Centrifugal Eye Poetry Journal
May 2009 Vol. 4 Iss. 2
Quantum Mind Spring Brain Clean, Science, Physics
he Centrifugal Eye Staff Editor-in-Chief; Art Director: Eve Anthony Hanninen Contacts Editor; Ed. Assistant: John Thomas Clark Art Editor; Ed. Assistant: K. R. Copeland Ed. Assistant: Sam H. Kerr Ed. Assistant: Rebecca Cross Quarterly Review Columnist; Ed. Assistant: 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 Art: Background Wrap: ―Twilight‖ from ―Order in the Midst of Chaos‖ Series & Overlay: ―Brainstorm,‖ both by Dan Ruhrmanty, 2009. Dan's work explores the dimensions and depth of human nature. His goal is to communicate the personal and cultural dynamics that condition how we view ourselves and others, as well as how our individual experiences condition such perception.
Copyright 2009 The Centrifugal Eye — Collected Works — All Rights Reserved
“When people systematize and categorize a complex idea to make it more manageable, they inevitably extinguish the original spark that gave the idea brilliance. It may become more useful, but it loses much of its original elegance.” ~ Gary Lehmann
Pgs. 4-6 Editorial–Eve Anthony Hanninen
Pgs. 7-23 Featured Poet – Gary Lehmann Interview, Poems & Essay
John Byrne 24-25 Bryce Christensen 26 Robert Demaree 27 Antonia Clark 28-29 Zoë Gabriel 30 John Grey 31 Clint Frakes 32-33 Sarah Higley 34 Chet Klingensmith 35 Tom Holmes 36-42 Fred Longworth 43
Vincent Renstrom 44 Cassandra Robison 45 John Milbury-Steen 46-47 P. J. Nights 48-49 David Luntz 50-52 Farren Stanley 53 l. a. seidensticker 54-56 Bill Yarrow 57 Davide Trame 58-59 Paul Stevens 60-61
Essays Pg. 63 Len Bourret ~ “What is It about Understanding That You Do — or Don’t?” Pg. 64-65 Gary Lehmann ~ “Amy Lowell’s Imagism”
Reviews Pgs. 67-69 Karla Linn Merrifield on Patrick Carrington Pgs. 70-73 E. K. Mortenson on Barbara Hamby Pgs. 74-76 Quantum Details
4 The Quantum Mind
By Eve Anthony Hanninen, Editor
what mathematical world does 10 plus 8 equal 6, or 22 plus 7 equal 5? You might think, ―in a fictional or poetical world.‖ Actually, most of us accept these equations to represent the conscious flow of time in our daily lives. We humans think we need all sorts of units of measure to provide understanding of the elements in our conscious reality, all in order to manage conveniently the hours and years allowed us. So we read clocks that unitize and compartmentalize our waking and sleeping consciousness into applicable segments.
But what’s consciousness, after all? How do we define it? Surely it‘s organic, a biological aspect of the brain? Or is it purely spiritual in nature, endowed by the soul? Perhaps conscious awareness is an inclusive, reactive measure of a binary or quantum relationship to all physical matter in our universe?
quantum computing. He introduced the concept of nanotechnology. He assisted in calculating the yield of a fission bomb, but was not a central figure in the atomic bomb‘s Manhattan Project. He later admitted regret for not reconsidering even his initial involvement in the Project after Nazi Germany was defeated.
In The Centrifugal Eye‘s Quantum Mind issue, 26 poets and writers, as well as 6 artists, offer their elastic interpretations of consciousness through use of synaptic visions and creative media — their artistic units of measure. The issue‘s overall concept sprung up around ideas that have both directly and indirectly evolved from theoretical studies of quantum physics and quantum consciousness. If you‘re not ―into science,‖ don‘t let this ―q word‖ scare you off — it‘s what‘s behind these ideas that propels this issue‘s dynamic writing.
Feynman has an eclectic background worth learning about, but for my purposes here, I‘d like to focus on one of his other notable reputations — that of his popularity as a teacher of quantum physics.
91 years ago, on May 11th, 1918, Richard Phillips Feynman was born. 47 years later, in May of 1965, Dr. Feynman was a joint recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Some of you know him as the American physicist who pioneered the theory of quantum electrodynamics, and also
Richard Feynman knew how to engage his students. He spoke to conventions of scientists and researchers, and wrote books on physics that even the layman could understand and enjoy. He could translate the experiences of events into the language of awareness. This latter feat of his is what intrigues me most, and why I want to honor his methods of teaching that successfully incorporated visual and metaphorical communication techniques. It‘s been a long time since I‘ve read any of Feynman‘s lectures, but what‘s stuck with me is his inclusion of humor to complement physical and visual examples used to clearly
represent the science behind his quantum theories. His usage of metaphorical models to illustrate action and reaction were highly successful when it came to sparking comprehension in his audiences.
solar energy. Chief among radical, diverging applications are the ongoing studies in ―quantum mind consciousness‖ at the Center for Consciousness Studies, University of Arizona.
Richard Feynman, I will boldly state, was a poet. At least, in my mind, he had all the earmarks. I‘m not the only person affected by Feynman‘s ―poetics‖ — his elegant theories of quantum mechanics further sparked any number of scientists to study and apply quantum theories to other branches and fields, such as quantum optics, cryptology, digital technology and
But you don‘t have to go to Arizona to discover a little more about the realms of consciousness — you‘ve only to flip through the pages of The Centrifugal Eye‘s May 2009 issue to discover a representational collection of metaphorical and visual communicators who encourage, just as Dr. Richard Feynman did, the notion of entertaining to enlighten.
Eve Anthony Hanninen is an American poet, writer, editor, and illustrator who resides in the weather-lashed, Kaien Island harbor-town of Prince Rupert, BC, Canada. Poems may be found in east to west: bicoastal verse, Sein und Werden (print and online), Moondance, Wicked Alice, Origami Condom, Shit Creek Review, and The HyperTexts, among numerous journals. Other recent publications include 3 poems in the new anthology edited by Lynn Strongin: Crazed by the Sun (2008); another appeared in Trim: The Mannequin Envy Anthology (2007). A limited artist'sedition chapbook, as well as a collection of poems under 15 lines are both in the works. Her latest bookjacket illustrations adorn Ellaraine Lockie's Blue Ribbons at the County Fair, and Patrick Carrington's Hard Blessings. Artwork was also contributed to Lana Ayers' Late Blooms Postcard Series. Eve is the Poet‘s Corner Interview Poet for May 2009 at Long Story Short, with Russell Bittner.
Quantum Poetry Did it ever occur to you that poetry forms based on mathematical sequences or substitutions could be considered quantum in nature? There‘s even something called Fibonacci Poetry. This form was established by Gregory K. Pincus in 2006, as a 6-line poem that conforms to the Fibonacci mathematical sequence for syllable-count, per line. ―For the 6-line poem that means: * 1 syllable for first line * 1 syllable for second line * 2 syllables for third * 3 syllables for fourth * 5 syllables for fifth * 8 syllables for sixth‖ If you‘d like to try out this form, see Robert Lee Brewer‘s Poetic Asides blog (2007) on
WritersDigest.com for poem examples and variations. About a tricky variation, Brewer says, ―For poets who also like mathematics (am I the only one raising my hand?), this is definitely an interesting form to get your mind working.‖ For more on the Fibonacci poem, see: The Fib, by Fibonacci originator Gregory K. Pincus Or check out poet Peter Pereira’s blog (2005) for information about ―S+7" method poems. Maybe you‘ve heard them described as ―Oulipo Poems?‖ Oulipo stands for “Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle/Potential Literature Workshop.‖ Just one of many interesting forms developed by the Oulipo school was the ―S+7‖ method Pereira presents in his blog. The process replaces each noun in a poem with another noun found seven places away in a selected dictionary.
6 And then there‘s the ―Shadorma: A highly addictive poetic form from Spain,‖ also blogged about by Robert Lee Brewer. He explains that a Shadorma is a 6-line syllabic poem of 3/5/3/3/7/5 syllable-lines. ~E. A. H. Readers of TCE’s print version may visit online for references included in this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman http://www.alongstoryshort.net/ http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/Fibonacci+Poetry+A+New+Poetic+Form.aspx http://gottabook.blogspot.com/2006/04/fib.html http://thevirtualworld.blogspot.com/2005/04/oulipo-poems-s7.html http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/Shadorma+A+Highly+Addictive+Poetic+Form+From+Spain.aspx http://www.alongstoryshort.net/ThePoetsCorner-May2009-Hanninen.html
Publishing News: Books of Note Editor’s Pick
Author Cathy Davidson is a Duke University professor and co-director of the MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Competition. Her forthcoming book, The Rewired Brain: The Deep Structure of Thinking in the Information Age, ―proposes a new model for understanding how we'll think and work in the digital age,‖ states Publishers Lunch. Due out in 2010 from Viking Press.
Michael Hemmingson (himself likened to ―Raymond Carver on acid‖ by editor/critic Larry McCaffery, according to Wikipedia), has a new book due out in 2011 from McFarland. Raymond Carver: A Critical Biography is reported by Publishers Marketplace to be an interpretative overture into Raymond Carver's life, which attempts to place the ―writer's biography within the context of American history, politics, economics, and the literary landscape of the time,‖ and is said to explore Carver‘s short story subjects in relation to what happened concurrently in his life — questioning how much was actually fiction vs. autobiography.
Featured Interview Poet:
Gary Lehmann EAH: Gary, I‘ve discovered you‘re the most prolific published writer I‘ve ever spoken to — not only poet and novelist, but also playwright, essayist and article writer! Besides the crafts of writing and poetry, you‘ve written regularly about blacksmithing and shoemaking. Not surprisingly, you‘ve a keen interest in science, inventions, and inventors. Would you name some of these latter types of historical figures who‘ve appeared in your poetry? GL: Thanks.
Rochester Poet, Gary Lehmann Photo supplied by author, embellished by TCE art dept., 2009
The Centrifugal Eye’s editor,
Eve Anthony Hanninen, asks
Gary Lehmann about his conscious focus on historical biography in his life and works.
I‘ve never tried to list them before, but I‘ve written poems on Lewis Carroll, who by the way, apropos of Centrifugal Eye‘s theme this month, was a mathematician as well as a writer of fiction, Agatha Christie, who by the way, was married to an archeologist. Then there‘s the choreographer Jerome Robbins, Ulysses S. Grant, Rockwell Kent, Joseph McCarthy, Thomas Gainsborough, Amerigo Vespucci, the photographer Yousef Karsh, the Chinese Viscount of Wu, Freud, and Einstein, of course . . . Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Lloyd Wright, Winston Churchill, Teddy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
Annie Edson Taylor of Niagara Falls fame, Moss Hart, Karl Marx, Voltaire, George Westinghouse, Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Joseph Stalin, Jesse James, Charles Willson Peale, the botanist John Bartram, Federico Fellini, Caravaggio, William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, Kenneth Grahame author of Wind in the Willows, Eduard Munch, Roger Corman the b-movie director, Washington Irving, Annie Oakley, and zippity-do-daday Joel Chandler Harris. They all interest me. In truth, this wide scope is probably one of the reasons I‘m as productive as I am. The variety keeps my interest, stimulates my thinking, and goads me on. I should add a disclaimer. Although I‘ve written eight novels, none of them have received much attention. My poetry, by contrast, has received flattering reviews over the years. I‘d love to be able to write successful novels, but I don‘t think I‘m cut out for that job. EAH: I admit I‘ve never read your novels. I‘ll have to explore your bibliography. I suspect these books, too, are given character by the sheer volume of your interests — you‘re also a furniture-maker, painter, historical lecturer . . . How do you mesh all these activities with your writing life? GL: It‘s true, I‘m also active as an historian. Annually, I give between a dozen and two dozen public lectures on historical topics ranging from the Hitchcock chair to the history of money in 19th-Century America. Right now someone is trying to talk me into giving a lecture on potato growing and growers in upstate New York during the late 1800s. I haven‘t made up my mind on this one yet. For the past 13 years or so, I‘ve worked for local open-air museums. I curate exhibits, do historical research, reenact
19th-century trades and crafts, and consult with other museum personnel about exhibits they are building. I enjoy the challenge and the feeling of working with the real stuff of history. Of course, much of this work feeds the poetry mill. I dare say I am just about the only living poet to have placed a poem in Grasshopper, the Member‘s Bulletin at Old Sturbridge Village. While I was working in the shoemaker‘s shop learning how to make 19th-century men‘s work boots called Brogans, I wrote a poem called the Language of Tools that imagines the sound of the tools as they make a pair of shoes. Poets take readers into odd corners of the world they may not have visited yet. History is my entree to poetry. As chief Curator of the Valentown Museum in Victor, NY, I‘m frequently called upon to give tours and talks on a variety of historical subjects. I think most people assume history is about the accumulation of facts about the past, but the closer you get to historical documents, the more you realize people in the past were just as conflicted and contradictory as they are today. For example, while cataloging the Valentown Archive, I came across an old box containing Ku Klux Klan material from the 1920s. There even was a Klan robe for a child in there made of silk with red crosses sewn over the heart. At first, I was horrified by it and avoided the box. It made me feel dirty just to have the stuff around, but eventually when I dug into it, I discovered that the people who ran the Klan in the North of the 1920s did not think of themselves as running a hate group. They thought of themselves as an oppressed minority, and to some degree, what they felt was right even though I think how they acted on it was wrong. They pledged allegiance to the flag, professed Christian values, and espoused the family and home.
