Gently Read Literature, Summer 2012

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Gently Read Literature Summer 2012 (June, July, August) Contents 2—Excelling in Brief: Emma Kate Tsai on Jim Shepard’s Master of Miniatures

38—Poetic Conversation: Patricia Carragon on Juanita Torrence-Thompson’s Talking with Stanley Kunitz

4—Masters of Subtext: Kelly Lydick on They Could No Longer Contain Themselves: A Collection of Five Flash Chapbooks

42—The Body, The Family, Dreams: Heath Fisher on Matthew Porubsky’s Fire Mobile

8—Ravishing Toes in the Morning Bath: Mark Jenkins on Jean Follain’s 130 Poems

44—Vastness and Mystery: Melanie Fitch on Janice Gould’s Doubters and Dreamers

11—A Finely Drawn World: Tom Williams on Phong Nguyen’s story collection Memory Sickness

47—Joy to be Had: Andrea Blythe on Ron Padgett’s How Long

14—Whispers, Never Rants: Maria Nazos on Traci Brimhall’s poetry collection Our Lady of the Ruins

49—A Passionate Reading: Cat Dixon on Alvin Greenberg’s Passionate Travelogue 53—Unordinary Scope: Jeff Alessandrelli on John Bradley’s You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

16—Don't Ever Interrupt the Delicious Fictional Dream: Robin Martin on Terese Svoboda’s novel Bohemian Girl

55—Movement Away From What Was Before: Joan Biddle on Will Edmiston’s effie

19—An Experience in Negative Capability: Lisa Cole on Sarah Falkner’s novel Animal Sanctuary

58—"The Pictures Were Just for Reference": Todd McCarty on Personal Objectivity in Tony Trigilio's Historic Diary

21—Mischievous Twinkle: David S. Atkinson on Alta Ifland’s story collection Death-In-A-Box 23—This Terrible Symmetry: LJ Moore on Peter Richards’s poetry collection Helsinki

61—Non-Social Social Media: David S. Atkinson on Michael Seidlinger’s In Great Company

26—Music of the Americas: Rick Marlatt on Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas

64—Introspective Poetry: Patricia Carragon on Jason Schneiderman’s Striking Surface

31—A Certain Plateau of Articulation: Christopher Schaeffer on Lea Graham’s Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You

68—Not White. Not Black. Just People.: Athena Lark on Jane Lazarre’s Inheritance 70—Contributor’s Page

34—Allegiances: Ingrid Wendt on Maxine Kumin’s New and Selected Poems


Excelling in Brief: Emma Kate Tsai on Jim Shepard’s Master of Miniatures

Master of Miniatures Jim Shepard Solid Objects, 2011 Jim Shepard’s Master of Miniatures is just that, a miniature of a real universe that takes place in a world not ours, but one that makes us shudder while we ask for more. That scene is Tokyo, Japan, in the fifties, in the visual effects industry of major movie-making, in the days when the smoke has not yet cleared from the attack on Pearl Harbor, and a place that knows natural disaster. It seems the literary genius has bitten off more than he can chew at first glance, but he excels in brief what he does so well in full-length. Shepard’s literary devices adapt to the setting, so well his words feel as if they were directly translated from Japanese: “They gave themselves over to those feelings the way lips kissed the thickness of a tea bowl’s rims.” Shepard’s dialogue, too, follows form, and consistently reorients us to where we are. “But Masano knew spilt water never returned to the tray,” “…in the face of her unhappiness, he was like a blind man peeping through a fence,” “‘I suppose it’s like that old saying that the lighthouse doesn’t shine on its own base.’” Shepard has done his research. He takes us behind the scenes and into production—of miniatures that create a world a man dressed in a monster suit sets out to demolish. We don’t know what effect this has on our hero emotionally, to spend fourteen-hour days creating a city that is only going to be destroyed. And we don’t altogether care. Gojira, the movie that becomes a national success, is the precursor to Godzilla—that matters. And what strikes us in the heart is the relationship between Tsuburaya and his wife, Masano, and the job and lost daughter that stand between them.


Shepard tells a story in which a mother lets her little girl dies, a father is killed by an earthquake while waiting for his estranged son, all the while weaving in historical facts of hydrogen bombs that contaminated tuna and inspired commercial success in the cinema. Still, somehow, we can relate. From the first page, Shepard focuses his story much the way a director would focus his camera—to a couple, one in which a man just forgot something that was important to his wife. “He imagined himself telling Masano, ‘I forgot. And when I remembered, I kept going anyway.’” His prose is economical, not once getting in our way as we eavesdrop into the private lives of a tortured family. “He mentioned again by way of conversation a cough that wouldn’t go away and she prepared for him without comment what she called her broth of the seven plants, which included shepherd’s purse, chickweed, parsley, cottonweed, and radish. She sat with him while he drank it and, once he finished, told him he should smoke less.” As a result, we can feel the loss of love between man and wife, the tragedies that came to break them apart, the entrapment they both experience but don’t register as a conscious feeling. The lack of affection is an assumed state, and the weight rests heavy on Tsuburaya. He cannot survive without his work, and she cannot survive without her grief: “…their minds were bound by obsessions that deprived them of freedom. They each put in longer days, he in his innovations and his wife in her grieving.” Fifty-one pages have us walking in another man’s shoes: through childhood, loss, marriage, fatherhood, and failure and success. And though the last line belongs to Wilde, we read it as Tsuburaya’s: “Nobody great or small can be ruined except by his own hand, and terrible as was what the world did to me, even more terrible still was what I did to myself.”


Masters of Subtext: Kelly Lydick on They Could No Longer Contain Themselves: A Collection of Five Flash Chapbooks

They Could No Longer Contain Themselves: A Collection of Five Flash Chapbooks Elizabeth Colen, John Jodzio, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Sean Lovelace, Mary Miller Rose Metal Press, 2011 David Sedaris once said that a good short story “…would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.” To master the art of the short story is to master a palette of details and display them appropriately, to see the scope of life as a metaphor for itself, to view a single event as a broader representation of what it means to be human, to participate in this thing that we all share, that we call “life.” And while a short story can feasibly hold within itself characters who travel from succinct beginning, to middle, to end, a flash fiction piece shrinks time. Flash fiction hangs suspended between a prose poem and a short story, and with adeptness and precision, authors must carefully choose the details they decide to display to readers and create what is structured as “story,” making the use of subtext more particular than in other storytelling forms. The authors represented in They Could No Longer Contain Themselves each in their unique ways—in their unique voices—create and sustain these short bodies of thematic works, and, collected together as “Five Flash Chapbooks” provide readers with a variety of characters and images upon which to ponder the deeper meanings of human relationship and interaction. Do Not Touch Me Not Now Not Ever by John Jodzio begins the collection with a newlywed couple learning to speak Spanish, and includes pieces about parents whose baby swallowed a ninja star, a yoga teacher and her student, and a warlock who casts a spell, among others. “My First Wife,” a brief picture of a married couple with 4

communication issues, begins with bittersweet detail. “I’d found some walkie-talkies in the dumpster,” the main, male character says, “and you ran outside to see if they worked. I sat at the kitchen table and listened as you told me that you thought you heard ‘truckers in between the static of us.’” Jodzio symbolically depicts a couple who talk to one another, but never seem to really “hear” one another, his phrase, “the static of us” indicating that from the beginning of the piece, the couple’s relationship is strained. Divorce is never mentioned in the brief story, but only indicated by the title, referencing the “first” wife. The couple then purchases a rock polisher, indicative of the attempt to smooth the relationship—not any rocks in particular—and make it work, Still, you once had told me that you adored polished agates like the ones you saw in the bins at the curiosity shoppes. You told me that you liked the idea of holding a piece of rough earth in your hand and then hours later seeing it buffed to a high shine. Jodzio’s narrator continues, showing the human fragility of those who try to make wrong relationships right. And while the readers know from the beginning the outcome of the couple’s marriage, it’s never directly stated. The piece concludes with the description of the rock polisher: Only when we started it up did we know. It was incredible, that sound. It was like there was an airplane passing right over the top of us, swallowing up everything we said. I kept telling you to switch it off, but you could not even hear me. Everything that came out of my mouth sounded loud and hissing. Mary Miller’s collection Paper and Tassels continues Jodzio’s theme of relationships, with flash fiction pieces depicting romantic couples, a choir teacher, a dish washer and an artist. Her short “Patterns” depicts the romantic relationship of a couple in which neither party is satisfied, “He takes off his glasses to look at me. The lenses are scratched. They came that way, he accepted them.” Miller chooses the detail of the glasses to indicate to readers that the male partner is indifferent—not about the glasses—but about the partnership. The piece continues, describing a mundane dinner date, during which the man does not pay for the meal, and appears to flirt with the waitress. The female main character attempts to protest, and the man makes excuses for his behavior. Despite that the female main character is unsatisfied with the relationship, she chooses not to dissolve the partnership. Upon returning home for the evening, the “pattern” repeats, leaving the reader with the impression that the dynamic is this couple’s habitual style of interaction. “At the place we call home, I ask him to leave, she says. He agrees easily, so I talk him into staying,” in these brief two sentences, Miller portrays the emotional logic of this couple, more unwilling to be alone than willing to endure their dissatisfaction. Elizabeth J. Colen’s collection Dear Mother Monster, Dear Daughter Mistake gives readers yet another glimpse of relationship dynamics through the experiences of a mother, a daughter, a group of neighborhood ladies, a young woman mesmerized by the beach, and a widow. Her piece “Shoulder” takes readers on a road trip with a mother who is dying of cancer, and has yet to tell her daughter. Colen alludes to the terrible news


through her portrayal of the details in the setting as seen through the car window as they drive by nameless American towns: We get to the next town and the next town. Wisteria covers everything, vines like cancer over everything, houses, trees, fences, climbing up clotheslines, telephone poles. Three parked cars in three yards in a row even had vines growing over. Cancer is mentioned again after a brief verbal spat between the mother and her daughter, Evie, while the deadly disease is avoided in direct conversation, Wisteria blooming with visible tumors, white and purple, everywhere. Everywhere. The signs are painted perfectly by the side of the road. The houses are painted perfectly. Impeccable signs by the side of the road. Signs for everything. And then, when the “perfect” opportunity presents itself, the mother chooses not to tell her daughter the news of her illness: Evie has cracked her window. “God I’m dying in here.” So am I, I want to tell her. So am I…I say nothing and roll through the next three stops. The heat sleeps, shimmer on the pavement, shimmer on the hood of the car. Instead, the mother focuses on the present moment, the landscape, the minutia outside the window, never revealing to her daughter that her illness is terminal. Evan’s House and Other Boys Who Live There by Tim Jones-Yelvington is the third chapbook featured in They Could No Longer Contain Themselves. “House: Boy Who is Not a Boy, but Evan’s House,” the first selection, sets the tone for chapbook, utilizing the point of view of the house as the narrator. The selections continue with narratives spun from the other boy characters, including “Boy Who Makes His Friends,” “Boy Who Wants to Paint His Face,” and “Boy Who Steals Soda” among others. “Painted Faces: Boy Who Wants to Paint His Face” takes place in a rural mall, offering a conversation between the narrator and another boy named Randy: “If somebody gave you a hundred dollars, how would you use it?” Randy says. We’re at the Clareborne County Mall. We’re celebrating Randy’s twelfth birthday. “Want to know how I’d use it?” he says. “Hookers!” The narrator’s answer is quite different. As the two boys are standing near the facepainting booth, the narrator thinks he would like to spend the money painting his face to look like a lion—not on hookers. But out of fear that Randy might make fun of him if he told the truth, the narrator simply replies: “Me, too,” I say. “Definitely hookers.” JonesYelvington’s skill in creating this scene describes to readers, indirectly, the peer pressure that exists between these two boys. In this and in the other pieces in Evan’s House and Other Boys Who Live There, the theme of peer pressure, suggestion, and withholding are also present. Jones-Yelvington crafts these related stories, weaving them together like a family of related characters, all seeking the same thing: love and approval. Lastly, Sean Lovelace’s flash fiction collection, How Some People Like Their Eggs, concludes the anthology with excerpts from Charlie Brown’s diary, the story of a bocce ball player, and a friend supporting another friend through Leukemia. The piece “How Some People Like Their Eggs” takes inventory of how famous (and infamous) people like their eggs. Yogi Berra, General Patton, Andy Warhol, Bonnie Parker, Archduke 6

Franz Ferdinand, Anne Sexton, Robert Capa, Che Guevara, Billie Holiday, Cher, Buzz Aldren, Howard Hughes, and Thelonious Monk round out the cast of characters. By describing the mundane task of making eggs, Lovelace reveals the irony of the select piece of information that one can know about another: Billie Holiday: Served Sunny Side Up, inverted. Like two dreams dropped from a great height. Big and round and shiny and flat. Served with a glass of rusty tap water. Served fourteen minutes after cooking. While cooling. While cool. It appears that a deeper sense of the character is being portrayed, at that the form may also follow the character’s personal style, but the passages indirectly question what is known about these public people. Howard Hughes: Steam-basted. In an autoclave. Thelonious Monk: No human being knows how Thelonious Monk likes his eggs. While these descriptions appear to reveal something intimate about these characters, they also reiterate that the general public may think they have an idea about what these celebrities are like—but don’t really know—and never will. Lovelace challenges the reader’s perception of these famous personalities, while seeming to reveal what is already known. Indirectly, he also addresses the idea of relationship, as the other authors in this collection have done. The flash fiction begs the reader to ponder the unstated question: If you know how someone likes their eggs, does that mean you really know that person? The authors featured in They Could No Longer Contain Themselves write their stories as Sedaris suggests a story should—change the reader. The work of Jodzio, Miller, Colen, Jones-Yelvington and Lovelace become for the reader metaphors for the common situations that many may, at some point or another, face, bringing to light the ineffability of existence. With vibrancy and poignancy, these authors say what it is they want to say, quickly and adeptly, without ever actually having to say it.


