, it would ruin the meaning. For him, tomorrow meant more of the same. He would get up before the rooster. Go out, milk the cows dry as wheat. Thrash the corn. Work until his body was a split-rail fence. Days were numbing. The same everyday-ness. He would miss how quickly she would flow, moods like cloud-cover, her eyes blinking, wide-eyed, and hoping. He was not cut out for anything else except haying. She was a frantic heartbeat, and he was a slow, assured, measured one. Things mean what they mean. Things move quickly and are gone, just as fast. Like a papercut. Sometimes they just move at their own pace.
Martin Willitts, Jr.‘s recent poems have appeared in Blue Fifth, Glass, Flutter, Coal Hill Review, New Verse News, The Centrifugal Eye, Quiddity, Autumn Sky Poetry, and Sea Stories. Chapbooks and books include: Lowering Nets of Light (Pudding House Publications, 2007), Farewell — the journey now begins (www.languageandculture.net, 2006), News from the Front (www.slowtrains.com, 2007), Words & Paper (www.threelightsgallery.com, 2008), The Secret Language of the Universe (March Street Press, 2006), The Garden of French Horns (Pudding House Publications, 2008), and his second full length book of poetry, The Hummingbird (March Street Press, 2009) is forthcoming.
36 Gary Beck
rom coast to coast, border to border, the weeds poke holes in your macadam coat, speed limit sign 75 MPH, fallen on its face. No one remains to issue warnings; dangerous curves ahead.
â€•Crumbling Roadâ€– ~ K. R. Copeland 2009
Gary Beck's poetry has appeared in dozens of literary magazines. His chapbook, Remembrance, was published by Origami Press, June 2008. The Conquest of Somalia was published by Cervena Barva Press, August 2008. A collection of his poetry, Days of Destruction, is being published by Skive Press. His recent fiction has been published in numerous literary magazines. His plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes, and Sophocles have been produced Off-Broadway.
37 Alan Botsford Saitoh
A Mamaist Compass
here the day wanders into the shadow of déjà vu The surprised look on the face of greeting, again! Where the spirit flows from moment to moment The hand of another unabashedly touching yours Where the surrendering pulls you to its level, The pain looking you in the eye Where the breath releases its meaning Into the moment falling Where what is being said never does Undo the life that‘s being led Where the birds sit on the branches singing The tree growing inward and spreading through the veins Where the pulsing is felt The blood runs and runs
―Sunset Comes to Staverman‘s Forest‖ & ―Perch‖ ~ Stephanie Curtis 2009
Across the sky where the clouds have gathered In the darkening air silence stirs Where the voice you hear of dream approaching Is where the birds have gone
“What is mamaist poetry? To be lost, with discipline, in the in-betweenness of language(s). To align one’s compass by the rose and be lost within its petals, its unfolding universes (for after the flowering comes the fruit); to remain disciplined in one’s lostness, is the aim of “mamaist” poetry — that it may open to new forms of inquiry and perception and exploration of all that is unknown, past present & future.” ~ Alan Botsford Saitoh
Alan Botsford Saitoh is co-editor (since 2003) of Poetry Kanto, Japan's leading bicultural, bilingual poetry magazine. He received his MFA from Columbia University and has published two books of poetry — mamaist: learning a new language (Minato No Hito, 2002) and A Book of Shadows (Katydid Books, 2003), while his third, a book of essays entitled Walt Whitman of Cosmic Folklore, is forthcoming in 2009. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in online and print journals such as Umbrella, Istanbul Literary Review, eKleksographia, River Styx, Yemassee Literary Journal, Mickle Street Review, Confrontation Magazine, American Writing: A Magazine and others. He lives in Japan with his wife and son and teaches at Kanto Gakuin University.
38 John L. Campbell
I Want to Be
ghost, one of those devilish spirits who butts into the world‘s business. But I don‘t covet anyone else‘s spirit; I‘m not unhappy with my own, since my spirit hasn‘t aged much, it seems, whereas my body shows signs of wear. There‘s an eternity to being a spirit, and forever seems like a long time; I‘m sure it‘s the heaven we read about, for a ghost doesn‘t fret about tomorrow, doesn‘t worry over taxes and inflation, gasoline prices or variable rate mortgages, doesn‘t worry over stocks and bonds; the Dow Jones means twiddly-dee to a ghost. And I wouldn‘t fuss about being invisible; I‘ve been invisible most all of my life. Every day people pass without a glance. I envision being totally invisible; fantasizing over the infinite possibilities. Imagine oozing through walls, over transoms, through doors, under covers. Voyeurism happens to run in my family. As a ghost, I could fly at no charge, free; any time the snow flies, I‘d head South without paying those extra baggage fees, nor taking off my shoes at the airport, although I‘m not sure of the dress code among ghosts, or even if they see each other. No one knows for sure that ghosts exist, they‘re like angels who roam the globe, spirits we would like to think are real, but that word real troubles thinkers like me, who ponder thoughts like this, those who have nothing more to do, nothing more to think about than ghosts, and wonder what it‘s like to be one.
―Ancestral Flock‖ ~ K. R. Copeland 2009
John L. Campbell is a Wisconsin writer who turned to writing full time after his retirement and discovered the intrinsic value of poetry. Some of his poetry has appeared in John Freiermuth's Timber Creek Review, Phil Wagner's Iconoclast, Ray Foreman's Clark Street Review, Linda Aschbrenner's Free Verse, and Debra Brenner's Annual Goose River Anthologies 2006, 2007 & 2008. John‘s new chapbook is entitled, Smelling Older. The last three lines of a poem by the same name: only the odor of old money / freshens, sanitizes and absolves / the smell of an old man. He‘s also had short stories published in Rosebud Magazine and Timber Creek Review. Writing Retirement
39 C. E. Chaffin
t bedtime rain tickles the tin roof outside our window while twin firs scrape the siding to the wind‘s tune. Our children mount rocking horses into the starry sky; thumbs stuff their mouths like plums. You light a candle. Its bright yellow snake sniffs along the wallpaper, licking red wax into pools. Off with the lamp, it's time.
“Time for Bed,” after Raphael Tuck ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
How They Marveled
dreamed of ravens as black angels scouring through our garbage for a clue to humankind. They picked through headlines, ashes, glass, rubber, plastic, junk mail, tacks, band-aids and concluded: Band-aids were for wounds, tacks for crucifixions, junk mail for the lonely, plastic for preservation, rubber for resilience, glass to keep feet honest, ashes for holy days and headlines to trumpet exceptions but it was the advertisements that really slew them: ―Forty pounds in forty days!‖ ―Penile enlargement!‖ ―How to make your first million!‖ ―Dissolve cellulite overnight!‖ How they marveled at our faith!
―Faith‖ ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
C. E. Chaffin, M.D., FAAFP, edited The Melic Review for eight years prior to its hiatus. Widely published, he has written literary criticism, fiction, personal essays, and has been the featured poet in over twenty magazines, most recently in Quill and Parchment. Credits include: The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Pedestal, the Philadelphia Inquirer Book Review and Rattle. His new volume, Unexpected Light: Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008, is newly out from Diminuendo Press, and is reviewed in TCE on pages 71-74. This is C. E.‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Unexpected Light Website Blog Shoe size: same as mouth.
41 David Chorlton
Letter to John Clare
ear John, I might begin as you did in your most famous letter and say I forget who you are before going on to say nothing because it‘s all I have to offer. You were in a madhouse then and felt no doubt a forest of silences growing around you while you remembered the copses and streams, birds‘ nests and stoats, winter hearths and summer showers that turned to lines of verse with the textures of crusty bread and cheddar as you made speech of the most simple observations. From all the words that circulate today you‘d think we knew much more than you did, but believe me it‘s just the alphabet rebelling against us in emails and advertising and junk mail that screams as it falls through the letterbox. I‘d love to hear the rough edge of your country voice reciting. We need to keep accents alive. They may be the last part of our regions to survive as character is traded for efficiency and brand names. Some of us resist. Not belonging is a way of life for us, and talking back gets us into trouble. They haven‘t caught me yet and I‘m free to walk the streets along with those who slipped too far to climb back. There are no madhouses for them. They‘re an embarrassment to the authorities, talking to themselves as they wander around, and sometimes I‘m talking too but I call it art.