Their racial views were only one aspect of what they thought they were doing.
EAH: Before your immersion in history and curating?
I‘m still horrified by the very concept of the Klan and the stuff still gives me the willies, but I‘ve come to understand more widely what forces gave rise to this sort of group. Real contact with the actual documents of history widens your perspective. I think historical material has been a major source of inspiration for my poetry though I haven‘t written any poems about the Klan just yet.
GL: For 25 years, I was a literature professor at a half dozen universities around the States. The last ten years I taught at The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where I taught some advanced literature and creative writing courses, and a lot of basic courses in composition. I also taught the History of American Technology for many years, which fueled my interest in scientists. RIT has long had something called The Athenaeum, a life-long learning center for those over 50 who want to enrich their lives with teaching and learning.
I enjoy working with archives. We have some 40,000 pieces of historical paper and 5,500 historical books, all of which I am trying to get into a computer catalog system designed for us last year. In addition to the archive, we have a 4story museum with about 10,000 square feet of exhibit space, 25,000 objects, and over 12 acres with gardens. Like most historical societies, we struggle for financial survival, but it‘s great fun seeing people‘s reactions to the collection. Kids‘ are the best, because they see things with fresh eyes.
After 20 years of teaching in colleges, not always getting the courses I wanted to teach, I gravitated toward The Athenaeum, which allowed me to teach whatever I chose. I‘ve been teaching there for the last 13 years. Since I‘m retired, I split my time between being a poet and being curator at the Valentown Museum. In both capacities, I‘ve given a lot of speeches in my day. The trick, of course, is to learn your material so well that you can give the talk totally without notes in your hand. Then, you can watch the audience and respond instantly to their every mood. The result is that your talk conforms to their expectations and everyone has a good time. That results in repeat invitations and rave reviews. It really is simple once you understand the fundamentals. EAH: Good advice. I believe the writer‘s most useful tool is his or her observation. But it‘s not just what he sees that matters, as it‘s his thinking process that translates this awareness into conceptual language and abstract communication. What‘s your take on this?
―Archives‖ by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
10 GL: There‘s a small area of the brain which controls the ability to conceive and manipulate abstract thought. It‘s called Wernicke‘s Area, and it develops last. Most high-school and college teachers know that in any given class you can expect real abstract thought from only a tiny fraction of your students. That‘s why buried inside every syllabus is a pathway which allows concrete thinkers to pass and even get a good grade in any course. You can‘t absolutely demand abstract thought, because only a small portion of any population can do it at any real level. I was a concrete thinker through high school. My abilities bloomed somewhat in college, but I was always aware of limitations. I sat back in wonder when I heard some people work with an idea. I admired them greatly, but it wasn‘t really in my intellectual arsenal to follow suit. It probably wasn‘t until I entered my forties that I started to realize a need to define the world with more abstract thinking. Conflicting experiences required of me a more nuanced way to understand reality. I suppose, much before that time, I didn‘t need to be able to hold multiple conflicting concepts in my head at once. After I learned to do this little trick, I was ready to write more complex poetry, which encapsulates real human experiences with all their troubles attached. This was part of my achieving a real voice in poetry. Wernicke‘s Area is a tiny spot in the center of the brain, no bigger than a pencil eraser. Yet it controls much of what it takes to construct poetry or do art at a significant level. We all can imitate something after we‘ve studied it long enough, but the ability to create new images and metaphors from reality is a function of being able to balance
contradictory and complementary highlevel abstractions all at once. Joining and contrasting these ideas creatively is what makes art reverberate. In art schools, they study this per se under the category of aesthetic theory. I wish poets got the same training. Instead, we have to drift on the idea that our poetry is only truly meaningful to our readers when it offers tantalizing suggestions that stimulate half-realized connections in the reader‘s brain. Figuring out how to make that happen in words is the essence of writing poetry that speaks to larger audiences. Being able to do this consciously is what makes an artist in any medium, and not just a painter or a writer.
“There’s a scientific way of thinking that’s quantitatively different from the intuitiveartistic approach to problemsolving, but I don’t accept that there’s a clean bright line of demarcation between the sciences and the humanities. You might perform each in a rote and repetitive way, but both sides of the brain are required.” ~ G. L.
The Implacable Anger of Karl Marx By Gary Lehmann
Anger dominates Karl Marx‘s Das Kapital, a rage over the distribution of wealth, a tireless demand, for the right of workers to resist the corrosive effects of money. We think of Karl Marx writing his famous philosophical treatise in his black frock coat under the domed light of the great Reading Room in the British Museum, and he did. What we tend not to ask is why he wrote it in such a public place? The answer is also das kapital. Marx was desperately poor and had a large family at home. Even those who have their fingers on the pulse of history do not live outside its forces. At night he played on the floor with his kids, scrimped on food and clothing, even pawned his frock coat, just so he could go on explaining why class warfare can only end in bloodshed. Poverty pinches most acutely when the children suffer. Born the son of a lawyer, Marx did not grow up as part of the working class himself. He was well-educated, managed and owned things before throwing it all over for philosophy. History is messy when you get down to the details. Real history always trembles with irony.
EAH: Contrast: abstract thought, yet concrete language or images — it seems the ideal approach for creating universal, intellectual connections. So, how do you consciously connect what you observe with your aims at reaching the largest audiences? GL: I write about the life that I see about me, but unlike many poets, I use historical figures to flesh my themes. Every poem is about me, in one way or another, but as a reader I quickly tire of poets who want to unleash their total biography on me in poetry. Instead, I like poets who bring me the lessons and realizations they‘ve experienced in life through the medium of other people‘s lives.
For example, I recently saw a film on the life of Bruce Lee, the martial artist who did Enter the Dragon, and other films. At 32, he fell into a mysterious coma and died. Considering how furiously he fought onscreen and off, he should have died a hundred times before. Then he dies for no apparent reason. Now that‘s material for a poem — at least for me. I‘m not sure how to frame it yet, but the idea‘s there. We think we have control of life because we make conscious decisions every day, but so often it‘s the traffic accident, the fall from a horse, the fall into or out of love, the financial reversal or the chance meeting that changes everything for us. When I compose this idea into a poem, I‘ll have to locate the part that relates to readers. I suppose we all have the illusion of
control. Bruce Lee‘s death points to the greater truth that control is always illusory. For some poets, maybe for most, the idea is to take a simple concept and deck it with ornate words that make the language poetic. The goal is to achieve some memorable phrases or images. I do that sometimes too, but in general, my goal is more structural and consciously didactic. EAH: This may be true for a certain cross-section of poets, although as an editor, I see huge variety in materials. I find there‘s a sizeable population that strives to communicate messages and is concerned with content, whether or not its individual poets are also particular to emphasize sound, structure or conceptual imagery. I believe this has to do with maturity (of writing life, rather than age). Your concern, as well? GL: For me a poem is an occasion to say something useful about life. I suppose if I am brutally honest about it, I have to admit that my interest in Bruce Lee‘s unexplainable death has something to do with my own health right now. Over the last month, I‘ve been undergoing tests to find out if I have the beginnings of a terrible disease. This led me to thinking about the Bruce Lee scenario. It all fits together at some point in space. What I‘m interested in focusing on, in the lives of others, inevitably has a corollary in my own existence. For me, and I think for all good poets, the poem is always about the poet at some level. EAH: A measurable level. A quantum level. Beyond that base level of autobiography, though, there‘s your habit of biographical portraiture, a bonus
parallel to my inspiration for the current Quantum Mind issue of TCE: Dr. Richard Feynman (b.1918-d.1988). Although I don‘t expect every reader to know who he was, I‘m gratified that you do. How does this affect your understanding of the editorial slant? GL: In selecting poems to submit in keeping with the theme for this month‘s Centrifugal Eye, I‘ve chosen to interpret the quantum mind in the most allencompassing way. I want to conceive of Dr. Feynman‘s theories to include not only scientists and mathematicians but also moms, artists, and others in so far as they ―bring the obscure, the abstract and the complex into focus . . . with humor and flair.‖ Dr. Richard Feynman was a broadminded social thinker who believed that quantum mechanics applied not only to the physical universe but also to the creation of consciousness. Anyone who was a graduate of samba school and an avid bongo player as well as an atomic physicist would, I think, understand my effort at lateral thinking. There‘s a scientific way of thinking that‘s quantitatively different from the intuitive-artistic approach to problemsolving, but I don‘t accept that there‘s a clean bright line of demarcation between the sciences and the humanities. You might perform each in a rote and repetitive way, but both sides of the brain are required. There‘s a vast crossover area. We all have to be adept at both kinds of thought at various times. My poems focus on scientists such as Johannes Kepler and mathematicians such as Isaac Newton as they solve logical dilemmas using their scientific consciousness, but I‘ve also seen the scientific mind at work when a mom tries to catch up with the new consciousness of her college kids when they come home for the holidays, or a
conductor as he tries to discipline the notes produced by an unruly orchestra into playing in harmony. Ultimately, the truly scientific is real and the truly real is scientific. Whether we‘re talking about Picasso discovering the tenets of Cubism or Einstein exploring weightlessness, the most creative thought is multidimensional in that it connects up with many existing ideas. When people systematize and categorize a complex idea to make it more manageable, they inevitably extinguish the original spark that gave the idea brilliance. It may become more useful, but it loses much of its original elegance. EAH: One of your featured poems in this issue (pages 18-19), ―Discovering Rightness,‖ wrestles with portraying creative ideas and their acceptance in scientific vs. popular thinking. What inspired you to craft this poem, what was your process, and what connections do you hope readers will make? GL: ―Discovering Rightness‖ is an experimental two-part poem that took well over a year to write and much more to revise. I was still picking at it as many as 5 years after the original heat of composition wore off. It was originally two poems on similar themes. Then it occurred to me that the two subjects could be brought into a single form. I was experimenting with a number of things at once. Form: I like to create poems with hidden structures that emerge as you read the poem carefully. For example, I made minor alterations to the refrain to this poem and want the attentive reader to read each apparently repetitious line with a different emphasis, which shows how subtle changes matter in
understanding rightness. Each line in poem #1 has a parallel in poem #2 in some way. The impact should be cumulative. Readability: In general, I believe that a poem should reveal its meaning in one reading. This poem is denser than my average work and probably requires multiple readings. For once, I‘m giving myself permission to see what happens when I write a poem that‘s not transparent at one go. Meaning: This poem is unabashedly philosophical. Typically, philosophizing is not allowed in modern poetry, but why not? It‘s a poem about epistemology, the search for true meaning, which posits the view that rightness is socially determined. A single person reenvisions mathematics or just government, and changes everything for the rest of us with the force of his creative new take on reality. Precisely because Newton and Milton had their problems so long ago, I‘m hoping that readers can step back and see some aspects of their struggle to achieve rightness which might not be as visible if I was talking about Bernie Madoff or Al Gore, whose struggles for right meaning are almost as interesting. Every so often, I like to write a poem that challenges the way I‘ve been doing things for awhile. I‘m going through one of these periods of assessment right now. I think a periodic reconstruction of a poet‘s ideology is good. ―Discovering Rightness‖ does that in full; it‘s a stretch for me in a number of directions. I‘ve learned to enjoy this poem, and I‘m pretty confident that a certain brand of inquisitive reader will find it intriguing, as well. EAH: Readers can‘t see, but I‘m raising my hand in the background.
My experience of your poem evolved similarly to the description of your writing process. I had mixed feelings about the poem, which challenged me to continue to study it with both subjective and objective filtering. The structure echoes that left/right brain, scientific/ intuitive split/union in thinking and conceptualizing. I hope readers and writers will peruse ―Discovering Rightness‖ more than once or twice.
first place or the world had been taken over by evil. Paradise Lost is Milton‘s attempt to resolve this unresolved conflict within himself. It was such a fundamental conflict, it required fundamental rethinking of some basic issues. It‘s precisely because he was on the run, living in a state of chaos, going blind, all at once, that he was able to throw out all the established answers and recreate the world.
