The Centrifugal Eye Poetry Journal February 2010 Volume 5 Issue 1
Troblems & Prubbles
Troblems & Prubbles: All Mixed-Up
The Centrifugal Eye Staff Editor-in-Chief; Art Director: Eve Anthony Hanninen Contacts Editor; Ed. Assistant: Karla Linn Merrifield Art Editor; Ed. Assistant: K. R. Copeland Quarterly Review Columnist: Karla Linn Merrifield
Art Assistant; Reviewer: Dallas J. Bryant Art Assistant: Mandi Knight Staff Reviewers: Simon Lloyd Dunbar, E. K. Mortenson, Ocalive Mwenda Staff Readers' Circle: Anonymous reviewers
Front & Back Cover Illustrations: Front: “Head Art” & Back: “Queen Izabel” by Orna Ben-Shoshan, 2010. Artist Orna Ben-Shoshan conceives the images she paints through channeling. All of her paintings are completed in her mind before she transfers them onto the canvas. Her metaphysical work infuses deep spiritual experience with humor. Orna has been an autodidact artist for the past 30 years. Her artwork was exhibited in numerous locations in the USA, Europe and Israel. Her major motivation as a visual artist is to share her visions with others to expand their consciousness and inspire new ways of thinking. Orna‘s life-long interest in metaphysics and mysticism has led her to study the Kabalah and alternative philosophies. She‘s shared her wide and diverse knowledge in articles and short essays, published alongside her paintings, in magazines worldwide. To see more of Orna‘s artwork, please visit her website. (http://www.ben-shoshan.com)
Copyright 2010 The Centrifugal Eye — Collected Works — All Rights Reserved
Contents Editorial – Eve Anthony Hanninen
Featured Poet – Esther Greenleaf Mürer 6-23
―Red Metal One‖ By B. L. Pawelek 2010
Poems of the Absurdly Misheard 34-41
Karla Linn Merrifield on Helen Losse
Kitchen Sink Stuff 78-79
26-27 Marjorie Bruhmuller 28-29 Harry Calhoun 30 Kenneth P. Gurney 31 Jeremy Kiahsobyk 32-33 Jennifer Hollie Bowles 43 Scott Owens 44-45 Chris Crittenden 46-47 Richard Lighthouse 48-49 John Milbury-Steen 50-51 Erik Richardson 52-53 Nathaniel S. Rounds 54-55 L. A. Seidensticker 56-59 Richard Schiffman 60 Lynne Shapiro 61 Ron Yazinski 62-63 Janice D. Soderling 64-66 Rich Ives
Richard Schiffman, Ron Yazinski, Esther Greenleaf Mürer, & Daniel Wilcox
Editorial Eve Anthony Hanninen by
O, the Prubbles I’ve Seen!
Did you ever consider that Serendipity can be a wiseacre? She‘s not always a shimmering faerie, or a breeze blowing on course. Sometimes she‘s a gremlin astride a violet fox, her only herald her mischievous laugh. Even in this latter guise — and while her insinuating voice may make your stomach flop — she may fetch you ripe and timely fruits. That‘s how I‘ve met her lately— all goblinesque and, I swear, practically sniggering at me. I shouldn‘t be surprised. I practically invited this doppelgänger of an imp into my life during the past 3 months. The Centrifugal Eye‘s Troblems & Prubbles theme was first planned more than a year ago, so, no— Serendipity didn‘t inspire our theme. But she sure enjoyed the visit once we‘d begun execution of the issue; from submission readings through final-production details long past deadlines, she hung about whistling and chortling. Her purpose, I suppose, was to remind me that synchronicity and ease didn‘t necessarily go hand in hand. No, sometimes synchronicity is all about . . . (and then my pen ran dry. Yes, longhand the first time through.) Despite the setbacks, mix-ups, errors, and the zanily ludicrous redundancies required to repair or at least patch them, TCE‘s staff and contributors have survived all serendipitous prodding to present you with a taste of our muse-in-residence‘s abundant labors. You‘ll do well to start with Featured Interview Poet Esther Greenleaf Mürer, whose tongue is reportedly almost always in her cheek. You can bet she‘s met Serendipity more than a few times.
Eve Anthony Hanninen
Eve Anthony Hanninen — an American poet disguised as Canadian recluse — writes, illustrates, and edits from beneath the dripping fronds shading a North Coast, B.C. town. Her poems have shown up in the likes of Long Story Short (interview, May 2009), east to west: bicoastal verse, Sein und Werden (print and online), Moondance, Wicked Alice, Origami Condom, and other fine poetry journals, as well as in the anthologies, Crazed by the Sun and Trim: The Mannequin Envy Anthology. She edits and publishes The Centrifugal Eye poetry journal. Contact Eve (email@example.com)
New Book Picks On the Touseled Side
New Book Picks
Poetry Dean Wagner Poetry Prize-winner Ellaraine Lockie‘s Love in the time of Electrons, a chapbook collection of modern poems dripping with long-distance innuendos and e-mail romance. Pudding House Publications. Winter 2009.
Children's Fantasy Michael L. Printz Award-winner and Going Bovine author Libba Bray's The Diviners series features a spunky protagonist who becomes involved in ―a world of magical divination, political intrigue, and a series of sinister opponents, including a Chinese demon.‖ Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Projected for Fall 2012.
Reference NY Times best-selling-author of Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon, Mark Di Vincenzo brings us more information and solutions (as reported by Publishers Lunch this past winter) for a crazy-mixed-up world in his new book, There‘s Wood in Your Turkey Bacon: And 333 Other Fascinating Facts That Will Make You Smarter, Safer and Healthier. Harper Collins. Publication date unknown.
―Blaze Glass Two — The Heart‖ By B. L. Pawelek, 2010
TCE Editor Eve Anthony Hanninen and
Poet Esther Greenleaf Mürer
discuss the comedic, the ridiculous, the topsy-turvy, and the oh-so-serious ins & outs of composing poetry.
Eve: Esther, due to our slant of the preposterous aimed for in this issue of The Centrifugal Eye, readers unfamiliar with your work until now might not realize that much of your writing has a serious political and religious bent — still, aren‘t you also drawn to the absurd? Esther: Much of my political poetry is absurdist; I feel the political scene is so surreal that it‘s no use trying to say anything sensible about it. One has to get away from one-dimensionality. It was a brief setback not to have the Bush League to kick around anymore, but the scene is just as Monty Python-esque as ever. My impulse is largely prophetic, I guess, and letting myself write nonsense feels like being "spoken through." If I lose touch with the comic dimension, the result is usually the deadest kind of earnest. As theologian Matthew Fox observes, "the prophet who cannot laugh is a bogus prophet using ‗peace and justice‘ as a new moralism and orthodoxy test." The poems in this issue of TCE are by no means an overview of my oeuvre, of course. I write more straightforward stuff, too. Nature often comes into it. But whatever I‘m writing about, the absurd and the surreal seem to provide a way to say multiple things at once, sort of like counterpoint in music. Eve: While this issue is especially concerned with the comedic intertwined with the problematic, we‘ve included representations of serious subjects, as well. As in some of the poems, things in life can go terribly wrong. Inexplicably. What‘s the worst career snafu you‘ve experienced? Esther: My translating career was temporarily halted when my literary agent died and Jens Bjørneboe, the Norwegian author whose novels I was translating, committed suicide. I was able to resume 20 years later, and now consider the forced moratorium a blessing, as it enabled me to get some distance from events. Eve: And in the interim? Esther: Library cataloguer (for awhile I specialized in Slavic books), and some freelance scientific editing . . . composing music . . . active in my local Quaker meeting; I am less so now, though I still edit the newsletter . . . and off and on for 20+ years I‘ve been compiling a massive scripture index to 17th-century Quaker writings, a work-in-progress now on a website hosted by the Earlham School of Religion.
Featured Poet Esther Greenleaf Mürer Interview
7 Philadelphia Poet Esther Greenleaf Mürer PhotoArt collaboration by B. L. Pawelek & E. A. Hanninen, 2010 Author photo supplied by E. Mürer
The Society of Friends has had an historic antipathy to the arts of all kinds, a taboo not broken until the 20th Century. (Poetry was less frowned upon: One 17th-century Friend, Thomas Ellwood, served as Milton‘s amanuensis for awhile, and wrote reams of bad Miltonic poetry.) For a time, I was active in the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts, and was founding editor of its newsletter-cum-journal, Types & Shadows. Writing an editorial column, Counterpoint, gave me impetus to explore the relation of religion and art. I also edited a collection of Quaker quotations on the arts, Beyond Uneasy Tolerance, documenting the way the arts were viewed, and the struggle to win acceptance for them, from the 1650s through the 1990s.
Eve: Are you satisfied with the progress in acceptance of the arts by modern Quaker society? Esther: I guess now Quakers are as arts-friendly as they‘re ever going to be. Pendle Hill, a Quaker adult study and retreat center outside Philadelphia, offers arts as part of its program. They focus on relating art to spiritual life and the Quaker testimonies of peace, simplicity, equality, community, and care for the Earth. They have places to display art, opportunities for performance, and an artist-in-residence scholarship. So Quakers no longer regard the arts as "vain pastimes which burthen the pure life and promote a light mind," but you have to understand that "the Arts" is a 19th-century concept, and in the 17th Century "vain pastimes" was a rubric which included sports, gambling, horse racing, snake-oil selling, and other popular amusements, as well as the arts. And the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice (our book of discipline) still lumps them together, though it‘s somewhat more discerning. Still, the idea that honing one‘s craft could take precedence over committee meetings and good works seems incomprehensible to many— as to most people in our driven society, I reckon. I wrote a Counterpoint column called "A Ministry of Uselessness," taking off from Thomas Merton: "The artist must serenely defend his right to be completely useless." (I know Quaker artists who take issue with that, though.) Eve: Oh, I like that— the concept of the profession of uselessness is a perfect sort of paradoxical troblem to ponder. Have you made your peace with your religion‘s stance on the arts? Esther: I eventually realized I was too hung up on getting validation from Quakers, and was substituting shadow art, such as editing Types & Shadows. Finally, I mustered up the courage to say no to Quaker busyness — in Philadelphia you can spend all your time Quaking if you let yourself get sucked in, as for many years I did — and put my art first. Of late a string of health problems has forced me to curtail my activities somewhat. That‘s been a help. My aunt, who was a painter and joined Friends in her 40s, told me toward the end of her life that she‘d kept her art and her Quakerism in separate boxes until her 80s. Lots of Quaker artists do that, but it‘s uncomfortable, since so many of us identify the Spirit with the Muse, and are strengthened by the corporate silent worship. Finding balance is difficult. It‘s taken me a long time to begin to live up to insights that I arrived at 15 years ago (quoted in Beyond Uneasy Tolerance): If I can get past the desire to have my work admired because it's mine; If I can write to heal and not to impress; If I can serve the work by rigorously attending to what it wants to be rather than imposing my will on it; If I can resist pressures to do what's fashionable or politically correct and stick to minding my call; If I can trust my religious community to uphold me without expecting them to promote my work;
If I can trust that Providence will send me as much recognition as is spiritually good for me— —Then I've found the link between art and attending to the pure Life. Eve: Do you look for validation elsewhere? Esther: I‘ve gotten hooked on poetry critique boards, which worries me some. And all this publication is unbelievable. I bear in mind, though, some words of Christian Wiman: "Acknowledgment no matter how small, a publication or prize, a word of praise from a friend — this is all a sort of alcohol . . ." (So the Troblems and Prubbles continue . . .) Eve: What brought you to poetry from languages and your long-term dedication to Quaker writings? Esther: I‘ve sporadically written poetry all my life. I‘ve always needed a creative outlet, whether it was translating, composing, writing, or editing. I composed music as a teenager; I came back to it later, after the translating project stalled, and was astonished at how much I‘d learned about composing from translating. Later, the translating project reopened and I found I‘d learned so much about translating from composing that I was able to translate some of Bjørneboe‘s metrical poetry. In both cases, I guess that through caring deeply about the work, I learned the discipline of getting the details right in a larger whole— a ripening of artistic consciousness that I hadn‘t had in my youth, when I just wrote things and hadn‘t a clue about revising. After the translating project was done and I went back to working on the Quaker Bible Index, I soon discovered I needed a counterweight to that work, something which would get me off the head plane— so I started dabbling in poetry, again. I found the American Academy of Poets online in 2003 and registered, but the forums weren‘t working. I forgot all about them until 2 years later when, a few days before my 70th birthday, I got an email saying the forums were now functioning. And as my long-delayed poetic education began, that was when I found that I‘d learned a lot about writing poetry from both translating and composing. Eve: That‘s a good example of how creative processes from seemingly unlike disciplines feed upon and inform one another. With your renewed interest in writing poetry, and just cresting 50 published poems, were you surprised to be selected for TCE‘s Featured Interview Poet? Esther: Well, I‘ve been astonished at how many poems have been accepted in various places, especially in the last year, and your taking all 6 of the batch I sent you was the first surprise. I certainly didn‘t expect to be asked. And I was terrified. But it was a godsend. I‘ve been yearning for some way to take stock of where I‘ve been and where I‘m going as a poet, and this is a tremendous opportunity. Eve: It‘s seldom I accept more than 1-3 poems from a batch. Your 6 (2 appearing in the centerfold folio) were not only finely crafted, but loaded with charm, and showcasing your deft treatment of the absurd. Your control of language isn‘t a mistake, yet you seem somewhat doubtful.