Ravishing Toes in the Morning Bath: Mark Jenkins on Jean Follain’s 130 Poems

130 Poems Jean Follain, translated by Christopher Middleton Anvil Press Poetry, 2010 French Poetry haunts American poetry through luminescent French Poets like Baudelaire and Rimbaud who are regularly translated into English, yet this leaves many more recent but less prominent poets in the periphery undertranslated. Jean Follain (1903-1971) is one such lesser-known poet, known enough to merit a few translations of his prose, poetry, and prose poems, but the lack of criticism in English and to an extent French, suggests Follain teeters on the edge of obscurity as a writer’s writer. In his introduction to a 1956 selected works of Follain, André Dhotel believes Follain is a unique poet among his contemporaries who “embellishes… memory without ever praising it, and renouncing romantic flights, to have shown the thing….both familiar time and space ordinarily unexpected by an otherly light” (26). Likewise, the French critic, Françoise Rouffiat, suggests Follain is not well known because he avoids surrealism and doesn’t adhere to any particular school of poetry. He is much closer then to his contemporary André Salmon, the creator of new realism (5). Follain’s poetry breaks away from melodramatic inflations associated with romantic poetry as it considers minute and seemingly unrelated quotidian images that illuminate otherwise unassuming objects such as dresses and frozen wine. In this recent translation, Christopher Middleton selected and translated 130 poems from across Follain’s bibliography. It balances literal translation with poetic fidelity. Many of Follain’s poems are colleges, free association, and the connections between images sometimes ambiguous. One poem “Poem (The dress is at times)” juxtaposes objects covering the human body, considers the self-alienation a person can feel from their own body. “The dress is at times/ more human than the body” (23). The metaphor 8

continues in the second stanza’s addresses lavender for “lending your perfume/ to the rooms of my dead;” Flowers or their smell conceal the smell of decay. The final stanza transforms “youth” into dressing for the body on the “palm of hands” to “ravishing toes/ in the morning bath” youth O youth of the palms of hands, youth of ravishing toes in the morning bath (22). The speaker is most comfortable seeing their own body clothed and free of smell, yet by the poem’s surprising turn, the speaker accepts the naked body or at least its hands and feet, as long as youth covers both. The poem “Red Ice” from Territories recounts Napoleon’s army’s 1812 winter retreat from Russia. The poem focuses on a sapper’s axe, which becomes a useful, if brutal tool to break free the stout block of wine in the shape of a cask no museum could ever have preserved (73). This poem avoids expected war poetry themes of heroism or elegy. The soldier’s suffering is well documented elsewhere and the axe could end up in a museum. Follain, however, is more interested in the subtle fringe of historic events, almost forgettable detail of frozen wine, if not the image frozen wine shaped like a cask, impossible to preserve in a museum. Middleton’s approach to translating Follain includes altering syntax as might be expected in moving between two languages, but he also choose to move poetic lines. For example, in the poem “Lone Man” the original French reads: Sur la grande étendue d’une campange grise un home marche. Middleton translates these three lines into: “A man is walking/ over the expanse of a grey countryside.” Compare this to Heather McHugh’s translation of the same lines: On the great expanse of a gray countryside a man walks alone (15). Aside from the addition of the word “alone,” McHugh maintains the order of Follain’s French in her translation. I mention McHugh’s translation not to tout one over the other, but to notice the difference. McHugh chose to translate one collection D’Aprés Tout in its entirety and includes the original French poem next to each translation, which adds to the pressure to ensure translated lines correspond to the original French. In many places, Middleton also seems to follow Follain’s individual lines even if he rearranges them, though at other times, he keeps the original syntax to provide his readers a kind of foreignness. In “the Face of Things,” he translates the three lines, Beaucoup refusent le souvenir 9

mais l’oblie n’est complet jamais into Many refuse remembrance but oblivion never is complete For non-francophones more familiar with contemporary American poetry, giving “Beaucoup” its own line seems like a wasted line. In translating these three lines Middleton opts to create stronger line breaks letting readers linger on refuse/remembrance/ oblivion never. It too becomes a way to emphasize “never.” Follain ends the final line with “jamais,” while Middleton avoids an easier syntax of “is never complete.” These choices remind readers that we are reading a translation and a translation done by a poet conscious of such choices. Middleton’s selection of Follain’s poetry is the widest range of all recent English translations and so perhaps the most able to give readers the broadest survey of Follain. This also means that readers miss the organic relationship between a full collection of poems, in how two poems converse on subsequent pages, but also themes that return through a collection. However, until a complete English translation of Follain’s entire poetic oeuvre is completed, 130 poems is an excellent new place to experience Follain’s poetry in English. Works Cited Dhotel, André. “Les Images Du Monde Dans La Litterture Contemporaine.” Jean Follain. Paris, France: Pierre Seghers Editions, 1956, 9-26. Follain, Jean. D’Apès Tout: Poems. Trans. Heather McHugh. Princeton: Princeton U P, 1981. Rouffiat, Françoise. Jean Follain: le Meme, Autrement. Seyssel, France: Èditions Champ Vallon, 1996, 5.

** Winner of the Sixth Annual Rose Metal Press Short Short Chapbook Contest, judged by Randall Brown $12.00 Order at A grieving widow spied sleeping through the busted out window of a dilapidated trailer, a severed nipple, an illicit raid on a roadside fireworks stand: a boy named Cherry Tree, with a penchant for tight red underwear and old towels worn as capes, encounters these and other mysteries one heat-struck summer in 1989 when his world is expanded by an abusive older brother and an elusive Mexican girl. Shampoo Horns is a meditation on boyhood, brotherhood, and the fragmented process of coming of age.

Shampoo Horns By Aaron Teel 10

A Finely Drawn World: Tom Williams on Phong Nguyen’s story collection Memory Sickness

Memory Sickness Phong Nguyen Elixir Press, 2011 Reviewing a collection of stories, no matter the writer, no matter the press, often poses for me a particular set of problems. Namely, how does one accurately measure the book’s merits: is it based on each individual story or how all the tales cohere? Is it better to have twelve okay stories or, like a hard rock album from the seventies, three dynamos and several servings of filler? It seems not so long ago short story collections afforded the writer opportunities to try a bunch of different things—see John Gardner’s The King’s Indian, Charles Johnson’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Cris Mazza’s Animal Acts—and the reader expected from story to story widely differing styles, POV shifts, comedy side by side with drama, parody a few pages away from sincerity. One also expected the misstep or two in these books, but the overall effect was that the daring and ambition of the more successful efforts outshone those flawed experiments. Nowadays, when the short story collection seems a boutique item reserved only for the MFA set, often one encounters books where similitude seems the standard to achieve. The stories all feature the same central character over a discrete period of time, or some set of overt connections to link the stories and bear such odd labels as “novel in stories,” which anymore seems a marketing term designed to distract the average reader from the truth: that what she’s really reading is a collection of fiction. Because of all this, and more, I’m prone to avoid reviewing and reading short story collections. Let me encounter the stories individually in journals. Let me wait for the novel that every short story writer tells an interested agent that she is absolutely working on.


Then there are the rare exceptions that take me away from such thoughts. Phong Nguyen’s Elixir Press prize winning debut, Memory Sickness, is one of them. I was fortunate to know Mr. Nguyen’s work as a writer and the editor of the fantastic Pleiades, but oddly enough, the fiction I’d read of his was not of the kind contained between the covers of this collection. In some of his other stories, he’s more playful, more hybrid-y, almost speculative, with titles like “Ho Chi Minh in Harlem” and “Einstein Saves Hiroshima.” And when I read the harrowing title story of this collection, I wondered if there wasn’t another Phong Nguyen who wrote fiction. It is, after all, nearly as common a name in some parts of the world as, oh, Tom Williams. Yet staying with “Memory Sickness,” and the twelve stories following, I discovered a collection of fiction that seems both to connect with that more daring kind I was praising earlier and that which we encounter more commonly today. For one, all the stories in Memory Sickness are set in Providence, Rhode Island. Yet rather than evoking a narrow strip of life lived there, Nguyen takes a cue from Dubliners—that granddaddy of the “novel in stories”—and attempts to find what matters to a diverse cast (and caste) of characters. Ranging from the Cambodian narrator (and Khmer Rouge trained soldier) in “Memory Sickness” to the hipster patient in “Death of an Ironist” to the WASP-Y eponymous character of “The Ballad of John Grey,” all of these characters are so well-realized that it is with a sharp pang that I departed every story, knowing, especially in “Death of an Ironist,” that the “lives” of these imaginary people were, for the moment, over. Immigrant and native, male and female, insider and outsider, protagonist and passerby, these characters provide shocks of the familiar and the strange and inhabit such a finely drawn world. Given the diversity of the characters, one might cut Mr. Nguyen a little slack were the book lacking in any formal monkeying about, yet among the thirteen stories one finds first and third person narrators, multiple narrators (in the unsettling “Manhunt”), temporal shifts (in “The Opposite of Gray”—a real stunner), and, in what might be Memory Sickness’s chief virtue, a complex series of connections between the stories that absolutely insist that the collection be read from first story to last. Through these connections, some subtle or sly, others substantive and elemental to the book’s progression, one gets a greater sense of coherence, yet it’s accomplished without uniformity, without chronology. Nguyen’s storytelling strategy, at both the local level of the story and the global level of the book, is more associative, more surprising. When one reads about the shooting of Angel l Ramon in “The Opposite of Gray,” then sees him alive in the story next door, “Manhunt,” the effect is breathtaking. What the . . . I found myself saying, as though this mass of words was flesh and bone and capable of the most difficult second act. If I have one complaint, it is that at times, it seems, Nguyen blunts his endings—a few are too quiet, too emotionally dampened (for example, “Body Art,” and perhaps “The Good China”)—as if to sacrifice those stories’ power for the greater good of the whole. Yet when one encounters such moments as those that occur in the final story, “The Ballad of John Grey,” that seem to unite the disparate threads and plotlines of the book, the effect is haunting and rewarding, at once.


What’s more, one can’t turn a page in Memory Sickness and not find some passage worthy of underlining or reading aloud to a friend over the phone. In “Made in Taiwan,” Nguyen writes, “Inside, the blades of the fan are gummy with years of dust, droppings, and mold. I feel the thickness of the grime with my fingers –I just have to. I’ve never touched anything so ugly; note even drunk” (67). His scenes are always well paced, his settings brilliantly evoked. And his depictions of characters, such as the war-shaped boy narrator of the title story, will sometimes chill you, or, in the case of James Mason from “Four Hundred and One,” break the most hardened of hearts. I don’t know if the future of the story collection is bleak or promising; but one thing I do know after reading Memory Sickness is that no matter what he’s up to next, I’ll be eager to read more Phong Nguyen. For if this is his debut, we readers should expect to be dazzled, just like John Grey in the final story, to whom a sign comes “as though it had drifted out of the pages of a book” (130). **

In a war-torn wasteland someone wakes wounded and blind to a life they don’t remember or understand. Halfway across the world a woman builds an intricate city out of personal debris to celebrate a brief period of happiness. Just downstairs a man sits meditating before his rumbling clothes dryer contemplating harsh realities of adulthood that seem to be rushing forth to consume. These are the lives of Frank and Lili, two roommates and sometimes lovers unable to accept or cope with anything but each other. Set amongst an unknown exploding city and Halifax, the city that once exploded, Action, Figure moves within and merges streaming consciousness, self-loathing, and the recovering mind as three lost souls move to scaffold realities they don’t accept. To cope they attack themselves in whatever way they can, hoping that whatever survives will see through to better days.

Purchase the E-Book or Paperback: 13

Whispers, Never Rants: Maria Nazos on Traci Brimhall’s poetry collection Our Lady of the Ruins

Our Lady of the Ruins Traci Brimhall WW Norton, 2012 Traci Brimhall's second full-length poetry collection, Our Lady Of The Ruins, was selected by Carolyn Forche as winner of the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize. This book contains an ethereal quality; the speakers' voices are a collective rather than individual one that slip fluidly from gentle mutterings to disembodied echoing, sometimes throughout the same poem. The speakers range from lamenting mothers in "Somniloquy" who confess that "nailing [themselves] to a tree didn't bring God any closer," to war-torn nursemaids in the poem "Prelude To A Revolution" who assist prisoners by "passing tangerines, iodine and cigarettes between the bars". Truly these poems reflect upon themes of grief, spiritual crisis, and sensuality, all in the utterance of a Greek tragedy's chorus. Thematic to these poems is the notion that in order to survive, one must first do away with all that one loves—before the world does. Also throughout "Our Lady Of The Ruins" the speaker ponders how nature's cruelty relates to her own destructive life. In "Inheritance" one speaker abandons her newborn daughter "in the woods for the wolves with their names written on their wrists". Another speaker in "Become The Lion" finds her dying sister "in a tree singing to a starling". The narrative engages in the metaphysical act of gazing, in which the subject matter takes on not a life, but a death and an afterlife all its own. Moments of disturbing lucidity occur 14

throughout the poems, such as "Dirge For The Idol" when the speaker confesses to having "listened to the wisdom of madness". Brimhall also uses animalistic portrayals to convey a world that has taken on death as a life of its own. The speakers don't have spirit animals; they have soul-purging battles with beasts in which they "kill it or die or become the lion". For this landscape is not a trite dog-eat-dog one; it is a more chaotic realm in which the speaker inhabits myths such as that of the Minotaur in the poem "Somniloquy" but instead "killed the bull/that gored him/then stitched his head/onto the dead man's body". In "Somniloquy " Brimhall also embodies the myth of Adam and Eve, claiming "when I looked a serpent in the eyes/I felt a common salvation". Sure enough, the only way for these heroines to confront their fears to crawl inside of their enemies' skin. Brimhall also displays athleticism on the page. The poetic forms in this collection range from page-long couplets in "Gnostic Fugue" to an experimental concrete prosody in "Hysteria: A Requiem", to prose poems such as "A Year Between Wars" that take on the litany of a foreboding calendar. "Hysteria: A Requiem" features a footnote at the bottom of each page to demonstrate the passage of time, the decompensation of the speaker while feeling "this terrible lightness others call peace", and to ground the narrative. The title poem, "Our Lady Of The Ruins" mediates a duality of voices, juxtaposing one concrete speaker against another's italicized aside. In any case, Brimhall employs these daring forms effectively to create reliability in what would otherwise be an unreliable set of narrators plagued by ecstasy and mourning. In addition to containing formal elasticity, the placement of the poems prove effective, particularly in "Our Lady" and "Hysteria: A Requiem". Both pieces mark the tension swelling as "broken rocking horses line the streets" and the speakers claim to have "loved a god they didn't believe in" gives us a sense that in order for this post-apocalyptic realm to re-create, it must first break itself down. Meanwhile the protagonists watch "sharks feast on what remains of a whale while her calf circles." Overall, "Our Lady Of The Ruins" whispers methodically, but never rants; these sinewy images of "the bloodied yolk inside the broken egg" speak to a sensual world of feminine intuition and foreboding that pushes the poems towards the universal realm rather than confessional.


Don't Ever Interrupt the Delicious Fictional Dream: Robin Martin on Terese Svoboda’s novel Bohemian Girl

Bohemian Girl Terese Svoboda Bison Books, 2011 Much is being made of the opening of Terese Svoboda's sixth novel, Bohemian Girl no doubt due to its dark premise and strong voice, all at once an innocent childlike voice of a twelve year old and a deeply comprehending and generous voice of experience, the definition of honor, the lack of anger, the frankness, the resolve: Pa lost me on a bet he could not break, nor would, having other daughters to do for, and other debt besides. The bet with the Indian—really a race, Pa liked any kind of bet—was who could walk first to the mouth of this river that flows so flat into the distance that the eye starts to water following it. Too thick to drink, too thin to plow, he says every time we cross it. My Pa traps and knows the land but maybe not so much the river, or maybe he stopped to take refreshment the way he does and got himself confused because that bet was not won although he and the Indian spent most of one winter chasing the river down, with the Indian squat at the mouth by the time Pa showed. A man of honor, my Pa. (3) The author's name, Svoboda, means "freedom" and so it makes sense that the piece be at its core about captivity and freedom; her protagonist, who at first resists running because it wouldn't be honorable, escapes when the Indian who owns her decides her bones are worth more as structure than her muscles are as labor and ties her to a pyre to await the keeper of the flame. Stumbling upon a dying shopkeeper in a pioneer town at the end of a battle, the quick witted and prospicient girl begins selling his wares; "weighted with their own sorrows, [the residents] don't wonder that a young girl with a lame leg would run into the store and take it over without a claim" (89), eventually forging "a letter that greets [her] as 'a shopkeeper's true happiness'... They just nod over the paper while I hold it for them to 16

read...while I remind each and all of them how I have bound their dead, I have clothed their wives, I have treated their babies with sugar by the handful." (91) Soon she has become ensconced in the Nebraska settlement. Notable is the absolute credibility of the protagonist. The narrator cannot be cleanly distinguished; it is sometimes omniscient, at other times it is first person from the point of view of the young protagonist, whose real name even she may not know. A person could do anything in the west, reappear as someone else, make or unmake themselves because, as Svoboda has said in an interview, "there was no civilization holding you back." The protagonist identifies herself: "Looking for Pa. I am wary. I am a war girl." She chooses her name, Harriet—the name of a dead slave, encounters another small group of immigrants from whom she inherits a baby boy, observes a small performance troupe fall from the sky in a red silk balloon, obtains a store, contributes sustenance to the underground railroad. Each experience feels surreal, but 1861-life is all but unfathomable to us in 2012. At one point, the townsfolk gather and beat spoons in favor of naming the capital of the new state after the dead president. Astute period details are sprinkled like salt and pepper over the story and bring out its flavor and its richness but don't ever interrupt the delicious fictional dream. Dryly written, and cool, in no place overwrought or sentimental, Svoboda, an accomplished poet, manages through skilled assemblage of words to evoke the reader's deep emotion. Harriet may be simple or she may be stunningly brilliant, with the way she moves into and out of situations and maintains control over herself and, improbably, her situations. The story is compelled by a persistent sense of foreboding. The reader sucks in her breath when the Peddler reveals his jealousy; the reader grips the book edges when the Indian appears at his young escapee's store. With understated prose superbly composed, Svoboda has created a world that is both complex and simple. The reader comes away with a clear understanding that what we commonly refer to as simpler times were not at all that. There was war, Indians, infidelity, runaway slaves: Madam, [the peddler] says with new gravity. I had already come to an agreement with the dead shopkeeper and I wish to affirm it with you. I have heard—he leans close—I know about the size of your cellar. /There is nothing to the size of my cellar, I say. Two of your pins and three jars of preserves could fit inside it. Only took-apart wagon boards keep it from caving in./ Your cellar abuts the bluff, he says... He had another business of which I was privy to, says the peddler, brushing the silk of his hat with that hand of his./I don't think I want to know about it, I say./I have some lovely lace you could have, he says. Not the tatting I sell to the Indians./ As close to lace I know are the rag bandages I've been rolling for the St. Louis Sanity Fair. I catch the tail of the twisted linen thread he's dangling from his watch pocket. A lot of holes in it./ There are slaves—he whispers, and stops./ There's no end to the blood of boys shed over slaves these days, I say.(97) The book has themes of communication and identity. The Indian speaks his native tongue, some of which the protagonist picks up. "She is sorry to know any of their words, 17

father, how long, liquor." (21) The Indian never understands her only complaint "My ankles hurt." "What is she always saying with this Mi nklz urd?" he asks his companion, who replies: "She is saying the queen is a smelly fetus./They laugh into their smoke, they wipe their eyes./Where is my father? she says in Indian. The two men go quiet. She understands—what? (20-21) The boy who lives as her ward chooses to only whistle rather than speak, a point of contention for the townsfolk. The author recognizes the diversity of the plains— the Germans, the Russians, the Dutch, the Jews, who made up America's pioneers—with generous servings of the vernacular, the dashes of dialect, the duschenkas and the Lieutennant Dumbkoff, oy geveldts, and yes, the Svoboda. Bohemian Girl is another striking effort by this accomplished wordsmith.