Antique Paper Frame, ca 1905 Old Letter Excerpt, ca 1850
David Chorlton was born in Austria and grew up in England. He moved to Vienna and lived there for much of the 1970s before making the leap to Phoenix, Arizona. The desert and southwestern landscapes proved vital to changing his way of looking at the world and often feature in his work. His recent chapbooks are The Lost River from Rain Mountain Press and The Epistemological Question Mark from March Street Press. Contact David
Laura A. Ciraolo
About Bees “No carcasses are found near the hive.” ~ National Geographic News, February 23, 2007 ―About Bees‖ ~ K. R. Copeland 2009
he Shakers of the insect world, traversing floral islands, go missing from the chain of being, and all that‘s left is silence.
Laura A. Ciraolo lives and works in New York City. Her poems have appeared in Agenda (UK), Words-Myth (UK), Diakonos, The Ghazal Page, New York Quarterly, Long Island Quarterly, iota (UK), MiPOesias, and Orbis Quarterly International Literary Journal (UK). Laura says that when she‘s not reading or writing, she‘s teaching undergraduate Theology courses. Laura is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
43 Antonia Clark
e saved the things she would have thrown away if she'd had time to put her own affairs in order — the debris of day to day — sales announcements, sticky post-it squares tucked into books with cryptic scribbled notes, reminders and to-do lists, what to buy for birthday gifts, random witty quotes, a recipe for the World's Best Pumpkin Pie, instructions for crocheted afghans, advice and how-to columns torn from magazines: you and your adult children, perfect rice every time, the vacation of your dreams. We saved them all, savored her lingering spirit in each inconsequential thing.
Antonia Clark works for a medical software company in Burlington, Vermont. She is currently co-administrator of an online poetry forum, The Waters. Recent work can be found in The 2River View, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Loch Raven Review, The Orange Room Review, Mannequin Envy, MiPOesias, Stirring, and elsewhere. She loves French travel, food, and wine, and plays French café music on a sparkly purple accordion. Contact Antonia The Waters
―Odds & Ends‖ ~ Dallas J. Bryant 2009
44 Brent Fisk
hen a box turtle stutters toward the road, I forget for a moment that your bones have turned against you, that you ache to sleep again but always that dry fire burns behind your eyes with nothing at hand to put it out. I have stopped the car before mid-road and placed the turtle in the grass, seen his stubborn clockwise sweep back to the busy road. Maybe it's the crossing they crave and not the destination. When I was young my grandmother pulled over for the living, those whole and uncracked, the floorboards full of them, shells shut tight. You shut tight too, shiver open-eyed and mostly gone. You will have none of our blankets or broth. You turn from my voice and listen only to the empty wall. This too is about the crossing. This too, the cracked shell of your body, the tall grass that whispers what only the dying can hear.
Brent Fisk is a writer from Bowling Green, Kentucky who has received an honorable mention in Boulevard's Emerging Poets Contest. His work can be found in Prairie Schooner and the Literary Review, as well as online issues of Cincinnati Review, Southeast Review, and Rattle. Brent is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
â€•CA Wheatfieldâ€– ~ Russell Bittner 2009
45 William Doreski A Hideous Verb
rafting twenty-dollar bills on a color photocopier occupies a rainy afternoon. ―To Craft is a hideous verb,‖ a fatuous critic told me in my prolonged, wasted youth. Yet crafting money on Crane‘s résumé paper satisfies more than my ―A‖ in lit crit did. That stentorian critic still plugs her wares in the New Republic, Nation, New York Review of Books. But I no longer read those journals. I‘m too busy crafting money to pass one bill at a time in convenience stores where pimply, indifferent young clerks make change. While I‘m driving around the state to drop bills here and there the critic who‘d rather ―write‖ than ―craft‖ will sigh over her sorry pension and stare at a stack of new books eager for review. Meanwhile I square each bill with a guillotine of a paper cutter, crafting each to my careful standards, size and feel more delicate a matter than the useless magnetic strips I can‘t attempt to duplicate. By the time some bank clerk notes the counterfeit I‘ll have stashed my photocopier with a friend and buried the remainder of bills in a sealed plastic box in the woods. This fakery won‘t make me rich but the joy of crafting money resides in wielding that verb, that hideous verb, and hoping the critic soon spends the money I‘ve sent as anonymous gift.
―Money Collection‖ ~ Dallas J. Bryant 2009
Two Ideas About a Garden (Michael Mazur, etching and aquatint with wood relief chine collé)
he foreground tree has exploded pure Harvard crimson, each leaf a fatal blot to rebuke the green trees sprawled behind it. Shouldering into the picture, the wood relief, a couple of planks, exudes a creepy white shape, an oval ring with a salient. This figure drifts free of the picture and assails me with a childhood nightmare of white and detached spectacles glooming through the night sky. I look down and examine the complex yellows pasted along the lower edge. What does this bilious streak mean? Better to ask about this harmless strip of border than confront the gory blast of tree, much less the terrible ghostly outline. Better yet consider the term chine collé: a French method of adhering a thin sheet of paper to one of different color or texture at the time of printing the inked plate. How stark the overall effect, stark yet complex. I want to enjoy this image, yet both ―ideas about a garden‖ frighten me, the bloodlust, the ghostly detachment; and I worry about the background cowering behind these intrusions, green and naïve as scripture.
―Ghostly Branches‖ ~ Stephanie Curtis 2009
47 William Doreski Writing on the Wall
n the wall outside my office a sprawl of spray-paint graffiti alerts me to a language more pointed and abrupt than my own. Still unformed, fetal and smeared, this language has already grown potent enough to arrest my gaze the way Chinese characters in an unexpected location — on the side of a delivery truck, for instance — would. The workman who comes to repaint assumes the right to lecture me. ―Why don't you teach these kids some manners?‖ I want to tell him look, I'm struggling to reinvent the language. How can I urge them to stick to pencil and paper when I'd like to write on water, like Keats, or sign my name to stones breathing molten far underground, or invent a word to blame for the sour taint of the streets of big cities where sulfides blunt the sun's rays and the drugged breath of broken men and women lingers forever, like the Dead Sea Scrolls? Instead, I mouth some cliché and privately mourn the failure of one more struggle to write aloud the prophecy everyone knows but no one can articulate. Spray paint's too definitive a medium for the subtleties of line and contour any new language will have to embody if it expects to bond the flesh a little more firmly to this world, rather than leave us languishing for everything we can't possess. Articulation‖ ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
William Doreski teaches writing and literature at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is Another Ice Age (AA Publications, 2007). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell's Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Natural Bridge. One of his poems was a finalist in the Times Literary Supplement poetry competition. This is William‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact William
48 John Thomas Clark
At a Loss for Words
today, though, held a surprise. The puzzle asked for moocow’s creator. His wide choice of authors ignored the right name, James Joyce, something he knew. This word-by-word muzzle —
A retired NYC elementary school teacher, John Thomas Clark lives in Scarsdale, NY with his wife Ginny, his daughter Chris, his son John and Lex, his black lab service dog. Currently, over 120 of his poems are appearing in The Recorder, OCEAN, The Barefoot Muse, The Centrifugal Eye, Boston Literary Magazine, The Healing Muse, Elysian Fields Quarterly and thirty-four other journals. The Joy of Lex — his light-hearted romp recounting life with Lex — will be published in book form later this year with an introduction written by Dean Koontz and cover blurb by Derek Mahon. J. T. (John Thomas) was also ―Writer in the Spotlight‖ for the Summer 2008 issue of Boston Literary Magazine.
was he aging out? Was her Bronx River rhymer facing more than becoming an old-timer?
John Thomas is a regular contributor to and Editorial Assistant for The Centrifugal Eye. Contact John Thomas
hrough their years, he was never at a loss for words. It wasn‘t his waxing profound on myriad matters, nor was it the sound of his voice; it was the way he would toss off those words. In the sheer size of his gloss, she saw him better-verb‘d and better-noun‘d than all but Avon‘s Bard — loved how he wound his tongue round the language. Forty-across
―What?‖ ~ Dallas J. Bryant 2009
Mickey Mantle Tagged Out at Second
hen I was twelve, I opened a Topps Bubble Gum wrapper and discovered a 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card #311. Do you have any notion of what that is worth today? Well, I did the natural thing for a twelve year old. I glued it inside the cover of my lunch box so I could look at it every day in school. Years later, when I realized it had some value, I tried to pull it off and ripped it all to hell. I should have soaked it or used a razor blade. I suppose it really doesn‘t matter. I totally destroyed it. Half of Mickey‘s mangled face remained on the cover. The rest, curled and torn, lay in my hand like a dead frog.