Esther: Bjørneboe once wrote me, "My new novel is coming out in the fall. I have no idea if it‘s any good." One doesn‘t, you know. One day X is the world‘s greatest masterpiece, the next week it‘s utter garbage, a few years later, "Gee, that‘s pretty good. Did I really write that?" I‘m just a geriatric autodidact trying to figure things out. Eve: What misconceptions about you or your writing do you think readers may have? Esther: Some people, including some on the poetry critique boards I frequent, regard me as a good poet. I can‘t imagine why. Seriously. It makes me feel like a charlatan. A frequent comment is "I had to look up a lot of words, but it was worth the effort." My background is in languages and music, not literature; I‘m not tuned into the postmodern universe of discourse. I guess I speak a different language than most young folks. I‘m glad if my stuff speaks to them nonetheless. Eve: I suspect contemporary poets who ―speak a different language‖ are able to bring what seem like ―foreign‖ elements to their poems; as freshness in poetry is considered favorable, this developed ―language‖ of yours gives you a modern advantage. An irony, wouldn‘t you say? Esther: I guess it‘s one way of making a virtue of necessity! Eve: Actually, making virtues from foibles is a favorite writing technique of mine. Do you incorporate ―mistakes‖ or ―accidents‖ in poems, or wipe out the troubles and begin anew? Esther: Ah, a multiple-choice question. A: I never make mistakes. B. My poetry is nothing but a long chain of accidents. C. Both of the above. The best example I can come up with offhand is from composing needlepoint pictures — I‘d unexpectedly run out of one color of yarn and would have to improvise. In poetry, I guess I‘m improvising more often than not, so the precise case you describe doesn‘t arise all that often. Alternatively: Making virtues from foibles is a continuous process. Eve: I vote for the latter — I see it as a form of creative adaption, of recovery from mistake or mishap. But maybe that‘s my own idiosyncrasy agreeing. I‘d say most poets and authors have writing idiosyncrasies — some they‘re conscious of, and others not until they‘re pointed out. What are your oddest writing habits?
Esther: I tend to be too elliptical in my writing; my mind jumps from A to Q and I‘m utterly unable to lead the reader from A to B to C . . . Before the advent of the word processor this was a formidable obstacle. Now I can write a few sentences, expand each into a paragraph, rearrange, etc. — the word processor is friendlier to how my mind works than the means I used to use (I composed mainly in pencil). Also, there seems to be a discontinuity between my rational and irrational sides. Unless I allow myself to play, the result is humdrum, prosy, linear. Some serious ideas I discuss in prose, but translating them into poetry is well-nigh impossible. The difference between a battering ram and a pole vault, I guess. Getting hold of the pole is difficult unless the Muse hands it to me. Eve: As an editor, I see many different poetic styles during the selection process while reading submissions — some works might be termed ―chaotic‖ (irrational?) in their construction, others as ―streamlined‖ (rational?). Do you think there‘s a right or wrong way to approach writing poetry? Esther: I don‘t hold with "shoulds" and "shouldn‘ts" and find that quarreling with them is a rich source of poetic inspiration. A statement that "x is no way to write poetry" challenges me to disprove it. I guess you could call me an anarchist. Don‘t get me wrong, though: I write quite a bit of formal poetry. My muse is essentially comic, and for years I thought that meant I was capable of writing only "light verse." It was a liberation and delight to discover poets, such as Cummings, who write poetry of depth and power with tongue firmly planted in cheek. And I‘m still discovering them: John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Charles Simic, James Tate, Stevie Smith, Harryette Mullen, Denise Duhamel, Tony Hoagland. But I hadn‘t put together what the wounding insult was until recently. Eve: What is the wounding insult? Esther: That the kind of poetry I felt drawn to was inherently second-class stuff. Part of it was the literary fashions of the 1950s, which I found totally off-putting. (I reckon there was a sexist subtext too — women only write light verse.) And then "confessional" poetry became all the rage, and that‘s not my thing either. So I just tuned out. To be fair, though, I think the main trouble was that I had to mature, gain some experience and self-knowledge. Poetry seems now to be a synthesizing kind of activity, a good occupation for one‘s declining years. And I don‘t have to worry about getting it performed. Eve: As you did when composing music? Esther: Yes, I didn‘t have a lot of luck with that. I wrote mostly for vocal ensemble, and for musically literate singers. I had two pieces performed publicly, a few others privately, and a couple things were published in the recent Friends hymnal, Worship
Eve: And now you‘ve swapped composing for writing poetry. One of the sub-themes in this issue treats the idea of swapping positions — whether letters in words, in place, or situation — so let‘s entertain this: If you were asked to trade places/careers with another poet or writer, would you? Esther: Except for the fact that in my teens I wanted to be Gilbert & Sullivan, this does not compute. "There comes a time in every man‘s life when he must take himself, for better or for worse, as his portion." (Emerson) Eve: That‘s ideal to accept one‘s self as is, although many people desire to be other than they are despite such sage advice. But— Gilbert and Sullivan? You wanted to be both? Esther: Yes, since I was very much into composing. I was a pair of collaborators, Samuel Shakelance and William Notesart, who had an acrimonious correspondence, mostly because Notesart was always so far behind in setting Shakelance‘s librettos. Eve: Ah! I see now how you‘d need to be a pair. When did you finally take yourself as your portion? Esther: It was a gradual process. Joining the Quakers was an important step. And having a daughter with Asperger‘s syndrome — a high-functioning variant of autism often characterized by strong abilities in some directions, combined with a marked lack of social awareness — has taught me a lot about myself; she‘s a chip off the old block writ large. It explains many of my poetic idiosyncracies, too. For instance, ―Aspie‖ spokesperson Temple Grandin says that she relates to animals better than to people. I resonate with that. When I go to the park, I talk to the birds, dogs and squirrels. There are more animals than people in my published poetry — vertebrates both extant and extinct, lots of marine invertebrates, guinea pigs especially favored, and of course I put in a skink wherever possible (don‘t think I‘ve ever seen one, but it‘s a wonderful word). I write poetry about people too, but it‘s rarely any good. A while ago, there was a question on poets.org: "What are your strengths and weaknesses as a poet?" I look at what I wrote and see many of my weaknesses in my daughter. She‘s a graduate of a prestigious art school, but has never been able to verbalize about her art. She has trouble with figurative language, too. Similarly, I have to labor at imagery and metaphor, and my attempts at sensory descriptions usually fall so flat I rarely bother. I have a long list of visual memories that I long to make into poems, but am unable to translate from visual to verbal. Same goes for verbalizing complex feelings. What all the books tell you are the sine qua nons (or if one wants to be pedantic, sine quibus non) of poetry. Eve: I find those assertions intriguing. Image and metaphor (as well as sonics) are what I‘m most attracted to in poetry. I didn‘t note these attributes lacking in your poems. You must labor in a way you make look easy. Esther: Maybe I just come at it by a different route — via wordplay.
Eve: How do you approach your poetics? Esther: I‘m just beginning to realize what an ongoing struggle it is to figure out what kind of poet I am, to work up the courage to be my own kind, not the kind the pundits tell me I should be. To learn to build on my strengths: Critiquing other people‘s poems is usually pretty difficult, but I can fall back on grammar, spelling, and punctuation, which I‘ve always been good at. My early exposure to light verse has given me a good grasp of meter and rhyme, though I‘ve had to reeducate myself to be less strict and more adventurous about both for "heavier" poems. My musical background has given me a good (if somewhat idiosyncratic) grounding in sonics. (For more about what I‘ve learned from music, see my essay on page18.) And then there‘s my lifelong engagement with words and wordplay, a linguistic background which tunes me into word etymologies, and puns (or paronomasia, since we‘re talking serious poetry). I love to dip into Finnegans Wake. My aunt used to read bits of it to me when I was young, and I did likewise with my son. I‘ve never read it all the way through, nor had any desire to comprehend it — I just open it at random and bask in all the multilingual puns. "For Erin boys, go brawl." There in 5 words are "für Ehren" (German "for honor"), "errand boys," and "Erin go bragh." And the book grabs me as authentic dream language, which I recognize as very like my own. Phrases that come to me in dreams or in a twilight state often yield seeds for poems. Eve: I must say I‘m delighted, as I‘m sure will be our readers, that some of your twilit-sown poems are planted in The Centrifugal Eye‘s jumbled February garden of Troblems and Prubbles. And thank you, Esther, for your charming and educational responses.
Learn more in the following pages about Esther and the ways she composes her far-from-absurd poems! Readers of TCE’s print edition may find more information about these references online:
―A Ministry of Uselessness‖ by Esther Greenleaf Mürer (http://www.quaker.org/fqa/types/t15-useless.html)
American Academy of Poets (http://www.poets.org/)
―Mesa Strikes a Pose‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
To a Table
Esther Greenleaf Mürer Esther Greenleaf Mürer
"Mensa, O table, is vocative case," he replied. "You would use it in speaking to a table." "But I never do," I blurted out in honest amazement. –Winston Churchill's memoirs
Now listen, table. We're having company for dinner. You'll have an extra leaf, so tighten your stomach muscles; no sagging. And don't complain. Forget that folderol about a groaning board. Instead of your usual junk-shop chic you'll wear a birqa. None of your Marie Antoinette headdresses flaunting piles of paper in artful dishabille. And no tabula rasa act either. Another thing: Stand still. No can-can, Charleston, Irish jig, breakdancing. No pretending to be an octopus, spooking the guests by coiling around their legs. It's time you learned to be a disinclined plane without playing the martyr. Just try to be civilized for once, and set a good example for the chairs.
A Poem, Anyhow Balderdash, he cried, shedding his toupée as he ran. Furthermore, he panted, and jogged another mile. Nevertheless, he sighed as he stepped off the scale. He fell onto the sofa, martinis notwithstanding. At any rate, he loathed the thought of paying taxes. Moreover, he felt like the low man on the totem pole. In the meantime, his children hid in the closet.
Decluttering Time to declutter the shrdlu. You take the harebells and tippets, I'll take the tuffets and widdershins. Here's a rounsey. Out. Squill? Save till later. Marmosets? Keepers. Ranter-go-round? Under the stithy. Slumgullions, then? No. What about the jimjams? Put them over there, by the forfex. That's where I put the swipples. Fine, then, with the codswallop. And the isogloss? File it under "syllabub." But that leaves these fetlocks. Toss them in the scuttlebutt. Do we have to keep all of them? We‘ll need them for tiffin. Can't we use scrum? Too many lammergeiers. I give up. OK, go relax with your gemsbok. Tomorrow we'll serry the oldsquaws into phalangers and tanyards. The grandiloquents sure left a muckle.