** Poetry | $15 Perfect-bound. 92 pp, 7 x 7 in. First Edition, June 5, 2012

Partyknife is a debut book of angry, funny, sad poems from the banal seeming yet hypermysterious Sink Review and Immaculate Disciples Press founder Dan Magers. The poems range from gleeful haywire to broken despair. Stoner wisdom and vulnerable transcendence alternate throughout as the speaker drinks vitality from life and longs to hold onto his identity and a band called Partyknife, a band he may or may never have been a part of.Partyknife is not a memoir, but stands as the last will and testament of the poet’s 20s living in Brooklyn, New York.

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An Experience in Negative Capability: Lisa Cole on Sarah Falkner’s novel Animal Sanctuary

Animal Sanctuary Sarah Falkner Starcherone Books 2011 Winner of the seventh Starcherone Prize for innovative fiction, Sarah Falkner’s Animal Sanctuary certainly tests the boundaries of fiction, or more accurately, asks if fiction should have any boundaries at all. Those expecting a traditional linear narrative will be surprised upon beginning Animal Sanctuary. In this post-modern story, Falkner utilizes many of the same techniques a visual artist might when creating a collage. There are both literary and non-literary forms at work here: interviews, textbook passages, newspaper clippings, and movie scripts all make an appearance. The book is also full of shifting perspectives, very abrupt changes in time and place, and sometimes, characters are revealed, never making another appearance again, which can make reading the book a bit disorienting. At times, Falkner’s book references itself in some interesting ways, and the reader begins to understand some of the motivations behind the form of the book. Kitty Dawson is the most consistent character throughout the story, the one whom readers get to know best, but it is in an interview with Albert Wickwood that we learn some of the reasons why Falkner chose the form that she did. In chapter 4, “Nature Films” the director Albert Wickwood is being interviewed regarding his recent film, A Man’s Best Friend: “The plot of A Man’s Best Friend is absurd on paper, but of course many films succeed precisely because the plot eventually steps aside and lets other things be accomplished. In the case of this film, the fact that aside from lengthy protracted scenes of chaos, not a whole lot actually happens—and the underlying reasons behind what does happen are 19

never bothered about—the death of plot eventually permits the viewer to focus on other details…” (63-64). Here, Wickwood discusses the tension often present between form and content. He argues that content often takes a backseat to form, that the plot is often secondary to the experience one garners while reading a particular piece, which is certainly what happens with Animal Sanctuary. Further on in the text, in Chapter 6, “Film Theory” the author sheds a bit more light upon what is happening in the book. She includes an explanation of negative capability, a concept originally explained in a letter written by the poet John Keats in December of 1817. Keats said that negative capability is “when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” Falkner reframes this concept in the following description: You perhaps are a bit troubled or made uneasy by your mix of feelings…you don’t realize it, but in fact, you have a skill, and you will in the future make use of your ability to hold balanced in your head all at the same time two or more ideas about a situation that might seem to conflict with or contradict one another. (99) Reading Animal Sanctuary is certainly an experience in negative capability, as the reader tries to create a balance between and make sense out of many competing artistic methods, and unconventional storytelling techniques. Falkner also concerns herself with animal rights; the control humans have over animals, and the similarities between humans and animals, which humans often forget. There are certain times in the text when the reader is left to wonder if the “animal” is a metaphor for the artist. Both are often misunderstood, and treated as outsiders. Our identities are often misconstrued, and artists, like animals, are often at the mercy of others. Indeed, the book never strays too far away from itself, never forgets that it is a piece of art. Falkner may be an animal activist but she is always an artist first and foremost.


Mischievous Twinkle: David S. Atkinson on Alta Ifland’s story collection Death-InA-Box

Death-in-a-Box Alta Ifland Subito Press, 2011 I tend to read quite a bit. At least, I think it is quite a bit. Perhaps someone else might think that I don't read enough, but I feel like if I spend any more of my time reading then my family will end up staging an intervention. Regardless, reading as much as I do I sometimes get the feeling that I am reading something I have read before. Of course, sometimes I really do read something I have read before, but that isn't what I'm talking about. I mean that I read enough that some of it starts to sound the same. Plots, sentences, emotions, and whatnot can all start to seem like just another version of something else I've read. The real joy I found in reading Death-in-a-Box was that I did not have that sense of having read before. It wasn't just that some of the stories are pretty weird (because some are). I go in for that sort of thing so that wouldn't be that unusual for me. What I mean is more that the voices used in these stories wasn't one I was familiar with. It was different, off-kilter from anything I could remember reading recently. The opening paragraph of the title story is a perfect example: In the days when Death wasn't hidden behind a plastic door in a rectangular-shaped odorless funeral home, but was Life's sister, Beauty was clothed in the enigmatic glow of Death and walked in its shoes; then gradually, Death's mischievous twinkle in the eye was replaced by icy terror. But when I grew up, some people still remembered Death's playfulness and thought that if only they could beat it at its own game, they would eventually cheat death 21

and escape its inexorability. My godfather was one of them. Of his wife, only a black-and-white marriage photo had been kept, with the groom and bride immortalized in their starched stiffness, and the bride, with that look only Death can put on certain young faces, as if it were the real groom, the bride with that misty Deathsuffused gaze drifting toward nothing and already conjuring up nothingness. For this bride's theft my godfather couldn't forgive death, so he decided to catch it and lock it up in a box. There is just something about the language here, perhaps the word choice or the word order or even the somewhat poetic flow to the paragraph, which just sounds (or reads) differently from much of the other writing I've seen recently out in the world. Frankly, I like it. I like the freshness and I like the oddity of its delivery. However, that is not to say that there isn't something unusual in some of the story ideas as well. Stubborn Memory is proof enough of that. In Stubborn Memory, a man has doctors remove some especially painful memories so he can be at peace. Then he has to testify regarding the memories he had removed in order to convict the person responsible, though he cannot remember. He becomes so fixated on what he cannot remember that he studies and relearns everything he took such pains to forget, forcing him to have the surgery again. Even at that point, the story is far from over. Or, consider the gentleman in Fried Brains who frequents a restaurant that serves, as one might imagine from the title, fried brains. On his first visit he asks for wine, but is instructed: "Customers should bring their own wine." He does on his next visit, but then he is told a similar instruction when he asks for bread. Events proceed in this way until the customer comes up with a surprisingly drastic solution to the restaurant being out of fried brains. I wouldn't want to ruin the story, but the self-sufficient customer takes things a bit too far. Even beyond uniquely fresh language and unusual ideas, some of the stories Death-in-aBox also have a style of humor that they seem to have invented. Simple instructions regarding boiling an egg in From the Diary of an Accidental Housewife quickly become absurdly convoluted and over-complicated: Take a medium-size pot … take a medium … or maybe a small, a small would do it, so, take a medium or a small-size pot, fill it with water up to … up to a certain point, then … wait … Was it hot or cold water? Hot or cold water? I really don't remember. I don't. Let's say it was cold, because from cold water you can make hot water, but not the other way around. Wait … actually, you can. Though this humor isn't really that different from some styles I've seen before, it seems to have its own special rhythm that makes reading that much more enjoyable. In any event, whether because of fresh language, intriguing ideas, or delightful humor, I found Death-in-a-Box to be refreshingly different from the other books that I've been reading as of late. It is creative and captivatingly imaginative. For me, it was well worth the time I spent reading and I wouldn't hesitate to spend that time again. 22

This Terrible Symmetry: LJ Moore on Peter Richards’s poetry collection Helsinki

Helsinki Peter Richards Action Books, 2011 Helsinki is the story of a man who falls in love with Julia, who may be a savage fairy that rides a hummingbird, a horse, or the horse’s shoe, or the rider of horse who is wearing the shoe. Helsinki is also a city in Finland, a town of enthusiasts, and the geography that locates the boyhood of the book’s narrator, though its concrete location never truly releases him from its oblique psychic mosaic. Helsinki is a book-length poem in which recurring images of white coldness and sterility, orange lines of life and fire, green verdancy, and repeated phrases regularly reiterate themselves in ways that suggest there should be a narrative thread, but the thread frays as quickly as it is spun: “I lie in the arms of complete whiteness A rope feeds into me moving up and down I’m an orange foaming corset making occasions REFERENCE THE GROUND I make gold partial directionless rings and underpin sounds and memories the bay state operation sideshow shovel some blue jays of course I’m connected…” Reading Helsinki is like listening to late-night shortwave radio. Sometimes what comes through clearest is in an unfamiliar language, or one’s own language so distorted it becomes unrecognizable except that is has a temperature, a texture, and an emotional undertow. Where it lacks a recognizable face or pattern or story—some doorway through which the reader can enter—Helsinki does have that basic emotional resonance that even a foreign language evokes: one need not grasp meaning to receive tone. Richards draws 23

on a wide range of sources for his language, including the mythic and historical, astrophysics, science, and seemingly personal or intimate experience. All of this language seems to be processed, whether through an exercise like collaging, to create a kind of unwinding of sense. The result in a barely readable book whose rewards to the reader are hit and miss. When it hits, there are moments of insight and connection that don’t feel accidental: “The evidence against people not being tinged is overwhelming like a pool tingeing under a gale or a bride feeling tinge just choosing her color I was obviously brushing against her a sand dune indication yielding a lace of feeding flowers With their full gale movements sizing my body I sometimes arrive inside exchanging heat rations... …I’m part of a long orange line feeding the center…” The problem is that these moments are followed and preceded and padded by like yards and yards of word-darkness and sound-experiment where all that’s coming through is variegated noise. For a reader, this gets tiring. Exhausting, actually. It is not an unreasonable expectation that when a poet is entering into a contract with the reader to explore difficult territory- in this case the semi-opaque and blurry boundaries of internal symbolism and landcapes, that the poet must exercise even deeper control over the lens, or the translation becomes too garbled: “…I was working this bad observer unnatural pallors he was lurking to impress me he would say anything did you know Julia keeps her own herrick it has the balls of a horse but the face on a girl and such round eyes openly staring imagine all nature forced to stare inside a span Julia’s geyser writing in hair and on the geyser said to spout there Julia in all her sickness sat fixing the quickening mirror from sixteen warring shades…” It is not impossible to be successful at this very difficult mode of poetry. T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland is a good example of poetry that wears a similar emotional form, but Eliot’s chronicle of emotional unraveling never completely loses its contextual compass. Eliot achieves this by anchoring, even suffocating his poems in literary and political allusion, so that what seem like non-sequiturs, like unhinged associations, are on closer examination, chromosomes of tightly-packed meaning— a kind of string-theory revealed in poetry: "A woman drew her long black hair out tight And fiddled whisper music on those strings And bats with baby faces in the violet light Whistled, and beat their wings And crawled head downward down a blackened wall And upside down in air were towers Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells. 24

In this decayed hole among the mountains In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing‌" Yes, Eliot was writing in a different tradition in 1922, but not entirely: the two poets are exploring comparable territory with similar aesthetic approaches. Both deliberately disrupt and perforate the boundaries inner mental states and shared "public" reality. Both weave poetic landscapes out of dream-like visions, trying to tell a story by holding emotionally-laden images like flash-cards or ideograms infer meaning rather than explaining it directly. Both poets drive their lines with rhythmic form, and both seem to be communicating an emotional crisis. In Eliot's case, the crisis is an aftermath saturated in the horror of World War I. In Richards' case it is clear in the intensity of image and language that Helsinki contains a crisis that seems genuinely felt, one that the poet insists he will deliver, but that never arrives. Unlike the controlled implosion that rises and rises (or arguably crumbles and crumbles) that culminates in Eliot's offering of "These fragments I have shored against my ruins‌" Richards defies that kind of accumulative, consistent thread. Helsinki offers its building blocks again and again: the white dot, a frozen tear, three orange feathers, Julia, the sensation gently brushing my back, thick green spirals, this terrible symmetry, arriving in wave after wave of slightly new iterations, insisting to the reader that there is something here, a mutual understanding to be arrived at, an offering the poet is making to the reader. Instead, Richards ends not with a bang, but a whimper: "‌I met these three girls from Macedon who let me stay in their cabin for a week never was a man more happy and free this is an understatement I mean These were the kinds of girls who knew how to grow yogurt but also enjoyed shooting skeet in the afternoons We drank Makers and one night they really did weave a crown of vetch for me to wear."