Is it self-contained conflict, or pressure from outside forces, that stimulates us to reexamine the validity of preconceptions?
EAH: You‘ve the historical world to inform your writing and challenge your perspective — great thinkers, scientists, inventors, leaders, artists, adventurers — but who‘s had the biggest influence on your writing?
GL: Recently, I‘ve been looking at a book by Sir Ken Robinson entitled Out of Our Minds, in which he claims we have so compartmentalized knowledge, and thus the funding and acquisition of knowledge, that we have inhibited the very ability to acquire new ideas, because everything has to stay within its box. That‘s why all the fantastic breakthroughs in thought come from outsiders, such as Einstein or Newton. From inside the system, you see only small efficiencies. Whole careers have been made on discovering small efficiencies, but it‘s only by placing your awareness, or being placed by circumstance, outside established norms of a science or an artistic medium that you view things in a totally new way. See Picasso, Freud, Teddy Roosevelt, Francis Bacon, etc. When he was part of the Glorious Revolution, Milton thought he was part of establishing the perfect reflection of God‘s will on earth, but then once in power, Milton slowly discovered there were excesses in his perfect kingdom. People hated him and the others who set up God‘s government. Suddenly, he was pushed out of office, hunted down, and reviled. Milton had to reconcile this situation. Either it wasn‘t God‘s government he helped establish in the
GL: My wife, Wendy, is a career public prosecutor who specializes in highprofile murder appeals. This means that for nearly 30 years I‘ve heard about heinous murders over the kitchen table on a regular basis. I don‘t write about crime or its motivations, but her stories constantly remind me that life is more varied than we can possibly imagine. People do some really crazy things while under the influence of great emotions, drugs, or alcohol, and the law does some pretty interesting things to try to make sense of their behaviors. You wouldn‘t believe the true story behind many front-page crimes. Of course, I write about famous people for the most part, but they‘re just as unusual as violent criminals. Any personality spectrum has extremes at both ends, social vs. anti-social, that have some surprising similarities. They‘re risk-takers, many of them willing to push the limits of behavior out to new boundaries. Because they break new ground, they uncover interesting aspects of life. They get into fascinating situations because they‘re not normal people, which is great for me because it gives me something stimulating to write about. Of course, most criminals, even
though they do unusual things, are not that interesting to me. They experiment in anti-social ways that usually reflect their inability to cope with real life. Geniuses, on the other hand, take their abnormality and make it work for them and the rest of us. That‘s worth examining. EAH: Anything new in the works about such geniuses that we can look forward to? GL: Right now I‘m working on another book of poems tentatively entitled American Portraits. I promised the editor at Foothills Press that I‘d have it to him this Winter, but it‘s become Spring, and I‘m still plugging away. Good thing he‘s already so overloaded with work he hasn‘t noticed yet.
―Idea Box‖ By E. A. Hanninen, 2009
Gary Lehmann is a writer, playwright and poet whose poems have been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His poem ―Reporting from Fallujah‖ was nominated for 2006, and his poem ―First in Flight‖ was nominated for 2007. His three act play "Susan B," about Susan B. Anthony's role in the suffrage movement in the Nineteenth Century, has been produced 3 times in Rochester and reviewed at the Detroit Repertory Theatre. He is the director of the Athenaeum Poetry Group and editor of the group‘s first chapbook, Poetic Visions. He is co-author and editor of a book of poetry entitled The Span I Will Cross (Process Press, 2004) which anthologizes poems of the poetry group, Five in the Afternoon. He is author of a book of poetry, entitled Public Lives and Private Secrets (Foothills Press, 2005), featuring poems on the private lives of famous people. His short play, ―My Health Care Worker Stole My Jewelry,‖ was selected for professional production in January 2006 by Geva Theatre, Rochester, NY. His second book of poetry, American Sponsored Torture, was released by Foothills Press in May 2007, and explores the moral implications of the American decision to accept torture as a means of gathering information. He regularly publishes over 60 articles and poems per year. Gary is regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Gary Blog (email@example.com) (http://www.garylehmann.blogspot.com)
by Gary Lehmann
How to Levitate a Frog
Take an ordinary swamp frog and offer him liberty in exchange for immunity. Pass the subject frog over a plate of ionized steel for a full fifteen minutes. Charge the plate to 77 hertz. Do not overheat, or the frog will explode. The frog MUST agree never to reveal any of your uplifting secrets, And to sign the Voluntary Non-Collusionary Amphibian Consent Form. You are now fully prepared to levitate your frog using all natural methods. For complete liability protection, be sure the frog has no living relatives. Feed the frog small quantities of powdered barium and strontium 90. Offer a chaser of puréed carrot tops mixed with a tasty worm pâté. Few frogs there are who can resist this succulent designer mixture. To raise your frog, place him within the ZONE OF LEVITATION. Hold the frog at full elevation for 15 minutes to amaze colleagues. Don't mention the reproductive implications to the frog at this point. Pass a silver hoop under the frog to dispel any lingering doubts. Provide triplicate copies for the journal's reviewing staff. Discard the frog. Your reputation is made.
The sailors first noticed the giant shadow of a pair of birds coming across the windswept water. They looked into the clouds and saw winged Venus in a red sled drawn by birds. The clouds looked like cotton balls painted in watercolor and pasted onto a silk background. They began to suspect that something very strange was occurring. The sailors in shock realized that their little ship, the wind tossed sea, even the strange village on the shore were all the imaginings of Betsy B. Lathrop of Quincy, Mass., who painted them in 1811. The sudden awareness that they were someone else‘s creation, framed and merchandised by strangers, deeply alarmed the simple sailors. Just so amazed were we to watch on in horror as 19 men abducted our future, reframed our vision, and drew their vectors over our flight plan.
―Cotton Sky‖ By Stephanie Curtis, 2009
Just so amazed were we
18 Discovering Rightness
Young Isaac Newton escaped the Cambridge plague of 1666 by returning to his stone cottage in Woolsthorpe. At night, quite alone, he looked through the leaded glass windows at his bedside into the cool light of the great heavens which slowly shifted position above him like a giant clockwork pulverizing time on the grindstone of shifting space. The unknown always seems chaotic and menacing until superstitions give way to suspicions. Inevitable rightness can't be defined or refined at the time. It just feels right in the light of celestial might. At 23, Newton's young eyes were sharp. He devised a system to record the placement of each planet within the diamond-shaped quadrants of his bedroom window panes. As he kept his records month after month and read the mathematics of Tyco Brach, he found in the night skies patterns that transformed a cold and ruthless canopy into a predictable embracing universe. The unknown always seems chaotic and menacing until superstitions give way to suspicions. Inevitable rightness can't be defined or refined at the time. It just feels right in the light of celestial might. Newton observed the planets moving not in circles but in ellipses. Objects accelerate as they approach the sun and are retarded as they move away, throwing the pathway out of round. Newton discovered that he could calculate speeds that depend upon a hundred variables even when their influences are never the same from one instant to the next, so discovering calculus. The unknown always seems chaotic and menacing until superstitions give way to suspicions. Inevitable rightness can't be defined or refined at the time. It just feels right in the light of celestial might. His neighbors thought him quite mad. Why should young Newton try to write down the sky in numbers? Doesn't science have finer tools than leaded glass templates? How can such a fabric of speculation be true? Newton looked up into his sky with renewed admiration. All was suddenly right. His neighbors were angry. Newton broke open their sky, revealing an emptiness which frightened them. His form emerged from their chaos, while their chaos emerged from his form.
Discovering Rightness: Part II
John Milton was crushed after his Glorious Revolution failed. The people restored a decadent and corrupt King to the throne of England. But why? Milton was frightened for his life. His outspoken support for uprightness and justice now made him a traitor for openly doubting royal authority. He feared the people who had rejected even the idea of a just society. The unknown always seems chaotic and menacing until superstitions give way to suspicions. Inevitable rightness can't be defined or refined at the time. It just feels right in the light of celestial might. In 1666, John Milton hid away in a tiny London flat. He was losing his eyesight and was forced to retreat within himself to seek explanations. As visions came, he began to recite poetry to his daughters who wrote down what he said, even though they only half understood what his words might mean. He wrote Paradise Lost to try to explain man's terrible weakness for wickedness and sin. The unknown always seems chaotic and menacing until superstitions give way to suspicions. Inevitable rightness can't be defined or refined at the time. It just feels right in the light of celestial might. He wanted to understand the failure of goodness. Why would people push away honest government and embrace the old world of self-deception? self-destruction? greed? Why does man stray from his true self like a planet wobbling off its course? How can frail man relocate the capacity for goodness, like a comet finding his true pathway in a burning, ice-blue calculus of honest emotion? The unknown always seems chaotic and menacing until superstitions give way to suspicions. Inevitable rightness can't be defined or refined at the time. It just feels right in the light of celestial might. The madness of Milton's failed revolution began to make sense to him as he thought of these things and saw beyond ungovernable Royalist frenzies. His neighbors thought him quite mad. Why does blind Milton try to see into the human soul while science has the tools to open up the whole sky? Milton rejoiced and spoke secretly with his publisher while Newton made plans to return to Cambridge â€”like two comets streaking across the sky of inevitable rightness.
â€•Earthly Marblesâ€– By K. R. Copeland, 2009
Loving Missives from the King Dome
Suppose the world of our unknowing is like all the space inside the King Dome, & the world of our knowing is like a bucket of marbles located at center court. I stand & stare down into this earthly bucket. Here is Biology, Geology, Zoology. Aren't they beautiful? Each marble is perfectly structured, well organized & clear. Each crystalline sphere contains crystals of its own, pressing on adjacent crystals. All perfect, parallel beauties creating a vision of completeness, integrity & power. Then, without warning, marbles start exploding, magically fragmenting into space. It's very frightening, but everything has its own reasoning. Variables have rights. All that space around our tiny bucket is exerting secret forces we do not understand. Restless unknowing invades quiet knowing with loving missives from the King Dome.
Read more about Gary Lehmann on our interview pages, 7-15.
A Conductor admonishes discordant notes
Every day I conduct a new concerto, in a parallel universe to the one that I struggled with the day before. The tune is always much the same, but the orchestration changes subtly, the mood, the tenor shift so slightly. One day, the bassoon melody just got up and walked straight off stage in a huff. I never did learn why. Another time, violins and trumpets, traditional enemies, unexpectedly staged a sumptuous picnic right in the middle of a fine rehearsal. These interruptions are most unwelcome. They disturb the harmony I seek to invoke in everyday life, but how can I complain? Even while I am sleeping, the notes will confound the paper on which they appear, and I am left to wonder if I am the conductor or just a man sent here to wrestle music from raucous discordant notes, renegade instruments and rebellious musicians who refuse to obey.
22 Sudoku in Words: Puzzling Out the Poetry of Bin Ramke Sudoku in Words: Puzzling out the Poetry of Bin Ramke ~ By Gary Lehmann
Ramke’s poetry is an ornate puzzle of words which invites you to explore its rich landscape to create meanings of your own from his suggestions. It is not easy poetry to read, and even harder to hear read. Both his father and mother were involved in the sciences and so he has a familiarity and comfort level with technological facts and scientific theories. These often appear in his poems. Even chemical formulas are employed. For a time, he studied mathematics before turning to writing.
If you are seeking accessible poetry, you‘d best look elsewhere. If you want a poem with a clear statement, you will be disappointed, but if you are content to puzzle through a pile of words in the form of a quasi-meditation— if it doesn‘t bother you to be up-ended in a word tumbler of intriguing relationships— if you don‘t mind sifting through unrelated ideas until you glean reflected meanings at several levels at once, then feast your eyes. In ―Virtual Sculpture,‖ from his poetry book Airs, Waters, Places, Ramke launches into a kind of rumination on found objects. These cast-offs from the industrial world reflect the current state of life, but only when discovered by an inquiring mind. The opening lines are illustrative of Ramke‘s method. There is no excuse for sadness consider the starving the lilies the children of the field who toil not neither are they happy She is one who brings the weight of industrial ingenuity to bear on a small object of art
Notice the strange use of enjambment. The word ―consider‖ only makes sense with the first words of the following line, ―the starving lilies.‖ The word doesn‘t work as part of the rest of the first line. He seems to repeat himself with ―not neither,‖ but there are subtle differences between these negatives, each cutting into his topic in a different way. Then there is the surface cleverness of his word play. Not, ―lilies of the field,‖ too trite. No, Ramke prefers ―the starving the lilies the children of the field.‖ Much more complex and suggestive. Notice how he focuses our attention on the subject of the poem by isolating the line ―object of art.‖ The poem is about found sculpture in an industrial age when objects have so many ambiguous meanings for humans. We don‘t think of things as the products of someone‘s labor, though indirectly at least, they are. We seem only to find value in objects when they are presented to us in a commercial setting. In a junkyard or trash heap, they are just the detritus of civilization, the sad leftovers of our intensely material culture.
