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Category Archives: literary magazine
Publisher: Aldrich Press (November 15, 2013)
Reviewed by: g emil reutter
Laura Grace Weldon has a gentle brutal voice in this exceptional collection of poems. It is reflected in the opening stanza and closing two stanzas of Ruminating, a poem about the family cow.
Animals are incapable
of higher thought and emotions
or so I was taught
She moves to the last two stanzas, the gentle Isabelle is observing the farm family as she relaxes in the pasture along the fence line, ruminating….
Isabelle regards us
from the nearby fence line
her soft lips moving
as she chews, ruminating.
Our breath hangs in the cold air
smelling of her son
roasted with onion, herbs, wine
In Santa Clara County V. Southern Pacific Railroad, Weldon reflects wealth traveling through rural poverty with images that pop from the page:
The day a car uncoupled,
spilling frozen beef,
armed guards arrived to destroy the cargo
but hungry people pushed onto the tracks
They bent gladly all the way home
Bearing suppers heavy promise.
Torn hillside nearly empty, still
those who know what it is to be broken
stand on crushed grass
staring at tracks
leading away from here.
The poem, Making it Work, concerning domestic strife, the wife is surrounded…
Where everything is beige and brown framed in flowered wall paper.
In these poems Weldon creates images that reflect not only the beauty of rural American life but of the brutal reality that it truly is.
You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Tending-Laura-Grace-Weldon/dp/0615913423
-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) https://gereutter.wordpress.com/
Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (August 9, 2014)
Reviewed by: g emil reutter
Poet Sam Taylor’s Nude Descending an Empire is a collection driven by the moment with an occasional glance over his shoulder. Taylor writes poems that are created by surroundings and events, more often than not he avoids modern poetry’s preoccupation with self, although he dips his keyboard there every so often.
He brings us to old Europe into the dust and sand of places we may not want to be, to the heartland and swamps of North America. In the poem, Jataka Tales, he writes
I can’t stop dreaming of maps/ but from my life as a stone/ I have yet to speak.
And then there is his visit to China, when surrounded by locals he attempts to speak to them in their language, not knowing he was using the wrong tone. Poet and shit use the same structure but with different tones, so when asked what he does in the poem The Book of Poetry, he responds in the wrong tone, I am a shit man. I write shit and repeating it. A shit person, I write books of shit. Understand?
I am glad to say Taylor doesn’t write books of shit. A great example are a few words from the poem The Book of Winter, which knowingly or not, Taylor gives a nod to Sandburg.
In the pasture
heaven is falling
into the bare willows
and oaks, and cottonwoods,
over the vertical
of parked semis,
their white cabs
with painted blue
This collection of poems by Sam Taylor is worth the read, you should pick up a copy.
You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Nude-Descending-Empire-Poetry-Series/dp/0822963043
-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA). http://gereutter.wordpress.com/
Book reviews and much more at The Philadelphia Review of Books http://philadelphiareviewofbooks.com/
Stephen Page is from Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of The Timbre of Sand and Still Dandelions. He holds two AA’s from Palomar College, a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from Bennington College. His critical essays have appeared regularly in the Buenos Aires Herald and the Fox Chase Review. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. . You can find him at: http://stephenmpage.wordpress.com/. His poetry appears in The Fox Chase Review at these links: http://www.foxchasereview.org/12SU/StephenPage.html and http://www.foxchasereview.org/11WS/StephenPage.html
Interview with g emil reutter
GER: So how does a guy from Detroit end up becoming a cattle rancher in Argentina?
SP: Well, I’m not ranching anymore. I was. Loved it. That part of my life is temporarily over. I will tell you, however, how I came to Argentina. The story started when I was a child. Some of my earliest happy memories are of my family vacations. Several times, all summer long, my family would pile in the station wagon and head out on the road. We would take about twenty short vacations a year. Sometimes just for the weekend. We would head up north in Michigan, or down to Florida, or Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina. Mostly visiting family. I loved the feeling of being on the road. Nothing behind you, only that which is ahead of you—Kerouac said something like that. I loved looking at the scenery as it passed by. Most of my extended family lived in rural or sparsely populated nature-filled areas. I remember farmland, lakes, rivers, large patches of woodlands. I loved walking for miles on dirt roads, along animal trails, trudging through swamps, crossing rivers, swimming across lakes. My parents were good caretakers, and I feel lucky that they gave me such an adventurous childhood. I also had two good-natured sisters who were easy-going travelling companions.