―Blaze Glass Six‖ By B. L. Pawelek, 2010
Indoor Sports I don‘t know why the dishwasher doesn‘t want to play charades. It grumbles at my attempts to pose as a corkscrew. When I scratch my ear with my foot it immerses The Last Chronicle of Barset in itself. Last week I tried to teach it chess and the silly thing danced the Queen‘s Gambit around the block leaving a rainbow trail of suds and I had to call the SPCA to come and take it to the zoo. After it showed the wallaby how to cheat at bezique, the alligator filed for divorce and the otter started plotting with the skink to overthrow the government and the zoocatcher called me and said it wasn‘t working out.
So now we‘re back in the kitchen playing Monopoly, and the dishwasher has eaten all the grapefruit spoons, and I‘m struggling to collect $200 as I juggle a gross of greasy soup plates, and the dishwasher is bored and has gone back to absorbing Last Exit to Brooklyn.
―Corkscrew‖ By B. L. Pawelek & E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Esther Greenleaf Mürer has been a literary translator, editor, and composer. She published translations of four novels by the Norwegian writer Jens Bjørneboe, and was founding editor of Types & Shadows: Journal of the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts. She has been writing poetry off and on all her life, but only became diligent about it when she turned 70. Her work has recently appeared in Unsplendid, Umbrella, Able Muse, Pemmican, and Drunken Boat. She lives in Philadelphia. Contact Esther (firstname.lastname@example.org) Website (http://esthergreenleafmurer.blogspot.com/)
Donnybrook of the Blot and Sequitur Donnybrook of the Blot and Sequitur:
How I Made Friends with Poetry By Esther Greenleaf Mürer
For most of my life, I shied away from reading poetry. In my college years, I acquired some off-putting assumptions, of which I am only now becoming aware. Part of it was my own ignorance, inexperience, and lack of self-knowledge. But as it looked to me then, people interested in English poetry lived in a hothouse atmosphere of snobbery, singularly grim and humorless. They seemed to have some esoteric "criteria" which made me feel as if I were back in junior-high gym class, where they never bothered to explain the rules of the game— and just pelted you with balls, which you had to defend yourself against as best you could. My fitful and short-lived attempts to make friends with poetry in subsequent decades usually foundered on seemingly arbitrary and ephemeral "shoulds," which made trust impossible. Nevertheless, in my 30s I read one book of poetry to shreds: 100 poems, by e.e. cummings. In my late 40s, I published two poems in Friends Journal. And so, amid translating, composing, and other activities, I continued sneaking up on poetry until, at age 70, I found an online community, which kept me going. Since then, I‘ve been reading and writing, and joyfully unlearning all those deadening assumptions that kept me away from poetry for so long. For example, I was exhilarated to find these words of Charles Simic: ―If one believes that randomness and nonsense are an integral part of the human experience, as all comic writers always have, then those for whom poetry is synonymous with delicacy of feeling and verbal decorum will go away unhappy and even angry.‖ —Charles Simic, "Tragi-Comic Soup: On John Ashbery‖ in The Metaphysician in the Dark, pg. 95
Reading this, I realized how oppressed I‘ve always felt by the implication that "poetry is synonymous with delicacy of feeling and verbal decorum." I have always recoiled at statements that define poetry in emotional terms, but seem unwilling to admit that emotions can include laughter and a sense of play, adventure, anarchy, and delight in absurdity. Simic‘s words helped me to see that my muse is essentially comic; and that Thalia, far from restricting one to writing "light" verse, can inspire poems informed by weightier emotions such as rage, grief, disgust, despair, joy, or reverence. It‘s often necessary to let go of the will to make sense in order to let a deeper meaning emerge. One of the delights of coming to poetry late has been the discovery — after decades of believing that poetry had a lot of incomprehensible "shoulds" that put it beyond my purview — that the "ways of constructing tribal lays" (the possible
subjects, structures, and sources of inspiration) are limitless, "and every single one of them is right!" Making the acquaintance of the work of other poets impelled me into a "dialogue," which spurred me to write over 40 imitations / homages / responses / parodies. Such "dialogue" was nothing new: My first free-verse poem (at age 16) had been spurred by a line in Virgilâ€˜s Aeneid which struck me as funny, and I have similar memories from college involving Old French and Old Church Slavonic. But the possibility that modern English poetry could provide positive inspiration had never entered my head. Lately I've compiled a list of ways of using the work of others as springboards for original poems, most of which fall into a few broad headings. One of the simplest and most common is to build on a borrowed title or line or phrase. Taking a title from Robinson Jeffers: Shine, Perishing Republic Shine, perishing republic like a rotten mackerel by moonlight. Obese with empire, choking on the reflux of greed, we flounder in the muck of our own making. An emergency protest crams a vest-pocket park named for a jailed state senator. A bubble in the sludge plops and fizzles.
A couple of years ago, I went on a binge of using borrowed lines as refrains for repeating formsâ€” for example, a rhymed couplet for a villanelle, or an unrhymed line or pair of lines for some other French form: Rondel on Lines by James Tate Knit the mosquitoes together beneath your pajamas. Leave all your mammas gamboling in the heather; enclose the words you blether in inverted commas, and knit the mosquitoes together beneath your pyjamas. what does it matter whether you find three-L lllamas
in postmodern dramas? Take a long thong of leather and knit the mosquitoes together. (Refrain lines from James Tateâ€˜s "Recipe for Sleep.")
There are many ways of using larger chunks of poems: I‘ve tried paraphrases; interlinear poems (turning free verse into rhymed couplets); and Oulipo-type variations, such as substituting nearby words in the dictionary that have the same part of speech and number of syllables: Sunken Morphine Complexities of the pelisse, and lathed coifs and orchestras in a super chalet, and the grim freckles of a coconut upon a ruin minimize to distemper the homely hybrid of android saddlecloth. She drills a liver, and she fends the dated endeavor of that olid catchphrase, as a cam daubs among the wattlebirds. The purblind orchestras and broad grim wires seize thirls in sonic prodigies of the dean, warbling athwart wild waxwork, without soup. The dawn is like wild waxwork, without soup, stung for the pastiche of her dribbling felt over the seat, to silted palinode, donnybrook of the blot and sequitur.
(1st strophe of Wallace Stevens‘ "Sunday Morning.")
I‘ve also worked quite a bit with homophonic translation, going by sound rather than sense. Perhaps the best-known example is Luis d‘Antin Van Rooten‘s Mots d‘heures: Gousses, rames, which translates English nursery rhymes into mock French. Of course, one can also translate from a foreign language to English — or from English to English, as in "Anthem du jour," my April Fool‘s poem for last year‘s National Poetry Writing Month (which appears in TCE‘s Misheard Poems folio, on page 37). Which brings me to my past experience as a translator and composer, and what it taught me about writing poetry: Translating gave me much practice in chasing down words. I have always been a reader of dictionaries (including foreign-language ones), and have a strong background in Latin, which whetted my interest in etymologies at an early age; I‘ve studied modern European languages, as well. Translating from Norwegian involved work with Germanic roots and compounds. Sometimes I could translate directly, perhaps into a word that wasn‘t quite English but still intelligible. Once I had to find a Germanic word for "mortuary" (the original contained a string of synonyms, both Latin and Germanic). The Norwegian word is likhus, "corpse-house," and below the line in my 1913 Webster‘s Unabridged I found the obsolete "lychhouse." Such exercises have attuned me to the uses of semantic rejuvenation.
―Blaze Glass Four‖ By B. L. Pawelek, 2010
The first two pages of Jens Bjørneboe‘s Moment of Freedom (a sort of booklength prose poem and a joy to translate) are loaded with puns on the Norwegian word rett ("right, court, justice"). In the first sentence, the narrator tells us that he is a rettstjener (tjener = "servant"), which from the context appears to mean a sort of courthouse factotum, but which also carries the larger meaning "servant of justice" — which is how I translated it throughout. Likewise the word urett (the prefix umeans "un-" or sometimes, as a noun prefix, "dys-") usually means "injustice," but could also be parsed, in a punning context, as "kangaroo court." So a phrase which translates literally as "my presence at the daily rett — or rather the daily urett— " came out "My presence in the courtroom, at the daily rites of justice — or better, the daily wrongs— " I didn‘t commit myself to translating the book until I was sure I could manage those opening pages, which took a long time. But it certainly brought home the serious role of puns in saying several things at once, like counterpoint in music. Perhaps the most important thing I gained from translating Moment of Freedom was thematic: Throughout the novel, the narrator searches for the courage to do what he couldn‘t manage as a youthful art student: to "paint my own picture." As for composing: In high school, I had a voice teacher who taught me about the phonetics of writing for voice. The fact that one must always consider singability has influenced my ideas about metrics — the relation of consonant clusters to pace, for example. Good vocal writing follows the natural inflections of the spoken language. I try to remember to read poems aloud several times, check for sonics; if they are in a suitable meter, I sing them. (Hymns are commonly in iambic tetrameter and/or trimeter; any good hymnal has a metrical index, which — though notated differently from the way poets do it — can also point you to other metrical schemes, including trochaic. Blues are often in iambic pentameter.) Occasionally, I‘ve experimented with trying to replicate music in poetry, as in this example:
Homage to Béla Bartók I have always wanted to try my hand at writing in meter imitative of dances in Bulgarian rhythm, with a pattern of trochee trochee dactyl; the
top voice plays against that with a sprung sprung tro-che trocheeeeee— Bar - tok's Mikrokos - mos gives the modelllllllllll— while the beat continues on ||:on and on and on and on :|| on and on and on and off on and off off
(In the lines in larger type, I‘ve tried to use consonant clusters, as well as hyphens, to indicate the longer notes. The "refrain" lines at the end should be read with glottal stops before "on" and "off" to sharpen the rhythm.) John Ashbery wrote: "I feel I could express myself best in music. What I like about music is its ability of being convincing, of carrying an argument through successfully to the finish, though the terms of this argument remain unknown quantities. What remains is this structure, the architecture of the argument, scene or story. I would like to do this in poetry." [Quoted in Michelle Boisseau et al, Writing Poems (7th ed, 2008), pg.190.] While composing, I often started with a musical idea and then worked back and forth, dialoguing between music and words. I‘d play around on the piano until I came up with a motif or a chord progression, or an idea for a structure — say, taking a preexisting tune and using it as the bass line — that called me to follow where it led. Here‘s a recent poem that illustrates a similar process of "contrapuntal dialogue" with a starting idea. It illustrates a formal "given" which then goes off in two directions at once. This is a form that I can‘t find a name for, though I can‘t believe I "invented" it — I provisionally call it a "word-crostic," a variant of the acrostic, but lining down the words of a quotation rather than letters of a word:
All Fall Down Ring the trembling tocsin. Gad around the neighborhood in shoals. The moldering yore glows rosy in this twilit moment as a quorum of resurrectionists pocket their plunder from boneyards full of ribs and fibulae. In a void of good intentions, they derange posies into misbegotten mountains of ashes, jetsam into jihads of ashes, clinkers and clunkers, all we hoped was forgotten, all the effluvia we meant should fall off the earth's edge and down the maw of the cosmos. (First published in Pemmican, 2010)
I am immensely grateful for the nurture I have received from the members of sundry online poetry forums. For the past three years, I‘ve participated in National Poetry Writing Month, with its challenge to write a poem every day for the month of April. It is a communal effort on various poetry boards, where the participants cheer each other on with positive comments, and suspend criticism for the duration. I‘ve found it a wonderful opportunity to play, and to try out ideas in company, without worrying about quality. (Three of the poems in this essay, plus both of my "Misheard Poems," originated in NaPoWriMo.) In conclusion, I wish to thank Eve Hanninen and The Centrifugal Eye for the gift of this opportunity to explore what kind of a poet I am. I appreciate how rare it is, and wish there were ways of helping more poets see their developing work in a holistic way. I come away feeling that I am indeed learning to "paint my own picture."
Esther Greenleaf Mürer
Esther Greenleaf Mürer
―Downstairs- Hunting Island Lighthouse, SC‖ By Karla Linn Merrifield, 2010
―Roses‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Sarajevo, 11 a.m.