The lack of punctuation in Ramke‘s poetry forces the reader to search for word combinations that make sense. He plays with anagrams such as in the line ―cast eros sore loser‖ from the same poem. As you wrestle with the quasi-meanings you start to uncover in Ramke‘s poems, you develop a kind of Zen sensibility from the search. ―If she is also pregnant then she is two / and haunted by the opposite of ghost.‖ Then he surprises us with a repetition of ―two‖ in the next words, ―the too / too solid‖ with its implied reference to Hamlet‘s famous soliloquy. It‘s like Sudoku — with words, not numbers. His familiarity with the details of science and industry make it possible for him to raise the subject of subverting General Motors into becoming a sort of patron of the arts as it causes loosened pieces of its vehicles to be scattered across the landscape for artistic sorts to discover. He can talk about ―the boiling of biology‖ without dropping away from his intended vocabulary. What other poet can do that? Sometimes, a new level of meaning emerges from the interplay of sound and sense in his poem. Thus just as you are about to read ―esthetically‖ he alters the word to read ―ecstatically,‖ thus throwing you off your anticipated pathway. So, ―she places the cast off part on a stone itself ecstatically chosen.‖ It‘s right. It‘s just not what you expected. Ramke has other tricks up his sleeve. In his poem, Surface Tension, he runs a line down the center of the poem which
Virtual Sculpture by Bin Ramke
is made up of two or three blank spaces between words in each line. Strangely, this space starts to take on meaning as the poem develops its thoughts. Are you just imagining this extra dimension? Ramke lets you find your own focus, but he is the one who thought to do it, and soon you discover that he might be right to create something out of nothing in this way. Reading the poetry of Bin Ramke is not for the faint of heart. It requires a great deal of probing and questioning. It demands a vivid curiosity. It challenges our assumptions about poetry and about life in this all-too-industrial world. In general, I am not a fan of poetry that is purposefully obscure, but the work of Bin Ramke is intriguing at enough levels to hold my interest. It‘s extremely fresh. I can think of no poet living or dead who is doing or has done what he does. Blending dreamscape and scientific fact into a seamless meditation, Ramke explores his understanding of reality using extended metaphors that collide, ramble, bunch up and then move on. Yet, for all the facts in a Ramke poem, he resists utterly the temptation to draw conclusions. It's almost as if he is positively averse to them. He wants the reader to work that part out. You can go on reading and rereading one of Ramke‘s poems as long as you like. His poetry is basically prose poetry without any narrative sense. That is, much of it could be read backwards or forwards with equal appreciation. The meaning is laced into the juxtaposition of the words, not into its sequencing. I know of no precursor to his style. It is truly unique.
John Byrne John Byrne
―You Don’t Negotiate with Gravity‖*
―You don‘t negotiate with gravity‖ As when I stumbled unexpectedly Into a glimpse of you that instantly Eliminated all the used-to-be. Where I had walked, I was now falling free, Whirling, tumbling down incessantly Inside a thought I thought obsessively: I‘d never land unless you were with me. There was assurance in the memory That science says the force acts mutually And as I spiraled down ungracefully I could believe that you‘d be drawn to me So who was I to fight with gravity As it arranged us as we ought to be.
* From Hot, Flat, and Crowded (pg. 185), by Thomas Friedman (2008).
―Perfect Spiral‖ By E. A. Hanninen, 2009
The best and worse were hidden ‗neath the bed — Some mostly fire, but some articulate, And others that should never have been said — A realization that came ‗round too late. When dumped on top of all the sentences I swept up from behind the stacks of books, Beneath the couch, and outside by the fence, I ended with a pile. The sorting took All day and now I‘ve got huge heaps of good And bad, of clever and ridiculous, Of words unsaid, and words misunderstood, Of sentiments that worked to sever us And phrases, if recycled carefully, May turn the I and I back into we.
John Byrne lives in Albany, Oregon. He writes traditional poems, short stories, and puppet plays. He also volunteers in his daughter's elementary school helping youngsters with writing and computer based research. Other poems of his have appeared most recently in Lucid Rhythms, Umbrella Journal and The Lyric.
26 Bryce Christensen Bryce Christensen
John von Neumann
Your math disrupted no one's dreams: Analogs reached sums in silence; Theorems muffled A-bombs' violence. What numbers hushed your deathbed screams?
Sand melts to sauce beneath flames of a tongue That hungrily licks a mushrooming cloud, Condiment perfect for flesh, old and young, Rashers of meat from a flash-broiled crowd, Food for a table provisioned by science. Mere Japanese morsels will appetize, Till chefs can appease the glutton's sense, When oceans make soup, and all the world fries.
â€•Furnaceâ€– By Dan Ruhrmanty, 2009
Bryce Christensen, who teaches writing and literature at Southern Utah University, received his Ph. D. in English literature from Marquette University. Author of the novel Winning (Whiskey Creek Press), he has published poetry in The Formalist, Christianity and Literature, First Things, Snakeskin, Modern Age and other journals, and has had poetry anthologized in Sonnets: 150 Contemporary Sonnets and The Conservative Poets: A Contemporary Anthology (both from University of Evansville Press). He and his wife Mary are the parents of three sons and two grandsons.
Robert Demaree Robert Demaree
At the Science Center
â€•Scientific Morphoâ€– By K. R. Copeland, 2009
The drift of the exhibits registers only vaguely As I wander, sadly incurious myself, After my grandson, age nine, Marveling at the rapt, informed zeal With which he tries each game and gizmo Meant to show how the world works. At length I am struck By the metallic iridescence Of the blue Morpho butterfly, Whose life is measured in weeks.
Robert Demaree is the author of three collections of poems, including Fathers and Teachers, published April 2007 by Beech River Books. The winner of the 2007 Conway, N.H., Library Poetry Award, he is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where he lives five months of the year. He has had over 300 poems published or accepted by 90 periodicals. Contact Robert Blog (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Antonia Clark Antonia Clark
String Theory With Cat
Like a cat curled in a square of sun, a fuzzy distortion in the familiar pattern of cabbage rose carpet, complexity curls at the base of an equation, waiting to be freed by logic or luck. Released into order, dimensions unfurl into ears and paws, whiskers and tail. There is a difference, we want to insist, between the beauty of metaphor and the fur we sink our fingers in, between the elegance of equation and the razor tooth, the bloody claw. In one possible world, a cat yawns into being, paws at a ball of string, and rolls it, a marble, a planet, across sunlit space, into a corner.
â€•Yawnâ€– By Stephanie Curtis, 2009
Coming of Age in the Physical World
My mother's hazel eyes, my father's look of surprise, my sister's braided hair in a locked chest. The force and rate of change, a reaction for every act or notion, a sense of endless motion. Their bodies at rest.
Antonia Clark works for a medical software company in Burlington, Vermont. She is currently coadministrator 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. This is Antonia‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Antonia The Waters
―Eight Miles High‖ By Dan Ruhrmanty, 2009
Zoë Gabriel Zoë Gabriel
Stephen Hawking in my Kitchen
Quarks of sugar dissolve in the black hole of my coffee cup. Thunder vibrates the chair under me, centuries cracking open like eggshells or china, melting the table and kitchen walls. I make for an unfortunate watercolor, shimmering like a supernova remnant. Coffee and cake in a storm are reassuring as a life raft, yet I panic at every peel of thunder, imagining the ripple effect to be uncontrollable, sending the universe as we know it into dissonance, derailing the particles of my being out of their orbits. All along he seems to chuckle at my fear of entropy.
―Light Years‖ By Dan Ruhrmanty, 2009
Zoë Gabriel‘s poems have appeared in Oysters & Chocolate, Tales of the Talisman, Illumen, Word Riot, The Commonline Project, Thieves Jargon, GlassFire Magazine, Grasslimb, The Centrifugal Eye, Poetry Midwest, Southern Ocean Review, Salt River Review, Locust Magazine, Unlikely Stories, AntiMuse And Cadenza; she has work forthcoming in Tales of the Unanticipated and Weird Tales. Zoë dyes her hair, but is naturally tall. She loves books, languages, spicy food and colorful socks. She is from Europe and lives in Maryland. Zoë is a regular contributor The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Zoë
―Dessert‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2009
Mr. And Mrs. Eats
Beyond love, there was food. Instead of foreplay, preparation And all the required sex sauced the tip of a spoon. She spread her lips and tasted. Mmmm. Good. For him, staying became eating. Where else could he get a meal this sumptuous. Beauty abandoned her face for the plate. And handsome was happy to be appetite. They were married thirty years. And every one was on the menu.
John Grey is an Australian-born poet, and US resident since the late ‗seventies. Works as a financial systems analyst. Recently published in Connecticut Review, Georgetown Review and REAL, with work upcoming in Poetry East, Cape Rock and the Pinch. John is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Clint Frakes Clint Frakes
1. The boys danced in their sleep for centuries with the noise, the acids, the cures & the glass: 40,000 starving miners before the sacred plate of roses, children yelling from fire escapes & verandahs. There was no rest. No one cared for the river or mounted the great horses or reckoned the length of the blue beach. The five Pandava brothers lunched with industry, sold otter pelts & seal fat by the shore, hocked the circumference of the lotus, dislocating the sky from the points of the stars.
2. Since then the glacier has thawed at Mt. Ararat revealing the Ark & the fate of the Japhethites. The surviving cannibals rebuke the mysteries of magnetism & light & bicker over the petty remnants of Einstein‘s bottled brain. Wilhelm Reich, our martyred sage forever in contempt of court, vanishes in his cell with the secrets of orgone & rain. The bones of cast-off infants baled and stacked in convent cellars like the vaults of Pol Pot. Sixty million bison demand compensation. No one has teeth. No one rides the boxcars upward or sees the yellow noise of the tambourine. The moon has been razed & salted & the sky‘s turbine wobbles. ―Brain Bottle‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2009
Antonin Artaud who gathered & ate Godâ€˜s starry green flesh one dawn among Tarahumara, when will you rise & convince people not to work? When will you rid Manhattan of its pesky anemone of sleep & raise Walt Whitman over the barbed wire to marry him again to his thousand suns? When will you restore the lost tale of the human face?
3. Look: they are lost in the parlors, lost beneath the planets they harvested & can recount every detail. The Lord sleeps; the naga laze; the bull teeters on one leg & a legion of embalmed deities have no one to dream them. Draupadi too, the mind beneath these five senses, has forgotten Vishnu the Preserver who sleeps on chaos like a bed of leaves. She has forgotten the little backdoor to the temple & the hidden recesses of the soul, the common flower names that might have pulled us free.
Clint Frakes currently lives in Sedona, AZ. He has recently received the James Vaughan Award for Poetry and the Peggy Ferris Memorial Award for Poetry. He is a graduate of the Naropa and Northern Arizona University writing programs and received his doctorate with emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Hawaii in 2006. He is currently working on his second full book of poetry, entitled Citizen Poems. His recent work can be found in Bamboo Ridge, Hawaii Pacific Review and Tinfish. He is the former Chief Editor of Hawaii Review and Big Rain. Clint is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Clint
4. Vagrants have lit fires behind the stadium while children gather at the river in bright vests with violins singing to the deposed queen & her martini glass. A shirtless boy writes his name in a column of ash, stares up for the familiar blue star. The sky reddens & avatars collide like drunks. Thereâ€˜s something frantic in the air: the phantom rulers and chaste youth search for catatonic fathers multiplied in the belly of night.
Sarah Higley Sarah Higley
Francine, my ―little France,‖ five years of age, And your exiled father lost you to disease As he was writing down the properties Of clockwork flesh where reason finds its seat Within the brain. Legends tell, retell (When gossip said your father was a mage) How he took your android copy overseas And magnetized your porcelain hands and feet, Made you to lisp again. Alas, you fell Over the edge. Frightened by your eyes The captain pitched what he thought was straight from hell Into the brine. Deep down you sank, your hair, Your dollish, rusting limbs reaching for air. In vain, the world hoped you had drowned the lies, Despite his faith, your father prophecies: The heretic doubt, my sad, twice-lost Francine, That soul is something separate from machine.
―Mechanical Mind‖ By E. A. Hanninen, 2009
Sarah Higley, a professor of English at the University of Rochester, has published widely on Old and Middle English, Old Norse and Old High German poetry and language, as well as articles on simulacra (the history of the automaton, imaginary languages, miniatures — i.e., all the things that have drawn her to an exploration of Second Life and other virtual or immersive environments). She has an abiding interest in mind, body, social consciousness and linguistics, and besides her courses in medieval literature she teaches creative writing and film, publishing fantasy and science fiction (under the nom de plume of "Sally Caves"). Contact Sarah
The Dwindle Days When I think of my entire life condensed into a year, Being fourteen on Valentines Day with the prom soon after, And being legally twenty-one in late March, With the Fourth of July past my expected half-way point And Halloween not the fun it once was, It is sobering to realize that Christmas is over, The tree is down, and the ornaments are put away.