Gary Lehmann‘s essays, poetry and short stories are widely published — over 100 pieces per year. Books include The Span I will Cross (Process Press, 2004) and Public Lives and Private Secrets (Foothills Publishing, 2005). His most recent book is American Sponsored Torture (FootHills Publishing, 2007) Blog
―Mangled Mantle‖ ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
―All‖ ~ K. R. Copeland & E. A. Hanninen 2009
ll my reactions to the sea at Cádiz, papaya salad that Lourdes used to make before we went to bed, my grandma‘s potato pancakes, the way I divinized Dolores Volini (until she dropped me when I dropped out of medical school), how the brownstone mansions on North Dearborn Parkway bowled me over and I‘d think of them as Chicago palaces where the Chicago royalty lived, how I lusted after Maria Tallchief‘s ballet legs even when I was a kid, and amused myself imagining I was conducting the Chicago symphony when I‘d sit up in the box seats while they were playing Beethoven‘s Leonore Overture # 3.
Hugh Fox is 76, retired after almost 50 years of teaching college English. 105 books published, his latest, The Collected Poetry of Hugh Fox (540 pages, World Audience), and La Paix / Peace (a chapbook from Higganum Hill Press). Hugh is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. (For a more in-depth biography and bibliography, see Hugh‘s first page in TCE‘s online archives.)
Laury A. Egan
ir prickling with invisible snow, stropped to the steel edge of precipitation.
Sky smoked with gray, lightened with apricot and unripened peach; sea chapped in pewter. Wind shivering last oak leaves, taunting their stingy grasp, testing tenacity of branches. Blue heron sailing on landward breezes, flying home to nest in rushes by an ice-crusted creek. Lone boat shouldering through silver river, fisherman silhouetted, black against restless water. My form disappearing in the growing darkness, waiting for dusk to slowly deepen into night. ―Ocean‘s Edge‖ ~ Laury Egan 2009
52 Laury A. Egan's poetry has appeared in the Emily Dickinson Awards Anthology, The Ledge Magazine, Atlanta Review, Main Channel Voices, Sea Stories, and The Centrifugal Eye. A full-length collection, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger is recently out from FootHills Publishing. Both "Dusk, December" and "Nature, in Three Bites" are included in this collection. Laury also writes short stories and novels and is a fine arts photographer. This is Laury‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Website
Nature, in Three Bites
watch the black-eyed Blue Jays tap furiously at the feeder‘s tiny holes; the birds‘ savage thrusts belie their feathers‘ bright beauty.
II At dusk, eight deer sift through the hillside garden, their sixteen ears prick at my footsteps on the gray two-storey deck, and then they lower lazy, tawny necks and shred my defenseless tulips.
III The rose branches are dead, hollow from the inside, wrapped by a silver sleeve of thorns. I cut them as they cut me, getting their last nicks on my wrists and hands as I get mine on theirs.
―Rice Paper Napkin‖ ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
lder than slate, as rippled as the surface of a fossil lake, found dormant on the forest floor, slapped in irons, it escapes. Through any window it can find, it falls as light. Bent on learning ways of ice, it turns opaque, stands almost still, mimics boulders, logs, chunks of broken night inching over snowy fields blazed subzero blue. I've seen its shadow dance in caves lit up behind your eyes, on either side of silence where it eats and drinks and lies.
â€•Cavern Lightâ€– ~ Dallas J. Bryant 2009
54 Snowflakes Every snowflake falls in exactly the right place. – Zen proverb
about and down
on eyelids of the mind and shoulders of the ground, each alighting whitely in its predetermined place,
―Snowflakes‖ Block Prints ~ Mandez Arroyo Garza 2009
a god among the galaxies, shapeshifting ghost of timeless space.
A Pacific Northwest expatriate, Paul Fisher lives in Nags Head, North Carolina with his wife, Linda. He can sometimes be found exploring the local sand dunes with his scruffy dog, Sammy, or disappearing into various realms of the inner eye. Recent poems appear in The Centrifugal Eye, DMQ Review, The Main Street Rag, Mannequin Envy, Passager, Pedestal, and are forthcoming in Cave Wall, and in a new anthology from Blue Light Press. This is Paul‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye.
55 Ed Higgins
Desk Drawer Labyrinth
have entered a meditation apocalypse)
a Batman-logo non-stick adhesive bandages box, empty.
a confusion of ballpoint pens. pencils, too.
two Hershey®‘s with almonds wrappers, smelling still of milk chocolate.
four AA , two AAA batteries: alive or dead, no telling.
(1965) a Kennedy half-dollar. we make clouds when we die say the Zulu.
Palo & Francesca rescued from Dante‘s ceaseless winds: two autumn leaves madder-yellow & scarlet sweetness.
mint dental floss, the kind your dentist gives you & you never use; another grace.
an old 15‖ wood ruler with brass insert edge for drawing true lines.
a metaphor chuff with indignation at being left here til now.
years and years of past dayminders. full of missed appointments, to-do lists undone.
―Stuff, More Stuff‖ ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
he made known unto me the mystery, as i wrote afore in few words. –Eph. 3:3
Ed Higgins‘ poems and short fiction have appeared in Duck & Herring Co.'s Pocket Field Guide, Monkeybicycle, Pindeldyboz, and Bellowing Ark, as well as the online journals Lily, Cross Connect, Word Riot, Mannequin Envy, and Red River Review, among others. He and his wife live on a small farm in Yamhill, OR with a menagerie of animals, including a rescued potbelly pig named Odious. He teaches creative writing and literature at George Fox University, south of Portland, OR., U.S.A. Ed is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
―Soul Card: Believe/Pray‖ ~ Cecelia Chapman 2009
57 A Writer’s Secret Weapon by Ellaraine Lockie
‘ve had a fetish for handmade paper ever since I was nearly arrested twenty-five years ago in Japan for fondling it in a store. The charge would have been ―unnatural acts with paper.‖
I couldn‘t help madly picking up the sheets from their stacks, stroking them, smelling them and generally exposing my adoration. These papers were intoxicating, so luscious and diverse in texture with unruly edges that defied the boundaries of any other papers I‘d encountered. The look reeled me in, but it was the fibrous feel that hooked me. The sheets were embedded, no— intrinsically made, with earthy strands of unprocessed plant fibers. Yet each sheet was sensuously slick enough on one side for a pen to skate across. I was going through the motions of this with forefinger and thumb on a sheet (and probably breathing hard) when I became aware that the whole stationery section in the department store had become unusually quiet, and the two clerks were staring unabashedly at me. So I stopped the public display of affection. But a whole new world had opened, and I‘ve been living in it and increasing its population ever since. When I returned from Japan, I was determined to make my own papers, but books and instructions were difficult to find then. My first attempt, using my daughter‘s one-page set of instructions from a college course, produced something that resembled rectangular tortillas with the absorbency of washcloths. Clearly, I would have to learn the process through research and trial and error. Like a dog on a bone-marrow scent, I pursued this craft until I turned it into the art form I found in Japan. I went on to teach workshops, to devise a technique that created gorgeous papers
from inedible parts of fruits and vegetables, and to write a book on the subject that has been published in six countries. Early on in this evolution, I learned the magic of writing letters on sheets of unique handmade papers. The incident responsible was a severalweek feud with the phone company over a bill in which I‘d been overcharged but for which I had received no compensation after calling and sending a formal letter. I finally followed up with a hand-written note on paper made from pineapple tops to the same supervisor to whom I‘d sent the previous letter. She called two days later, desperate to know where she could buy some of that paper. I told her I didn‘t sell it, but I could teach her how to make it for a few pennies a sheet. She became one of my first papermaking students. Oh, and the disputed bill was immediately altered to my satisfaction. This has worked time and again to help solve tedious situations. So now instead of bringing out the big guns to fight my battles, I bring out the paper pulp. I call it the handmade-paper approach to being effective when fluency fails. It works as well in matters of intimacy. You can deliver an envelope straight to someone‘s heart — whether a love letter, poem or apology — when it‘s written on a scented sheet, perhaps embedded with blossoms of his / her favorite flowers. For special weddings, I make a gift box of papers using memorabilia from the couple‘s
58 wedding festivities. Recycled announcements, invitations, menus, paper napkins and programs become the pulp. For embellishments I add bits of flowers, ribbons, confetti, glitter, wrapping papers, leftover lace, centerpiece components, favors, etc. from the engagement parties, showers, bachelor / bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners and wedding ceremony. I‘ve even gone as far as using coffee and tea grounds from the reception to color the pulps. Feedback tells me that these papers are treasured as special communication incentives and vehicles for these couples, encouraging creatively written messages between them — weapons against the use of Hallmark-type cards, if nothing else. And I‘ll just bet that the recipients of these particular handcrafted papers display plenty of admiration while reading the messages — maybe even do some heavy breathing of their own.