Iliya Ansky Iliya Ansky
Perhaps it starts with wanting to grab something Substantial to eat and the time of day is not yet noon But there is that whiny gurgling in the stomach For something meaty a nearby ćevap perhaps Deep-fried onions and crispy black stripes on brown With kaymak lepinja hmm meanwhile somebody put A crippled Greco-Roman statue with no pupils in Prison made out of metal bars and scaffolds for renovation And costermongers accost passersby with rants & touting and Horse clops are in the arabesque streets with lush chestnut Shades where you don‘t cut corners cuz you might Bump into an archduke when his coachman whips You into shape by accident yet in principle the spokes Of wheels of carts shambling away don‘t spin fast Backwards like the hubcaps of smuggled BMWs Brake-squeaking 60 along tortuous corniches Scaling them into the ex-Ottoman stronghold Sprawling into a city with flat mortar roses splashing on The ground but luckily no one is adjusting rifle Scopes on the valley where all the above lies
Iliya Ansky (b. 1983) is a poet of Russian-Jewish origins. He lived most of his life in Israel until he decided that a change of setting was in order and moved to Europe, throughout which he traveled, finally deciding to settle in Prague, Czech Republic, where he, on a tangent, also finished his master‘s degree in electrical engineering. Currently, he is the original-publications editor for GRASP magazine, a new English quarterly of culture and aesthetics available in Prague. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Ekleksographia (as Iliya Bolotyansky) and GRASP. In his spare time, Ansky works on his translations of the Jewish-Israeli poet David Avidan, as well as the Russian GULAG-era poet Varlam Shalamov, into English. Contact Iliya (email@example.com)
―Future Tech‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Your Document Failed to Print
John Grey John Grey
It could be you forgot to press the print button. Or maybe you didn't even create a document. Or you weren't at your computer in the first place. Odds are you haven't gotten out of bed yet. You're never going to get out of bed again. Nor will your family. Nor your friends. Nor your city. Nor your country. Nor the world. The great asteroid hit and the reptile survivors haven't a clue how to log on. Hence the idle computer. Hence the silent printer. Hence the message which says it all.
John Grey is an Australian-born poet, and U.S. resident since the late ‘70s. He works as a financial systems analyst. Recently, he was published in Connecticut Review, Kestrel, and Writer‘s Bloc, with more upcoming works in Pennsylvania English, Alimentum, and The Great American Poetry Show. John is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Marjorie Bruhmuller Marjorie Bruhmuller
g i n r t The crow flew off with a piece of but didn‘t realize its entirety the length rose in the breeze a line through the trees to what seemed like eternity the tin can still moored in the ground by spring ice.
―Calling God‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
I could not help myself lifted the lost toy to my ear answered who I assumed to be God on the other end the sound of wind in trees the ache of bark hurrying to fold itself over a wound
Marjorie Bruhmuller was a finalist in Glimmer Train‘s New Writers‘ Short Story Contest in 2002; her short story, Willa and Iris, was published in Telling Stories, Véhicule Press. Recently, her poems have been published in The Mitre, Grain, Event, Room, The Antigonish Review, The Poetry Project (Tupelo Press), THEMA,
The Cold River Review, Taproot IV, California Quarterly, Willow Review, The Light in Ordinary Things (Fearless Books) and The New Writer (UK). Contact Marjorie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Blues one cure for a bruised heart is found in the night, deep down amongst the vocal chords, the slow violin thin as cricket legs, low as the big base string a vibration like a cat purring in slow-motion and a distant train moaning at a crossing where only one old man leans against a lamp post in a Fedora, made by a woman named Iris in a basement apartment on Detroit Avenue. A brown sound, over black and blue… and green with mist from the river rising up in her throat raspy words that flow like red silk from her lips out into the room, catch the lights, bottles the glassy eyes of the bartender, disappear into the mirror behind the bar, that wrap the whole room up like a ghost over a corpse laid out in a cotton dress, settled with arms crossed over her chest, the gold chain glistening in the dark like the neon sign down the street that never burns out the sound love makes when it‘s gone gone for good.
Harry Calhoun Harry Calhoun
The bulbs in the light fixture directly across from the skylight at the top of the staircase have died. I seem to hear them cooing to me in the soft, sudden darkness, luring me into a suicide pact: Change us, change us. I‘m wise to you, bulbs, afraid of heights and clumsy, too. No ladder precarious on the upper landing with me leaning out. Sure, somebody once installed and replaced these bulbs. And Hannibal, they tell me once crossed the snowy Alps
―Hannibal‘s Bright Idea‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
with his magnificent elephants.
Harry Calhoun‘s articles, literary essays, book reviews and poems have been published in magazines including Writer‘s Digest and The National Enquirer. Recently, his online chapbook Dogwalking Poems, and his trade paperback, I knew Bukowski like you knew a rare leaf, were published. The latter is available from Trace Publications and other online booksellers. He‘s had recent publications in Chiron Review, Still Crazy, SNReview, The Orange Room Review, Bird‘s Eye reView, Abbey, Monongahela Review and many others. Recently, he was one of 12 poets invited to LiteraryMary‘s anthology, Outstanding Men of the Small Press.
Dogwalking Poems (http://www.deadmule.com/poetry/2009/04/harry-calhoun-dogwalking-poems-%25e2%2580%2593-a-chapbook/)
I knew Bukowski like you knew a rare leaf (http://www.amazon.com/Knew-Bukowski-Like-Rareleaf/dp/0578016346/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261333231&sr=8-1)
Longhand I‘ve heard talk about the typewriter being a better vehicle for writing poetry than the computer. After a life of using both in their turn, I keep returning as if a generation or two removed to longhand. Something thought-provoking and savage about the lead biting the words into the paper. Smoky thoughts of Lincoln etching his homework with coal on the back of a shovel, medieval scribes by candlelight — whatever works is whatever‘s best. A brandy, tides lapping slowly swirled up the golden moon of the snifter, accompanies me as I engrave this into the tablet. Tonight it will sleep beside my bed. Tomorrow I will interpret its dream and we will all know its truth, its flaws and finally, imperfect, what it wanted to be when it scribbled itself from my hand guiding the planchette of pencil.
―Blaze Glass Three‖ By B. L. Pawelek, 2010
Kenneth P. Gurney
Amy’s Hair Looks Like So Much Grass
Kenneth P. Gurney
A swelter of feminine limbs wilt an unnatural tangle. A blonde star remains as arrogant as a front-yard dandelion. The deep crawl of colored taproots emerges in her frontal lobe, distorts her sense of smell, her twenty-twenty vision. A patch of second thoughts spike then flatten at a tonsured resolution.
Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM, USA. His poetry finds its way onto online poetry journals far more often than in print publications, due to his habit of spending SASE & reading-fee monies on flowers for his lover. His latest collection of poems resides in a book titled Writers' Block. For fun he creates postcard poems and mails them out to friends who complain they get no "real mail" from the carrier. Kenneth is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Mother Goose was a Mayhem Moose
Saw a shootin' star, Thought I'd put it in my hat. But Momma didn't want it, So I gave it to the cat. Now kitty's livin' large On the richer side of town, Forgettin' that she made it On the shootin' star I found.
Soon as I got int'rest, Thought that I was made. But fishes are not wishes; Never did get laid. Kitty got in trouble, So I went and posted bail. Sold off all my fishies Gettin' kitty outta jail.
Reporters try to talk to her, But she ain't in the mood. She's chillin' in my kitchen, Eatin' all my food.
Jeremy Kiahsobyk lives and works in Pueblo, Colorado, where he spends a great deal of time being a proud father of two boys who are the very paradigm of mayhem. Somewhere in the mix he manages to practice martial arts, play the piano, and write the odd essay or poem. This is Jeremy‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Jeremy (email@example.com)
―Kitty Fishies‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Caught a couple fishies And I put em' in the bank— Can't get any richer With yer fishies in the tank.
Jennifer Hollie Bowles
I am afraid of his safety; the way he pets my head and holds my spine. Forget falling, we are gravity. He grabs the leash of my reality, searching for ways to keep me in line. I am afraid of his safety. Moments vibrate with my frailty. Forget falling, we are gravity. He pulls my hair, usurps my reality into some finger thing, sublime. With this closeness, thereâ€˜s no levity, only empathy for trains. Forget falling, we are gravity. Through his eyes, love becomes dignity, until finally, I lie supine. I am afraid of his safety.
Jennifer Hollie Bowles
―Self-Leashed‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
33 Jennifer Hollie Bowles is an empath, but she is entirely too self-absorbed. She is the editor of The Medulla Review, and her work has been accepted for publication in The New York Quarterly, Thieves Jargon, Word Riot, The Ampersand Review, and blossombones, among many others. Jennifer writes more than she breathes, but she has yet to find a publisher psychotic enough to publish her first novel, Surreal Self. Contact Jennifer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are who we are creating who we are every second lives spent in multi-perspective perspectives simul-simultaneously ourselves and observing ourselves outside of ourselves seeing while looking speaking while hearing doing while planning — at the same time — like paintings of ourselves on the walls of the others we are
Feature Folio: Pages 34-41
―Blaze Glass Two‖ By B. L. Pawelek, 2010
Eh? ―Monsieur d‘ Pommes?‖ Who‘s that? Why, he‘s a relation of Lady Mondegreen‘s. In the spirit of ongoing troblems and prubbles, this issue of The Centrifugal Eye presents its own little tribute to the curiously misheard and abusedly misused word — whether accidental or intentional, most of us have made ourselves incomprehensible from time to time. Even more of us have been on the mishearing end of the horn, especially when listening to others sing or read aloud. The most well-known anecdote about this phenomenon that‘s made it to print belongs to journalist Sylvia Wright. She coined the term ―mondegreen,‖ in 1954, in an article she wrote for Harper‘s Magazine. A mondegreen is defined as any sort of misunderstanding derived from a misheard word or series of words. Certainly you remember, as a child, singing along to a favorite song, only to find someone laughing at you — and also quite happy to point out to you that you were singing the words wrong? But you could swear you heard— They hae slain the Earl Amurray, And Lady Mondegreen.
This was how Sylvia Wright heard the preceding 2 lines from Thomas Percy's
Reliques of Ancient English Poetry when her mother read them aloud to her. She later disappointedly learned that the ultimate line of that couplet truly read, ―and laid him on the green.‖ Monsieur d‘ Pommes? He‘s really a ―misheard poem.‖ ~Eve Anthony Hanninen Sources: Jeff Aronson, Oxford Journals.org, January 2009; Harlish Goop, Bikwil, The Home of Quiet Enthusiasms. (1997-2009); Jon Carroll, Mondegreens columns, San Francisco Chronicle. (1995-2004)
Richard Schiffman A Lesson in Etymology
Going back to the Latin root, the word insincere means ―not not wax‖ Let‘s replace this double negative with the positive assertion ―with wax.‖ The insincere have got wax in their ears. Which is why they cannot not hear unclearly. The not not wax clogs their instrument of understanding, which means just what it says— standing under. If you are sincere, or without wax, you stand under the waterfall of knowledge. The pressure of all that smart water pouring down on your head clears any lingering wax from your ears, which otherwise builds up when you stay high and dry in your own opinions. Pinions are wings, or wing tips. They are also a way of binding and shackling. O-pinions are how we bind and shackle the wings of truth. Truth is what was already there before all of that wax started building up in the not not ear of clear understanding. Another word for this mess is ―confusion,‖ or ―with fusion,‖ which denotes the jumbling together of things that should have been left distinct and separate— like wax and ears. Etymologically speaking, all of this con-fusion could easily have been cut off at the root, if only the ancient Greeks and Romans had possessed Q-tips® and a little rubbing alcohol.