Chet Klingensmith was born in 1927 near Pittsburgh, PA where his parents owned and operated a nine-hole golf course across the Allegheny River from Oakmont Country Club. World War II was raging as he was finishing high school, and at age 17 he enlisted in the U. S. Maritime Service and graduated from their Radio School on Gallups Island in Boston Harbor. He spent his 18th birthday as Second Radio Officer on the oil tanker SS Fort Fetterman in the South Pacific. Soon after the A-Bomb was dropped, Chet had appendicitis at sea, and was taken off ship in Panama, where he had the operation at Gorgas Hospital. Returning home, the local Draft Board advised that sailing on a Merchant Ship did not constitute "service" (they later revised this rule) and let him enlist for 18 months in the Army. He ended his Army service as Feature Editor on the MessageSignaleer, the Post Newspaper at Fort Monmouth, NJ. Chet married Betsy Walker from Tarentum, PA, and after career and dwelling changes, and two children, he retired from a career as a Property & Casualty Insurance Agent. He presently resides in Jacksonville, FL, where he vacuums the pool, cuts the grass, publishes a high school newsletter, and occasionally writes something.
â€•The Hours Flower Southwardâ€– By K. R. Copeland, 2009
hromolinguistics Language to ashes Text to dust Our land's first artist is laid to rest. from Elegy (c. 5000 BCE) The ghost is in the ground, the ghost is in the cave, the ghost has dots & lines, the ghost vibrates in humid cave wall paintings, the ghost is the paintings, the ghost is cubist & ancient, & I am the ancient cubist painting's final patron, a viewer misplaced (detached temporally), an idea, a body, an e pluribus unum of ideas, but I, Lucius Fibonacci, a separate mind, a line drawer, will be cubist, & I will hear the cosmic background radiation's pre-luminescence, & I will anticipate enlightenment's melodic spheres, & I will paint on the eternal backdrop of cave walls an entrance & an egress.
â€•Divideâ€– By Dan Ruhrmanty, 2009
• At the cave's infinitesimal end: a pre-Luminescent, with one vision & one song, paints— the pre-Luminescent is a being who, with paintbrushes, sticks, moss lamps, & thighs, alchemizes this cave by painting with hemoglobin drawn from my thigh, is a being with sagging breasts & a cosmology on its ass, is a being that is an uncelebrated ghost who is unable to celebrate. I turn & cave moisture reflects my facial capillaries. I strum a stalactite & sing my sixteenth-note understanding of pre-neo-cubism & my paintbrush cognizance of the cave. I attempt to see through my monochromaticism. I see zigzags & dots, I scream, I'm hypnotized, my flesh trembles, my heart beats 5/4 time, I salivate. I am in a theater with stiff-muscled patron-viewers in raincoats & no popcorn. Am I a projector? I laugh out, "Where am I cast on the screen?" to the dead guy next to me, anyone near, you, reader, "Are you a Neo-Luminescent? a projection?" "Quiet, unless you paint me to be." "Are you the dots & lines?" "Are dimensions necessary," you reply through the page, & if I say, "No," will I become a pointillist. • I crave a cubist perspective to investigate all the cave's hollows, all the stalactites of resonance, the stalagmite of now, the perspective, the now-angle, a neo-now angle. & a Thing & a Self, & a Thing-in-a-Self that is nothing. Thing that stands, that is cast; Self that speaks, that has chromatic grammar: that is myriad Thing-in-Self, but that is not my projection, that is not my drawing, that is not my vowels, nor consonants, but, nonetheless, heeds my vowels!
The Thing is a cage cast by reverends of the Iron. Horizontal & vertical monochrome bars welded, a cosmic lattice between me & the prism of perspectives— polychromatic blasts from cosmic background radiation. The iron bars' intersections alchemize radiation to sounds & colors. The cage is the Idea— the awakened cubist cave element, lines spiraled thru time to the viewer, its own idea revealed in detail, at last, again & again, into quantum levels with constant chaos continually calculated, & the concept of its own detail. The Idea recreates the cave from pre-caved times. Thus, it might be a hydrogen atom or an Aleph dragging permuted ions created from vowels bouncing around the cave in exact echo of initial announcement— voicing a grander idea of the cave & expanding perspectives thru a universe & immense cosmologies. It might be a golden rectangle drawn on one ghost mind or a reflection of the uncelebrated ghost mind. It might be poems from a Neo-Luminescent, or a reflection of my mind, perhaps in my mind, perhaps in the mind that wrote this poem, or the poem's own mind that thinks the Thing that is the beginning & the end. & perhaps the mind will die. The ghost, the songless, the prayerless, the secret-from-us, the unhypothesized limitless, the being who creates being, who exhilarates in quantum detail, perceives thru all dimensions in multipleperspectives simultaneously — multiple & single act uniquely, & am I unable to appreciate? • I, Lucius Fibonacci, hypothesize a ghost-idea, & I hypothesize the ghost: the ghost dwells in the underground, the ghost is humid like the cave, the ghost dwells in the cave walls, the ghost invades the unawake, the ghost will fade into the wall with the paint, the ghost will appear from the wall, the ghost paints itself, the ghost is poly-rhythmic, the ghost flies like desire made song,
the ghost screams of death in ghost-consonants, the cry of birth is ghost-vowels, the ghost is in the tomb, & the ghost is in the womb, the ghost is unique to itself uniquely, I need the ghost to inspire me to be lyric, polychromatic, the ghost thinks like the alphabet, the ghost speaks from all times, the ghost always hear itself, the ghosts needs to sleep, the ghost needs to rest from multi-perspectives, the ghost needs to be repainted by a neo-now-painter, the ghost needs me, the ghost invites me with colors, the ghost invites me with brush, the ghost gives me endless canvas & the awakeness to be apart from awakeness, to perceive. The ghost calls me to wake & sleep, to sing, I sleep, I wake, again & again simultaneously. The ghost can't exist independent of me. The ghost vibrates in the humid cave wall paintings. The ghost whispers a consonant & sounds a round vowel. â€˘ Dots & zigzags vortex into the walls, painted ghosts leap from the walls, stalactites resonate bass tones, new colors are alchemized, eyes envision, perceive, & one idea in one drawn line on one cave wall becomes multi-idea, multi-color perspectives in multi-dimensions painted into the wall, & becomes energy, becomes consciousness, becomes Idea, becomes vision, & becomes the cubism of a Neo-Omnipresent-Luminescent, Lucius Fibonacciâ€” an awakened ghost-viewer-patron-painter for the eternal palimpsest, the eternal cave wall.
Three Voices of Creation I. Time Yes, the creature gives birth to itself
Ginsberg, "Xmas Gift"
(Motion is turning itself away. "But how?," a voice faded by time Inquired from another movement Set apart by a stomp.) The creature screams & sings & chants to itself at every moment of itself: "And I am virgin
right now w/o a babe, And I am the voice of motion w/o a tranquil spot to sleep, And I am Einstein's constant though not set & disturbing him, And I have stopped & started cuz I move like a dancer under dying fluorescent lights, And I never say, 'tick tock tick tock' cuz I've no voice that lingers like a melody, For I am the cause of everything. Einstein & Newton are fools For they use reason to assume That I, the mother of all things, That I, who gives them reason to think, would flow. I'm not constant, & I'm not reasonable, for I am that dancing step that stomps & stammers around & around. And I give birth to motion after masturbating myself in multi-bursts, And I am a moment or a now between a burst & a burst, And I am all the moments though not joined For I am the great destroyer who allows the poets of ancient poesy to create & recreate w/o motion or reason."
And motion danced away. II. Motion Contemplate the void: this world exceeds stillness. Han-shan Trans. Gary Snyder With a foot in air, a foot down to timing, Between a burst & a burst, Motion danced again & than moaned, "It was I who let you be, & who set you ticking. My movement's letting you be; My movements force your beatings, For I am your bursting pulse." (To the void again; the timeless moment now.)
"Hear the moan of past? It exceeds timelessness. See me, a flash, & not you. Feel my agĂŠd footstep boom. I give your pantheon of timeless poets Moments for reasonableness to create." And Time groaned.
Quite quiet. Everything is quiet. Nothing is quiet. Quite quiet. No more. Listen. It's the sound of a cry. "It is I. Oh, my position is open now, & burst after burst, grows. Don't stop me now. Let me go. Go Motion. Go Time. Let your thoughts be known. Let your poets now go Remake & bemoan. For I am a burst & a burst, & I am between the burst & the burst. & you're just moments that follow If I choose to grow. Ha ha. He he. Ho ho. It is I in control. Only I will know If you shall flow, For I am everything." Tom Holmes is a co-founding co-editor of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics. He is author of After Malagueña (FootHills Publishing, 2005), Negative Time (Pudding House, 2007), Poetry Assignments: The Book (Sage Hill Press, 2008), and Pre-Dew Poems (FootHills Publishing, 2008). Redactions
―Starlight Encaustic‖ By Stephanie Curtis, 2009
Fred Longworth Fred Longworth
Breaking the Rules
I'm not supposed to speak to you directly. Experts tell me: I should enter the confession box and tell my petty stories to the Muse. A reader is merely an eavesdropper, ear pressed to the paper. I recall the off-duty cop in the next booth at Denny's who stopped chewing with his mouth open so he could lean his head back and hear me argue with my son. No matter how hard he craned his eardrums, what I said had no more to do with him than the mating habits of head lice.
A lifetime San Diego resident, Fred Longworth restores vintage audio components for a living. His poems have appeared in numerous print journals, including Caesura, California Quarterly, The Pacific Review, Pearl, Pudding Magazine, Rattapallax and Spillway. Online publications include kaleidowhirl, Melic Review, miller's pond, Stirring and Strong Verse. Contact Fred (email@example.com)
Maybe the words you're reading now are one small hair combed from the scalp of truth, and I want you to pluck it from the tines and hold it in the light. So I don't mind if you rip the door off the confession box and barrel inside. Don't mind if you catch the Muse with the bra off her tits. Don't mind if you barge up to my table and steal a cheeseburger right off my plate. I admit, I made up all that stuff about the confession box, about the booth at Denny's, about stray hair as a putative conduit to truth. It was all a ploy to whet your appetite, all a ploy to speak to you directly. â€•Combing for Wordsâ€– By K. R. Copeland, 2009
Vincent Renstrom Vincent Renstrom
A Cat’s Life The cat is reliable. When it‘s time for breakfast she is there and I know it‘s always me feeding her, but I‘d like to think that, were the tables turned, she would gladly open me a can of salmon mousse— even spread it on bread and cut the crusts off for me since I‘m a picky biped— if she could. The cat always shows up. Dinner is at 7:30 and she is prompt every single day and I know she would begin to set the table at 7:00 if she could, and I hate to break our routine, but sometimes I have to go out, so I feed her early and then I feed her again late when I get home and I‘m sure she‘s thinking, ―Dude, you should go out more often.‖
―Reify‖ by Jeff Crouch & Diana Magallon, 2009
Vincent Renstrom lives with his wife, Sila, and daughter, Alya Jean, in Middletown, Ohio. He is a former adjunct professor of Spanish (Ph.D., Indiana University, 1996) at various US universities, most recently the University of Dayton (2003-2006). Poetry credits include: MARGIE/The American Journal of Poetry, Tertulia Magazine, and Silenced Press.
Cassandra Robison Cassandra Robison
Hybrid The summer she went mad in Ashtabula, she planted geraniums and marigolds, yellow and orange, in tidy straight rows along the side of her house. She ate almost nothing and shrank to 100 pounds. Her face hollowed, as if the self beneath had simply slipped away. She stopped talking, after confronting the mistress on the first tee while her husband of 25 years stood by
Faculty advisor for the award-winning Florida student literary magazine, Imprints, Cassandra Robison‘s poetry, prose and photographs have been published in various print and online newspapers journals, including the Ocala Star Banner, the Jamestown Post Journal, Artistry of Life, Mannequin Envy, Sunspinner, The Centrifugal Eye, Adagio Verse Quarterly, Word Riot, and Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems. Three poems are upcoming in Clapboard House. Originally from Jamestown, New York, and the first generation daughter of Swedish immigrants, Dr. Robison currently lives, teaches, and finds her muse in north Florida where she is associate professor of English at Central Florida Community College. Her work reflects her connections to both places. This is Cassandra‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye.
Years later, married to someone else for a third of a century, she shrugs, There was a terrible black moment before the world tumbled in. It was like an earthquake, the whole ground shifting. After that, I recall only blank years. It’s true. She seemed to have disappeared beneath a compost of human desolation. Yet here in old age, she reemerges: part the person they knew, part this new thing— some hybrid blooming after hard frost, miraculous, resilient, white with hope.