“A Writer’s Secret Weapon‖ first appeared in Rattlesnake Review.
Ellaraine made the papers for the broadside, “Mod Gods and Luggage Straps,‖ from Brickbat Revue. Her papermaking book is The Gourmet Paper Maker from Creative Publishing.
She has also written a section about creating wedding memories with handmade papers in another book, Creative Wedding Keepsakes, from Leisure Arts.
For workshop information about papermaking, contact Ellaraine via email, or by phone: (408) 732-3199.
In the last year, Ellaraine Lockie has been the recipient of a poetry residency at Centrum in Port Townsend, WA, of the 2008 Writecorner Press Poetry Prize, of the 2007 Elizabeth R. Curry Prize, and earned finalist status for the 2007 Joy Harjo Poetry Award. Recently-released publications include her fifth chapbook, Blue Ribbons at the County Fair, a collection of first-place, contestwinning poems from PWJ Publishing. The cover is illustrated by Eve Hanninen. Ellaraine is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Handmade Paper by Ellaraine Lockie
59 One By Hugh Fox
ur regular (Jewish) prayer-book is always talking about ―Love Your Neighbor‖ and all that, ―Make a Stranger Your Friend,‖ ―We Were All Strangers in Egypt,‖ and then one Friday night I see printed on the service bulletin all this stuff about “We are God’s People and the Amorites aren’t God’s People, So We Have the Right to Kill Them and their Children, Take their Cattle and their Land.‖ Right out of Leviticus in the Bible/Torah. It reminded me of so many other ancient tribes-against-tribes, we-are God’s-chosen people ancient scriptures.
I am an archaeologist/ancient cultural historian in spite of myself and I have been swimming in such ideas for half a century . . . but to pass it out to a Friday night Shabbat Shalom/Sabbath Peace congregation? Even when I was being raised as a Catholic in Chicago in the thirties, there was always talk about Martin Luther, the rebel, breaking with the Catholic Church, King Henry VIII breaking with the Catholic Church, the beheading of St. Thomas More, and they loved to dwell on Blesséd Oliver Plunkett who opposed Henry VIII‘s 2. breaking with the Catholic Church and Henry VIII had Plunkett disembowled, and while still conscious, had his arms and legs tied to horses and had him pulled apart. One thing we never heard about while growing up was how the Church in France, itself, dealt with heretics like the Cathars / Albigensians, cutting them up in pieces and throwing them off the tops of mountains like the Massif Central. But there I was in a grammar school made up of Irishers and Italians. I remember the pastor of our church (not an Italian) hearing confessions in Italian.
My old pals Joe Petrucci, Joseph Daniels, Frank Carvalho. And then later, when I was about eighteen, my M.D. father had a patient named O‘Malley who was in the sewer business and used to dig up streets and put in new sewer systems. Two summers I dug ditches. Most of the diggers were Italians and Sicilians. Italians and Sicilians unable to talk to each other in their native languages, so between the two groups they used English. They‘d bring me homemade wine and we‘d drink all day. Molto bene. Of course I was always listening to Italian operas, anyhow. So I ask myself, what is all this nonsense between Serbs and 3. Russians, Darfur Tribe A and Darfur Tribe B? One thing I learn every day, when I drift across the countryside, over the wheatfields, cornfields, soyfields, mintfields, over the apple and pear orchards, the profligate blueberry and raspberry farms, tomatoes, celery, beets, over the old 1830s houses here, over the ancient, ancient houses in England, Ireland, Brazil, over the ancient ruins and the pineapple trees, mangos, chirimoyas (in Brazil, Caqui) is to see man as food-producer, farmer, housebuilder
60 clothesmaker, production as the center — and then I go to Flint, once the highest-per-capita, money-making city in the U.S., in the world . . . and the great old buildings are there, the government buildings and all that, and right downtown there‘s a Gothic stone cathedral that doesn‘t say ―local wealth,‖ but Empire, Celestial Power . . . right next to empty stores half torn down, FOR SALE, FOR SALE, FOR SALE . . . In the old days in Chicago when I was a kid, we‘d go out to my grandfather‘s brother‘s daughter‘s husband‘s place — Jim Vincent‘s — on the northwest side, and there he was, Mr. Armour Truck Driver, carrying sides of beef to butchers. In the summer, the stockyard smell of slaughtered cattle‘s blood hung over the city. My mother was a secretary. Secretarial school. Way up there 4. for a time as chief secretary for a big downtown Chicago exec. Her brother, my Uncle Jake (James Mangan. Jake, because his mother, my grandma, was a Jew) had never finished high school, but was so bright that he got a job in the First National Bank in downtown Chicago, as a General Man. Which meant that whenever anyone didn‘t show up, he took their place, Mr. I-Know-The-WholeGame. And in his spare time he played sax, won all kinds of sax contests, bowled, won bowling contests, sold whatever you wanted to get (mainly jewelry) in the bank itself. Imagine running his own little under-the-counter business in the First National Bank in Chicago. Good salary. Lasted there until he retired and moved to Arizona. Whatever he did that he shouldn‘t have been doing, everyone looked the other way. He was too good a General Man to lose. My father‘s sisters . . . well, one was crazy — Aunt Pearl‘s twin, Coral. Pearl‘s husband, Jack Fewkes, was a high school principal. Aunt Elsie, the bachelor-girl, taught high school, too — French. And Aunt Babe was another high school teacher. Teachers, teachers, teachers. Babe‘s husband, my uncle George Curran, ran a pharmacy.
It was all work, work, work, the sanity of work which turned 5. me into the fanatic writer I became, a hundred and five books published, another hundred and five unpublished, still on the shelves. And always going to Mass, so I felt my whole life was blessed, a morning blessing every morning that shone over the whole day and night, everything sanctified, heavenly. The Trinity, Jesus who became incarnate to save mankind, to annul the curses of the Garden of Eden, Communion, Jesus‘ body and blood inside me, becoming me. There was crime, there were wars, but it was all out there, a million miles from me, no terrorism, just love your neighbor as yourself. The main crime was Gang Crime, which had nothing to do with me. When something really horrible happened, it took over the newspapers for a week. Like William Heirens sexually abusing and killing this little girl (Susan Degnan), and then stuffing her body into a sewer. Nowadays there‘s all kinds of stuff like that, kids in Cicero (the former Czech area in Chicago where my Czech-speaking grandma lived) out playing in the front yard and someone drives by and BANG! They‘re dead. I watch the Chicago evening news 6. every night, I ought to know the patterns. Everything made here in the U.S.. I remember the places in Chicago, shoes, pants, furniture, tools. And I remember driving into Indiana along the lake shore, all these huge steel mills, reading about tragic boat-wrecks on Lake Michigan, which occurred while bringing iron ore down the lake from upper Michigan. My father had his little office on 756 East 82nd Street, and a lot of times he‘d take me to the hospital with him and I spent a lot of time in the
61 hospital myself, with polio, an appendix and gallbladder out, a huge cut on my left lower leg. I‘d go to opera classes twice a week up on the North Side, Zerlina Muhlman Metzger from Vienna; there were violin and music-writing classes with composer-violinist P. Marinus Paulson. I mean stockyards, ditch-digging, doctors, hospitals, banks and bankers, businesses and secretaries, nuns in grammar school, the Christian Brothers of Ireland in high school, the Jesuits in college and graduate school, my master‘s thesis advisor, Father Surtz S.J. (Society of Jesus), who deftly helped me get through my thesis on the aesthetics of Sir Joshua Reynolds, then the University of Illinois, Dr. Edward Davidson, my Ph.D. dissertation on Poe‘s Eureka. Everything on track, no terrorists, no drive-by shooters 7. shooting little girls in the brain, no kidnappers kidnapping people for ransoms, the whole idea of a chosen people erased from all the scriptures/ theologies . . . I‘ll be honest with you, I spend half a day every day meditating on the impossibility of our universe existing at all, feeling and believing that we live in the midst of total impossibility. It‘s there, but it can‘t be there. Nothing can exist forever. The earth/universe had to exist so the prophets invented an eternal, endless God. But we go back, back, back, back, centuries, millennia, millions, trillions of years . . . nothing can be forever, it has to begin. But how could God begin from nothing? Or, how could the universe begin from nothing? Nothing to Everything. How can you go from Nothing to Everything? So God and / or the universe are both impossibilities. And all the design in the universe, ovaries and eggs, sperm, seeds from the trees, birds‘ feathers, suns, planets, seasons, toenails . . . everything impossible. And afterlife? Heavens, hells? More inventions.