Read other poems by Richard Schiffman and learn more about him on pgs. 56-59
Ron Yazinski Ron Yazinski
Over sixty years ago, the French poet Yvan Goll composed a series Of preposterous elegies for the Lackawanna River. Ill, worn by loving and imagining, He fashioned palaces and ruby encrusted walkways, Above which exotic birds were singing in richly blossoming trees; Children laughing and splashing in warm, clean waters, Chasing brightly-colored fish That were always just a teasing length away; Beautiful women in fine, shear clothing, Highlighting their enticing shapes. And men, strong and polite, Who every night entertain their families By ordering servants to release little lanterns in paper boats on the waters While they sing of ancient heroes and caring gods Until the first hints of dawn. When I first read this In Galway Kinnell‘s translation, I wanted to go and live there, Except that I already lived there. Where, as a child, I threw a rock at my image in the sluggish waters, Waters said to poison rats, And lost my balance, fell into that river. When I brought my dripping and bloodied self home, My mother screamed at me And slapped my older brother, who was supposed to be watching me, Because now my new shoes had to be thrown away. So, evidently, Goll had never been here, Which, as every man knows, Is a prerequisite for describing Eden. He had built a world around the sound of a word, Lackawanna, Lackawanna, his European ear discerning a hint of a world without need. Imagine a universe in which this irony couldn‘t happen. A Mexican songwriter came upon Kinnell‘s English translation of the French And turned it into a popular Mexican song, Complete with duende in the heated refrain:
La Cuanna, La Cuanna, Where the men are fire and the women are steam. La Cuanna, La Cuanna, Where the gods go when they dream.
―Swirly Glass Eyes‖ By Mandi Knight, 2010
And so the dancing, shoeless poor have come Expecting to see passionate men and sensuous women Madly embracing within the exotic lines, Of Gaudi-like architecture, Reflected in the crystalline waters. Instead, they live five to a room, Where if they want to dance, they have to go outside on the slushy streets. They work in meat-packing plants Above the confluence of Roaring Brook‘s sludge And the Lackawanna‘s muck. They will not send the truth home to their relatives, Who would just think they want to keep paradise to themselves. So they tell them that they won‘t believe what they see When they get here. When they do get here, They will resent us for the Lackawanna they find. The one they never had their chance to foul. Like Goll, like us, they are stuck with their own dreams, And they will hate us for it, And show it by throwing stones at their own murky reflections.
Read another poem by Ron Yazinski and learn more about him on pg. 61
―Gala Fish‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Anthem du Jour
Esther Greenleaf Mürer Esther Greenleaf Mürer Featured Interview Poet, pgs. 6-23
O dutiful mendacious spies that clamber, cave and drain the syrup fountain, cadging rides on shovel-suited cranes! The merry calamari called cod, shad, stingrays, and me and groaned, "I‘ve stood enough on wood -en seats of lining free."
Antiphon Tender unto mine ear, O tend‘rest of buttons, the sinister singsong of singletons. Thou tinsel‘d halibut, buttress of tendrils, slender tagalong tenderloin of the buttered beyond;
domina trixcum. O darling dark of morning, mourning the anticrepuscular spark that betokens the broken crepitude of forlorn depths, muscular larks aborning in bespoke discrepancies;
de mortuis non est disputandum. O starched vinegar of perceptual plasma, pleonastic starlings garish in septic vines; startled stanchions purring in sinecures, vindictive chasms of chiasmus staunch on haunches;
Sayings So Unkind
Daniel Wilcox Daniel Wilcox
Yeats might have said, (when seeing new media) "The centerfolds and Young adults fall apart Left with photo breasts Counterfeit intimacy (this sucks); Two of an unkind To slouch and droop to old Age and no graceful hearts Pierced as mates." Cummings (somewhere Beyond every ellipsis) said "So 'utterly' edgy The media of 'twoday' With the 'bare-lass' rug Pulled from us; Under 'Bosun' budded-dies, we Never knew new new new In Adam's sense But only 'sin' deep------thin Two, too 2 us unkind;
―It‘s uDDer Madness‖ By Mandi Knight, 2010
Hem could have said, (with the shotgun noise) "Norma jeans anna Nicole, you Guess Two for one unspecial Cheap — four wives And his whores' heaven Down J. Mason way, Scalpeled skin, flayed and Siliconed Spread two of an unkind For the bills-board Males without women."
Statutory (hardened form) Falsies and silicones (titcoms?) Sili- obsession But mostly the 窶田ones Two of an unkind moral-or-less, The kindling of a 'Screening' feeding frenzy; The media milking This for all it's unworth, Women less men/boys Into broads cast Before swine Two of a kind; Like cows or dogs, 'Sick' chicks abandoned Soft and cuddly Teasing out------ward (in---ward) 1 lone, Too of an unkind." And another says, (while shedding his lustful skinned ways) "Down in the soul sole deep Alone and abandoned, The little girl in the female Cries out but The endless crowd of tongues Salivate vate vate her images; Pity these mindless, bodyful Lord-drool Unkind males who fail To/too/two.
Daniel Wilcox earned his degree in creative writing from Cal State Long Beach. A former activist, teacher, and wanderer from Montana to the Middle East, he casts his lines out upon the world's turbulent waters and wide shores in Moria Poetry Journal, Lunarosity, The
Recusant, Counterexample Poetics, Tipton Poetry Journal, Oak Bend Review, etc. Dark Energy, a poetry collection, was published in 2009 by Diminuendo Press. "The Faces of Stone," based on his time in the Middle East, came out in The Danforth Review and Danse Macabre. Daniel lives with a speculative novel, The Feeling of the Earth; a second volume of poems, Psalms, Yawps, and Howls; and his wife, on the central coast of California. Daniel is a regular contributor to
The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Daniel (http://seaquaker.com/)
Psalms, Yawps, and Howls (http://psalmsyawpshowls.weebly.com)
―Under Cane and Chair‖ By Elahzar Rao, 2010
The Merits of Not Multi-Tasking
She becomes aware of the taste of soda only when she stops reading, cooking, cleaning, tracking the baby‘s every movement across the kitchen floor a luxury she can‘t allow herself often but
and turns off the television, washing machine, cell phone, sits down refuses to take up paper, book or pen, picks up instead the cup in one hand, the other
doing precisely nothing, sips and
as if for the first time a flavor as complex as any other as one of a kind as any other and
knows for once
how much more fulfilling it can
be to do one thing and then this just this.
Scott Owens has received awards from the North Carolina Poetry Society, the North Carolina Writer‘s Network, the Academy of American Poets, and the Poetry Society of South Carolina for his four collections of poetry and more than 400 poems published in various journals and anthologies. He is co-editor of TheWild Goose Poetry Review, Chair of the Sam Ragan Poetry Prize, author of ―Musings‖ (a weekly poetry column), and founder of Poetry Hickory. He also teaches creative writing at Catawba Valley Community College. Contact Scott
A Midsummer Night's Glee
Chris Crittenden Chris Crittenden
whippoorwills commence to prate on topics illustrated by bats and sphinx moths; and a clown-like moon slants in fallen breeches. lightning bugs court whirligig silver kicked up by beetles on lunatic water; and frogs burp as if they had swallowed Pan's thyrsus. coyotes dirge like a barbers' octet, an owl spins its weird crick, and spiders jig their crazy legs like trampolinists. a goose speeds over like
what the f---
a meteor hurtles as if Orion had spit, and the stars decidedly take their wish and sleep on a cirrus.
―Night‘s Glee‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
The Gods Explain A Failed Universe struggle and fumble dogged our false prowess, miracles so fast they stopped, bogged down by complicity in the original glitch: all those blueprints for demons that would find architects someday; but in the meanwhile let there be light and psalms and honeydew, as many petals and semen bursts as bouts of rain. as many masks as noses can bear, stacked up on infant facesâ€” a babel of masks denying its source, frantic to breed, to outpace avid guzzles of space and antlike scuttles of clock. our puppets ran mad, constructed vain, always a few achilles' heels ahead, their glance back at doom a joke, blinkered by a flurry of cheap absolutions. their lies whirling dimmer, sclerotic from spin. we watched hate land like a roulette ball in their midst, crush every child and egg. all fingers pointed straight for once. all laughter leaned into the bosom of a shriek. and their experiments hugged them and consoled them, stripping off hope and sewing it into a cage.
Chris Crittenden teaches environmental ethics for the University of Maine. Much of his writing occurs in a hut in a remote spruce forest. A featured review of his work appears in Arsenic Lobster (20). Some recent acceptances are from The Recusant, Mannequin Envy, Chaffey Review and Thieves Jargon. Contact Chris (email@example.com)
Richard Lighthouse Richard Lighthouse
before dancing with her i realized she was the kind of trouble worth getting into. any reason will do but she was a good reason. like rain forcing dirt to drink. and i was thirsty. order another. and then she walked in. dangerous looking. right to me — ascloseasmyface. THATS. MY. GIRLFRIEND. i don't mind, i says. if you don't matter. or something like southern whiskey talking. ever been hit by a woman. . . ? only once, i says. and then she wished the ground was closer. stop! now! ms trouble says. she'll take us both home. c'mon. do i live close? close as comfort, baby. close as sweet southern comfort.
―Comfort‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Richard Lighthouse is a contemporary writer, artist, and poet. His work has been published in numerous journals and magazines worldwide, such as Mudfish, Poetry Salzburg Review, Southern Journal, and many others. This is his second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Richard (RL1@ausi.com)
at the edge of self i have come here today to disavow. i am no longer self. here with proclamation words firm and true. i repudiate this. and that. i also divorce myself. a bottle of wind. a box of rain. reckless moments. stored away like things that wish to be held and petted. but their edges escape grasp. hold this air, this moment like a poem you once read. maybe this poem.
―Pitch‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
My left hand frozen in my jacket pocket, I went around looking for my left glove, but hope is harder in the winter, so I threw away the right glove and I heard a chorus singing an approving chord. It snowed. I shoveled snow with both hands bare. I had to blow on both red hands before bending down for more hard labor (torture). Then my shovel struck — of course, you know — that missing left glove in a frozen torpor. Soon she would wake up and ask me, Sir, where is my mate? Red-handed, I would tell her when I determined all false hope should go, I cured myself by killing Romeo.
In addition to The Centrifugal Eye, John Milbury-Steen has had published, or forthcoming, poems in
14 by 14, Able Muse, Beloit Poetry Journal, Best Poem, Blue Unicorn, Bumbershoot, The Chimaera, Christianity and Literature, Contemporary Sonnet, The 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 Literary Review, 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.
Inside and Outside
the parody â€” George A. Strongs' parody of Longfellow's Hiawatha.
My inside resides outside when I see -jects I thought were ob-, suddenly sub-, in heavy hubbub start projecting me. And outside comes home inside when in dream the -jects I thought were ob-, suddenly sub-, introject in me the jects I am. It turns me inside out and outside in â€” has made me feel like Hiawatha's mittens, fur side, outside on the furred undead, inside and the underside of hide outside, as the parody has said. My Indian, my Outdian, replied,
The subtle Mudjokivis makes a type of glove that wears us well beyond our grip.