―Desolation with Geraniums & Marigolds‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2009
mute, arms at his sides. A daughter found her later that afternoon, crumpled into a ball in a dark bedroom. Both her daughters searched for her, but she was gone.
John Milbury-Steen John Milbury-Steen
Seize Remaining Days
seize_remaining_days() :print("Nothing more to seize. That's it. That's tough."), !. seize_remaining_days([Today | The_rest_of_your_life]) :print("The first day in the rest of my life:"), seize_the_day(Today), seize_remaining_days(The_rest_of_your_life). seize_the_day(X) :expectation(more_than_daily_bread), random(cherry, cherry, cherry), !, /* wowed */ print("I'm very glad. So this is gladness."), print("Thank you. And I bow my head. And vow I will remember," X, "until I'm dead."). seize_the_day(_) :print("The day seizes you instead.").
â€•Tidal Chordsâ€– By l. a. seidensticker, 2009
Teaching Science in Africa
My commanding of the state of gas lets me crumple with invincible hand a cooking oil can. How it makes a show out of a dry experiment in class! I boil some water in the can, then screw the cap on tight. Cooling makes for low air pressure in it when the steam condenses. As I count down from ten to zero, slow, the can implodes, showing that science is quite a source of power if you know. The students are impressed. They clap. I bow. What other things, they wonder, can I do? Thank you. Thank you. I am not a zoe* with ammo of dry lightning to throw, the way two zoes last night, two superpowers, threw lightning at each other for six hours from two bush towns. I thought they'd never stop hitting the bucket of heaven over my head with booming pipe that deafened. I feel dead for lack of sleep. Tell me who won. I'm just a little cooking-oil-can-crumpling zoe channeling air, airing a good show, embodying the science of the West, with magically developed frontal lobes, the power of the labs my borrowed robes, my civilization's know-how under my thumb, commanding jet and rocket with aplomb. Tomorrow I will bring my atomic bomb. *zoe â€” a medicine man; a person with magic powers
In addition to The Centrifugal Eye, John Milbury-Steen has published or will publish work in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Blue Unicorn, Bumbershoot, Chimaera, Christianity and Literature, Contemporary Sonnet, 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 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, and currently teaches English as a Second Language at Temple University, Philadelphia. John is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
48 P. J. Nights P. J. Nights
Senbazuru “Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread.” ~Pablo Neruda
this poem contains no morals to be pinned on trees — just a string of a thousand pretty words: palimpsest — syzygy — polliwogs — — edelweiss — contrabass — gladioli — anemone & so on . . . they belong to us and us to them — these words sprung from the teeth of our ancestors— may they carve us a new blue marble should the old not suffice let us gather stories from starlight and hearthstones shake vowels in a bone cup, gather tales from rice paddies and shopping malls craft lines to ride on the crest of the knife as the dead take their place, give them words to rename our streets and villages, to quell the battles in John 21:3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing for the bombshell of understanding for the celebration within us, for the recognition of ourselves in the prisoner may the wisdom of words move us to madness fold poems into origami birds compose songs from the candle ends of our conversations — wish for us on a thousand paper cranes
―Vowels, Cups & Candles‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2009
towards a unified theory what we are comes of chance collisions, encounters with flotsam — offal and plums floating in a flood of language we choose what remains — the fantastic: your coat a sail on the icy pond, you whooping and flying on your skates as if caught in a griffin‘s claws the everyday: gossiping as we hang our wet jeans on the line when we can‘t afford the dryer mornings are a salvo of love promises, afternoons we come undone, spiraling apart in our bubble chamber, evenings we calm ourselves doing mathematics on the fingers of clocks each day‘s unspoken words become our fluttered history, orbiting us like the gold planets of an orrery (though much less neatly as if gravity threatens to let go) in night‘s hallucinations we find ourselves lassoed, one to the other
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. P. J. is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact P. J.
―Twisted Timber‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2009
50 David Luntz
Thoughts on St. Anselm
I am the atheist in the choir. Not sure why the Padre lets me sing. Maybe he has a sense of humor. Maybe he just likes me. Sometimes, the Padre likes to argue about the existence of God. I think he thinks we are engaged in some type of Scholastic debate: I play ―antithesis,‖ he plays ―thesis‖ and together we‘ll come to a ―synthesis.‖ Our arguments always assume some variation in which I accuse him of abusing the principles of Occam‘s Razor and anthropocentricity, of obfuscation and evasiveness, of preying on the gullible, of Jesuit casuistry. He will counter with some stock pointers that the faithful have amassed over the centuries. Then we will plumb the depths of theodicy, weigh in on ―Pascal‘s Wager,‖ and discuss self-referential paradoxes, the limits of knowledge, whether right and wrong are merely social constructs. We may appear like two bald men fighting over a comb, because we know we cannot prove the other wrong. But it‘s really not about that. It‘s personal. It‘s the way the Padre looks at me: full of patronizing sorrow for my spiritual darkness, the crooked timber of my being, which makes me want to rip the shitty, little fraud right out of his heart, hear him howl: ―Yes, I know it‘s not true. I‘ve been living a lie.‖ And so we shadow each other, in some pantomime dance, too afraid to concede, not because it would mean the annihilation of our identities, or the scourging of our pride, but because the dance would be over.
Train Shopping I was looking to buy a model train engine, HO scale, nothing special – just something extra for the tracks. An ancient Chinese asked me if I needed help. He was rail thin, and shook like a junkie. I figured he smoked opium and read Lao-Tse. The way his fingers moved reminded me of Pound‘s Cantos, which made me wonder whether the most trivial and disconnected events are really the ciphers of angels. Poetry can ambush us anywhere, even in a model train store. I informed him of my brand and what I wanted to spend. He replied that finding something for me would be too fuckulated, but he would dig around in the back, because the stuff on the shelves was only for display. Eventually, he returned with an engine and we headed to the register. He put on a pair of surgeons‘ bifocals and poked around the engine with a stylus. He applied white grease to the gears and made me feel how they turned — so I would know the right tension. He asked me what code I wanted to set the engine to and we agreed on a number, after which he pulled out some paper and began drawing diagrams of reversed polarity to demonstrate how the engine operated on electromagnetic energy. He spoke about Michael Faraday, static electricity and Leyden jars. I was resentful, edgy at being subjected to this intellectual poseur and his unsolicited lecture. Beethoven‘s concerto for violin in D major was coming out of some radio and a ginger-haired cat was snoring behind him. A line of customers had formed, but he didn‘t care. I wondered if he was ever going to shut up and realized how appallingly isolated one human being is from another, and, maybe, this was his way of just trying to make a connection. Perhaps the lucky among us can articulate clearly the problems of the self without the need to engage others, while the rest of us just try to connect any way we can. All I wanted to do was buy a fucking engine.
David Luntz's poetry has appeared in Elegant Thorn Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Word Riot, Carnelian, Mastodon Dentist, and White Leaf Review, amongst other journals. David is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact David (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Farren Stanley Farren Stanley
―Over Easy‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2009
The eggs were my specialty but the whole universe inverted, the whites balanced atop the yolks and refused to mix. I was bored of my own cooking. You looked like a schoolmate, hauled out of the shallow end of memory, ruddy and cheerful, whistling next to me at the stove. You assembled your pastry with care, rolling the dough out with a flourish, then folding in fistfuls of glittering knives. The yeast promoted swelling but the blades tore open the bread flesh. Eggs hissed. Transference of dissatisfaction through the flat of my spatula. Two weapons intended, maybe three. A quantity you could survive; knives in name only. I worried over the punishment's severity but supported my own campaign: Referendum on Regret. Even before you pulled it out of the oven, John — your rising self-punishment for leaving me to twist in the wind, fast girl void of a proper man and auditioning all sorts of inappropriate surrogates: hello, teacher, hello, drummer, hello, stranger — I was devising ways to save you. I propped up a medical text behind the frying pan and studied esophageal anatomy and incision sites, line drawings of people quartered, while I coddled the halves of egg, still hovering around each other. I gave up on breakfast and dressed the kitchen table with surgical tools I'd grimly wield to cut out those mute gleaming knives. Reflected in the oven door my own face was blank white, drained, yolks coagulated underneath my eyes.
Farren Stanley's poems have appeared in Glyph and Autumn Sky Poetry. She has a BA from the College of Santa Fe and she‘ll matriculate to the University of Alabama for an MFA in Poetry in 2009. She lives with 3 cats, 2 orchids, a dog, and a lot of succulents. Contact Farren (email@example.com)
54 l. a. seidensticker l. a. seidensticker
Could be space around us widens (before need as they say in the funeral business) to accommodate our rangy deaths. I don‘t offer this up lightly, having lately noted my open space lengthened as well as elbowed out, That and it isn‘t only outer: the interior also accumulates; light in this case. Swells and shines like the surface of the sea viewed from below. Mostly. It shifts. And what of the so-much submerged? You could argue the point but I see it as the bottom hefting surface-ward slow and sludged to gather down its own boneless dorsal membrane . . . But I digress . . .
―Pip Drip‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2009
Slice a strawberry in half, cut side down on a dish. Leave the berry alone for a day. Perhaps the red hide goes slightly leathered, whether or not the pips minutely flex. Here‘s the thing: something terrible and new. Though it has no voice, no movement, it holds horrors firmly down — but straining, stained without a single pin. This sort of mockery of who we are, what we‘re worth is Everywhere. On the highway a semi trailer, a 400- pound man behind the wheel, goes off the road, sharp down into one of the winterswamped vineyards, EMTs muddied to the hips wrestle the big man out of the truck (his upper body hanging like beaten bed linen down from one of the sprung doors). The stretcher cannot bear him and he rolls hideously off. Dead, oh dead entirely. There is a feeling it is only decent he be hidden from the slowed, gawking traffic on the road. The more leverages attempted the loonier his rolls and tumbles, the more deeply one or another of his limbs submerges in the muck. Thus are submissions ignored. Pretended to be something upright they‘re not. His mission of wheeling the load of tangy, red-hearted old growth to the mill by sundown is abandoned. Quibbling about rights subtext strengthens its resolve, staggers to clay feet.
56 Larger than sand dollars, white lichen, like customs seals annealed to the rock face where its profile juts above the road. Their submission is stone and silence. Uncle Buzz, decades ago walks me through orange barriers to get us to the juice of the LaBrea Tar Pits. Buzzy is slow, an apelike little man, tremendously hairy. Those pits are bottomless, he tells me. I know better and say so. Does he think they persist subterraneously? to the other side of the earth, do they punch through into outer space? Those pits are bottomless, girly, he assures me.
l. a. seidensticker‘s poetry has appeared in Ambush Arts, Literary Potpourri, Ink Pots, Poetry Super Highway, Kaleidowhirl, and Stirring. l. a. says, ―I am old enough I‘m unlikely to survive beyond my remaining half case of Pears soap. I‘m unlikely to qualify for Bread Loaf. I write poetry that even my husband won‘t read — but I persist in writing poetry. There must be something to it.‖ Contact l. a.
Bill Yarrow Bill Yarrow
Sermon of Lilacs I. Our text today is "The night was a cool bowl of lilac darkness" from Look Homeward Angel by the American writer Thomas Wolfe II. The night was a lilac bowl of darkness The dark was a sky of lilac coolness The bowl was a darkened sky of lilacs Lilacs bowed low in the sky's cool darkness ―Sermon of Lilacs‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2009
III. The sky was a liquid bowl of darkness The dark was a sky of liquid lilac The bowl was a lilac source of coolness Lilacs genuflect in the darkness
Bill Yarrow‘s poems have appeared in Central Park, Confrontation, Berkeley Poets Cooperative, The Literary Review, Mantis, Cabaret Voltage Online, The Orange Room Review, blossombones, Angelic Dynamo and other literary magazines. His chapbook Wrench is available from erbacce press. Wrench
Davide Trame Davide Trame
It's that hedge, mother said, not a pleasant smell — maybe she meant the earthy, faintly-sweet breath that is now coming in from the night through the chink in the shutter. A spreading vein from the surrounding, lingering, dark layers — no, not a pleasant smell, but not exactly unpleasant, and so heady, I think, while climbing into my bed in the countryside — spacious, like the lay of the land. Spacious, with rustlings and voices elusive as ever, like the fox's call you heard in the alert wide sleep of the meadows, the needle of a call you wanted to grasp. I lie in the loamy roots of this smell, still awake. Still. Yes, sleep has always been far from me; I should stop courting it in vain. My feet feel the miles under the sheets, the miles of rank, countryside scents staring back or scuttling away. I was born over there, you know — just across the road where the gravel path has grown grassy, where the viburnum hedges are thicker, where the dark-bright earth spreads forth without reserve its sweat and breath, and where the mossy night churns the map of the countenances.