Open up graves. No afterlives, just bones and (for a while) 8. disintegrating flesh. I remember the cadaver I had for human anatomy class in my first year of medical school. An old, old lady, already mostly skull and bones before she‘d died. Little ―bags‖ in her lungs from coughing. Bones, bones, bones, no ghosts, all this nonsense about people coming back. I wish my grandmother would/ could come back, my mother and father, my old poet-astrophysicist pal Richard Morris, my grammar school girlfriend, Jeanne Anne Kappell. No spirits, no heavens or hells or anything but graves . . . or getting burned up into dust and tossed to the winds. So here we are surrounded by murder and hate and misery on earth, we have our fifty, eighty, ninety, even a hundred-plus years, and then we‘re gone totally. What sense does murder make, hate your sister/ brother, someone of another race, language, clan, region, religion? Zero sense! Spring, Summer and Fall my wife and I drive out into the country every afternoon, watch the deer and does in the fields, the ducks and geese on the ponds and rivers, watch the corn and soybeans and mint and pears growing, go to small towns and villages, 9. walk along rivers, have a little homemade ice cream, sit on a bench in a park next to a river, and then, when the days shorten and shrink, it‘s plays and concerts, news, films, Catherine Deneuve (let‘s not forget Les Demoiselles d’Avignon or the fact that a few years back I had a book on French film published — Opening the Door to French Film — that it took me a decade immersed in French films to write) . . . and all day long I‘ve got WKAR on while I‘m at my computer, Mozart, Mahler, Stravinsky, you name it. Lunch everyday with wife #2 and offspring #6, Chris, my twenty-seven-year-old film-tech maniac.
62 At night we watch the BBC news, thousands of people dying, stuck out in the middle of the dead desert, and my head says ―Bring them to Michigan, there‘s thousands of miles of empty forest and fields out there.‖ I watch the WGN (Chicago) news every night too, and see all the brutality, shooting little girls in the head, shoot here, rob there, then the local news, CNN, suicide bombers, atomic possibilities from Iran and North Korea, a million plans to kill, destroy, conquer . . . So we have a moment of life and instead of expanding out into it, instead of seeing the mountains and forests through Monetian eyes, instead of Buddha-prayers/-meditations leading to Satori, 10. instead of Andean Datura leading to heaven on earth (the only heaven we‘ll ever have), everything is negative idiocy. Satori . . . a total expansion out into the now, now, now. The delights of the senses, the mind, family, children, grandchildren, the arts, food, love, dropping totally the Big Lie that says murder will be rewarded in a next anything . . . there is no next anything, only the composer, Satie, and tomorrow Michigan State is playing Western Michigan, the leaves are starting to turn, pass the wine, the brigadeiros,* wear out the day and slide into beatific sleep. 100, 99, 98, 97 . . . a beatific countdown to an inevitable zero. ―More Than Bones‖ ~ E. A. Hanninen 2009
* Brigadeiros are Brazilian dense balls of chocolate.
Learn more about Hugh and read one of his poems on page 50.
63 Francis d’Assisi Gary Metras, 2008 Finishing Line Press P.O. Box 1626, Georgetown, KY 40324 Paper / 30 pgs $14.00 USD
A Feather on the Breath of God: A Review of Gary Metras‘ Poem (in chapbook form), Francis d’Assisi By Gram Davies
s I sit with my iPod, listening to the exquisite monotones of the compositions of Hildegard von Bingen and reading this poem about the life of Saint Francis, I cannot help but wonder if its author would give a wry smile to see me this way? There is something holy in the fusing of the lovely with the necessary. What is vital and what is breathtaking become one.
Music: the ultimate ephemera. That which exists as a written score, an unplayed set of strings, a digital map in some device, is never music. Only in the moment of living knowledge, as the mind perceives, does it become. So, too, with poetry. The language in this work by Metras is fittingly simple, with a succinctness bourn by vaguely archaic phrases. The writer seems moved by his subject, heeding the solemnity of his paragon, keeping to what is necessary.
“…the young man built a stone chapel in the wilderness of the Umbrian Plain to pray and purge himself,
There is power in the narrative itself. Great effort is apparent in this austerity, but Metras bears it well, and like those who work hard in tiny shacks that serve as churches, there is something strangely inspiring in this lack of embellishment, almost shaming us as readers in our relative opulence.
“The monk transcribed the songs. The people tell others of that fearlessness who tell others until young men who want to believe arrive.”
to contain that other wilderness, that doubt within those short walls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . enough to watch the lives of animals, enough to hear God in birdsong.”
―Weightless‖ Dallas J. Bryant 2009
Right up to the present day. “Came Coca Cola, Levis Jeans. Came iPod. And somewhere in this story of faith the hill of hell was made heaven in the name of Francis.”
But at this stage, the poem becomes something of a tirade against modernity. It is not that Metras‘ composure is lost, only that his disgust at commercial imagery and tourism on once sacred sites is palpable. The following is subtly indicative of his views: ―Wheat and Wire‖ ~ Russell Bittner 2009
So the legacy of Saint Francis of Assisi begins, although perhaps, here is also where it begins to end . . . “Came Bernard of Quintaville. Came Sabatinus and Moricus. Came Ferdinand . . .”
The poem is composed in a number of sections, each further subdivided. Despite its length, the piece is easy to familiarize oneself with, broken as it is into distinct movements. Later sections progress beyond the life of Francis himself (of which there is a good deal more to appreciate). At this juncture, the tone changes significantly. Metras tells a tragically ironic tale of the descent of Francis‘ name from piety to decadence. “Because they are Italian and Catholic and wanted to show reverence, frescos were painted on the little chapel after its builder died.”
“Doves became pigeons, noisy, jealous, usurping all the places the public lounges on days off, whether Central Park or Piazza San Marco…”
As if this were not enough, we are told often, and overtly, “this is not good . . . this is not good.” This poem began with a powerfully moving subtext, which had me crying out inside, however, from this point on it progresses into a sort of preachiness not to my taste, and in which Metras goes so far as to define the ineffable and give moral lessons of his own.‖ “If you welcome the giant of nothing into your Home trees will weep fruit that will not feed even the birds. .................................. If you accept death before you live your dogs will be unmanageable, your children angry.”
65 My dislike of its overt morality notwithstanding, I also find another aspect of the writing: a message sequestered between the stated truths. In a passage that tells of a visit to modern-day Assisi, Metras recounts how those who dwell in that place know of Truth. If you were to say, “San Pietro is only a story, he never lived, he never died,” then they
people, in the life of things. Metras makes this final observation: “Because a child . . . only steps on the white stones . . . Because sheep graze the hillside. Because a woman loves you
“would take you, saying, adamo, into the basilica, the black altar, right arm of Jesus
there is God”
and point to the fading cross painted upside down on the wall and whisper the saint’s name, and shake a finger
I switch off my iPod and put down the sheaves containing Metras‘ written words. I lie there, silently, amid images of lonely chapels in lost places, filled with birds.