Music of the Americas: Rick Marlatt on Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas

Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, editor University of Arizona Press

In blood, in pulse, and just as driving as any homing device we bear, movement, travel, journey proves imperative; we come and go, come and go, always seeking what we do not know, have not seen, some of us always returning, to reveal the witnessings and to revel in the familiar. Sometimes, in the movement, motion, cadence, rhythm, lyric, song appears, as if music just existed for us to collide into, and maybe it does. (1) So goes the opening of Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s introduction to her much anticipated anthology Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas. More than 80 indigenous poets and writers, hailing from as far north as Alaska, south to the coast of Chile, along with many from the United States, contribute to this groundbreaking collection. Moreover, those included form a group as diverse as it is comprehensive, with recognizable names such as Sherwin Bitsui, Louise Erdrich, and Joy Harjo appearing alongside international native writers at all stages of career-both emerging and acclaimed. What unites them isn’t merely circumstance of heritage and history, but a clear conviction in the power of words and voice. Deborah A. Miranda chants as much in “Ghost Road Song:” I need a song with a heart wrapped in barbed wire. I need a song that sheds no tears, 26

I need a song that sobs. I need a song that skates along the edge of black ice, howls with coyotes, a song with a good set of lungs, a song that won’t give out, give up, give in, give way: I need a song with guts. (59-60) Hedge Coke’s anthology is a lyrical banquet filled with the histories, landscapes, cultures, legends, and political climates of the Americas’ first peoples and nations. Multifarious exhibitions of language, artistic creeds, and poetic traditions are born from these writers who praise their unique sense of place, both in the literal and spiritual sense. The book itself carries its own geography, organized into seven sections which simultaneously unite and distinguish the works and their creators, not unlike boundaries between nations. Bitsui’s “Calyx” opens the poetry in the “Prelude” section: Amber barn light flashes upon orange rinds worming through the cow’s skull, ivory columns of smoke followed by silk curtains billow from our eyelids, scattering snow over the cliff’s edge, we know for some reason, reason was here. (23) These lines grant the reader a field guide on how to approach the works which follow. By pursuing the tracks laid by nature’s external stimuli, we come to the site of internal realization and epiphany. At times, beauty is well disguised behind these clues. And “Ptarmigan,” the book’s second section, offers us a chance to witness how poetic sensibility can discover imagery and lyricism underneath the natural camouflage of the world. Tiffany Midge illustrates this mechanism of discovery in “Stories are Alive Beings:” The moon is my cup. I drink the stars down. Night is hot liquid steeped in clouds, poured from the hands of planets. Someone beautiful told me Stories are alive beings, little animals who drink from the creek of my spirit; who scratch at the door; who invent absurd and curious ways of being in the world; who carve indelible maps in the sky for the rest of us to follow. (51) “Liminal,” the third section in the collection, brings the reader to a threshold between the material world and the state of awakening to its hidden treasures. And from this temporal perspective, writers such as Laura Tohe, Ofelia Zepeda, Joan Kane, and Travis Hedge Coke offer articulations within metaphysical existence, and reveal the power of the call and respond, initiation and departure operation. In “To Grow Older,” Jon Henson remarks on this period of transition and demonstrates the ability to marvel at its


uncertainty. Following a sweeping, lyrical praise of domestic simplicity such as preparing food and staying warm by the fire, Henson delivers a staying reflection: This is a pure time Void of colonial America A simple time permanently fixed Just waiting to start dinner not thinking of war peace Just enjoying this time. (88) The middle sections, “In the Midst of Songs” and “Through the Fields” offer musical explosions and multilingual rhapsodies of migratory expanse and song-induced levitation, along with unapologetic representations of conflict, violence, and death. Many of these pieces, which range from poetry to hybrid texts, appear with the author’s original language and the English translation side by side. Ariruma Kowii highlights this portion of Sing with a moving tribute in honor of the struggling people of Ecuador, “A Song to Dignity:” Because our dreams Still hold the splendor of our dignity, We are here, standing up and facing them To say face to face, with thundering voice and Our fists raised No, they will not defeat us. (183) Similarly, additional writers such as Hugo Jamioy, Fredy Chicangana, Juanita Pahdopony, and Hilario Chacin all invoke memorable incantations of defiance, triumph, and resistance. Cherokee author Paula Nelson praises the hearts of elders with “Land Song:” I will not leave this land I will never go The dirt is my heart The water is my soul I am this land I want you to see That I am human And you are just like me Whereas the previous works in the collection present largely the voices of the landscape along with the epitaphs of sacred ground, the texts within the sixth section of Sing define the indigenous peoples by their wisdom, experience, and traditions. “The List We Make” displays some of the more linear works in the entire text. Poets such as LeAnne Howe, Carolyn Dunn, Janet McAdams, and Phil Young offer narrative story pieces, list poems, instructional verse composed in the imperative tense, and recipes combining culinary, literary, and spiritual concepts. For example, Gordon D. Henry offers an entertaining 28

“Simple Four Part Directions for Making Indian Lit.” And Richard Van Camp’s “Calendar for the Folks from my Hometown of Fort Smith, NWT” is an almanac piece that graciously welcomes the reader into the speaker’s life by marking native activities and traditions as they occur throughout the year. Acts of pragmatic, daily survival such as “trapping muskrats for food and fur” (223) and “hunt for porcupine and beaver” (223) are listed right alongside more personal, endearing events like “The smoke rises straight up from the chimneys” (224) and “NHL Playoffs!” (223) Judi Armbruster’s “Living Rain” is an exemplary selection in “Sing You Back,” Sing’s final section: I lay in bed Listening to the rain retreat. So loud it had begun, Pounding on our roof of tin All hard staccato and gushing from the eaves. Then it just leaves. Slipping through the trees Fading into the distance Quiet once again. Then I dreamt Of Rain, a living being With a breath that came and went. I am rocked Immersed in this moment of knowing. (257) Armbruster utilizes clear, concise diction and allows for comforting white space to breathe life into her piece. Her control of the language generates a real sense of movement within a stationary setting. The short, plain-spoken lines allow the images to seamlessly work themselves into the reader’s consciousness. And just as the speaker experiences a rejuvenating return following removal and initiation during her meditation on nature’s duality of violence and beauty, the reader is home again too, with a newfound and genuine appreciation. In addition to Armbruster, Roberta Cordero, Linda Hogan, and Duane Niatum, among others, help to culminate the reader’s journey in this final section. Lee Maracle exemplifies this homecoming in the final stanza of “I’m Home Again:” I am home again. Suquamish voices are everywhere here. I am so totally old and so completely new here. I pull fragments from old file cabinets, splinters of memory, Bind them together to re-shape my world. I weave this imagined dream world onto old Squamish blankets, history-hole-punched and wornto re-craft today, to re-member future in this new language And I sing I am home again. (288)


The voices orchestrating the choruses of these poems unite to obliterate distinctions while simultaneously singing their independence and spirits of individuality. And Sing is just that, a musical eruption that batters the concrete away, revealing burial grounds and earth mounds centuries old. The indigenous artists here boast works which are literarily powerful and historically important; and all should be proud of what has resulted. Sing is a journey not only into the Americas of old fathers and mothers, but an examination of our collective roots, which run deep and vibrate with the songs of the past. Above all, Sing gives us a past to hang on to, no small gift in this modern world. As Simon Ortiz says in his excerpt from Spiritual Lands, Dreams go, like I said. It doesn’t matter where. They just go. Before you know it, They’re gone. (277) **

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A Certain Plateau of Articulation: Christopher Schaeffer on Lea Graham’s Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You

Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You Lea Graham. No Tell Books, 2011

Only three pounds of blood, dream & electricity. To say: I have a crush on you slights the surging within: a million tiny lightning storms (from “[Crushed] to Pieces”) Has contemporary poetry outgrown the crush? Between Seidel’s dispassionate flings and the lukewarm, platitudinous agape stuffing the shelves, the crush seems at once too trivial and too single-mindedly earnest for either the Collins-esque mainstream or the cerebral, conceptual wing of avant-garde poetics. Too twee, too transient, the crush seems doomed to fizzle out, as it will, as a stop-gap preceding some more sophisticated mode of desire. Lea Graham’s Hough & Helix & Where & How & You, You, You is big on crushing, in all of its dimensions—adolescent, petty, fleeting, violent, overwhelming. The selection of valences sprinkled throughout the skittery, fragmented opening poem, “Crushed: A Preface” includes “to alter,” “to burden grievously,” “to grind (as into particles)” and “to crash, crowd, embrace,” indicating a process as somatically risky and potentially cataclysmic as it is charged with giddy frisson. A crush is serious business, Graham insists. A kind of desire descended from Ovid, which lights on someone, wrecks their habitus, and flits away with or without consummation. “Planned demolition/ never goes 31

the way/ we think it will,” she writes in “Crush, Texas.” A crush, consigned to the kiddish or ludic or trite, can still turn us into “What kids these days// call a hot mess.” Graham’s poems, which tend towards short-form with brisk, choppy lines, owe a good deal to the early Larry Levis, say, of Wrecking Crew, who trafficked in epigrammatic, almost sinister vernacular koans. The opening of his “Wound,” “I’ve loved you/as a man loves an old wound” lurks behind the formal attitude of Hough & Helix, She too has a knack for extreme economy, turning woozy sentiment to foreboding in the space of a line, as in the third section of “3 Crushes, Worcester:” Yet, night in its turnings, a face halfdeflects the lights in mine, shifts all: paper birch & moonseed edge some old mill pond or There— where my buddy got the shit beat outta him— Again, desire, fickle, assumes a cast of vague menace, almost nomological agency, able to drop from giddiness to violence without warning. If Graham’s crushes are an adolescent form of wanting, then they’re adolescent in the sense that Catullus’ cattiness is adolescent, or Rimbaud’s bratty sneer, or O’Hara at his most insouciantly gossipy. At the same time, these gestures towards adolescence are painfully (sometimes awkwardly) provisional and self-reflexive. “Crush #40” imagines the speaker as “young like we remember// believing we would always be./ Not just young looking,” dreaming of a bus “bound for someplace other than age.” This particular line, of course, kills, wrestles itself down from an interstice between bitterness and wistfulness, but it also points towards a certain tendency towards performative preciousness that occasionally trips the poems up. When Graham does stumble, it’s in pursuing precisely that backwards groping that works so well elsewhere—like trying to cram oneself into old jeans, the fit can be clumsy, even embarrassing. The final lines of “Crush #421,” almost work, making explicit the submerged suggestion of ruddy Arktoi running throughout the book, but veer at the last second into a slightly soggy bathos: “Sitting at a bar next to a man with hair/ the color of speech & honey & semen, his appetite// straight-up Dionysian. He said: You’re hot.” The opening of “A Crush in Dream Time” is similarly awkward: “You know you should say fruta bomba/ but whisper papaya because it’s nasty.” In both cases, Graham is trying to evoke, I guess, youth’s thrilled inarticulateness, but again, there’s a difference between feeling possessed by youth in a moment of phenomenological transport, and putting on youth as a pose. Graham’s crushes are at their best when they’re suspended in a kind of limerant agelessness that can accommodate both girlhood and the ambiguities of aging. Generally, the more iffy moments in the book are those that try to write the crush as transgression. Graham at her best has moved beyond that, into a model of the crush as a desire backwards-looking, utopian, and melancholic, but by no means the kind of thing 32

you’d, I don’t know, get a lunch detention for. That isn’t to say that that kind of approach isn’t workable—Cara Candito’s 2009 collection Taste of Cherry essentially sticks to that tack—but Graham’s poetics seem better suited to a blend of crush as fantasy and crush as a kind of sexy Geworfenheit: “When I say kiss me,” she writes in “Kalends/December,” “I leave my glasses on.” It’s a tricky balance, and its fidelity to that fundamentally risky valence of crushes almost demands moments of awkwardness, shame, clumsy disjunctions between body and identity. I admire Graham for writing through a desire predicated on this kind of physiological and psychological ambivalence, which I guess, depending on your mood, you could juxtapose with either Tiny Furniture or Leaves of Grass, and Hough & Helix largely succeeds in offering a new mode of speaking about an experience we largely consign to silence after a certain plateau of articulation. As with the purest, best crushes, at their very best these poems offer a fleeting coincidence of bodily symptom and erotic cathexis that borders, again, on a religious mystery approached shyly and at a glancing angle. As in “Crushed in February:” Month of the dead. Month of wool & wolves & wolf whistles. Month whipped through the streets. O pine branch, O grain roasted with salt. Anything can be purified. **

Cloud City a chapbook press


Allegiances: Ingrid Wendt on Maxine Kumin’s New and Selected Poems

Where I Live: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 Maxine Kumin W.W. Norton & Company, 2010 One of the gifts offered by Maxine Kumin, in this strong new collection -- her seventeenth -- is the chance to see the symphonic wholeness and complexity of her oeuvre. Readers will delight in finding familiar poems and in witnessing the constancy, over twenty years, as well as the variations, in Kumin’s principal topics, allegiances, and concerns; in her steady employment of traditional as well as invented forms; and in her distinctively-nuanced balance of image, intellect, passion, and wit. Where I Live opens with twenty-three new poems in two distinct sections. The remaining eighty-nine poems are selected from five previous books, chronologically arranged: Looking for Luck (1993), Connecting the Dots (1996), The Long Marriage (2001), Jack and Other New Poems (2005), and Still to Mow (2007). Perfectly placed at the beginning of Part I, the title poem, “Where I Live,” re-introduces three, lifelong Kumin themes: a reverence for and an intimacy with the world of nature and all of earth’s creatures, a love of the New Hampshire farm where she and her husband have lived and bred horses for nearly 40 years, and a keen awareness of the layers of time. In this first poem Kumin walks us up the hill with her, above the farm, where she knows every outcropping of stone. It’s Spring; peas and trillium are appearing. She sees animal scat, knows it’s from the halfgrown moose who inhabits their woods, knows what it eats. Violets are landlocked seas she used to swim in. And then, in a characteristically-Kumin juxtaposition, I used to pick bouquets // for her, framed them/ with leaves. . . . Almost from here I touch/ my mother’s death. 34

Part I contains, also, reflections on her long marriage, on her beloved horses, and on her increasing awareness of the fragility of life. In the book’s second poem, Kumin observes that dogs live in the moment, pursuing/ that brilliant dragonfly called pleasure. We humans, on the other hand, must drag along the backpacks/ of our past, must peer into the bottom muck // of what’s to come, scanning the plot/ for words that say another year, or not (“In the Moment”). Another major theme in the 23 new poems -- one which echoes throughout earlier works -- is the existence of unspoken, often unacknowledged, human realities: of the other sides of things, which are often hidden from us. In Part I we find the playful, yet grim, poem,“The Whole Hog,” with its strong indictment of factory farming. In Part II we have the equally powerful “With William Meredith in Bulgaria,” in which Kumin recounts their participation, as guest poets, in ceremonies honoring war-hero poet Nikola Vaptsarov. No one mentioned Vaptsarov’s life story,/ how his countrymen had hung him upside down/ for hours and beaten him with rifle butts…. Another Part II poem on the topic of literary forerunners, but in a much different tone, is “Coleridge’s Laundry,” in which Kumin’s study of the poet’s life (his conversations with his pals …. how many drops [of laudanum] at bedtime and/ did he add them to water or tea/ or something stronger ), leads her to sympathizing with behind-thescenes Sara (Coleridge’s wife): the mountain// of laundry, her always absent Coleridge. Kumin’s allegiance to looking beyond appearance has long included recognizing and honoring those less fortunate than herself, some of whom contribute to her (and, by implication, to our) own comforts. In “The Chambermaids in the Marriott in Midmorning,” (from Looking for Luck), Kumin introduces and honors those whose life stuggles most of us cannot imagine. In “Cross Country Skiing” (Connecting the Dots), the poet observes the promise of haven offered by the outstretched wings/ of hemlocks heavily snowed upon, but cannot help remembering the grainy videos/ of refugees, snow thick as flaking plaster… on their razed villages. In “Mulching” (Still to Mow), Kumin kneels to spread sodden newspapers between broccoli … and four kinds of beans, surrounded by the rich assortment of birds trilling on all/ sides. Her inner peace is suddenly shattered by news of old suicide bombings, starvation, AIDS, earthquakes, the unforeseen tsunami, … the first torture revelations under my palms/ and I a helpless citizen of a country// I used to love…. In this, as in many other poems in this book, Kumin is keenly aware of the disparity between her humanitarian values and the human suffering, around the globe, at the hands of forces beyond her control, including the United States government. And yet Kumin, the witness to suffering, remembers and returns again and again to the natural world, which, in her work, is always a Presence to be addressed: what is all this juice and all this joy? (“Almost Spring, Driving Home, Reciting Hopkins”). Giving us not, as we think of these things, “beginnings and endings,” Kumin often gives us “endings and beginnings,” in that order, an example of which we see in a poem about compost: What dies out of us and our creatures, out of our fields and gardens, 35