When, after breakfast, I place the mug on the saucer, in its center made for a smaller cup, the segment of a gap on one side is what I make the mug find, where it oscillates and overlaps. I tap gently with a fingertip to make it teeter endlessly, and gaze upon it, relishing this beam of eternity.
Davide Trame is an Italian teacher of English, born and living in Venice, Italy, and has written poetry exclusively in English, his second language, since 1993. He published a poetry collection, Re-emerging, a downloadable online book (Gatto Publishing). His poems have appeared in around four hundred magazines and most recently in Scintilla, River Poets Journal, The Ugly Tree, Poesia, and The Stony Thursday Book n.7 This is Davide‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Davide Re-emerging
―Endless Viburnum‖ By E. A. Hanninen, 2009
Paul Stevens Paul Stevens
―Fissures‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2009
The sun is eating up my eyes Till all I see is colorflow, And dust deciphers my hard thoughts: This mind is empty cosmos now. Impatiens and pandanus sprout Through the forced fissures of my skull. The sun is eating up my life— He spits out only what is whole: Fire water earth and air Are not the elements of here, No, not the elements of here, Uncoiled minutiae of now— How hot the breeze, the rivered stone. How narrow speech, the sky how low.
You were nebula and I am iris: So the procession of interludes declines Into alchochoden, the nadir of landscape, Shoaled beneath tides of light and lightness. You were beloved around the round world; I Am recognized in cellars and jazz clubs. Voodoo, Ju-ju, gris-gris, bone and feather, provoked Our first lunations and our fierce declensions. You are the gibbous moon, and I am the lobster; By such errors we pricked those increments To scuttle by claw-scuff, tracking across the salt pan, White plain under the white plan of the moon. You: earth, smoke. I: sextant. Extant. Navigation bends like a saxophone.
Paul Christian Stevens was born in Yorkshire, England but lives in Australia, where he teaches literature. He has published poems and prose in print and pixel, most recently in Shakespeare's Monkey Revue, The Literary Bohemian, The HyperTexts, New Verse News, Umbrella, Lucid Rhythms, and Autumn Sky Poetry. He edits The Chimaera literary miscellany and The Flea occasional broadside. This is Paulâ€˜s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye.
―Dividing‖ ~ Dan Ruhrmanty, 2009
What is It about Understanding That You Do — or Don't? What is It about Understanding That You Do — or Don’t? ~ By Len Bourret
helps us to read a number, to add, subtract, divide or multiply it, and to place it in long or short-term memory. But concepts require understanding. And the exact details of instruction may require higher- as opposed to lower-level functioning. Mastery of detailed instruction may be gathered through repetition.
If a nail or screw is required, one must know what a nail or screw is, and must be aware that there are different types of nails and screws. A nail requires a hammer, and a screw requires a screwdriver. And, one must know where a particular nail or screw must go: A nail must be hammered in an appropriate place. A screw must be screwed into the proper hole. Two wrongs won't make a left or a right; there are more nails and screws than one might think. A sole image of the concept doesn't get one anywhere, even with so-called "simple assembly," unless one is able to focus on clear and detailed instruction that is understandable. Dishes must not be laundered in a washing machine, clothes must not be placed in a dishwasher.
Is a hamburger the same as a Big Mac® or a big Whopper®? And can a Big Mac® be bought at Burger King®? Or can a big Whopper® be purchased at McDonald's®? Despite its intention, language can be a barrier to communication, and is no guarantee that one will have a clear and focused understanding of exact details. For details to become effective or useful, one must be given detailed instruction in a construct or language that is comprehensible. Following a command, such as yes, no, or maybe, might not indicate clarity or focus, but it does result in one being, at the least, better able to broaden and expand from an algorithmic rule to the executable.
Len Bourret's articles, essays and poetry have appeared in numerous offline and online publications. His widely-circulated works have a distinctively-unique voice and are popular in avant-garde literary circles. Len's goal is to have his works promoted by a famous publicist and circulated by a major distributor. If it is his destiny, he says, he would like to become known as "the Andy Warhol of poetry." His work has appeared in Dreams Alive Magazine, Poetry Super Highway, Boloji.com, and elsewhere. Len is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Amy Lowell’s Imagism Amy Lowell’s Imagism
~ By Gary Lehmann
Lowell did not begin her career as a poet until she was well into her thirties. She was born in 1874 into a family of wealthy and prominent New England aristocrats. One of her brothers was the astronomer who speculated about the canals on Mars and hypothesized on the existence of Pluto, while another served as president of Harvard University. She was educated at a private school founded by a Lowell cousin to educate her own children. The Lowells disparaged the idea of women going on to higher education, but they encouraged Amy to read from the family’s extensive library, which she did compulsively while amassing a large private book collection of her own.
She lived a privileged life, traveling in the whirl of Europe‘s most glamorous society. On one of these trips, she heard an electrifying poetry reading by the actress Eleonora Duse that inspired her. Back in America, she started reading poetry avidly and expanded her own compositions. She kept at it, but her poems were slow to appear in print. Finally, she got a poem published in a 1910 issue of Atlantic Monthly, a publication known for its prejudice for the work of members of well-connected Boston families. She got a slow start, but her first book of poetry came out in 1912, entitled A Dome of ManyColoured Glass. Lowell was 38. Then, in 1913, a life-changing moment occurred when she read some poems by H. D. [Hilda Doolittle], protégé of Ezra Pound, self-styled leader of the Imagists. She realized for the first time that she was not alone in her artistic ambitions. Imagists in both Europe and America focused on the use of descriptive words to engender direct feelings, based on nature but filtered through the human consciousness.
Proponents of this approach to poetry were few but influential. In addition to Ezra Pound and H. D., there was Ford Madox Ford and Richard Aldington, among others. Lowell traveled to London to meet Pound and struck up an immediate friendship, which was her entree to the entire artistic world of modernism. She formed the ambition to advance the cause of Imagism in America and to that end started to encourage and publish the works of poets she saw as worthy by Imagist standards. Ezra Pound was a quirky and eccentric leader for a diverse artistic movement that crossed disciplinary lines. Rifts developed. In the summer of 1914, Lowell was in Europe when Pound formally broke away from the Imagists. Lowell saw this as her opportunity. She became editor of an annual anthology of Imagist poetry and took over as de-facto leader of the movement. In 1915, she published Some Imagist Poets: An Anthology, which further established her preeminence.
In her introduction to this volume, she attempted to define Imagism according to her principles. 1. Imagists ―use the language of common speech.‖ 2. Imagists ―create new rhythms.‖ 3. Imagists have ―absolute freedom in the choice of subject.‖ 4. The goal of an Imagist poem is to ―present an image‖ that is self-sufficient. 5. The goal is to write poetry in words that are ―hard and clear,‖ never ―blurred‖ or ―indefinite.‖ 6. ―Finally,‖ she said, ―most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.‖
For an example of a Lowell Imagist poem, visit PoetryFoundation.org: Penumbra. Amy Lowell went on to publish two more anthologies of Imagist poetry according to her definition. Ezra Pound was not pleased. He said she was no Imagist at all but just a rich woman who purchased her leadership position by paying to publish Imagist poets. By whatever means, Amy Lowell ―captured‖ the Imagist movement, according to Louis Untermeyer, and she was not
about to release it. Pound continued to criticize her. He said she weakened the movement, and he moved on to an association with Wyndham Lewis in London. For her part, Lowell said that, on the contrary, Pound‘s irascible personality had caused the movement to become fractured. She found it weak but made it strong through systematically defining Imagism and offering publication opportunities for its proponents. Take your pick. What can be said in defense of Amy Lowell is that she spent much of her life reaching out to embrace poetry of different styles and languages. She published rewritten versions of poems from the Ancient Chinese. She wrote criticism of French poetry and died while attempting to finish a twovolume biography of John Keats. Her literary life was varied and all-encompassing. D.A. Powell has said, ―Indeed, as I read more and more of Amy Lowell‘s brand of imagism, I began to see that in fact she was an artful practitioner of modernist tendencies, drawing upon the same deft strokes in Chinese and Japanese poetries that Pound had mined. . . . Lowell was drawing upon the natural world — in the way that Whitman had done.‖
You can find Gary Lehmann’s biographical information on page 15. Readers of TCE’s print version may visit online for reference to Amy Lowell’s poem, Penumbra, included in this article. (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=171728)
Tao of Reading Poetry
Book Review Column Hard Blessings, Poems Patrick Carrington, 2008 Main Street Rag Publishing Company Paper / 42 Pages $10.00 USD
Surviving “the pull of cheap evenings”
Surviving ―the pull of cheap evenings‖ ~ By Karla Linn Merrifield
for a moment, if you would, about the mathematics of aging. The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 77.8 years; in Canada it’s 80.4 years. Where are you now in your life? A third of the way? Half?
Think, too, of the physics of aging. Has gravity pulled at the flesh of your face? Do you have jowls? Is your midriff showing the first signs of sagging? Is the skin loose around your knees? Or is yours yet a youthful body with no indications of the G force at work? Where are you on life‘s continuum from teen acne to age spots? Can you make a quantum leap in your imagination to picture yourself 20 years from now? Poet Patrick Carrington has made that leap. He has looked squarely in the mirror and, as he concludes in ―Lullaby of Atlantic City,‖ he has become aware that ―scars are the way I keep time.‖ He admits in the poem ―Nowhere:‖ ―The truth is I am afraid to grow old.‖ Recipient of Main Street Rag‘s Editor‘s Choice Chapbook Series and recommended for review in these pages by The Centrifugal Eye’s own Eve Hanninen (who created the book‘s evocative cover art), Hard Blessings is a small book of great courage and haunting beauty.
The book mystified me when I first read it in January. These hard poems are diamonds that cut to the quick of longing and addiction, of failed relationships and aging. At first I found them hard to swallow. The poems take you on one-night stands to seedy bars. You are made to feel the ―heartache in a lonely jaw,‖ as he puts it in ―Ballerinas.‖ You turn to the poem, ―Absorbed into a Penny Dreadful,” and find yourself in the company of ―streetlamp souls of strangers.‖ Elsewhere in Hard Blessings, you hear ―the sound of your spirit crunching like saltines.‖ You acknowledge ―the pull of cheap evenings.‖ You dream ―grimy dreams.‖ Loneliness — that longing — is scary stuff. His are poems awash with ―the medicine of sour mash,‖ where you could very well be that woman of ―hundred proof misery‖ in ―Tumbleweeds.‖ Or you might discover, if not now, then one day, that ―It‘s only a matter of time / until
you‘re a tale told over Guinness, // a briny legend. . . .‖ Addiction isn‘t pretty. Neither is aging. It‘s a process marked by ―sores around the night‘s red mouth,‖ as he observes in ―Cul de Sacs.‖ Aging is ugly and Carrington is not afraid to give us a full frontal view of it. So why did I, a 56-year-old woman with drooping breasts who doesn‘t need further reminders of the ravages of age, keep going back to these 42 pages, reading them again and again? Why wouldn‘t Carrington leave me alone? Because Carrington‘s poems are sticky poems. Reading them is like walking into a veil of cobwebs. You don‘t get them out of your hair easily. In other words, they make you look at yourself — and think. Life is tough and gritty. It‘s hard getting old, it hurts to examine ―the black and motley rug of your life,‖ as Carrington does in ―Cul de Sacs.‖ But I kept rereading anyway. Then, sometime earlier this month, I solved the mystery of why this book lingers in your mind; I had an epiphany. You read these poems and you never want to let them go because Carrington has been able to achieve through this work a sense of shared humanity. Carrington‘s fate will be our fate sooner or later. We will suffer, we too will ―leak from windows.‖ Yes, Carrington‘s lessons may be hard, but they are blessings. Somehow, he promises us, we‘ll all be able to get through ―another night of disappointment,‖ because we too will be able to ―climb toward the perch of gods.‖ Carrington‘s book is amazingly reassuring. We are not alone. We‘re with him on this journey and he‘s with us. Like a physicist who has solved a riddle of the Universe, Patrick
Carrington has plumbed the depths of human mortality, and in his poems lie the answer to what it truly means to be human, to be among the one species capable of conceiving its own demise and death. In ―Lullaby of Atlantic City‖ (my favorite poem in the collection), Carrington challenges us to carry on as he has. ―I am what I am and no more,‖ he writes in ―Leaving the Lowlands.‖ It is possible to accept ourselves for who we are. And if we stumble, there‘s always this: ―Be brave. Forget / the timepiece of your body,‖ he instructs. There is always hope. Like Carrington, we survive, knowing in our heart, as he writes in ―Why I Tell My Son about Trains:‖ each dawn is small and young but not without guile, each has a lesson to learn as I warm my hands over a barrel, each has its bulls, its nuance of pitch, its dead who lie on the cooling board and await a softer ground, each ends with a hush that comes over the world as if the dark is ready to tell the great secret.