I experience something of an epiphany in this moment (no different, in essence, to those I have had in the mode of other holy traditions, and equally real). The plain, radiant fullness satisfies me in the extreme. In this instant, I can want for nothing.
Which is to say, holiness, divinity, is not the stuff of objective fact, but a way of being — a thought, a guiding sign. Indeed, just as the notes of music, the words of poems, only take on truth as they engage with the human mind, so does ―spirit‖ only become real in the meeting of
Like all such flashes, it is deep, alive, exquisite. And temporary.
Gram Davies is 30 years old and continues to live, as always, in the county of Somerset, Southwest England. He recently began writing again when he realized he‘d spent more than a year obsessively playing the online game, World of Warcraft. Though not widely published, he‘s appeared in The Centrifugal Eye on several occasions, both as poet and review writer. In addition to this, he once appeared in the electronic journal, Tilt (2006), and has recently experimented with some live recordings of his early work, which can be heard through John Vick's Adroitly Placed Word project. Gram enjoys collaborative work, writing reviews, "workshopping" and forum participation, as he feels poetry should always be a live and interactive experience in preference to something purely academic. Gram is a long-time contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Gram
66 Merrifield’s Tao of Reading Poetry
Book Review Column
The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems William Stafford, 1998 Graywolf Press 2402 University Ave. , Ste. 203 Saint Paul, MN 55114 Paper / 268 Pages $16.00 USD
“The moment that hides in the breath” By Karla Linn Merrifield
nyone who reads any contemporary poetry has most likely encountered a poem or two by William Stafford. It‘s almost inescapable. I recall first stumbling across his work in graduate school while studying for a master‘s degree in creative writing. Among the handful of Stafford‘s poems I read was the much anthologized, ―Traveling through the Dark,‖ since rediscovered several times.
That Stafford is seemingly ubiquitous may have to do with his prolific output. Although he did not start writing poetry until in his late 50s, he wrote nearly 22,000 poems before he died in 1993, of which roughly 3,000 were published in myriad magazines and journals as well as 58 volumes of poetry.
death. Much of Stafford‘s appeal to readers and fellow poets is the simplicity of his poems. Sometimes deceptively simple, but any number of his readers — and critics — will be quick to point out that his writing focuses on the ordinary, that his details are earthy and accessible.
Today, of course, Stafford is well-represented on the Internet on numerous websites such as Poets.org, Famous-PoetsandPoems.com, and PoetFinder.com. And, as you‘d expect, his poems make the rounds in cyberspace as poets pass them along to other poets. Thus, poetfriend Michael Smith of Santa Fe, NM, sent me Stafford‘s ―Ask Me,‖ commenting that a friend of his had recently sent it to him. Smith‘s email acknowledges, ―I have been studying [it]. Such a strong voice in this poem . . . It sets the bar oh so high!‖ Indisputably, Stafford‘s poetry is very much alive — popular — these 16 years after his
One of my favorite poems that conveys concisely the poet‘s penchant for accessible, ordinary details is ―Climbing Along the River,‖ a short poem of six couplets, each an aphorism based on Stafford‘s observations in that milieu. (There are several such aphoristic poems in this collection for our delectation.) He writes: ―Even the upper end of the river / believes in the ocean.‖ And in ―The Gift,‖ he invites the reader into his everyday world with the opening sentence: ―Time wants to show you a different country.‖ Such simple language, such an intriguing idea.
67 As poet Donald Hall observes about Stafford‘s work in Small Farm: ―His poetry is truly quotidian; he writes it every day; it comes out of the every day.‖ Similarly, poet W. S. Merwin refers to Stafford as a poet ―bearing witness in plain language.‖ Poet William Heyen points to Stafford‘s ―feeling for the land and the seasons,‖ in other words, commonplace subjects with almost-tangible substantiality. Stafford‘s poems are frequently smudged with the prairie dirt and dust of his Kansas boyhood. To wit:
And his mother passes on her wisdom, duly recorded by her son, the poet, in ―My Mother Was a Soldier:‖ Tapping on my wrist, she talked: “Patience is the doctor; it says try; it says they think we’re nice, we quiet ones, we die so well: that’s how we win, imagining things before they happen.” “No harm in being quiet,” My mother said: “that’s the sound that finally wins.”
There was a river under First and Main, the salt mines honeycombed farther down. A wealth of sun and wind ever so strong converged on that home town, long gone.
That‘s the opening stanza to ―Prairie Town,‖ where he also takes us into the sandhills to meet prairie dogs, ―which had their town.‖ In fact, almost as frequently as readers meet members of the Stafford family, they also meet the fauna that inhabited the Midwestern landscape of his boyhood as well as those of the Pacific Northwest where he lived continually from 1958 until his death. The book is a veritable bestiary of ordinary creatures (I counted 35 species), from the dead doe of ―Traveling through the Dark‖ to the migrating geese of ―Late at Night‖ to the beast who sits up ―singing all night with my friends‖ in ―Coyote.‖ He also gives literal voice to the people he meets and knows. Again and again, Stafford uses dialogue — everyday speech — to convey his message. Quotation marks flutter before the reader‘s eyes; we lean into the pages to listen to his aunt opine. In ―A Family Turn,‖ he warns us she is a woman ―charmed in vinegar‖ whose ―mean opinions bent her hatpins.‖ But he lets his aunt have the poem‘s last words: With a turn that’s our family’s own she’d say, “Our town is not the same”— Pause— “And it’s never been.”
But for all the snippets of conversations amidst the ―hailstone yelps of geese‖ and yodeling coyotes, uncommon profundities and revelations stir below the surface of quotidian reality. Stafford himself believed in ―an unspoken tongue that lives underneath the words of poetry.‖ It is the ―unspoken‖ that opens up a vista of ephemerality in the book, so that The Way It Is comfortably takes its place in this issue of The Centrifugal Eye, with its focus on the transitory.
Time Is “a gift going by” This book comes to these pages via reader Joe Hoffman, who called it ―his favorite book.‖ That‘s saying a lot, considering that Joe is a connoisseur whom I imagine has easily devoured several hundred books of poetry. As manager of Lift Bridge Books in Brockport, NY, he stages a dozen poetry readings at the store each year in support of regional poets and their audiences. I‘ve been among both, and he helped launch two of my books. We often refer to him as ―Dr. Joe‖ for his encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary poetry. So when Joe responded to the TCE survey, selecting The Way It Is, he had my full attention. Stafford? His favorite? Really? Yes! Joe wrote in his survey: ―William Stafford is a master of the craft who uses few words in simple
68 lines for a maximum impact.‖ What‘s more, his love for Stafford goes back to a time long before this book was published: ―William Stafford came to [SUNY Brockport‘s long-running] Writers Forum many years ago and I was awed by his reading and still am every time I read his poetry.‖ Having a passing acquaintance with Stafford‘s work, I knew the challenge I would be facing in trying to uncover impermanence in this book, despite its size and inclusiveness — 412 poems assembled from 14 books, plus several poems from other volumes, published between 1966 to 1993. I embraced my quest, realizing his poems might be so well grounded in the commonplace — the ―First and Main‖ of his home town (―Prairie Town‖) and the drive-in diner with its ―food spiced by neon light‖ (―The Trip‖) — that I might not discern a leitmotif of transience in these pages. Maybe my quest for the unenduring would prove futile, like trying to stuff an exquisitely polished marquis-cut emerald into an oval setting. It didn‘t. Much of Stafford‘s poetry may be steeped in ordinary human life as he observed and recollected it through meditations on family, childhood friends, students, God, war, nature . . . but his is a subtle, delicate voice that can render palpable the most fleeting gesture. Thus, in ―Walking the Borders,‖ we find ourselves with Stafford ―holding / for a moment the smooth round world / in the cool instant of evening before the sun goes down.‖ Those moments, those insubstantial instants, are many — and greatly rewarding. In ―‛At noon comes the lift . . .’,” for example, his shadow is the subject and the poet observes:
At noon comes the lift—sunlight pries open a first section of afternoon so that my shadow can begin a career.