comes slowly back to improve us: the entire mat of nasturtiums after frost has blackened them, sunflower heads the birds have picked clean…. (“The Brown Mountain”) And always, throughout these selected works, are the many autobiographical poems tying together personal and cultural memory; poems on such quirky topics as “The Victorian Obsession with the Preservation of Hair” (new poems, Part II); Kumin’s personal “takes” on prominent historical figures; and her tributes to and expressions of affinity with many writers in the past and with such literary contemporaries as Marie Howe and the late Stanley Kunitz. I take great pleasure, also, in Kumin’s sometimes subtle, sometimes robust wit (imagine a poem titled “The Winking Vulva”); her signature, tightly-controlled, always-deft uses of poetic forms, traditional and invented; and the varieties of tone, from supplication to rapture, from defiance to compassion, from anger to playfulness, which offer counterpoint and balance to the more somber poems of witness and provocation. I love Kumin’s many playful “borrowings” and adaptations of well-known lines from such poets as Gerard Manley Hopkins: The world is awash in unwanted dogs (“Want”). Noting this and a number of other adaptations, I’m tempted to imagine a possible nod to Galway Kinnell’s “Blackberry Eating,” as well, in her sonnet, “Cross-Country Skiing,” with its same first words “I love,” and its circular return to the image and words with which it begins, but this might be a far stretch. “Artistic growth,” wrote Willa Cather, in The Song of the Lark, “is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness.” By locating her new poems at the front of the book, ahead of those of the previous 20 years, Kumin gives us a chance to see where they have come from: to observe not only the consistencies in her work, but subtle changes, as well. Two of these changes seem not so much in truthfulness but in the frequency of poems of witness, and in the shifting of tone and approach -- from earlier, quieter, poems, to poems that openly and directly rage against tyranny, injustice, and war (Still to Mow). Taking the side of those who suffer atrocities and indignities at the hands of others, no matter who they are, Kumin takes on such topics as the torture and abuse, by American troops, of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghriab prison (“Please Pay Attention as the Ethics Have Changed”) and the beating of Iraqi children by Iraqi policemen (“Extraordinary Rendition”). In “What You Do” she asks, are you still Christian/ when you kill by crucifixion/ when you ice the body. “The Beheadings” offers grim, new perspectives on this universal, age-old method of execution, including the executions of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and U.S. engineer Paul Johnson, caught alive on a grainy video. One can also see changes in the frequency of Kumin’s meditations on mortality. Sometimes her approach is playful: If only death could be/ like going to the movies./ You get up afterward/ and go out/ saying, how was it? / Tell me, tell me how was it (“Summer Meditation”). Other times, the tone is somber, as in her evocation of an elderly couple’s 36

reflecting on the sweet jazz/ of their college days as they lie on the dark lake/ of night growing/ old unevenly. … Of course/ the Germans have/ a word for it,/ the shutting of/ the door,/ the bowels’ terror/ that one will go/ before/ the other as/ the clattering horse/ hooves near (“The Long Marriage”). My impulse, on finishing the last section of this splendid retrospective collection, was to read again the poems – the newest ones -- with which the book began. I’m happy I did. Where I Live is not only a piece of land on the New Hampshire map: it is all the places, actual as well as abstract, where the poet has grown in knowledge and in understanding, places where her deepest allegiances lie. And there, in the 23 new poems, I see another change. Without a shift in her commitment to “speaking truth to power” or in her concern with mortality, these poems seem, by contrast to the poems in Still to Mow, quieter. Gentler. To say the poet has reached a place of “acceptance” is to over-simplify. But the tender wryness from earlier work is heightened, here. And I sense a returning to an almost Zen-like attention to the wonder of each moment, and a rejoicing in it, while fully aware of the layers of the past and future inherent within. Here, too, is the narrative poem “The Taste of Apple,” on the death and burial of a favorite horse, with its long, flowing lines: a poem of such beauty and heart-rending power, I know I will return to it over and over again, as I will return to many of the poems in this book, this brilliant, beautiful gift from Maxine Kumin. **

Writing Away Retreats Writing Away Retreats is a destination vacation for you and your muse. Aiming to serve writers who need to get away and focus on their projects, it offers maximum feedback with minimal interruptions. Providing ample time to write, discuss your goals, dreams and projects with likeminded creative individuals is what Writing Away does best. Staff includes writers, editors from HarperCollins, Vintage/Random House, Red Hen Press, and Penguin, as well as several literary agents. During your stay at Writing Away Retreats, you will experience an all-inclusive retreat in a luxurious yet, isolated lodge. MS consultation with the author, editor and agent are included in your package. Delicious fresh meals will be prepared three times per day and snacks, coffee, tea, wine and linen service will be provided throughout the day and into the night. During the evenings we will host optional discussions on trends in literature, books and movies that have come from the literary greats and have readings with a roaring fire, cozy furniture and fantastic company. Visit Writing Away Retreats' website or contact Cicily Janus,



Poetic Conversation: Patricia Carragon on Juanita Torrence-Thompson’s Talking with Stanley Kunitz

Talking With Stanley Kunitz Juanita Torrence-Thompson Torderwarz Publishing Company, 2012 Color and imagery paint the sixty-six poems lovingly brought to life by Juanita TorrenceThompson in her latest book, Talking With Stanley Kunitz. Torrence-Thompson, poet, speaker, writer, instructor, and publisher of the internationally known poetry journal, Möbius, The Poetry Magazine, was nominated 2009 Woman of the Year by the American Biographical Institute of International Research and named by the American Association of University Women as a “Woman Who Made a Difference.” She brings her unique voice to the page, nurtured by life, humor, Europe, Africa, Vermont, the borough of Queens, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Robert De Niro. She begins with her title piece, “Talking With Stanley Kunitz.” She takes us to the Poetry Society of America’s Memorial reading where David Ignatow was honored while wellknown poets drifted into groups to sip wine and munch on carrots and celery sticks. The story resonates with a sincere one-on-one meeting between Stanley Kunitz and a fan whom I suspect is the author: …A female fan Of this wide-eyed man slowly glided Over to him and struck up A conversation. She handed Stanley His book of poems. They sat down. He autographed. They talked of the Cobbled streets of Provincetown, his colorful garden 39

the poetry scene in New York. She couldn’t believe she had this Kind, talented poet all to herself. While others filled their faces, She filled her mind with Diamonds. Every syllable glistened. Torrence-Thompson takes us traveling to London, Italy, Vermont, Africa, and more. Emotions are her rainbows. Her words are like a travelogue for the poet. In “A Cinnamon Day,” the author is no stranger to metaphor and delights us with her mouth-watering palette: On a warm, cinnamon day Ivory clouds askew She left the bank Walked the tree-lined block to Tutto Bene . . . She studied a painting Of a young, blonde woman, In a wide white hat Legs crossed Aboard a ship with a collie For 30 seconds she wished She were the woman in the Painting on an adventure To the Taj Mahal Ancient Acropolis Or to the African tundra Minestrone soup and Hot antipasto arrived Thrusting her into the moment Melting her thoughts Like the snows on Mt. Kilimanjaro In “The Nature Of This Season,” the simplicity of color is breathtaking, The nature of this season is chalk on the blackboard stone on serrated glass creeps like heather in grey flaxen moonlight taunts the senses like blue rippled edges wizened raindrops 40

as well as this sample from “Falling In Love With Little Neck Bay”: Blue, green, yellow bouquets entice romantic love. It is a honeymoon for my eyes feasting on Little Neck Bay at high tide, when birds take wing and prance on emerald shores. In “Photographer Captures Vermont,” Torrence-Thompson weaves human drama into her work: She remembers her anorexic sister while eating at the marble table on the patio as the sun sinks behind violet-green mountains In her sestina, “Traveling In Africa,” we feel the painful devastation of AIDS: When I traverse flowing clear rivers and enjoy unmatched majestic beauty of the African people. Some have suffered the wild terrain, courted by the lakes Still others skimmed lakes Before AIDS ravaged, waterfalls flowed. Although much is wild Tundra, their people must enjoy AIDS-free life in Africa . . . Their tears that flow Should be tears of joy Not wrestling with wild Diseases . . . But the author has a sense of humor and a perfect example is her sestina, “Driving Robert De Niro”: Look, you have a friend, I’m your friend, Robert De Niro. You need to enjoy life. Get out of this taxi. Turn right, take the second left. There’s plenty to do in New York. . . . Stop at this nightclub. You’re De Niro’s guest. Forget the taxi. I’ll pay the taxi and tips, me the actor You’ve never heard of in New York or Brazil. These are just a few samplings of Torrence-Thompson’s sixty-six poems. I could go on and on, but I’d rather have the reader read Talking With Stanley Kunitz instead. But like the enthusiast in “Talking With Stanley Kunitz,” get the book, find a comfortable chair,


and have your own “one-on-one” conversation with the author’s words. What a more pleasurable way to spend a few quiet hours away from the intensities of life. **

Writing Away Retreats Writing Away Retreats is a destination vacation for you and your muse. Aiming to serve writers who need to get away and focus on their projects, it offers maximum feedback with minimal interruptions. Providing ample time to write, discuss your goals, dreams and projects with likeminded creative individuals is what Writing Away does best. Staff includes writers, editors from HarperCollins, Vintage/Random House, Red Hen Press, and Penguin, as well as several literary agents. During your stay at Writing Away Retreats, you will experience an all-inclusive retreat in a luxurious yet, isolated lodge. MS consultation with the author, editor and agent are included in your package. Delicious fresh meals will be prepared three times per day and snacks, coffee, tea, wine and linen service will be provided throughout the day and into the night. During the evenings we will host optional discussions on trends in literature, books and movies that have come from the literary greats and have readings with a roaring fire, cozy furniture and fantastic company.

Visit Writing Away Retreats' website or contact Cicily Janus,


The Body, The Family, Dreams: Heath Fisher on Matthew Porubsky’s Fire Mobile

Fire Mobile (the pregnancy sonnets) Matthew Porubsky Woodley Press, 2011 Matthew Porubsky’s collection of poems Fire Mobile (the pregnancy sonnets) is an endearing record, both universal and uniquely personal, of life’s most important ninemonth journey. The pregnancy sonnets are divided among three trimester sections: Realization Day, Maturation Day, and Preparation Day. Preceding each section is a Detail Page, briefly summarizing the state of the womb and fetus, as well as the general condition of the mother through each trimester. These details are helpful to understand the complexity behind each stage of the pregnancy, but also serve as a foundation for the poems that follow, introducing themes such as weight gain, fear, fatigue, and dreams. Porubsky uses a deft hand to render the spirit of each poem, navigating the various emotions his beloved experiences, like for example on pg. 34 in “(The Idea Itself)” when things get metaphysical and the importance of the pregnancy itself is weighed: “How more could any / one person affect the world than to have / a child?” The physical changes incurred are the focus of “(Olfactory Upgrade)” on pg. 48, when the mother’s sense of smell has increased so much that it detects “a slew / of oranges that turned from the usual / citrus scent to the mustiness of rum,” and Porubsky adds that “not / a day goes by when you don’t sniff to say / there’s a cigarette lit some miles away.” This last line is indicative of the general sense of concern for the welfare of the child present in many of the poems, but the notion is drawn most precisely on pg. 53 in “(The Idea Alone)” when Porubsky addresses his beloved and her troubled feelings over strangers who want to touch her belly. He quotes her: “I humor them, but that’s so personal. / They’re stealing from me like some casual / shoplifter.” And then from his 43

perspective, adds: “Your hand slides a guarding path / down your cradle as you envision scenes / of protecting your child by any means.” But it’s not all doubt and worry for nine months. One of the strongest and sweetest moments comes during the Third Trimester: Preparation Day section, on pg. 68, when in “(A Number of Games)” communication between mother and child is solidified through a playful game: “The most loved and practiced, the very best / example collaboration is sure, / takes one finger pointed and the simplest / of pokes to your belly’s rind. It returns / a mimicked tap issuing your next turn.” The collection is a balance of the happiness and trepidation of being a mother-to-be, full of intimate moments between mother and father, mother and child. The body, family, dreams, and a father’s reflection are just some of the angles Porubsky uses to get us close enough to hear the heartbeat of his charming collection. Fire Mobile (the pregnancy sonnets) is for the mother of five and the uninitiated alike. Whether you find yourself smiling from recognition, or wide-eyed with realization, by the end of the collection you’ll understand these poems are romantic without being sentimental, universal without losing individuality. It’s a collection pregnant with significance, destined to grow.


Vastness and Mystery: Melanie Fitch on Janice Gould’s Doubters and Dreamers

doubters and dreamers Janice Gould University of Arizona Press, 2011 Janice Gould’s poems transcend her American Indian heritage, her gender, her sexual identity (she’s a lesbian) and become pure, raw songs of memory, loss and redemption. There is a harrowing, haunting anger at work in her poems filled with themes of nature, death, family, culture, history and place. This collection, doubters and dreamers, is her third, the last being published in 1996. The child of an Indian mother and Caucasian father, Gould knows both worlds and yet reminds us that she often feels as if she belongs in neither, or anywhere. A member of the Concow tribe of Northern California, she was raised in Berkeley, CA but spent vacations with her native relatives on the reservation so her insight into both realities is unique. This collection is an eclectic, lovely blend of free verse, prose poems and formal poems such as Shakespearean sonnets, villanelles and sestinas. It is divided into two sections, the first titled Tribal History which includes fourteen poems and the second titled It Was Raining which includes twenty poems. The poem which takes its name from the first section, “Tribal History” leaves the reader shaken and shamed and wondering how a country founded by those fleeing persecution became one who did the persecuting. The poem begins innocently enough, as she tells us of [her] mother’s hands, brown and square, fingers slightly bent from years of work…


but it quickly and brutally becomes something else. This is a poem about betrayal, manipulation, memory, history and death and Gould crafts it in a way that the reader is left speechless and saddened. She goes on to speak of other hands, all the other hands of Concow folk, bound, prepared for the lynching at the crooked oak. From her mother’s work-worn hands memories of the brutal abuses of her mother’s people arise as Gould tells us that: The treaty with the Concow would not be ratified by Congress, for Indians were in the way of “progress,” and though a promise had been made to provide corn starch and other commodities to every man who made his X on that scrap of parchment, the only X the white men made was to cross the hands of Indians behind their backs before swinging them out over the lava walls of the canyon. Betrayal which begat genocide is what Gould gives us with these haunting, carefully chosen words. We are left with no doubt which side of history she stands on. The injustice and inhumanity in the name of “progress” can be tasted and felt on the page as her words give life to histories shame. As previously mentioned, Gould writes an array of verse and she seems particularly smitten with Shakespearean sonnets. My favorites appear in a poem comprised of ten separate sonnets, titled “Feather River Sonnets”. To get an idea of how the poet uses formal constraints while approaching les elevated and more everyday subjects with her words, take a look at the rhyming couplet in sonnet number 1, he’ll take me to Smorgy’s,” she winks and nods. He soon comes in with carrots from their yard. in sonnet number 3, does what dads do without family near--funny things, perverse, all a little queer. and finally in sonnet number 7, much like Grandpa’s dream of fat, easy wealth. He died poor, a drunk, in consumptive health. Carrots, fathers, poverty, alcoholism and illness are the themes of these sonnets. No praise to fine-boned boys or fair maids, but gritty, dirty reality, or at least the poet’s. The book’s second section, It Was Raining, which opens with four poems, “Wind”, “Stones”, “Clouds”, and “Creek” personifies these elements of nature, calling wind The freest soul I know, she can shove us around or caress us in the most unusual ways. She is 46

certainly exciting, and saying to stones that you are seen Congregating in fields and on riverbanks, you sleep promiscuously, content to be with others of your kind--The two things that appear to matter the most to the poet, human connection and nature both come into play here and like many poems in this brilliant collection they exude an almost Lorcaesque quality, a strange mix of death, the natural world and sensuality. Janice Gould has written a raw, powerful beautifully bittersweet collection of poems. While it may chronicle her journey and the journey of native peoples, in many ways her life could represent anyone’s story as we have all experienced loss and shame, joy and redemption. She deserves a place alongside other great American Indian writers such as Joy Harjo, Leslie Marmon-Silko and Sherman Alexie. We have all stood in awe of the vastness and mystery of the natural world---our breath taken away by a pristine stream or vibrant wildflower---and wondered where we fit in the grand plan, why we matter. She may not provide all the answers but she makes you glad she asked the questions.