―The Eye of Daedalus‖ By Simon Lloyd Dunbar, 2010
Erik Richardson The Abandoned Asylum Strange how peaceful the old ruins look with the sun playing off the bleached surfaces* You can almost hear the soft summer wind echoing down through the empty hallways† As you notice the way the grass and wildflowers have started to cover over the fallen stones‡
patients saw their own dreams. Breaking, twisting from inside out. Needles and pills guarding to make sure: nightmares never escaped. The doctors saw their own mad science. Torturing, killing from outside in. Bars and silent stones guarding to make sure: screams never escaped. †
You, a silent catacomb, saw both. Now crumbling, rotting inside and out. Dark watching windows guarding to make sure: your secrets never escape. ‡
Erik Richardson is a freelance writer and school teacher with a number of published articles, essays, and poems. Some of his recent work has appeared in Loch Raven Review, Sein und Werden, and Arbor Vitae. In addition, he won the 2009 Joseph Gahagan Prize for poetry, and is the editor of a small poetry journal for young poets, Signs & Wonders. Erik is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Permuted Merton Because the heavenly stars Stand in a ring: And all the pieces of the mosaic, earth, Get up and fly away like birds. —Thomas Merton
Get up and fly away condescending monk because the mosaic birds and all the pieces of the earth, stand in a ring like heavenly stars
Stand up like birds pretending you are so pure of heart and get all of the heavenly stars in a ring because the pieces and the mosaic earth fly away And the heavenly pieces of the earth get up and fly away like mosaic birds because the stars all stand in a ring as silent as the penance you still owe
―Labyrinth‖ By Erik Richardson, 2010
Stand in a ring like pieces of the mosaic earth droning on about how insightful you are because the heavenly stars and all the birds get up and fly away
Nathaniel S. Rounds Nathaniel S. Rounds
―Grounded‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
You‘re running with wet hands from an explosive fluke worm Transparent and sac-shaped With conical warhead Agitation/mixing device It disseminates nightmares out of its aperture Poisons the liver Insists you‘re worth little Tells tawdry tales about your biological mother Who may also be your sister Time to mount a non-explosive mode of transportation Schwinn® Continental touring bike Aw, nuts, it‘s a tandem bike And there‘s loud-mouthed bomb boy Yuck yuck yucking it up Pronouncing your best work is behind you Should have washed your hands Of dreams and aspirations You can‘t sing or dance Charm a woman Change a tire Tune a guitar You dial 911 Drop the bike Roll on the public park green Assume a fetal position Approaching sirens replace nagging doubt You are fighting the enemy While eating tamed wilderness
Nathaniel S. Rounds was born in Texas, weaned in New Hampshire, and educated/corrupted in the Maritimes. He shares an apartment in Port Orange, FL, with three children, a reluctant uncle, a wife, and a mother who seems always to know best. This is Nathaniel‘s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Nathaniel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
AM Radio in A Minor Key West is the end of Or the start of This journey on US Route 1 We‘ll choose the right bookend Once we empty this box Of Little Debbie® Cosmic Brownies Finish the cooking sherry from the bota bag Figure out who here is the plump and mellow capon Who is the smashed-up gamecock Stick our downy youth down the upright macerator Feed the unthinkable To the homeless Better get out of the breadline Jump into your tomato-red Flat head V-8 Tin Lizzy Rat rod And stream into the AM fuzz that grows Between two headlights And two twilights
―Starling Breach‖ By Simon Lloyd Dunbar, 2010
l. a. seidensticker
deliberate, the Jim Jones effect to mob or stay, is it the broken in spirit taking half-heartedness hard or the ecstatic having gouged out their own yellow eyes naming what remains insight? stuttered starlings in the beginning meander heaven random, southerly, a calling. where the sky wanes jungle pitches into an eddied sea, whales twist convolutionally dreaming down to the hole at the bottom of the ocean, the emperor‘s seat, the king in his counting house counting out his money, queen in the parlor (bees court her she dies.) starlings grim the atmosphere, black-bloody a starling-heaved sky, the solitary indivisible from the many; … cattle in chutes crap on the face of the steer behind, above a soundless music of flight starlings
l. a. seidensticker
l. a. seidensticker‘s poetry has appeared in AmbushArts, Literary Potpourri, Ink Pot, 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.‖ l. a. is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. Contact l. a. (email@example.com)
Lately Winter: Bodega Bay persimmons sag on the fog-shawled tree ungathered, no chutney this year of dull losses, rot and mold losses, smut in the slack skin of hope divided into itself, whether nobler to walk away or stay, a broken tooth in a mouth fouled by fictions and chicken droppings that do not take to being read, their contributions random dispersions of ash and stink and egregious fertilization. at cove‘s edge clotted feathers comb one another by dint of proximity; there is no future in it. clouds lower, the rust-bloodied old boats lurch in the slop. how ardently abridged the charms of water to the nearly drowned; how even less comprehensible to the dead.
I wish I could tell you how I pulled this particular rabbit out of this particular hat, but I‘m as stupefied as you are by this poem hippity-hopping across the page, plucked from some madcap cap in the brain where rabbits breed like poems, and poems leap from their skin into mine. No Einstein this, but a Bugs Bunny of literature pulling stunts, mangling syntax, cross-dressing, walking planks of sky stuff, hanging from limbs of imagination over metaphysical chasms, leaning on lyrical lampposts, chomping mystical carrots. Forget about Keats cooly ruminating on a Grecian urn, we‘re talking Bugs bounding loopy as a metaphor over antic gaps, bridging— go figure— poems and rabbits. Then landing flat on his figurative feet. That‘s the amazing thing about poetry— it always ends up standing, even when the reader tumbles like Elmer Fudd headlong into a ditch of bewilderment. Elmer tries to figure out how some dumb wabbit flipped him on his egghead noggin. But it does not escape even Elmer that the world looks better upside down than it did right side up. In other words, the man has got a taste for poetry. By now, of course, the funny bunny‘s skipped town. Don‘t expect a poem to stick around. Just let it go where it‘s going. Don‘t detain it with your brain, is what I‘m saying. Keep your hare-brain snug in its rational cap. And let the jazzed rabbit jump out of it.
Th-th-th-th- that‘s all folks!
―Hare-Raising Feets‖ By E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Bloody Buddy When Yeats wrote that the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity, he was clearly not thinking about you, great Begtse, Master of Vitality who looks like the worst, but is actually the best of he-devils, the crème de la crème of holy hellhounds. Bug-eyed Buddha trampling on a corpse, haloed by smoke and wreathes of flame, with your jaunty skulls cap, your girdle of severed heads, your prancing band of technicolor fiends— wolves, bears, lions, curs— a sprightly Gehenna perched like a guillotine above my pea-green sofa. Capping the chaos, three doe-eyed sages peer down like puppet masters; it‘s clear they hold the strings that make heaven dance like hell in my living room. Forget about harps and pearly gates— this heavenly host is raging against the dying of the light, as Dylan Thomas advised. He must have met my new friend, Begtse, who rages with the best of them, and also the worst. It‘s hard to tell the difference in this era of religious terror, when the worst are all suited up and primed to explode, while the best are off somewhere gazing at their navels. Except for Begtse, he never takes a break. That‘s the good news. The bad news is his rivals are no beach bums either. Evil has yet to declare a busman‘s holiday. Which led Robert Frost to speculate if the world would end in fire or ice.
The Yankee bard, who had tasted of desire, favored fire, but he knew enough of hate to say that ice would also, in a pinch, suffice. Begtse, a fire man from the word go, would doubtless concur with Frost, whose icy name belied his fiery temper. The much-memorized Poet Laureate slept with a revolver tucked under his pillow. While Begtse brandishes a scorpion-hilted rapier, as he saunters on a lake of blood, like Jesus on his own rambunctious lake. But Auden reminds us that great passion is often enacted against a drabber backdrop; in Brueghel‘s Icarus, for instance, the flaming boy falls from the sky, while the sailing ship with somewhere to go sails calmly by. Which makes me wonder what I‘ll be doing when some madman trips the switch. Maybe I‘ll be hanging out with Begtse as the manic mushroom quaffs Manhattan. I certainly hope so. For in times like these a person needs a high-octane defender, someone who knows how to fight fire with fire. Someone who burns baby burns like God‘s own arsonist, like Buddha‘s bloody buddy. Someone madder than our own madcap minds, striking terror in the palpitating heart of terror— which he lofts dripping to his ruddy muzzle. Until that demon-heart changes its tune, and becomes a ruthless, yet ruthful, frightfully truthful bulldog of compassion. Like our hero. That‘s what the world needs now— a tough-loving, turf-stomping, shit-kicking Satan of sanity, a bodhisattva with attitude. A saucy savior who knows what he‘s about. No bashful dandy like Eliot‘s J. Alfred Prufrock— who had time for a hundred indecisions and visions and revisions before taking toast and tea. But a cocky carnivore who wouldn‘t be caught dead taking toast and tea.
Richard Schiffman is a writer based in New York, and a former journalist for National Public Radio. His poetry has appeared or is upcoming in Poetry East, Potomac Review, Southern Poetry Review, 32 Poems, Rosebud, Valparaiso Poetry Review and many other journals. Contact Richard (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sharpen Your Eyes
Lynne Shapiro Lynne Shapiro
I spell scizzors wrong always. Spell check removes the two ragged ―z‖s (themselves like pinking sheers) & replaces them with propriety: smooth sailing swans that stealthily approach distracted paddlers. Never turn your back on swans.
Scissors, like spectacles: if you dislike something or someone, pick up ein schere and exorcize with panache or simply take off your glasses, so you‘ll no longer see with a surgical eye. Eradicate spots on the moon.
Lynne Shapiro is a writer and teacher who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her husband and son. She's had poems and essays published in Mslexia, Terrain.org, Umbrella, Quay, and Qarrtsiluni. Her work has been included in several anthologies: Eating Her Wedding Dress: A Collection of Clothing Poems (Ragged Sky Press), Pain and Memory (Editions Bibliotekos), and Decomposition, Poems About Mushrooms (soon to be published by Lost Horse Press). Contact Lynne (email@example.com)
―Scizzors‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
Consider these exquisite objects‘ rounded openings, two: one, for thumb and forefinger, so like those intended for eyes alone! Steely ciseaux — beautiful French x — like the cinched waist of the scissors, pivot as do the temple stems of your glasses when beauty or beast enters the room.
―Plastic Saints CD Cover‖ By K. R. Copeland, 2010
The Guild Studio
Ron Yazinski Ron Yazinski
In this blessed boutique of the Catholic Church, Among the mesh of rosaries that depict the numerous sightings of Mary In places that even UFOs ignore; And the dozens of photos of John Paul II, From the round-faced baby to his seminarian actor days, Through his miraculous ascension into heaven Where he smiles between St. John and St. Francis As if it were the cover of their first CD, There are hundreds of little plastic saints, As real as Francis, As imagined as Bridget. Male and female they‘ve made them. All with saintly, idiotic smiles. As if they truly believe that the two fingers of the right hand That they hold up in blessing, Are actually laser-equipped, And could incinerate both Satan and his alien followers At the slightest provocation. All white, or so nearly it comforts my mother, Who envisions heaven as a place where she could put down her new purse, And, for once, not worry.
Ron Yazinski is a retired, high-school English teacher who lives with his wife Jeanne in Northeastern Pennsylvania. His poems have appeared or will soon appear in Mulberry Poets & Writers Association Journal, Strong Verse, The Bijou Poetry Review, Edison Literary Review, Chantarelle‘s Notebook, and Crash. He‘s also the author of the chapbook Houses: An American Zodiac, which was published by The Poetry Library. Contact Ron (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Janice D. Soderling Janice D. Soderling
At my table in the hotel breakfast room, a honeymooning couple chomp and chat. She asks: What town were we in Sunday, John? A plaintive tone. He, as behooves a groom, gives pause, furrows his brow (a caveat), at my table in the hotel breakfast room.
Sunday we saw the gold mask from the tomb of Agamemnon, dear, remember that? She asks: What town were we in Monday, John? Do I detect an atmosphere of gloom; a bottle of champagne gone quickly flat, at my table in the hotel breakfast room? She adds, It seems so rushed, this honeymoon.
Five cities in eight days, my pussycat. She asks, What town were we in Tuesday, John?
â€•Opposites Detractâ€– By K. R. Copeland, 2010
She'll be a nag, and he, I must assume, rushes in bed wearing the jaunty hat he's wearing in the hotel breakfast room. It's plain where they are heading, she and John.
Janice D. Soderling is recently published at The Pedestal, Unsplendid, Soundzine (USA), Anon (Scotland), Horizon Review (England), The Flea (Australia), and ditch (Canada). A story is included in the forthcoming Our Stories anthology. A dislocated Hoosier, she lives in a small village in Sweden. Janice is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
At the Used Car Cemetery
(or Was It in the Women‘s Ward?)
We remember, lined up here in rows, once essential innards missing, the hands that used to rub us to a glow. Some days when the sun is kind & the angle right, you can get an idea of our old sheen. They were proud of us then, the men, driving us all over town. Buying accessories they couldn‘t afford. A devilish grin. Thought they owned us and the whole world.