What can be more ephemeral than a shadow? The surprise is that Stafford imagines it having a career! And, as he teaches us in ―Existences,‖ our immaterial shadows are important to human existence. The poet proclaims in this poem: ―I live / by the grace of shadows.‖ And in ―Little Rooms,‖ Stafford situates himself ―high in the oak‖ where he stares through ―airy space,‖ listening to ―tinkling dishwashing noises drift up.‖ The tree and the dishes are real, substantive, but give rise to this understanding of life‘s fleeting insubstantiality, its quintessence:
There are rooms in a life, apart from others, rich with whatever happens, a glimpse of moon, a breeze. You who come years from now to this brief spell of nothing that was mine: the open, slow passing of time was a gift going by.
An “essential kind of breathing” Encouraging me in my effort to make acquaintance with the transitory in The Way It Is was something else William Heyen observes about Stafford‘s poetic magic. Heyen says when he reads Stafford, ―I am caught up in his sense of . . . joy in the here and now.‖ Heyen elucidates further that Stafford‘s poems make manifest ―the smallest events in our lives and the smallest feelings that travel our spines are miracles — a puff of air . . .‖ Heyen‘s trenchant observation helped direct me to a central image in the book: that ―puff of air‖ that is the human breath. A pacifist, Stafford was a conscientious objector in World War II, and later a Quaker, yet he also had the sensibility of a Zen Buddhist. Frequently he insists, as a Zen Buddhist does, on dwelling in the present moment — in the breath. It is the subject of more than 20 poems in the collection.
69 Perhaps most obviously demonstrative of this theme is his poem, ―Circle of Breath,‖ which concerns the night of his father‘s death. That life is transient, our breaths short-lived and numbered, he expresses thusly:
I stood on the skull of the world the night he died, and knew that I leased a place to live with my white breath.
For Stafford, our breaths and shadows are who we are. In ―People of the South Wind,‖ the poet observes: ―Your breath has a little shape— / you can see it cold days.‖ Later, he writes:
Sometimes if a man is evil his breath runs away and hides from him. When he dies his last breath cannot find the others, and he never comes together again— those little breaths, you know, in the autumn they scurry the bushes before snow. They never come back.
Those and other thematically-related lines make me cognizant of what is normally an unconscious process and a peculiar thing happens: My pulse seems to slow and I become acutely aware of my own breathing, inhaling one line, exhaling the next. I think that‘s what Heyen means when he says Stafford‘s words ―travel our spines‖ like ―miracles.‖ Here‘s one more example, perhaps my favorite due to the subject matter. In ―Poetry,‖ Stafford writes: Its door opens near. It’s a shrine by the road, it’s a flower in the parking lot of The Pentagon, it says, “Look around, listen. Feel the air.” It interrupts international telephone lines with a tune. When traffic lines jam, it gets out and dances on the bridge. If great people get distracted by fame they forget this essential kind of breathing . . .
He says so much in these few lines. It‘s what we readers (and writers) of poetry have perhaps known all along, but couldn‘t articulate so clearly, so evocatively: Poetry is not only like a shrine or a flower, but an ―essential kind of breathing.‖
In a “permanent gale” Even as we breathe, so breathes the planet itself, and Stafford makes you feel the Earth‘s breath in many poems collected here. Thus, in ―Keeping a Journal,‖ he orients the reader with these opening lines:
At night it was easy for me with my little candle to sit late recording what happened that day. Sometimes rain breathing in from the dark would begin softly across the roof and then drum wildly for attention.
Not only is rain a kind of breathing, but there is the breath of our green globe that is the wind. Sometimes it is a gale-force wind whipping in from the Pacific near Stafford‘s home in Oregon. In ―Over the North Jetty,‖ he writes:
geese and brant, their wingbeat steady . . . live where storms are so usual they are almost fair weather. And we lean in that permanent gale, watching those cold flocks depend on their wings . . .
But Earth-breath can also be quiet, as it is in ―Elegy.‖ In this poem we first find the poet mowing his lawn, hear the machine‘s ―responsible sound.‖ Then, in the second stanza, the poet juxtaposes the quiet arrival of night and recalls: ―One night, sound held in cornfield farms / drowned in August, and melonflower
70 breath / creeping in stealth.‖ ―Melonflower breath?‖ What a stunning, evocative image! Breath of the planet. Your breath. All breath: a thing ephemeral, but as Stafford observes in ―The Moment Again,‖ breath holds so much: ―In breath, where kingdoms hide.‖
Where “far things are real” In typical Staffordian plainspeak, he asserts in the book‘s title poem: ―Nothing you do can stop time‘s unfolding.‖ ―Time rolls on‖ and ―In this, the water of Now, we swim,‖ he writes in ―Inscribed on a Prayer Wheel and Spun.‖ Against time‘s inexorable sway, however, we have the power of our memories. They may be ephemeral and fade with time, but they are a gift of human endowment to open when needed, when desired. The Way It Is is full of fleeting glimpses into Stafford‘s past, so much so that you often feel as if you‘re reading a memoir in verse. He recalls people and scenes as varied as his high school girlfriend, the night of his father‘s death, his hometown in 1932, a trip to Lake Chelan in Washington, his Aunt Mabel — ―an old lady gone now‖ — and in ―A Farewell, Age Ten,‖ the day his family moved away from his boyhood Kansas home and he left behind a beloved pet: ―I will never pet the rabbit again.‖
When there was air, when you could breathe any day if you liked, and if you wanted to you could run, I use to climb those hills back of town and follow a gully so my eyes were at ground level and could look out through grass as the stems bent in their tensile way, and see now mountains follow along, the way distance goes.
Ah, yes, I remember the hills and gullies across from my childhood home in West Virginia and the hours when I ran free, playing house beneath the shelter of a nurse log‘s huge upended root ball. Do you remember that freedom in the hills or back alleys of your hometown? You can — with Stafford‘s nimble assistance in these poems. He says in ―Whispered into the Ground:‖ ―Even far things are real.‖ His poems make our far, ephemeral things real once again. If you haven‘t read William Stafford, this last volume is an excellent place to start. He will take you on a remarkable journey from the comfortable, tangible commonplace of home, family, friends and even backyard birds into an exquisitely fleeting world of beauty and awe where ―the stars go by in their serene beatitudes.‖ Read the book and you will be able to ―leap through doubt, eager to find / many more truths to tell.‖ Go ahead, take a deep breath, and dive in.
Despite the specificity of Stafford‘s evanescent memories in these poems, in bequeathing them to us, the poet evokes our memories. I reread ―Old Blue,‖ which opens ―Some day I‘ll crank up that Corvette, let it / mumble those marvelous oil-swimming gears‖ and I immediately think of ―Old White,‖ my own Corvette, can hear it rumble and roar, a beast of a car, long gone but not forgotten, thanks to Stafford‘s poetic prompt. Then there‘s the apropos poem ―Remembering.‖ Stafford hands you your own childhood when he writes in the first stanza:
―Soul Cards: Wish‖ ~ Cecelia Chapman 2009
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 The Centrifugal Eye for all our readers in future issues. Give me something new to rave about!
71 Unexpected Light: Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 C. E. Chaffin Diminuendo Press 1205 N. Saginaw Boulevard #D PMB 224 Saginaw, TX 76179 Hardback, 161 pgs, $20 US Paper, 161 pgs, $12 US ISBN 978-0-9821352-2-8
Illumination in the Shipwrecked Night: C. E. Chaffin‘s Unexpected Light: Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 By E. K. Mortenson
or the past ten years, at the least, it appears that C. E. Chaffin has been writing some quality verse. His recent selected volume Unexpected Light bears witness to this. In fact, many of Chaffin‘s pieces — certainly his best pieces — bear witness, oftentimes, to the simple occurrences of our daily lives, as all good poetry arguably should. I‘ll address those hereafter, but first, to get it out of the way, let me air what few grievances I have about this volume. Most of them concern design and format, and few relate to Chaffin‘s actual verse.
First, I love ―Selecteds.‖ I can‘t think of a better way to ―get to know‖ an ―established‖ poet, that is, a poet who has enough published material to cull into a ―Selected‖ volume. Case in point: I was entirely unfamiliar with Chaffin before reading this volume. At 161 pages of verse, this seems a fair sampling. What is missing from this volume is any sort of introduction or appendix that might inform a newcomer to Chaffin‘s poetry as to how many books he has had published. Relying only on his bio at the end of the volume, I count two books: one a volume of poetry, Elementary (Edwin Mellen Press, 1997), and one anthology, The Best of Melic: Three Years Online. Since Chaffin was an editor of this journal, it is unclear whether this latter is an anthology of only Chaffin‘s work, if his work appears in the print anthology, or he has simply edited this collection.