Joy to be Had: Andrea Blythe on Ron Padgett’s How Long

How Long Ron Padget Coffee House Press, 2011 Ron Padgett is a poet fond of wit and pun, which he uses to approach otherwise serious situations and events. How Long is no exception to this and presents a fun, thoughtful look at growing into adulthood, a process of transition that doesn’t always align with who we think we will become when we are children. In “Scotch Tape Body,” Padget discusses the enjoyment that occurs when you look on the paste, specifically in this case looking at old poems he’d written and taped into notebook. He wonders briefly if it would have been better if he had never written the poems at all, but realizes that without those poems, he would be denied, “the pleasure of wincing / then forgiving myself / of catching glimpses of who I was / of who I thought I was.” The past, though full of painful remembrances, Padgett continues with that train of thought in the title poem, “How Long,” in which he asks, “How long do you want to go on being the person you think you are? / How Long, a city in China.” After beginning the poem with this important question, he immediately avoids it, launching into word play instead that explore language itself. “The nouns come toward you,” he writes, “the cluster of synonyms approaching.” The question, itself being merely a cluster of words, is perhaps unanswerable, and life in all its illogical joy goes on regardless of whether such an answer is found.


Later in the same poem, Padget writes, “Life might be like a pinball machine / but isn’t one, and the trouble is / that you might be like a person / and you are one.” We might be what we think we are or like what we think we should be, but that doesn’t change that we are what we are. Padgett’s poetry drifts from one thought to the next, then circles back on itself, cartwheeling through stanzas and parading through lines, often good-humored even as he discusses that most solemn of adult subjects, death. In “The Death Deal,” he lists all the ways he imagined he could die when he was young (“hit by car, shot / in head by random ricochet,” etc.), only to realize that he’s now that he’s old, the idea of death isn’t so bad. In fact, he writes, “old officially or otherwise, / I’m oddly almost cheered / by the thought / that I might find out / in the not too distant future. / Now for lunch.” Death may be potentially cheerful, but Padgett further asserts that it is useless to try to avoid it by seeking some sort of immortality. “Sir Thomas Browne said / that it is useless to erect monuments / in the hope of being remembered,” points out Padgett in “Urn Burial.” The idea of immortality is not only pointless, but also harmful. In “The Joke,” Jesus on the cross cries out, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Padgett points out that there never was a foresaker, rather it’s “the idea of immortality / that is the birthright of every human being,” which as it gradually vanishes that forsakes us. But don’t take this to mean that Padgett is morbid. He’s a man in love with life and laughter. Take his poem “Innaction of Shoes,” in which he notes, “There are many things to be done today / and it’s a lovely day to do them in // Each thing a joy to do / and a joy to have done.” If reading Padgett’s poetry is on the list of things to do, then certainly there is joy to be had.


A Passionate Reading: Cat Dixon on Alvin Greenberg’s Passionate Travelogue

Passionate Travelogue: New and Selected Poetic Sequences Alvin Greenberg Zahik Press, 2010 I came to this collection having only read one poem by Alvin Greenberg. “Glacier” is a nine-page poem published online that I first found in 2008. I had the link to “Glacier” on my desktop so I could read the poem multiple times a week; all I had to do was click a link and scroll down. Then one day, the link did not work. I was shocked kind of like when the power goes out and you miss your favorite TV show. “How could the universe do this to me?” I asked. So, I typed a comment on the website that once featured the poem. I wrote that I would do anything to read this poem “Glacier” again. I hadn’t the foresight to print the poem while I had access to it. I had every intention of finding more of Greenberg’s poems, but I was going through a divorce in 2008 (it took almost a year to get it done) and wasn’t in the best frame of mind. The poem was a soothing meditation through 2008 and beyond. The owner of the website read my comment, contacted Greenberg and the next day, I had my beloved “Glacier” emailed to me by the poet himself. I immediately printed it, expressed my gratitude to Greenberg, and then purchased Passionate Travelogue. You, too, should get this book; read it, cherish it, like I have. In this collection, there are many fine long poems and sequences by Greenberg written over the last three decades. Fans of Greenberg will recognize poems from earlier books, but Passionate Travelogue is more than the collected works of the poet. As we travel with Greenberg, we discover insights and images that are enlightening and refreshing. I must note now that the poem “Glacier” does not appear in this collection, but its absence did not hinder the book, and I found many more Greenberg poems to love. Now on to the book: the first page, the first line, Greenberg writes, “The number of lives in my life/ is exceedingly many…” What an accurate description of the sequences presented here in this book. The poet takes on many personas, lives, and voices exploring the world. You will want to travel along. I have to share a few highlights. 50

In the section “the preservation of the self in everyday life,” we read of dreams, and Greenberg’s voice is prophetic and authoritative. The first poems are comprised of commentary not only about this “age of inflation” we live in currently, but also of reflection on the human condition. I see this persona standing on our twenty-first century hilltop calling to us in our over-stimulated lives. He reminds us to examine the world: the settling of buildings, the shadows on the walls, and the dog hair on the furniture, on us. The speaker does not take himself too seriously. This modern day prophet is not without humor. In “dream 3: help from the gods,” Greenberg provides comic relief and wisdom with a prayer granted with just what the person asks and as in life, we learn to be careful what we request because it might actually be given. Humor continues in the poem “conservation” as the poet remarks on the golden eagle and questions why the eagle is protected, but not the poet. These moments and several others gave me a chuckle. Do you like humor? Of course you do. You will enjoy these poems. The scope of this section is shifted slightly in “dream fourteen” when the poet reflects on creative writing. Every poet, every writer should read how Greenberg describes the amazement one experiences after finishing a draft. It’s a radiant feeling. I have not heard it described in such a way as this. After reading this book’s first section, I knew what I held in my hands was more important than anything else I had to do (laundry, grading papers, dishes) and I continued on to come to what is now my second favorite poem by Greenberg, (first is “Glacier,” of course,) “the house of the would-be gardener.” It begins with the mail—innocent enough—then we are told that the seed catalogues that came in the mail will “drive you right out of your mind” and, indeed, they did. The motion in this poem doesn’t stop—the tumbling, the swinging, the flinging. Panic sets in and Greenberg knows how to seize his reader, grab him by the arm and go—go with the trembling, the sprouting, the uprooting all along following the sun in the sky. Later in the poem, Greenberg slows down the rapid pace with this line, “you have done what you could…” I nodded my head in agreement. Yes. We all have, haven’t we? This remarkable poem is the work of a soothsayer who reassures us readers that the universe knows we have given it our best. After the seeds are planted, and perhaps the fruit of our labors on the table, we know we have tried. Later, Greenberg writes, “what you have raised you take inside you.” A motto that is similar to “you reap what you sow,” and here the poem recalls our culture’s current fad of healthy eating, even makes me think of the helicopter parenting we see by some well-meaning folks. The strange thing? This poem was originally published in 1972 according to the acknowledgements page. Greenberg is ahead of his time like all great writers. Written in the second person, “the house of the would-be gardener” transforms the reader. We start with the mail then move to the farmer, the father, and the consumer. I like feeling transformed when I’m reading a poem. This poem does that. As we journey on through this collection, we come to “metaform.” We read of Houdini at the gates of hell, the woman who cannot decide if she’s a woman or a tree, and we visit a lawn party where the pants legs are whispering to each other. Then we must question our perceptions of reality—is this thing in front of you a rock, a bird, a glass pane? Or all of 51

the above? Is death is so bad? Is the ordinary so ordinary? Then like Virgil who takes Dante into the inferno, Greenberg takes our hand as our tour guide through these pages. He writes in the poem “grand tour”: only the façade remains. or: only the façade was ever completed. How can one not ask herself if she, too, is a façade? As this Virgil-like guide says there are many rooms in this place with signs saying “no tourists,” I recall the words of Jesus about his Father’s mansion which sounds very similar. There are empty rooms everywhere and the poet makes us think: does one hope there are empty rooms up there as they are down here? And do we even dare to imagine the empty rooms that may be waiting down below? I could write hundreds of words more on this section, but we must move forward. In the section “In/Direction,” Greenberg’s lines fill the page and we find ourselves on the plane with our travel guide. The poem has a Ginsberg-like feel with the longer lines and frequent questioning. Greenberg writes, “how much further? we always ask. are we there yet?” We aren’t sure where we are headed as the pages turn, but at this point, we trust the poet to carry us there, wherever there may be. When he tells us we can’t move or touch anything, we trust his advice. Like any good story-teller, Greenberg surprises us all along the way. That’s what makes good poetry: surprise. Do you like the unexpected? The untypical? Then you will love this book. In “moving men,” Greenberg even describes a slip on a patch of ice in such a way that we feel as if this moment carries more meaning than we could ever imagine. We are told the “he” in the poem is going to “ease the nothing.”We are sympathetic to his plight for he has lost his bed, so he has nothing left to lose. This section has the quality of a voice of one who mourns, or one who has gone through a messy divorce, or suffers from a longterm illness. In the end, the “moving men” have taken it all, and there is nothing left to take or move. The long sentences in this sequence create energy and momentum that keeps the reader going until the end. This kind of magic realism in poetry is a treasure. The dreamlike world with snow and seasons, furniture and beds disappearing, and the preoccupation with these things creates a new dimension that I’ve never visited. Greenberg describes the character at the beginning of one section, “loose: he has come/ loose in the world” and our frivolous day-to-day cares are revealed. Our quirks and preferences are really nothing after all. The poet asks the reader to break down the walls and search for the termites hiding, eating away at the foundation. The character in “moving men” is a modern day King Solomon who explores what the world has to offer. He tries everything to escape himself, and unlike Solomon, this persona ends up with his first obsession. Replace furniture/bed for one of your own. Do you like poetry that makes you examine your own existence? Yes. Check. This collection does that. Let’s move on to “Why We Live with Animals.” This exploration, comprised of 60 sonnets, has us counting the ways animals make a difference in our lives from giving us a purpose that only we can fulfill, to reminding us of our own primal urges, to giving us something to talk about; Greenberg’s sound and imagery is fantastic here. I must skip ahead to “transverses,” not because the other selections are lacking, but due to time and 52

space. If you have followed along this far—great. Just like the book, this review is long and building to a revelation, but patience is a must. In “transverses,” we hear the poet’s great-grandfather’s poems that Greenberg imagines his great-grandfather would have written himself, having been a poet. The speaker is the great-grandfather, the audience, the grandson, but really, he speaks to us, the reader of this entire collection. He confesses to us. He gives us advice. He wonders if we are actually listening, just like any grandparent might, I am sure. Humor is sprinkled throughout these pages like elsewhere in the collection. The themes of language and translation play into the poems as well. In the poem “new world: 1” the grandfather assures us that no one knows where to stop when traveling (life or trip, you choose). Towards the end of the poem, after having rested in hills near some brown cows, he says, “goodbye, cows, and thank you!” Later, he writes in another poem: …but all i have are words, words in a language you can’t read: that’s your nature, this is mine: to be what i am, to say the things i seem to say, no matter how they add up: even ‘cow,’ ‘cow,’ ‘cow’ … Isn’t this the plight of us humans? All we have are words (scribbled, thought, spoken). If we don’t thank the cows, if we don’t appreciate the very moment we are existing, how depressing would this all be? As a Christian, I have the WORD of God. That’s all that’s left from the time of Moses, the time of Jesus, that I can hold in my own hands at this very moment, and it’s the bread of life with which the church feeds. Greenberg speaks of the great-grandfather who wrote and spoke another language different from himself, yet any reader can place herself in these lines and question the power of words and language. Sadly, the great-grandfather must leave us, just as the book must end. The greatgrandfather says, “go on forever. i’m with you forever. go on.” These poems, like this last reassurance from the speaker, are with me forever. The images and particular lines remain with me as I move about my days. If you are going to read one poetry collection, if you want to try poetry for the first time, if you hunger for something new, if you wish you could really fall in love with a book, if you like science fiction, if you are a poet, if you are a lover, if you are a loser, if you are young or old, if you are male or female, it does not matter, get this book. Like with a prophet’s words, we can all take something from Greenberg’s poetry. When I finished the collection, knowing that Greenberg had emailed me his “Glacier” poem, me, a nobody, I was in awe. When you open this book, you are reading what they ALL will be raving about soon. I’m raving to everyone. I have never loved a poetry collection like this and all I can do is write (since all I have are words) thank you, Alvin. Thank you.


Unordinary Scope: Jeff Alessandrelli on John Bradley’s You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know John Bradley Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010 Taking its who-would-have-thunk-it title from a statement made by notorious American diplomat John Negroponte, John Bradley’s book of prose poems You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know, winner of Cleveland State University’s Poetry Center 2010 Open Competition Award, revels in the absurd and the impossible, the unrighteous and the deliciously profane. Bradley’s most immediate—and, on first read at least, obvious— antecedent is widely-acknowledged prose poem master Russell Edson; both writers are staunch aficionados of the block paragraph format and furthermore also often deal in ethereal, illusory subject matter and thematic material. Yet where Edson’s poems are defiantly apolitical Bradley’s are decidedly not. Famous and infamous historical figures such as Robert Oppenheimer, Benito Mussolini, John McCain, Adolf Hitler, Crazy Horse, Leni Riefenstahl, Dan Rather and Subway spokesman Jared Fogle make appearances in You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know and although the titles of his poems—“I Never Button the Top Button of My Shirt Because It Makes My Head Look Too Big”; “(Let Us All Reflect a Moment Upon) Dick’s Hatband”—and their ensuing contents are often funny, Bradley’s work contains a multitude of layers. An excerpt from the opening paragraph of “In the Shop of the Tin Noses”: “I asked her what her hands did before the war: she held up a moth by its wings. The mask: galvanized copper the thickness of a visiting card. Sometimes I found him at the center of the headache. (Click here to watch injured World War I faces.) He said of the bullet that bloomed his skull: “A barrel of whitewash tipped over and it seemed that everything in the world turned white” (47). Although irreverent, “In the Shop of the Tin Noses” here is simultaneously also tender, sad even, and it’s this type of linguistic duplicity—both heartfelt and inane–that typifies the best of Bradley’s work in the collection. Furthermore, one of the most notable features of You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know, and one that recurs throughout the volume, is Bradley’s use of the word “parable.” Often 54

first appearing in various titles in the book—“Parable of the Indeterminable Cave”; “Parable Embedded with Patience and Impatience”; “Parable of the Pony Syndrome” – and then asserting itself in different, twisted guises in each actual work, for Bradley parables are less concerned with giving moralistic advice and more concerned with highlighting the absurd profundity of the human condition. The second paragraph of “Parable of the Permeable Wardrobe” asserts, “The telephone, in the shape of an eggplant, rings. It’s a private historian for the Carnegie Foundation. He says my fingerprints were found on an axe handle used to kill one of Andrew Carnegie’s Pinkerton agents at Homestead. “But I wasn’t even alive then,” I protest. “Ah, and if you were one of the strikers then, Mr. B.,” he asks, “tell me, just what would you have done?” (18). And in its entirety “Parable of the Pony Syndrome,” the last poem in “I Think I Hear Radioactive Angels Singing Doowop in the Crabapple Tree,” the collection’s first section, reads: “Pony,” I say to my mother, and then stop, horrified. How could I call my own mother “Pony?” I can’t apologize, as I don’t want to draw attention to my faux pas. “The sun is a byproduct of honey,” I tell her, “and thus you and I will get sticky if we stay in the sun too long.” “Is something wrong, Pony?” she asks. “Tell your Pony.” (13) In each of these excerpts Bradley focuses in on that which is hyperbolic and fantastical, obviously, but he also gets subtly serious. “Parable of the Permeable Wardrobe” is almost faux-Orwellian in its insistence that— no matter whether the poem’s speaker was even alive when the brutal murder he is being accused of was committed—someone has to pay the price for said murder, and “Parable of the Pony Syndrome” reads strangely sexually insidious; one can’t help but think some potentially disconcerting innuendos are bubbling just below the strait-laced linguistic surface. The most successful of Bradley’s poems in You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know thus achieve this type of nuance. With a smirk they ostensibly say one thing while, with a leer, they are at the same time insisting on something else entirely. Imminently readable, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know deserves more readers, and one can’t help but hope that it gets them. Unlike Russell Edson or James Tate (another potential Bradley influence), John Bradley’s name is not exactly house-hold, yet many of the poems in his latest collection are as visionary and compelling as much of the work of those aforementioned writers. His is a voice of unordinary scope and You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know displays that scope incessantly, in droves.