When I was fifteen or so, I ran away from home (not to escape anything in particular, at least nothing I could conceive at that age). I was walking home after visiting a friend’s house and I got this idea in my head to go somewhere, anywhere . . . no definite destination in mind, just go. As the sun was setting I was standing on the side of I-75, watching the smokestacks of factories turn yellow then orange then red, and I stuck out my thumb. I didn’t get very far, only down to Cincinnati, when I realized I was hungry. I crossed the highway divider and hitchhiked back home. I slipped the key into the lock on the front door of my home as the sun was rising.
As a young man, with my driver’s license, every Friday when I had my weekly cash pay stuffed in my pocket, I would jump in my car and drive, sometimes to visit family, sometime just to be “out there.” Away. Gone. Free. Traveling is like having wings, even in a car. I really found my wings when I bought my Harley. Riding a Harley has no other feeling like it in this world. It has a distinct vibration and rumble. On an open road, with no traffic, there is just you, the bike, the wind, and the scenery around you. You have a panoramic view of your surroundings—especially if you ride without a helmet (kids, please don’t do that!).
Once, I had a union job, cutting steel, and after I worked there for one year, the foreman came up to me on a Friday afternoon, and said, “You,” he paused, looking me in the eye, then pointing at me with a greasy finger, “are on vacation.” “What?” I asked, thinking I was fired. “You get a week’s paid vacation for your first year on this job. We need you to take the time now while the work is slow.” “Thanks,” I muttered, thinking ‘where will I go, what will I do?’ That night I fell asleep watching a movie called Easy Rider. I woke up early the next morning and packed a sleeping bag and some clothes in a sea bag my cousin J had given me, threw the bag over my shoulder, and headed out the door. As I was stepping off the front porch, my cousin T (who was sharing rent with me in an old farm house on the edges of Detroit) asked, “where are you going?” “To New Orleans.” “How will you get there?” “I don’t know, I guess I’ll hitchhike (I was in-between owning vehicles at the time) . . . Or maybe I’ll go downtown to the bus terminal and take a bus.” She looked at me and smiled, then said, “At least let me drive you to the station.” So, I ended up hanging out on Bourbon Street for a couple of nights, seeing the Rolling Stones play live, taking a train up to Jackson, Mississippi, then hitchhiking though Arkansas, Texas, north to Colorado, onto North Dakota, then turning east to back towards Detroit. I arrived home Sunday evening, eight and a half days later, just in time to eat dinner, sleep a bit, wake up early the next morning and go back to work. I took a lot of trips like that, either hitchhiking, in my car, or on my bike—I was always travelling, going somewhere, anywhere, just away, on my way to “There. There. Somewhere. Anywhere but here.”
After a few years of factory jobs, 7-11 midnight shifts, gas-station jobs, bowling-alley jobs, landscaping jobs, restaurant jobs—I decided I had to leave the Detroit scene. Get away. Far, far away. I landed a job that allowed me globe-circling travel. Out of seven years in this occupation, I spent fifty-two months overseas. Man, I saw a lot of the world. I ended up one day in Kenya, on a photo safari, and inside the same tour bus I was in was this exotic green-eyed goddess of a women. I noticed that every time I looked at her, she was looking at me, and every time she looked at me, I was looking at her. We fell in love. She was, and is, Argentine. Here I am.
GER: You have said that teaching is a passion of yours. Tell us why and how the interaction with students contributes to your own development as a writer?
SP: I love teaching because it is a way of sharing, sharing knowledge, a way of helping others. The best way teaching literature helped my development as a writer was that I was able to restudy the masters, analyze good writing and show others how to read well. To read carefully. To “read,” not just read. To understand the techniques of literature the masters use and/or used well—i.e. foreshadowing, metaphor, symbolism . . . saying something without saying something.
SP: Most writers write in a room with the door closed, the phone turned off. I do. If a writer has to write in a room with family around, the writer usually has a spouse, family member, friend, or an employee take care of the family while he or she writes. Some writers write in a café. I also do that often. I know a few cafés that have vibrant creative energy and when I sit down at a table and lean over my journal or computer to write, the conversations of the other patrons just become white noise. In a sense, all writing is done in isolation. A writer has to know this, be ready for it, and, in some cases, have a disposition that does not mind being alone with itself for a while. I break out of my bouts of isolation by having an understanding wife, a circle of friends, and an extended family who understand my need to be alone a while and are always there for me when I open my (metaphorical and literal) door to socialize.