Hottest pistons in town & she‘s all mine.
We remember them testing just how far we would go, & still be dependable & economical. That was just before the old girl phase, which came just before the part about the mileage & juices, & gotta get her a muffler. They're checking out the new models now. We wonder what will happen next.
―Price of Rain‖ By Mandi Knight, 2010
Psychotherapy You take something your body feels out for a walk to keep it from introducing itself. A box of singing, a mantle of rain, smooth fingers at the back of the cloak‘s existential throat. Little godthings. It was only an understanding. I don‘t want to know more. It‘s a thought like a price tag. Someone‘s been coaxed to it by an ill desire, sad and duplicitous like a man whose density dissuades him. He‘s stroking his pain like a pet, forcefully, to remind himself he‘s still there. It‘s in the man‘s movements that I see it. It‘s in the glance, and it doesn‘t care if I know. It‘s a dream in which I‘m both bystander and protagonist, and I change myself to adapt to what happens there, even though it‘s not really happening. I approach with curiosity and a strange new attraction, saying I don‘t think I‘ve met you yet.
Rich Ives Rich Ives
Gentleman Farmer I met an attractive breeze wandering along the docks
out for a stroll like a single fat comely bird
I had forgotten the broken wings of the cotton-eyed mechanic
the torn tractor pulling me off to whispering
in the whiskeyed moonlight lapping at the wife‘s unoffered bowl
the boys overheated one to a time
like some frantic Carpathian monk against a delicious river stone
beating a scratchy garment beneath several russet cats
with randomly folded ears I counted
and thirteen ants carrying toasted bread flakes
just then a brazen squall into everything risen
stitched the dense clammy air and continued slicking down
the far hills of wheat with a veil of misting cloudspit cloaked
their own golden denials my progress
in gray plaintive whimpers so soft for its haughty mate
I almost yearned I was lingering in the Two Fingers
on a Bed of Parsley when I was nearly pipped
Beauty Parlor and Observatory to a lunacy
by a dear old flock of
lady‘s nervous Pomeranians the
malarial pallor of the present tropics appearing as
light imported from the unsalted as
a teenager‘s dreams of clapped and fell because
fidelity the fat wet slap the cry in
the night was the night‘s own without incident
the goal was to arrive but there was no one there
a whole team of them and in my forward life
in my hand the cloud bleeds I am arrested then
a thick nocturnal scent before the swallows start
slipping away from the morning sewing the air back together
Praise the One Thing Weakened by Complexity The maples heard about it those cold war defections
they first sent their leaves claimed to be
a little palace on earth in the neighborhood
sunk in and changed to different
arrangements of carrying
possibilities tiny forgotten
pieces of another determined by
ancient story the reoccurrence of
seemingly random possibilities and if
nearly erratic like moth wings
caught in the crack they seem to have no bearing
on my table for my separate life
then neither does the sun its surprisingly dark light
which has parted from the shadow
cast by this companion to offer something
who has brought me here we may yet understand
Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North
American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, The Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review and many more. He published a three-volume series of the best of Northwest writing as well as an anthology of contemporary German poetry titled Evidence of Fire. He has published a limited-edition collection of his own poetry and translated Yesterday I Was Leaving by Johannes Bobrowski. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize.
―Milk Tree‖ By Orna Ben-Shoshan, 2010
Review: Karla Linn Merrifield
Essay Mandi Knight by
Dis-leck-see-ya: What I See Is Not What You Get
I‘ve alywas wanted to de a wrtier, but it wnsa‘t an esay path to bgien with. See what I mean? What sort of nonsense is that? It‘s the kind of mixed-up non-sense a dyslexic encounters every day. So why is it that those who should have known better gave the disorder a name that is not just incredibly difficult to spell, but just as complicated to say — and type! If nothing else, those of us who are challenged with this condition have something to laugh about. To say that living with dyslexia, as I and many other writers do, is difficult is not far from the truth, but for those of us who have dealt with it most (if not all) of our lives, it‘s nothing out of the ordinary. Just as with many ―diseases,‖ you learn to live with it. The part that‘s difficult is realizing there‘s a problem. It‘s not always the first thing parents and teachers think of when a child is having trouble learning, but there are ways to detect it at an early age, such as signs of persistent hearing difficulties, and even before prospective parents start yearning for the joys of a new baby, there are genetic predispositions. Studies have shown that people with dyslexia often have a history of it in the family somewhere. Being left-handed is another likely indicator; also having someone else within the family who is left-handed. In my case, there‘s a doublewhammy: a history of learning disabilities in my family, and my mother and sister are both left-handed. A friend of mine who is dyslexic is also left-handed. (Of course, not all families with left-handed members are prone to dyslexia.) Auditory problems also point to potentials for dyslexia in children. It‘s thought that if there‘s a blockage in the ear canal when a child is developing speech patterns, it may create problems with deciphering phonemes, causing some words to be difficult to differentiate. Case in point; my husband and I are both dyslexic, and our four-year-old son seems to have hearing problems. We can tell because he mispronounces words, such as ―Bicycle Race‖ by Queen. The line is ―I want to ride my bike,‖ but instead he says, ―I want to ride my mine.‖ He also says ―pardon‖ frequently. So he, too, has a combination of both auditory and genetic causes that may indicate or could lead to dyslexia. The hearing problems can be remedied by placing grommets in the ear canal to drain the fluid that is blocking the hearing path. Dyslexia is clinically and legally termed a disability. If it‘s serious enough, you can receive medical compensation for it from places such as your health provider, medical insurance, and/or government programs. But as with any disability, it means that those of us affected by it have different ways of dealing with it. After all, dyslexics‘ brains work differently. This is often because there are cells in the brain that aren‘t situated where they‘re supposed to be:
Bunches of cells beneath the surface of the brain have been detected which lie on the surface in the brain of a non-dyslexic person. These groups of cells ought to have moved to the brain's surface at the time when the brain was developing in the foetus, but failed to make the journey. They are known as 'ectopic' cells. These ectopic clusters of cells are mainly found in the left and the front of the brain — the areas which are important for reading and writing. Another area of the brain — . . . which deals with our ability to see moving images — is smaller in the brains of dyslexic people. This makes reading harder, where the brain has to quickly interpret the different letters and words . . . as they scan words and sentences. —John Bradford, Dyslexia Online Magazine, 2003
According to Bradford, it looks like I misplaced a few brain cells — but because there hasn‘t been much research about dyslexia until recently, too many people have misconceptions about dyslexia. Some believe that only children can have dyslexia, which has also led to the myth that it can be outgrown. Not true. It‘s more noticeable in children because that‘s when they‘re learning to speak, read and write. Since dyslexia is a language-comprehension problem, there are aspects of the disorder that can be overcome, but not necessarily ―outgrown.‖ Another misconception is that parents are responsible for their child‘s disorder. They aren‘t. So, if you have a child who‘s dyslexic, it‘s not your fault. While there‘s no cure for dyslexia, you can certainly help your child to overcome many of the problems that arise. One of the best things you can do for your child is read to them constantly. When driving, point out signs that have simple words on them. If your child is able to see license plates, play a game with the letters and numbers on them. I can tell you from experience that this will do wonders for your child‘s learning process. While learning to read and write can be an incredibly difficult process for dyslexics, it‘s not impossible. Your proof? I'm dyslexic and spend a great deal of my life writing. So, too, is and does TCE book reviewer and contributor Karla Linn Merrifield. Yet even when we do find others empathetic about our disability, we may still have a hard time explaining it. This is because the experience is different for everyone. Severities and symptoms range from minor to major. On top of that, dyslexics have a particularly difficult time putting their thoughts into words when put on the spot. But generally speaking, it just takes our brains a little longer to process and comprehend particular types of information than non-dyslexics‘ brains. Dyslexia needn‘t be considered a disability. In fact, dyslexics I‘ve spoken with have found it a blessing in some way. While Karla Linn (57) has problems differentiating between left and right (which is quite common among dyslexics), she has a perfect sense of direction:
I realized this morning that one of my compensatory ‗gifts‘ is that I have a very good sense of direction. [North, South, East, West] give me no problems whatsoever and I'm the prime navigator in our travels and love to work with maps. But don't ask me quickly to determine left/right. I just tell my hubby to turn east! Or west or whatever! If I stop to think, I can do the left/right thing, but only if I have a few moments to think it through.
Friend and writer Angela Filewood (28), when asked how she deals with dyslexia while writing, said, Planning, planning, planning. That is key, trying to know what I want to say, and then going for it; I also try . . . leaving the ideas I write [to] flow organically. Editing thereafter tends to come down to a commitment to constantly going over everything, and having others read my work and asking their opinions. It does make life difficult in some ways when writing, but in others I am grateful . . . I doubt I could write something well without the picture in my head. And that is dyslexia's gift to me. Dyslexia is picture thinking, not word thinking.
―Picture thinking‖ is something I share with Angela. I love to write fiction; specifically fantasy and/or science fiction. Being able to visualize allows me to work out what I‘m writing about, and make scenes more vivid for readers. This also translates to thinking about how I would film a book I‘m reading. There are little tricks that we dyslexics can all adapt when writing or reading. And with the latest technology, it‘s become easier for dyslexics to write. When using a computer, I seldom look at the monitor‘s screen while I‘m typing because what I see there confuses me. While this is contrary to standard typing practices, if I watch the keys I‘m hitting, I know if I‘ve made a mistake or not. Word-processing programs, such as MS Word and Wordperfect, have built-in spell checkers, making it easy for dyslexics to write down what they want to say quickly and without having to worry as much about typos. This comes in especially handy when working online. FireFox is a great browser for dyslexics because it has an auto-spellcheck built into its coding. Neither dyslexics nor any writer, for that matter, can always catch everything. My best tip? When you‘re writing something important, give your work to someone else who will give you constructive criticism. Read your manuscripts more than once. I find I catch things that I‘ve missed or forgotten even on the third or fourth time around. While this is good advice for all writers, it‘s especially appropriate for those of us with dyslexia. Repeat? Reread constantly. Go slowly; don‘t feel the need to speed through text like so many non-dyslexics do.
So ask me, again: ―What‘s it like to have dyslexia?‖ Rather than tell you it‘s just a crazy, mixed-up problem, I'll ask you to think of it the way I've come to think of it while researching this article, thanks to a metaphor on Lucid Research Limited‘s website: Dyslexia is like owning and driving a motorcycle, while non-dyslexics drive trucks; both vehicles can take you to your destination, but each needs very different skills to operate them.
71 To find out more about dyslexia, start with this fascinating website:
Spot Your Potential, from Lucid Research Limited.
Parents can also find a wealth of information about dyslexia in:
Dyslexia Online Magazine.
Mandi Knight lives and writes in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. She plans to attend Algoma University in the future to pursue degrees in English, as well as film & theater. Her ultimate dream is to become an actor. She enjoys designing and running her websites for writing and role-playing, experimenting with photography, all kinds of art, and being a mom. She‘s also the newest art and editorial assistant for The Centrifugal Eye.