Movement Away From What Was Before: Joan Biddle on Will Edmiston’s effie

effie Will Edmiston Three Sad Tigers Press, 2011

night clears her throat with twilight Shatters the sky feeling his mouth with blue roses as phone light in the branches lock the stems at their ends in leaflets to look through thy diecast quai song is birds eyes in the halfzware There are few books I read over and over. Will Edmiston’s chapbok effie is one of them. The above section is from “outro : \”, one of the last poems in his collection. effie is composed of powerful physical and verbal fragments like these. Through its lyrical landscape, the reader is made to suspend disbelief and be taken along with the poet where 56

he goes, to understand the world as he sees it, to know his new language as well as he does. In the poem titled “7/18” – presumably a date, as if in a journal – Edmiston writes, “the day is euphoric.” This statement sums up much of the feeling of the collection, a whimsical meditation on life, the body, nature, and the city. You are invited to hear the intimate details. In order to really sink into this collection, you will want to read it a few times. And definitely read it out loud. The focus is so much on sound that the words are secondary. Spellings will trick you, languages will trick you (words are sewn in from the French, Latin, German, Dutch, and more), but keep reading and you’ll uncover a path. The chaotic yet calm surface hides depths. The style seems to mirror life as the author sees it. Nothing is perfect or tied up with a bow, but that doesn’t mean everything isn’t enjoyable, playful, exciting, sometimes beautiful. Out of nowhere some lines take a traditional route, metered and rhymed, as in “7/18”: “Drive our shared parts to the sea / On an errand of looseness and debris.” Other lines, while pleasing, are confounding. For example, in “eau”, there is the line “grape roofs up to light breathe,” which later, in “AVENUEA”, reappears as “grape-roofs up to light breathe.” Certain repetitions are common images, like “mountain” or “river”, while others are surreal, like “the umbrella inside of a bird.” Everything is specific; nothing is an abstraction. Light is never just light but “phone light / in the branches,” “diffuse light,” “cafeteria light.” Common words and phrases, the parts of which have become so familiar as to be invisible, are rewritten: “Olive you” for I love you; “the barest of both tranquils” for the best of both worlds; “Spokane” for spoken; “C-lion” for sea lion; “O Sean” for ocean. These new formations allow you to see the word or phrase anew; it becomes unfamiliar, then in a flash, rediscovered, carrying another meaning. In “and i,” Edmiston writes of rooms with the dream of living in them These rooms are the familiar spaces of lit-up life in windows ones sees as one walks the city streets at night, but they are also more than that. He has created his own world of rooms, his stanzas in which a dreamer might want to live, but can’t quite fully enter. In “dj,” he writes: My snowflake, my decibel my supple helicopter forest He contrasts the perfect with the imperfect, celebrates the body and love, the strange and salacious with the pure and beautiful. A snowflake and a decibel are perfect and whole within themselves; a helicopter forest is something quite different, chaotic, unnatural and scary, but still a term of endearment in his language. Everything is worth loving and praising, no matter how complicated. Complicated things are taken apart and put back together in colorful cubist fashion; the ugly is made beautiful. As Walt Whitman wrote in Song of Myself, 57

I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass. Although not alike in form, Edmiston’s work reflects the idea Whitman held about humanity, the body, how life should be lived. In “k”, the poet writes of “Sounds long for / hearing after them.” This collection is full of such sounds, a strange and wonderful music that sticks in your head and begs to be demystified. This is a new level of verse, a movement away from what was before into something fresh and transformative.


"The Pictures Were Just for Reference": Todd McCarty on Personal Objectivity in Tony Trigilio's Historic Diary

History Diary Tony Trigilio BlazeVox [books], 2010 In Historic Diary, Tony Trigilio examines the tenuous boundaries between myth and fact and how perceptions sometimes have more to do with the formation of history than actual events themselves. In this second full collection of poems,Trigilio exploits the lines that divide the factual and the fictive when considering various people's connections to the Kennedy assassination. Taking its name from Lee Harvey Oswald's personal journal, Historic Diary paints a convoluted portrait of a conflicted individual. Oswald and other characters emerge as living beings instead of just suspects and bystanders in archival photos. Particularly relevant to contemporary readers, Historic Diary deftly addresses complicated questions, but even more so, this book urges readers to consider the ramifications of living in a culture over-saturated with data. Trigilio draws extensively on research in bringing to life the characters in this work. Instead of a history that is stiff or bookish, Trigilio is able to craft living portraits of Lee Harvey Oswald, Marina Oswald and many others with a wide range of style and formal invention. Trigilio culls from diaries, letters, journals, and other accounts and grafts distinctive language into the poems to distinguish the characters. In the poem, "I Locked Him in the Bathroom to Stop Him from Seeing Richard Nixon," Marina Oswald, Lee Harvey's wife, is speaking about when Lee tried to go see Richard Nixon, but Marina suspects he intends to shoot Nixon and locks him in the bathroom to prevent a disaster: I held on hard but it's a cheap door, the knob shook in my hand like it was stuck in butter. He could've 59

opened it with his full strength. I was afraid something might happen to the baby. He gave his word that he'd undress, give me his clothes and pistol, and stay in the bathroom all day. The shoes, too. He sat on the toilet for three hours. I guess he was reading. Cast in a spoken idiom, there's an immediacy in this first person account of this unusual domestic moment. The precise details give a tangible and convincing thrust: the door knob shaking in her hand or her concern about Lee somehow hurting the baby if her gets out. What's more astounding is the image of Lee Harvey Oswald sitting on the toilet in his underwear reading. He's so often portrayed as a maniacal gunman that this moment makes him almost too ordinary. Trigilio effectively uses the power of direct address coupled with human details to evoke both dramatic and mundane moments. They accumulate into an array of interrelated portraits that frame the hidden side of this national event. Working with historic fact, especially in the realm of poetry, begs the question of where does the author situate him/herself in the telling. Though at times taking on the persona of an objective observer relaying data like a television broadcaster, Trigilio chooses to render himself as a character by beginning each section with a poem that discusses his particular difficulties in researching this event. Quotidian details like the logistical hassles of navigating historic sites or negotiating family members perceptions about his motivations for pursuing this book crop up in these introductory segments. Cast in the first person, these poems loosely introduce the content of each of the book's four parts. An excerpt from the first poem in the book, "Dallas" reads, Humidity squeezes into my pockets, the air between buildings sags like wet cardboard. I gurgled on the walk back to my hotel from Dealey Plaza today. I brought my feeble snapshot camera to Dallas instead of the 35mm, since the pictures were just for reference. I switched into close-up mode by mistake for a roll of film--about 10 exterior shots of the Book Depository that really are closeups of an inconsequential 3rd-floor window. My Uncle Richard in San Antonio, who's just baffled I'm writing about Lee Harvey Oswald, was carjacked in his driveway yesterday. Michael, my cousin, called to tell me--imitating Richard's voice in a full-bore bellow: "Ahm not givin' you mah keys!" Who am I to rent a car in Dallas, and why can't I just rent a bicycle instead? I'll rent a car, drive to Turtle Creek, where Oswald took a shot at General Walker. Then his rooming house etc., and the Texas Theater, which I'm told is abandoned. Trigilio's choice to render himself as part of this ongoing historic narrative implies that even though this legendary event is shrouded in the past, its import still lingers in the 60

present and continues to evolve. It underscores the idea that although facts and data frame events, there is also a fictive, interpretive element in any occurrence, particularly when one approaches such materials with scholarly or artistic intent. This revisionary gesture isn't about changing the narrative, but instead accentuates how a scenario transforms when observation and analysis require an individual to be both objective and subjective in the same stroke. As more and more data accrues, presented through the mouths of characters or news bulletin-like inference, scenarios emerge without any conclusions being drawn. By intertwining fact and fiction, Trigilio coaxes the reader to ask questions without having to pose questions directly in the poems himself. The reader should not be fooled by the casual or conversational tone of these poems. Beneath the smooth surfaces lie uncertainties that require deeper reflection. The implication being that despite the perception of quick access to information in our data-saturated culture, significant answers are not easily discerned. Historic Diary not only opens provocative avenues for reconsidering one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries, but it reminds readers that simply reading the news or researching history are not necessarily passive acts in themselves. That's one of the surprising pleasures of reading Historic Diary; Trigilio's book reminds audiences that the past is always alive in the present when readers actively engage a text. ** Gemology by Megan Kaminski Gemology, a new poem by Megan Kaminski, whizzes thru city streets where we meet the bodega, the boneman, the baker. Hold on to your hat as you read this‌ it might fly off! ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gemology by Megan Kaminski $8 + Shipping

Megan Kaminski lived in Los Angeles, Paris, Casa-blanca, New York, Virginia and Portland before moving to Lawrence, Kansas, five years ago. Her first book of poetry, Desiring Map, is forthcoming from Coconut Books (2012). She is also the author of four chapbooks, favored daughter (Dancing Girl Press 2012), collection (Dusie, 2011), carry catastrophe (Grey Book Press, 2010), Across Soft Ruins (Scantily Clad Press, 2009), and has a chapbook forthcoming from La Ginestra. She teaches creative writing and litera-ture at the University of Kansas, where she directs the Creative Writing Exchange and the Undergradu-ate Reading Series. She also curates the Taproom Poetry Series in downtown Lawrence.


Non-Social Social Media: David S. Atkinson on Michael Seidlinger’s In Great Company

In Great Company Michael Seidlinger Enigmatic Ink, 2011 I am unsure how many of you have considered just how non-social social media really is. I mean, think of all the posturing simplified personality constructs frivolously interacting with other posturing simplified personality constructs. Is this even really social interaction? People attempt to express the essence of their identity in a few short paragraphs of description, a couple photographs, and a series of delineated preferences. Then they comment on other the similarly reduced and abstracted expressions of other people, often contributing nothing more than a rehashing of previously expressed ideas or even a bare 'like.' Well, if you haven't considered this de-socialization brought on by social media, In Great Company (subtitle: I am Very Interesting Please Be My Friend) will likely get you thinking about such. Starting as a rant in an about me section of some social media page, In Great Company jumps on the reader immediately: WHO AM I, YOU ASK? The Answer, you'll get what I want To give, not what I'm asked to Provide. Every newcomer goes Through the same judgments, The same first Impressions. It Truly is no different in the Digital space than face-to-face. The only item that survives is 62

The idea of a person, and that's All you're going to get from Me. Tagline? Trademark? Avatar? Everyone has one you know. In My case, you are the one that's Going to have to deal with my Unwillingness to have one. Give Me an idea and I'll give you an Inside glance at the world the Way you wish you could see it. This narrator lets the visitors to his page keep no illusions about the worth of either their visits or their contributions. He disabuses them of their notions, and often abuses them directly: We're Capturing a glimpse, a glimpse Of what? All these questions That I'm asking for you, see How trite and moronic a Conversation between you and I Would be? Who the fuck would Want to read that? Bouncing Back and forth with the inanities Of confusion. I'm taking a step Back to look, and inspect, and Best of all institute, a kind of Question of my own. This one Won't be predictable and stupid Though. Yes, I'm talking about Your questions. I know the Whole lot of you are checking Out my pillar as I type this, and I can say it gets me aroused. I Am aware and it turns me on. I Mean how often do I boast About bringing into the wide Open statements and ideas From which you people can Help spread and proliferate With ease? Okay, maybe I Mention it a lot but if you knew Me, you'd know why. Really, the narrator just throws the truth out there, unpleasant as it is. Strange as it may seem, I found myself wishing this was a real entity out there I could visit. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I thought it relevant to go ahead and confess.


Moreover, even better than just the scathing analysis of the isolation and intellectual stagnation brought about by modern electronic communications networks itself, In Great Company delivers these thoughts through sentences that across the page machine-gun style like angry slam-poetry. Consider the following section: A QUICKIE. Not to say the mind Will be forever, but the idea That there can be immorality In the words that's left and not Even that, I wouldn't say it's Right to say words can be Immortal because they can't But look at the temporal Timepiece, something that’s Prescribed based on the ideas Of someone else's. Source Material is like code – invisible To the standard user but so Very Integral to how the actual Object works. It's what I'm Getting at. I'm looking to give Birth and to be credited for the New idea offspring. People like Clicking on things and having All the work done for them. So If I create the idea, they get to Experience it. My side of the Experience is being able to see It evolve. The point is to create Enough to have more than a Few quickies, more and more at A time when idea should be Nothing more than identity. Me. As you can see, the text is something that is not quite just prose, perhaps prose with poetry in it. Its flow zigs and zags like poetry, bombarding the reader with ideas turned images, but it does not suffer the pretense of calling itself a poem. Instead, it just grabs the reader and takes him or her wherever it wants. Now, I had a great time reading Seidlinger's In Great Company. I suspect, however, that some readers will balk at this book. After all, it doesn't restrict itself to a run of the mill traditional narrative structure. It's antagonistic and strange. Admittedly, the antagonism is for those addressed by the fictional rant as opposed to the reader of the book, but more over-sensitive readers who are expecting a more mundane structure might feel attacked anyway. Either way, I'm guessing that not everybody will be able to handle the immense energy of In Great Company. However, those that can keep up will have a thrilling ride.


Introspective Poetry: Patricia Carragon on Jason Schneiderman’s Striking Surface

Striking Surface Jason Schneiderman Ashland Poetry Press, 2010 A masterpiece of complex thought and emotion, Jason Schneiderman’s Striking Surface is a stunning mixture of Greek mythology, classic movies, the Children’s Crusade, skepticism, sexual preferences, violence, religious references, and the author’s introspection. Schneiderman divides his forty poems into three sections, eulogizing his mother in the middle. Schneiderman’s intensity and sensitivity are felt throughout. His medieval, religious, and mythological pieces speak through the voice of an observer during the times of Ancient Greece, Christ, and Medieval Europe. Schneiderman, in this persona, documents what he sees without flashing a heraldic banner or sounding a trumpet. The words are sincere and almost holy, but the voice is untainted by the forces of dogma and hatred. He reports the truth behind History—History is not a story of glory, but one endless tale of blood and conquest, usually in the name of religion. Amidst this chaos, Schneiderman speaks with the voice of reason. In The Children’s Crusade III, the first poem of the book, excerpts from his sonnet take the reader on a futile journey in 1212 to the Holy Land across the Swiss Alps into Italy with Nicholas, a mystical shepherd from the Rhineland, acting as the Pied Piper: When we reached Genoa, and the sea did not open, and we were offered homes or exile, there was little choice . . . . . . This was another trial in our service to God . . . 65

. . . It was clear that God abandoned Nicolas, so now we had no leader. We had no homes. We had to continue—even when we saw how bad were the ships that Pisa offered. I sat on the prow as we left port. Palestine far, but in God’s grace. Of ourselves and our boat remains no trace. And more evidence of being lured by the religious fervor of the Pied Piper in The Children’s Crusade I: We left no trace. Like Hamlin. Remember Hamlin? God said, The man you become will bear no trace of the boy. God said, The corpse you become will bear no trace of the man. God said, Go, and we went. God said, Die, and we did. Although the numerical order of The Children’s Crusade pieces are III, I, and II, this deliberate order works. The message is clear in number II: . . . The body is the ironworker’s toy . . . And when you hold each piece separate, as though you were God, you will know which piece to bury. Religion, the product of human ideology, played God with the lives of young boys on the ridiculous mission to convert the Holy Land to Christianity. Many didn’t survive the arduous journey. The sea didn’t dry up before them and the remaining young crusaders 66

couldn’t cross into the Holy Land. Nicolas played God and lost. The Pied Piper abandoned his followers. There was no miracle—only deception. The author questions the gods from Greek mythology on how they operate the chaotic Universe. In Hyacinthus II, Schneiderman is direct about the gods’ mismanagement of life after death: It’s stupid, the love of these gods who can only show it after you’ve died or they’ve hounded you half across the world. Who wants to be a flower? Better that weeds should mark my grave than the stars should hold my face. In this coming-of-age poem, The Book of the Boy, Schneiderman continues his quest for reason, as well as his identity. As the inquisitive boy, the author asks about the purpose of his birth that happened with or without his consent, yet is overruled by an angered answer, camouflaged as his subconscious.: The boy asks, “Why was I made?” and the answer comes: “Because we wanted you,” which puzzles the boy. “But there was no me to want ,”the boy protests, and the answer comes: “Well, we wanted something like you.” . . . An intercourse of questions vs. answers leads to an impasse. The answer argues that the boy isn’t specific enough. The boy is battling with himself. His intelligence is years beyond his age. He knows that he is different from other boys. He wants to understand why there is a reason for him being different. He wants to fit in and be loved for who he is. Yet the answer is too strong for him. The boy surrenders to sleep. He must do this in order to grow strong enough to face his subconscious. He hopes to eventually make sense of himself, learn to be more specific, loved, and feel the necessity of his existence, and most of all, the acceptance of being himself.