These are honest poems, among the most honest ones I have ever read. Hard Blessings is a dawn of consciousness for readers in which he reveals a great secret. Brace yourself. It‘s time to look in the mirror. If you want to know more about Patrick Carrington, who also received the Codhill Press Chapbook Award, turn to Mannequin Envy, the journal for which he is poetry editor. See also the book review by Charles P. Ries of Carrington‘s full-length book, Rise, Fall and Acceptance, from Main Street Rag Publishing Company. His review is online at Word Riot; another review of the collection, by Ocalive Olaopa Mwenda, can be found in The Centrifugal Eye‘s online archives.
Rise, Fall and Acceptance is next on my reading list. I think you‘ll find, as I have, that Carrington‘s poetry is addicting. But unlike ―your best friend the vineyard,‖ it will improve ―the quality of your mercy.‖ ~ K. L. M.
2009 Everglades National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield, has had poetry appear in publications such as CALYX, Earth’s Daughters, Poetica, The Kerf, Negative Capability, Paper Street and Blueline (print zines), and in The Centrifugal Eye, Terrain.org, Elsewhere: A Journal of the Literature of Place, and Elegant Thorn Review (online zines), as well as in many anthologies. In 2006, she edited THE DIRE ELEGIES: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America, from FootHills Publishing; in 2007, FootHills issued her Godwit: Poems of Canada. She is also author of Dawn of Migration and Other Audubon Dreams (2007, RochesterInk Publications).
Readers of TCE’s print version may visit online for references included in this article: http://www.mainstreetrag.com/store/chapbooks.php http://mannequinenvy.wordpress.com http://www.wordriot.org/template_2.php?ID=1080 http://home.earthlink.net/~centrifugaleye/id158.html
Column Editor’s Note: What’s your story behind a poetry book that you’ve read and desire others to read? What path led you to that book? Tell me. Just complete our online Reader Survey (http://home.earthlink.net/~tinyviolet/thecentrifugaleyepoetryjournal/id366.html)
From your stories I’ll select the books and I’ll review them for The Centrifugal Eye for all our readers in future issues. Give me something new to rave about!
Photo by E. A. Hanninen, 2009
All-Night Lingo Tango By Barbara Hamby
University of Pittsburgh Press 3400 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15260 Paper / 88 pages $14.95 USD ISBN 978-0-8229-6017-1
Cleaning Out the Attics of the Mind: Barbara Hamby’s All-Night Lingo Tango Cleaning Out the Attics of the Mind: Barbara Hamby‘s All-Night Lingo Tango
~ By E. K. Mortenson
he was an infant, I used to sit and wonder what my son was thinking about. I don’t mean that in the generic way that parents do, but literally, as a writer and thinker. Since he had no language skills, what could he be thinking about? How does one describe what one perceives when one has, again, literally, no words to do so? He saw me talking (didn’t know that was what I was doing, of course), heard the words coming out of my mouth (didn’t know they were words, of course), must have assumed I was saying something to him (didn’t know how to assume or that there even was a ―him‖), but what was going through his little reptilian brain at that point?
As we know, infants are not too forthcoming with that sort of information, and I am always dubious when it comes to ―infant brain research‖ into the subject. How do these scientists know? Is there a ―special‖ test infant who actually does tell researchers what he or she was thinking? As a toddler, my son continues to play coy when it comes to describing what he was thinking pre-language. My own assumption is that he — we, actually — don‘t think much of anything before we acquire language. It is possible that we do not have what we would call ―memories‖ per se, until we have a language matrix into which to place them, and a system by which to recall them. Of course the real magic occurs once we do
have that language structure. The even bigger question is: from where do we acquire it? I have read a few scholars, most recently E.D. Hirsch, who suggests that we humans are ―hardwired‖ for language. Let me be clear, though: hardwired for spoken language. We just ―pick it up‖ from our parents, siblings, friends, and society at large. We are decidedly not so programmed for written language. If so, my son would be writing poems — or at least the alphabet — instead of the scribbles he tells me are letters. No, written language is a different animal. Ah, but spoken language, it seems that is encoded in our very DNA as humans.
A cursory glance at some of the titles of the poems in this collection is enough to make one gasp at the reaches Hamby‘s mind takes. Take these, for example: ―Ode to Anglo Saxon, Film Noir, and the Hundred Thousand Anxieties that Plague Me like Demons in a Medieval Christian Allegory,‖ or ―Ode to Diagramming Sentences in Eighth-Grade English Class with Moonlight, Drugs, and Stars,‖ or ―Ode on Cake, Catcalls, Eggs with a Minor Scary Reference to the End of the World.‖ See? Her reach is long and she reaches everywhere. This is simultaneously the beauty and pitfall of this collection. The beauty arises from the sheer mental leaps Hamby‘s verse takes. The reader easily traverses the jumps from, say, white peaches to pennies to planets to a particular dog named Bijou. This may seem quirky and impossible, but while it is certainly the former, it is hardly the latter. As such, reading All-Night Lingo Tango is an interesting lesson in how we make memories, how we access those memories, and how each memory can lead us to another memory. The pitfall to this? Some of the work in this volume borders upon the, dare I say it?, schticky.
While there is little wrong with any of the poems in All-Night Lingo Tango, Hamby seems to draw from the ―clever well‖ a few too many times. While the mental leaps she takes in her poems are delightful, playful, and unique, the many ―odes‖ she presents with titles like the ones listed above, eventually begin to erode those positive elements of the verse. The freshness of those leaps begins to grow stale with another ―Ode to…‖ title. As we rummage through the boxes in Hamby‘s mental attic, the delight is in making the connections among the elements in each figurative packing box. If each box contains a packing slip printed right on the box, some of the excitement gets lost.
Photo by Dallas J. Bryant, 2009
How interesting, then, that Barbara Hamby‘s new volume seems to subconsciously illustrate this point so well. ―Encoded‖ in its pages are the stuff of memory, and the most primitive, and basic, form of written language itself: the alphabet. Combine this with a poetic ―form‖ that appears at intervals throughout the volume — something Hamby calls ―doublehelix abecedarians‖ — and you have a virtual genetically-coded set of poetic memories. Moreover, as a pre-eminent ―ultra-talk‖ poet, Hamby presents the reader with a total package of the formation of language in the human mind. Or, at the very least, her mind. At times, it seems likes the attics of her mind are cluttered, and that the poet engages the reader in bit of ―spring cleaning,‖ if you will.
A similar problem begins to arise with her usage of what she calls the ―double-helix abecedarian‖ form. Its appearance is infrequent enough that the reader gets the feeling that something is going on, but can‘t quite be sure at first. Essentially, this form presents fifty-two line poems with the first and last letters of each line — ahh, forget it. Here is a partial example, the beginning of the title poem of the collection. Look carefully at the first and last letters of each line (boldface emphasis, mine):
All night I watch the worst movies—musicals of the Nazi blitz, Zapruder films of my own assassination, the armada battles between the hideous face of my Aunt Priscilla and my young, beautiful mother, my bit part—sliding from the womb, coming out, infant debutante, the radio my own personal haruspex exorcising future devils hovering in the hospital room, out-of-sync disaster lodged in my baby-soft skull like a stuttering misanthropic crow, wild with rockabilly delusions of coming years. Old Everyman, Hamlet, says something apropos at the end of Act V See? Double-helix abecedarian. The alphabet encoded like DNA itself. Again, this form appears sporadically enough not to give itself away too easily, but frequently enough for the reader to suspect something is afoot. The bigger problem, though, is the sort of poetry it forces Hamby into. While some of the leaps Hamby makes are fun — ―sliding from the womb, / coming out, infant debutante‖ — and the reader is generally willing to play along, the notion of ―the radio my own personal haruspex‖ puts a sudden damper on the mood. Really? In what way is a radio anything like a haruspex? It does end in ―x‖ however, which the form demands. The middle section of Hamby‘s threesection volume presents us with an affiliated form, one Hamby names ―abecedarian sonnets,‖ but that I might rename ―abecedarian RNA (Ribonucleic acid*).‖ This riffs off her ―double-helix abecedarian‖ form and I like to imagine the sonnet — one of poetry‘s mainstay forms — as carrying encoded poetic information, if you will. Here, she presents twenty-six, thirteenlined ―sonnets,‖ the titles of which (presumably also the first ―lines,‖ thereby adding up to fourteen) proceed alphabetically themselves: ―Aloha, Dad, Au Revoir, Goodbye,‖ ―Betty Boop’s Bebop,‖ ―Caliban Passes His Driving Test on the Ninth Try,‖ ―Desdemona Resuscitated by Sir John Falstaff, EMT.‖ You get the idea. Again, these titles alone are worth half the price of admission. They are also far more successful than Hamby‘s ―Ode to…‖ poems, which give away the store, so to speak. If those were attic boxes with packing slips
attached, these sonnets are boxes with labels in curious shorthand. As such, we want to dive right into them and unpack their goodies. Similar to her double-helix abecedarians, these sonnets are single-strand varieties with the first and last letter of each line proceeding in alphabetical order. A brief example from the first poem in the section, ―Aloha, Dad, Au Revoir, Goodbye‖: All the mockingbirds in the world are in a hubbub, chittering, abuzz, because a good-looking man is dead, Elvis drawl drawing up inside his flat cocoon, not a little deaf.
In general, I find the poems in this section more successful than her double-helix abecedarians. We know what we are getting up front, and as these sonnets progress, the alphabetical order itself progresses. As a result, we feel the motion happening as we read. There is an evolution throughout the section that I find absent from the doublehelix variety. In these sonnets, the alphabet evolves. While an astute reader quickly latches on to Hamby‘s game in this section, it is a game worth playing, just to see what crazy mind/word/literary connections Hamby is cooking up. In the end, one sits down with All-Night Lingo Tango like one sits down with a friend over coffee. There is no real heavylifting going on here, per se, and there is great fun in making the mental language
72 leaps with Hamby. She‘s an ultra-talk poet, so a reader is in for lots of name-dropping, lots of semi-confessional — that is, real people and places, but nothing too revealing or risky — chatter, and a pleasant and engaging tone that never makes the reader feel ―too dumb to get it.‖ The substance is what we make it, though. Arguably lacking in noteworthy individual poems — note that I quote none here except to demonstrate a form or style — All-Night Lingo Tango accretes like the alphabet itself. Individual letters mean nothing except in how we arrange them into words, arrange those words into sentences, and derive meaning from those sentences.
There is some risk to a collection that needs to build in this way. If a reader is unwilling to engage long enough, no meaning is created. Of course, though, this is true of all our communication. If we are unwilling to stick it out long enough, we shall never communicate. But Hamby shows us that the alphabet is in our DNA — pardon the pun. ABC‘s are what we are made of, even if it is more accurate to say we are made of ATCG‘s, our amino acid base-pairs. I have been trying to keep this in mind as I struggle with my son as he learns his letters. By the way, he knows A, B, H, O, P, S, and T. Don‘t ask why: while fascinating, the connections he makes to each letter would take longer than this review to explain. All-Night Lingo Tango should suffice.
*RNA is a type of molecule consisting of a chain of nucleotide units, transcribed from DNA by enzymes named RNA polymerases, and then usually further processed by other enzymes. RNA is necessary for the synthesis of proteins.
Readers of TCE’s print version may refer to Hamby’s book via the University of Pittsburgh Press online: (http://www.upress.pitt.edu/BookDetails.aspx?bookId=35951)
E. K. Mortenson is a member of the National Book Critics‘ Circle and an MFA candidate at Western Connecticut State University. His reviews have appeared in RATTLE, Connecticut River Review, Rain Taxi, and Gently Read Lit. His poetry appears in a variety of print and online journals, and he was the 2008 recipient of the Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize. He lives in Stamford, CT, with his wife, son, and two cats. E. K. is a staff reviewer for and regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact E. K.
―Lingo‖ By Stephanie Curtis, 2009
Next issue: Summer, August 2009 Unbidden Visitors: Last Chance Visits ... If You Could
Quantum Details Submissions, Archives & Anthologies
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ontributor Anthologies, recent Agreeable Friends: Contemporary Animal Poetry, editor Alice Persons Includes work by TCE contributor P. J. Nights. Moonpie Press, 2008.
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.
74 Due out Summer 2009
Electron: A highly anticipated musical album by The Palatin Project’s Bernhard Kretz, dedicated to the poetic works of Robert Graves.
2 pre-release audio tracks available for review online: Friday Night and Always. (http://www.palatin-project.com/)
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Published on May 11, 2009
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