A publishing decision for any one of a number of reasons not to include an introduction, note, or author‘s statement is certainly plausible — in today‘s tough economy, pages cost money. The easy solution then: organize the table of contents chronologically with headings corresponding to the volumes from which the poems were taken, or present the individually published pieces by general chronological order. I particularly enjoy following the work of a poet over time — what themes has he taken up? Has he explored different forms over the years? Has his tone shifted from volume to volume? A chronological table of contents allows for the easy reference of this. Curiously, the table of contents for Unexpected Light occurs in a general alphabetical order. This has unfortunate repercussions. In particular, a grouping of poems with titles beginning ―At the______.‖
72 In the case of some of them (―At the Korean War Memorial,‖ ―At the Lincoln Memorial,‖ and “At the Vietnam War Memorial‖) they are part, but not all, of what appears to be a cycle called “American Suite,‖ though the remaining poems in the cycle appear elsewhere in the volume. Why are these poems not grouped together under that title? They seem to have been published in a journal that way originally. Of course, it took a bit of sleuthing through the volume to learn this. My point is that having these memorial poems immediately follow the poems, ―At the Carnival‖ and ―At the Carnival II,‖ is an unfortunate circumstance. So, too, is the placement of the love poems in this volume. While the actual volume has a distinct break and header, there is no such header in the table of contents. I‘ll admit that I am a sucker for love poems. Frankly, I wanted to jump to those first — hey, why not, right? Tough luck for me. This adds a layer of inconvenience to the volume — particularly a volume that a new reader of Chaffin might be coming to. That griping aside, there is far more to praise in Chaffin‘s work, and while a good number of his poems are successful, a few are sublime. Many of Chaffin‘s poems are informed by his clinical work in psychiatry, and ―For Example‖ sets a tone for the rest of the work — and maybe for Chaffin himself. After a litany of disturbed (and coincidentally dead) poetic geniuses, Chaffin closes the poem:
No one wants to hear about a healthy genius, because the world needs to believe the great must suffer greatly, as if only Icarus flew above those jealous eyes and Daedelus never landed.
This strikes me as a truth so obvious it is groundbreaking — and heartbreaking. Of course, this is what poetry ought to do, and when Chaffin is on his game, he does this surpassingly well. And this is often accomplished obliquely,
with a sense of humor or wistful idea. Take ―Tonic,‖ reproduced in its entirety:
I will love myself today. Here are some fuzzy slippers and a lollipop, a warm hug and a wet kiss. Let me tuck this old familiar blanket around my shoulders and read this poem before I nap. Whatever I do today, I’ll approve. If I spill milk, I’ll clap. If I button my shirt wrong it’s a new style. if I wet my pants it was on purpose. My, how well I walk! How well I speak! It’s so good to be good to myself. Where have I been all these sad, long years?
It is easy, and subsequently dangerous, to underestimate a poem like this one. At first blush, a reader can look at this one of two ways: contemporary, me-centered therapy, ridiculous and self-serving. Are you depressed? Embrace it and turn that frown upside-down! Insert toothy smile here. Option two for the reader is that this is a satire of such behavior. Growing up, I remember an ice cream cake in my local Carvel store that read ―Congratulations! You didn‘t fall down today!‖ Seriously. Even if that were for a small child (I hope), could the child actually read the cake if he or she were just learning to walk? The humor in ―Tonic‖ belies the seriousness. First, that these decisions / mantras are only that: tonics for a serious problem. However, when we come to the end of the piece, illuminated by masterfully enjambed line ends, we come to the true and moving — and ultimately therapeutic — resolution: be good to yourself. Not in the inane ways described above, but perhaps it takes those to come to the realization; to find where one has ―been / all these sad, long years.‖
73 Perhaps one has been in love. It is clear in the latter portion of the volume that Chaffin has. The final fifth of the volume is dedicated to love poems, and clearly autobiographical ones at that, often addressed directly to Chaffin‘s wife, Kathleen. What I find interesting about these pieces is that the focus in the poems almost invariably ends up on the lover, not the beloved. It often begins with, and sometimes ends upon, the beloved, but typically, the poem seems to be about the speaker. To wit, the following two pieces:
Last Stop Between buses in Vegas on a bar stool, I watched cocktail waitresses cinch halter tops and women divers on TV swathed in spandex, twats like vises, balancing impossibly ten meters high before they flipped and knifed into their up-hurtling reflections like cormorants, scant froth sucked under by a slant of toes. On all these women I imposed your face like a mercury dime. All I wanted was you beside me laughing!
Maybe this time it will be better, maybe this time I won’t end up clinging to you like a life raft in the shipwrecked night, forty and terrified. If you should wake and want to make love I may stay inside forever.
Both of these, while certainly nodding to the importance of the beloved, strike me as far more revealing of the speaker. Perhaps this is fundamentally true of love poems in general: we are revealed by what/whom we love. In Chaffin‘s case, this seems more prominent than elsewhere. This is not necessarily good or bad, but a revelation in the poems. Compare these to a piece like ―Saint,‖ a poem I would suggest is far more revealing of the beloved, and, to my mind, more successful as a result: “Don’t touch me when you’re drunk,” she said as my long leaden body spooned against her jeans and cotton top. “You can hold me if you want,” she said, “But don’t try anything and don’t breathe too close.” She let me hold her until I passed out, then led me down the stairs. At first light I woke and climbed back up to apologize. She, like a home plate umpire, dusted sleep from her face and welcomed me.
Baby ―Unexpected Light,‖ after Stark ~ E.A. Hanninen 2009
It’s 4:30 AM, pitch-black and cold. I spoon against your body wishing there were no cotton To separate us, not even skin. I want to crawl up your tunnel and hide deep in your belly before the sun exposes me. Let me re-gestate, please.
When I awoke the second time she wasn’t there, of course. She’d taken a friend to the doctor and let the dogs out, one by one.
Here, while we have a clear focus on the speaker in the poem, we nevertheless get a far better feeling for the beloved and, more importantly, why she is so loved. Here is the beauty of love in all its homey simplicity. The kind of love we
74 wish we could express as elegantly. We see clearly why, as Chaffin writes in ―Antique,‖ his beloved allows him to ―love / the soft things of this world / without embarrassment.‖ Chaffin‘s poetry casts a wide net, and he is a poet of this world. From the ephemeral light in ―The Gloaming‖ where ―you can feel the long breath / of earth‘s revolving being drawn / and blown out slowly‖ to a mock-epic trip to the
Laundromat in ―The Sudyssey,‖ replete with witticisms like the section titled Dionysus: ―A drunk hustling change / squints in the enamel glare: // ‗Can you spare any change?‘ / ‗Who has change at a laundromat?‘ I say.‖ Chaffin grounds the reader in the here-and-now. His work reminds us, as poetry should, to pay attention to the world around us, and, to a degree, revere that world.
―Smokey Mountains #1‖ ~ Russell Bittner 2009
Permissions to reproduce selected poems in this review, in full, from Unexpected Light, were granted by the author, C. E. Chaffin. “Tonic” first appeared in Tryst, and “Baby” in Crescent Moon Journal.
Read 2 more of C. E.’s poems on pages 39-40.
E. K. Mortenson is an MFA candidate at Western Connecticut State University. When he is not writing book reviews or poetry, he works as an English teacher. His reviews have appeared in RATTLE, Connecticut River Review, and Rain Taxi. His verse appears widely in print and online. He lives in Stamford, CT with his wife, son, and two cats. This is E. K.‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact E. K.
75 Next issue: Spring, May 2009 The Quantum Mind: Spring Brain Clean, Science, Physics
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ontributor Anthologies, recent Crazed by the Sun: Poems of Ecstasy, editor Lynn Strongin (with Glenna Luschei) Includes poems by TCE contributors, C. E. Chaffin, Suchoon Mo, And Eve Anthony Hanninen. Cyberwit, 2008. (http://www.cyberwit.net/crazed1.htm)
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