Striking Surface is abundant in sensitivity, shock, and loss. Schneiderman’s Elegies I through VIII express genuine love for his departed mother. Elegy I best sums up his emotions—he misses her! Whatever dead is, you are, and how you must hate that, . . . . . . O mother. O distributor of guilt and comfort. O repository of guilt and comfort. I, too, hate this work of your grave, . . . Schneiderman is no stranger to pain regarding a beautiful man in Sailor at Nostrand and Bedford: . . . Now, I want none of that moment where he discovers what his body can do—what it is his tongue will fit, where it is he wants a tongue. . . . I’m happy for him abstractly, the way I’m sad for orphans,. . . I have no desire to learn his name, to learn his body, to learn his breathing or his breath. Nor is he one to question what is blasphemy or not, as seen in the death of Christ in Adorable Wounds: Is it blasphemy to be the nail, the spear? To want to be the nail, the spear? That there was a body is a miracle. There is only one passion, one adoration, one love. Schneiderman ruminates on topics like Nietzsche, Medieval history, rabbinical skepticism, Christ, Grace Kelly’s Quakerism, Greek tragedies, the Imitation of Life, sexuality, and the tragedies of personal history vs. the world’s. Striking Surface is more than just a book of forty poems. It is a portal for introspection. Let your questions search and learn from annoyed answers. Be specific about who you are and why you are here. Be loved and feel vital to this world. And most of all, learn to be yourself.


Not White. Not Black. Just People. : Athena Lark on Jane Lazarre’s Inheritance

Inheritance Jane Lazarre Hamilton Stone Editions, 2011 When I first heard about Jane Lazarre’s novel, Inheritance, I must admit I had preconceived notions of how it would be. It would be another story about slavery written from the perspective of a white woman. What racial bias would seep through her words? I wondered. How would she portray her black characters? Can someone of a different race write African-American literature? More importantly, how would she be able get into the sphere of emotions that slavery encompasses without being a product of it? “I don’t have black people or white people in my books, only people.” Ami Reed, a main character in Inheritance says. Yet, Inheritance is full of racial contradictions as Lazarre writes about the mixing of races in the most eloquent of ways. Along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and lake Taconic, a black girl wrestles with her racial identity, while her grandmother, a Jewish woman, faces her own racial demons. It’s a coming of age story for both girl and woman, as they transform their thoughts and feelings on who is black and who is white. Inheritance begins with the girl, Samantha Reed, grieving for the mother she lost to the ocean. Her great-grandmother, Hannah Sokolov, loves her dearly, while unintentionally harming her racial sensibilities by telling her that she is not black, but “a good Jewish girl.” Samantha is both black and white, however everyone around her, except Hannah, identifies with her blackness. It’s the old one drop rule; one drop of black blood makes you black in the view of others. It’s quite evident that Lazarre was cognizant of the one drop rule as she wrote Inheritance. Her deep reflections on race throughout the novel represent her vast knowledge of the conflicts of racial identity. Although quite knowledgeable about the subject, Lazarre occasionally uses generalizations and old 69

stereotypes. She does however illicit a response in the reader as she writes about three white women who fall in love with black men. These relationships will show the many contradictions involved with interracial love. Of the three women who have relationships with black men, the character Louisa Summers, who is the daughter of a slave owner, is the most developed. Louisa’s story is by far the most entertaining, insightful, and frightful part of the novel. She has an illicit love affair with, Samuel her childhood friend and slave. It is during this era that Lazarre hits the mark, but it’s not necessarily the right mark. Her characterization of Samuel is developed, however he’s not developed enough. Lazarre misses the mark when she writes about her slave characters. Perhaps it’s because she cannot draw from the powerful ancestry of the slave. She digs deep into the insights of the slave, but skims the surface when it comes to their emotions. Samuel’s dilemma of being a slave who loves a white woman will resonate with the reader. What the reader may not get from Samuel is the dreadful fear this affair will have on his life if he were caught. He knows that he would be killed should their affair come to light, but his fear is not developed enough to reflect the raw emotions a slave would have in his situation. Once caught, Samuel’s ultimate demise is horrific and well written. Intertwined with the trials and tribulations of the life of a slave, are history lessons. Although heard before they are worthy of being written about again, and again. Lessons about the Middle Passage, the Underground Railroad, Nat Turner’s revolt, slave torture tactics, and Denmark Vesey fit easily into the story. Throughout Inheritance, Lazarre explores race in a variety of dimensions, whether black, white, or both. A racist white great-grandmother is confronted with the realities of the black race, as she teeters back and forth between standard stereotypical thoughts to admiration. A mixed young girl comes alive while studying African-American history and the struggles of her race. A slave owner’s daughter see’s no color in love. Lazarre does a grand job of pulling the emotions out of the reader as she writes about race. Once the final page is read there will be conflicts of emotions, contradictions, and the realization of knowing that the characters aren’t just black and white, they are just people.



Emma Kate Tsai is a writer and editor in Houston, Texas. Her artistic interests lie in memoir and personal essay, and her creative writing has been published in Connotation Press, Elephant Journal, and she maintains a blog on food an d community A personal essay on drinking will appear in a compilation published by Seal Press this fall. Her full-length memoir on identity as an identical twin, "Say My Name," is in draft form.

Kelly Lydick’s writing has appeared in ditch: poetry that matters, shady side review, SwankSpeak!, Java Magazine, Switched-on Gutenberg, Mission At Tenth, and Thema. Her story Love is a Piece of Gravel Lodged in the Brain was nominated for the 2011 Dzanc Books “Best of the Web,” and her work has also been featured on KQED’s The Writers’ Block under the theme “Silhouettes.” Kelly is the author of the chapbook We Once Were (Pure Carbon Publishing, AZ), and the experimental work, Mastering the Dream (Second Story Books, CA). In addition, Kelly is a certified Gateway Dreaming™ Coach. Her website is:


Originally from southeastern Ohio, Mark Allen Jenkins completed an MFA at Bowling Green State University and is currently a PhD student in Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas where he serves as Poetry Editor for Reunion: The Dallas Review. His poetry has appeared in Memorious, minnesota review, Muse & Stone, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere.

Tom Williams is the author of The Mimic's Own Voice, a novella listed as the best of 2011 by Matt Bell, Amber Sparks and Ben Tanzer. He has published reviews, essays and stories in such online and print journals as Jelly Bucket, The Collagist, Barrelhouse and Boulevard. An associate editor at American Book Review, he chairs the English Department at Morehead State University.


Poet and lyrical essayist Maria Nazos is the author of A Hymn That Meanders, published by Wising Up Press. She received her MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her chapbook entitled Trailer Park Heart, was selected by Marge Piercy as runner-up for the 2010 Providence Athenaeum Philbrick Poetry Project Award. She has received scholarships from The Santa Fe Art Institute, The Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, The Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a fellowship from Vermont Studio Center. Her work is published in The Raleigh Review, Stymie Magazine, Inkwell, The Saranac Review, The anthology Wait a Minute, I Have to Take off My Bra, The Boxcar Poetry Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review, Poet Lore, The New York Quarterly, Harpur Palate, The New Plains Review, The Sycamore Review, Main Street Rag, and elsewhere. She lives and writes in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Lisa M. Cole is a full time writer who holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona’s Creative Writing program. She is the author of two chapbooks, "Tinder// Heart" and "The Bodyscape" both of which are forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. Her poetry has appeared in various online and print publications, including Gloom Cupboard, Sawbuck, Snow Monkey, the Foundling Review, and Bluestream, among others. She also has book reviews forthcoming in Bone Bouquet and Press 1. 73

Robin Martin is a freelance writer, publishing work in Narrative Magazine, Word Riot, Calaveras Station, and American River Review, among others, and is also a staff reviewer for the San Francisco Book Review and the Sacramento Book Review. She received an honorable mention for flash fiction and another for creative non-fiction in the 2008 Soul-Making Literary Competition of the National League of American Pen Women, and is the chapter coordinator for the Northern California Editorial Freelancers Association. She offers publishing consultation, performs evaluations and critiques of manuscripts and writing tutorials as well as editorial services, including substantive and line edits for papers, e-books, traditional fiction and non-fiction with her company, Two Songbirds Press. She can be reached

David S. Atkinson received his MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska. His stories have appeared in (and/or will be appearing shortly in) "Grey Sparrow," "Split Quarterly," "Cannoli Pie," "C4: The Chamber Four Lit Mag," "Brave Blue Mice," "Atticus Review," "Children Churches and Daddies," "The Zodiac Review," and "Fine Lines." His book reviews have appeared in "Gently Read Literature," "The Rumpus," and "All Things Pankish." The web site dedicated to his writing can be found at He currently serves as a reader for "Grey Sparrow" and in his non-literary time he works as a patent attorney in Denver.


LJ Moore’s poetry, essays, and photography have appeared in Spectrum, Midnight Zoo, Danse Macabre, Coracle, 14 Hills, Limestone,Jacket, Kalliope, Transfer, Goetry, Sidebrow, Instant City, We Still Like, Artsmith, The Chiron Review, The Bold Italic, and Quiet Lightning. Her book, F-Stein, tells the story of family through pop culture, science, and the paranormal in the form of a replicating strand of DNA. LJ's book reviews have appeared in Jacket, Rain Taxi, Publisher’s Weekly,, and Litseen. She is a co-founder of Small Desk Press, and is now a director/producer for Invisible City Audio Tours, which brings writers, composers, and visual artists together to create permanent (and free) public art installations in the form of self-guided audio tours . L.J. Moore was a 2010 writer in residence at Headlands Center for the Arts, and lives in San Francisco, where she spends her weekends piloting a pirate ship powered by rubber bands.

Rick Marlatt is a teacher, poet, screenwriter, and critic. He earned a MFA from the University of California, Riverside where he studied screenwriting and poetry; he is also a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Marlatt served as poetry editor for The Coachella Review, as well as a reviewer for Trillium Literary Journal, and he is currently a staff writer for Coldfront Mag. Marlatt teaches English in Nebraska where he lives with his wife, Kina and their two sons, Brock and Kehler.


Chris Schaeffer is a graduate student at Temple University, and Concert Manager at the Bowdoin International Music Festival. His poetry has appeared in various publications and his criticism has been published in Pleiades. He lives in Northeast Philadelphia with his fiancĂŠe.

Ingrid Wendt is the author of five full-length books of poems, one chapbook, two anthologies, a book-length teaching guide, numerous articles and reviews. Wendt has taught literature and poetry writing for more than 30 years at all educational levels, including the MFA program of Antioch University Los Angeles and as a Poet-inResidence at several colleges, most recently, Augsburg College, Minneapolis. She is an avid scuba diver, a gardener, a hiker, the parent of a grown daughter who lives in New York City, a wife (of 40 years) to poet and writer Ralph Salisbury; and a student of languages. She divides her time between Eugene and Seal Rock, Oregon.


Patricia Carragon is a New York City writer and poet. Her publications include Best Poem, BigCityLit, CLWN WR, Clockwise Cat, Danse Macabre, Ditch Poetry, First Literary Review-East, Inertia, Lips, MÖBIUS The Poetry Magazine, Marymark Press, Maintenant, Mad Hatters’ Review, The Mom Egg, New Verse News, The Toronto Quarterly, Word Salad, and more. She is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press). She is a member of Brevitas, a group dedicated to short poems. She hosts and curates the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor of the annual anthology. Her latest book is Urban Haiku and More (Fierce Grace Press).

Heath Fisher lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and is completing his MFA from the University of New Orleans Low-Res program. His fiction has appeared in Mt. Hope and he has a poetry review forthcoming in Rain Taxi.


Melanie Fitch is currently a student in the Low-Residency MFA program in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of New Orleans. She has just returned from Italy where I spent a month in-residence at the Ezra Pound Center for Literature at Brunnenberg Castle in Merano. Fitch lives in the Gold Country of Northern California in a small town called Grass Valley, an area very focused on arts of all types, a perfect setting for a writer.

Andrea Blythe graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Modern Literature. She lives in Los Gatos, California, where she writes poetry and fiction. Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including Chiaroscuro (ChiZine), Strange Horizons, Perigee, Zcomposition, Bear Creek Haiku, and Chinquapin. Learn more about her work at her website:


Cat Dixon is an adjunct instructor in the Writer's Workshop of the University of Nebraska, Omaha. She serves on the Board of Trustees for The Backwaters Press( Her work has appeared in Sugar House Review, Coe Review, Midwest Quarterly Review, Eclectica among others and several of her poems and creative nonfiction pieces have been anthologized. She has two children, Pierce and Leven.

Jeff Alessandrelli is the author of the little book Erik Satie Watusies His Way Into Sound (Ravenna Press, 2011) and the chapbook Don’t Let Me Forget To Feed the Sharks (Poor Claudia, 2012). He currently lives in Lincoln, NE, where he co-curates The Clean Part Reading Series. Recent poetry by him appears or will appear in Gulf Coast, Salt Hill, Verse Daily, and Boston Review.


Joan Biddle is a writer and editor in Memphis, TN. She holds an MA from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA from The New School University. Her poetry and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Gently Read Literature, Half-Drunk Muse, The Yalobusha Review, The Red Booth Review, The Country Dog Review,Small Spiral Notebook and The Poet's Quest for God: 21st Century Poems of Spirituality. An audio podcast of Biddle reading her poetry can be found on Her website is

Todd McCarty is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago. He's worked previously as an Assistant Editor for the journal Court Green, for Naropa University's Audio Archive Project, and at KGNU Radio in Boulder, CO. He was interviewer and producer for the poetry programs End Quote and Subliminal Guild and recorded poets like Anne Waldman, Alice Notley, Sonia Sanchez, Robin Blaser, as well as many others. His poems have appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, 580 Split, Court Green, Rhino and on Verse Daily.


Athena Lark graduated from the University of California at Riverside, Palm Desert where she received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. She has been published in; the Florida Times Union newspaper, Jacksonville Business Journal, Jacksonville Advocate, The Albany Herald, UNF Spinnaker, UNF Alumni Magazine, and Literary Journal, The Whistling Fire.


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