―Blaze Glass Five‖ By B. L. Pawelek, 2010
“This isn’t about prayer as such” What happens when a devoutly Christian poet meets a devoutly atheist book reviewer? This review. One on Helen Losse‘s Better with Friends — an essay that begins fraught with troblems and prubbles! My own. All readers bring some emotional baggage with them, a tote bag or overnight case, to the poems they read. I knew of one woman whose husband‘s favorite poet was Frost; she tossed the New England bard‘s collected works when hubby became her ex. A teetotaler fan told me he‘d been snubbed at a publishing party by a celebratory Thom Ward in his cups, and henceforth forswore ever reading the poet again. But a reviewer brings a steamer trunk of emotional history to her work. Reviewing is an intimate experience. When I read and reread and reread Better with Friends, I carried with me through Losse‘s lines a childhood in which my abusive father beat my mother and me. And teenage years that culminated with my father quitting his job and abandoning my mother for another woman. He was a Methodist minister who‘d made a mockery of Christianity, leaving me in his wake of destruction and cruelty an atheist with a thorough distaste for religion. As Losse writes in the opening poem, ―The Kidnapping of Aimee:‖ ―the past is never ‗just the past.‘‖ I‘ll say. No one said that the Tao of poetry reading was going to be easy. I take what the Universe delivers, because, like all books reviewed for this regular column, Helen Losse‘s Better with Friends came to me via a TCE reader. In this case, it was TCE contributor Scott Owens who wrote a blurb for Losse‘s new book and subsequently reviewed it. My turn had come. And it was my responsibility to stifle my gag reflex at the word ―prayer‖ (which occurs 14 times in her 83-page book), set my prubbles with Christian faith and the Bible (quoted only twice) aside and give Losse her due. As reviewer Sherry Chandler observed in her EarthPal review of Better with Friends, Losse‘s ―Christian spirituality often comes through in her writing; it‘s not preachy or self-righteous.‖ That‘s true, although a moment or two of doubt might help leaven Losse‘s devoutness for her non-believing and agnostic readers, as Christian poet Kathleen Norris did in her Journey: New and Selected Poems, making them quite palatable to me. Yet I overcame my troblem with Losse‘s poems such as ―Church When They Had No Pianos,‖ with its imperative to ―Clap with your hands, / Praise be to God.‖ I‘m content to live ―divorced from the cross‖ like the sinner in ―a third row seat‖ in ―The Triple Evils Presented in No Particular Order.‖ After all, ―this isn‘t about prayer as such,‖ as she says in part 7 of ―Where the Reverie Is Apt to Lead,‖ which was first published in these pages* in November 2006. I stuck with it — and discovered Losse‘s poetry is ultimately redemptive. Her salvific grace is the elegance of her poetry.
Column Editor‘s Note: What‘s your story behind a poetry book that you‘ve read and desire others to read? What path led you to that book? Tell me. Just complete our online Reader Survey. From your stories I‘ll select the books and I‘ll review them for all our readers in future issues of The Centrifugal Eye. Give me something new to rave about! (http://home.earthlink.net/~tinyviolet/thecentrifugaleyepoetryjournal/id366.html)
Book Review Column Tao of Reading Poetry
Merrifield s Karla Linn Merrifield
Better with Friends Poems by Helen Losse Rank Stranger Press Paper/ 83 Pages $14 US
―rough places / in the world‘s basement‖ To enter the pages of Better with Friends is to step into visions in a world of dreams, about rough places in the world‘s basement, where we see, hear, and smell the vomit.
But it is a world softened and muffled by fog. Fog is the dominant metaphor in the book. Nine poems are imbued with fog imagery and the book‘s final section is titled Fog Dances. As early as page 8, we encounter fog and its beneficence. The poem is ―To Be,‖ and fog is a boon to the speaker who‘s observing a neighbor‘s house: I hate that house, and sometimes, when it disappears in the fog, pretend it isn‘t there.
In the ensuing poem the speaker is once again grateful for fog, this time for a deeply spiritual reason. ―In Prayer at the Open Window,‖ If there‘s really an answer for every question, no mystery behind heaven‘s gate, then I have argued and lost. Surely, something hides in the darkness like a shadow in the fog.
Even as fog obscures to help us retain some degree of mystery in our modern lives, fog, when it lifts, becomes Losse‘s instrument of revelation as it is in ―How Deep the Hunger.‖ There, a man ―lost in the wetness and darkness‖ at ocean‘s edge is at last spotted, ―alive — clawing a pole — // underneath the dock, where the fog had gently receded.‖ O gentle revelatory fog! My favorite image of Losse‘s pervasive fog occurs in ―Destiny,‖ a poem in which she observes the seasonal turn toward autumn. Here is fog with a unique personality, a surprising movement so unlike Sandburg‘s little-cat‘s-feet fog: The wind blows colder now and hardly for the better. Stiff brown leaves crunch just where the fog is dancing.
Helen‘s fog in all its guises is a satisfying, evocative — and unifying — metaphor. Its familiarity becomes comforting. I also discovered poetic elegance that can transport readers beyond ―the world‘s basement‖ in the nature poems in Better with Friends. Losse is her most sublime when she moves from a single natural image, such as fog, to make Nature the focal point of a poem. The seventh part of ―Where the Reverie Is Apt to Lead‖ is such a stunning poem. It opens: This isn‘t about prayer as such but concerns tidewater — as welcome as a friend —
The poem sweeps readers along its couplets through the world of nature that includes ―mountains at their colored peak‖ and ―the blossoms of a Bradford Pear,‖ as well as ―tender violets that hid in the sparseness / of springtime grass.‖ On the heels of that evocative nature poem comes the eighth in this sequence, one in which Losse places humanity in a larger context, that of the planet. Only nature is capable of ―exposing each character and setting.‖ Earth is our home and we may learn from it if we are as attentive as this poet: The sea-water is green with life, but its story is best told, when the birds on the shore wait for the tide to bring them fish, which is a tale that matters more than we can ever know.
I would relish an entire book by Losse of such poems. I‘ll use the word again: sublime. It‘s a word entirely apropos of the poem ―Then I Wander,‖ perhaps my favorite in the collection. In the long, flowing lines that form a single stanza, Losse lays before us two worlds: wood and garden. She compares wild nature to cultivated nature. The speaker wanders ―into the nearby woods, / where a bird sings a plaintive song from his heart.‖ There ―the brook gurgles louder than the frog.‖ The speaker follows that stream ―into the shade under the willow.‖ Aimlessly wandering in that lovely green world, she declares at the end: ―And I have forgotten / the lesson of the garden: The story told by flowers.‖ Ah! The rapture of wild nature.
―This is about trouble and laughter.‖ Life — and Losse‘s poems — have their moments of darkness. It may be the darkness we enter in the ―world‘s basement‖ or the ―horribleness of silence‖ we experience in ―Just Before the Dawning,‖ as we find ourselves in a hospital room where the speaker‘s loved one (unseen, unnamed) has died and those ―no longer required to enter in shifts‖ must now ―shed most of our meaningless baggage.‖ In another poem, ―Deceit of Darkness,‖ we see a ―lovely geisha‖ who is ―wife only / to the deceit of darkness.‖ And there‘s the moral darkness of slavery which Losse recalls in ―Point of Departure,‖ a poem that takes readers into ―the hold of the slaver‘s ship‖ and we hear the slaves‘ cries, witness their ―salty tears: / The tears who married that dark, dark sand.‖ But Better with Friends is not a dark, brooding book of serious troblems. The book shimmers with lighter-hearted moments — humor, even. I return to ―To Be‖ with its neighbor‘s despised house. In a deft few words Losse introduces us to its owner who is ―our patulous neighbor / with her other seasonal and too-tight pants.‖ Ha! So the neighbor is a woman whose waistline or derrière is spreading widely like a tree‘s branches and she has the aplomb to wear too-tight pants. I almost laughed aloud. With genuine joy, Losse takes the reader ―sailing swiftly‖ in ―Whirlybirds,‖ a poem in which she recollects her childhood fascination with ―those ‘copters from the sky‖ — maple seeds — and their promise to become ―a circle of trees.‖ ―Rookie at the Barre‖ is likewise light-hearted. This portrait of a ―childballerina‖ depicts in image and sound the ―slender girl:‖ Beauty-gone-broken-toe-shoe wibble-wobble plop, but will she rise to try floor-skim: Bourrée: Or opt, once again, for just running and jumping away?
Losse gives us reason to laugh; she sanctions laughter, even if we live in a world that spawned slavery, saw Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated (―Martyred at the Lorraine‖) and an entire city destroyed by raging water (―After Katrina‖), and must each of us labor ―under the weight of the burden of truth (―The Kidnapping of Aimee‖).
―whistle of a far-off train‖ Losse‘s poems gather considerable steam in a series of poems in the On-Going
Memories section in which the cohesive image is the American railroad.
―Yesterday three friends sat in folding chairs in front of their cars, / waiting for trains,‖ she writes in the opening couplet to the book‘s title poem, ―Better with Friends.‖ It‘s an open invitation to us as readers to join in the camaraderie at this vigil for ―the blue Conrail.‖ We are welcome; nostalgia is welcome. And in this complex, technologically-driven society we live in, it is a relief to be among friends as ―The train chugged up / the Blue Ridge, the mountain leaf-brown, washed-out, // winter-lovely.‖ We remain with that intimate circle of friends in the following poem, ―One Saturday after the Rain Cleared.‖ We‘re introduced to them: ―Bill and Paul‖ are the speaker‘s companions, and then ―Jonathan walked up.‖ Jonathan, we learn, is a modern-day hobo — a train-hopper. He‘s been riding the rails, since he was sixteen, ‗took off‘ again last week, after a fight with his girl. He didn‘t say how old he is now but chattered on about engineers ‗giving him a ride,‘ how hard it is to ‗get out of ‘ an empty grain car, how there‘s a ‗poop sheet‘ on the internet that lets him know schedules, or at least there used to be, how he ‗works a bit,‘ when he needs cash but had ‗eaten free‘ at Burger King the previous night . . . I wanted a special label for what Jonathan insisted was ‗daily living‘ and told him I‘d put him in a poem.
I love how Jonathan‘s story chugs along onomatopoeically. Romantic that I am, I‘m comforted to know there are people out there like Jonathan — that hobos still exist in our crazy world. And I‘m grateful that Losse did indeed ―put him in a poem.‖ In ―Railroad Flowers,‖ Losse marries her nostalgic railroad image with her Nature imagery. Hobo meets posy and the result is pure delight:
A ‘bo hops a boxcar, springing up from the ballast beneath two shiny rails. The Great Evening-Primrose perfumes the air, entices a pollinating moth. The earth‘s silver moon kisses yellow flowers. Under the dark softness, railroad flowers open fully: An act performed nightly from June to September.
―sit patiently in a velvet chair‖
Karla Linn Merrifield
Karla Linn Merrifield
*Readers of our print edition may find “Where the Reverie Is Apt to Lead” online: (http://home.earthlink.net/~centrifugaleye/id66.html)
2009 Everglades National Park Artist-in-Residence Karla Linn Merrifield has had poetry appear in publications such as CALYX, Earth‘s Daughters, Poetica, The Kerf, Negative Capability, Paper Street and Blueline (print zines), and in The Centrifugal Eye, Terrain.org, Elsewhere: A Journal of the Literature of Place, and Elegant Thorn Review (online zines), as well as in many anthologies. In 2006, she edited THE DIRE ELEGIES: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America , from FootHills Publishing; in 2007, FootHills issued her Godwit: Poems of Canada, and issued The Etowah River Psalms in September, 2009. She is also author of Dawn of Migration and Other Audubon Dreams (2007, RochesterInk Publications). Karla received the 2009 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for poetry from the University of Rochester. Contact Karla (email@example.com)
77 ―Diamondback Terrapin‖ By Karla Linn Merrifield, 2010
Only occasionally does a line fall flat on the ear in these pages. In ―Eulogizing Rosa,‖ an otherwise moving tribute to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, Losse says Rosa ―was a light to challenge the darkness.‖ I‘d think Parks deserves a fresher line. In ―In the Garden,‖ a line limps to a weak end: ―The wind chases certain oak leaves through / (deepening shadows.)‖ Why not break the line after ―leaves‖ instead of the flabby preposition? As quoted above, in ―Just Before the Dawning,‖ there‘s ―the horribleness of silence.‖ Why not simply ―horror‖? But most readers, I think, won‘t notice such wee prubbles and others who do might not object to a line ending with a soft preposition or a bordering-on-trite, light/dark image. The horribleness is scant; the beauty prolific in Losse‘s poems. And most readers will certainly appreciate Losse‘s attentiveness to form. Elegance in these poems also derives from her crafted couplets and tercets. Despite my baggage, Helen Losse has taught me to ―sit patiently in the velvet chair.‖ (―Creating the Moment.‖) I am grateful she has, to use a Christian idiom, miraculously lightened my load; my steamer trunk feels more like beach bag. This book wasn‘t about prayer as such after all. Losse has become Helen to me. She is like tidewater washing over me, ―welcome as a friend.‖
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