SP: My first collection of poems, The Timbre of Sand, was inspired by the exotic green-eyed woman, and started with my first love letters to her, after the safari was over. I wrote those letters while I was still traveling around for my employers and she was living in Argentina. About a year after the safari, I resigned from my travel-required occupation, moved to Argentina, and started to attend college. At university, I realized I loved literature and writing so much I made that my major, and I started to write short stories and poems. Then, one day, I was skimming over some of the early letters I wrote my wife (by then we were living together and shared rings) and I realized the epistolaries had poetic potential. I started a collection of poems dedicated to her, and as I began it I thought, ‘what better love poem is there than a sonnet.’ So I started a collection of sonnets. But being a bit of an originally minded rebellious person, I decided to contemporize the sonnet. I kept the line relations, the stanzas, the meter, the assonance, alliteration, and internal rhyme that Shakespearian and Petrarchan sonnets have, but I eliminated the end rhyme (or at least freed my self of having to end rhyme). I had a few of them published separately in small presses, and then a small publisher in NY picked them up and printed them as a book.
My second collection of poems, Still Dandelions, was inspired by my love for nature. Even as a child, on my vacations and short trips with my family, I felt a oneness with nature, a connection to it all, a passageway through nature to the beyond, the Universe, the Everything, the One. I lived in New York for a while and was lucky enough to live near a park that was spread out over hundreds of square acres. It had trails leading through the trees, up and down hills, down to the Hudson. There was a garden in the center of the park that was tended year-round by city employees, so if there was a mild winter, some plant or another was in bloom all year round. If there was a harsh winter, something was in bloom at least ten months of the year. The garden attracted bees, other insects, birds. And the woodland always had some miracle of life happening, even in winter—lichen growing, moss, early tree buds, cardinals and sparrows gathering in groups on the snow, a squirrel leaping about to dig where it hid a nut last autumn, a hawk or eagle gliding around then swooping low, looking for a meal. There was the bite of the cold, the rush of a snow flurry, the pelting of hail on my face. There was also the singing of birds in spring, the green-skied vortex of an approaching storm, the stinging rain, the wilting heat of summer, the sawing of the cicada, the myriad-color leaves of autumn. I started a collection of poems about nature, the oneness I felt with it, and I thought, ‘what better way to share this oneness I feel than to honor Basho and write a collection of haiku.’ I took some liberties with the form to make it my own, but in doing so, as I did with the sonnets, I realized that writing in form is an act of discipline that all writers should learn in order to become original later. A good haiku is not an easy thing to master and takes a bit of practice. A great haiku is even harder to master. “A haiku is, or a haiku isn’t,” I think Kerouac or Snyder said. A haiku is not just a 5-7-5 syllabic poem (the English version of a haiku). If anyone would like to acquire a better understanding of haiku, I recommend reading Haiku Moment, edited by Bruce Ross. A haiku captures the Oneness, the feeling of connection to the natural world . . . it could happen while hearing a flap of a birdwing, a bee buzzing by. A haiku captures this moment of oneness with the world, the loss of the self—and this usually happens in a second, or even less. The epiphany comes immediately afterwards—and if the experiencer of the Oneness is a writer, he or she writes the experience down in a concise form (to coincide with the briefness of the “moment”) in order to remember it and share it with readers. There again, like my first book, I had many of the poems published separately in lit mags, then another small publisher in NY printed the collection as a book.
GER: Your literary criticisms have appeared in many publications, including here at FCR. What inspired you on this course and what are the benefits to you as a writer?
SP: That goes back to when I was child again. Another one of my earliest memories is that of reading. I read a lot while I was growing up. I would often share books, Dr. Seuss and such, with friends and family. We would discuss the passages and rhymes and meaning (I didn’t realize this was analysis at the time). As a teenager I was always deciphering Rock-and-Roll lyrics with friends—what does that object in that song signify, what is the double meaning in this word, how does the title coincide with the content, how many symbols are in that that stanza and why are they there? Then as a literature/writing student at Palomar College, Columbia University, and Bennington College, I was able to employ my love of analysis and set my thoughts on paper. This love of analysis benefited me as a writer because I was again, like in teaching later, able to understand how the great writers used, and use, techniques of literature.
GER: You have read your poetry at various venues in Argentina. How important is it for you to read your work in public and what affect does it have on your writing?
SP: I stared a writing group almost as soon as I arrived in Argentina. I thought it would be a good way to help writers help each other. We read our stuff aloud to each other. Later I started a poetry reading group, as a means of sharing literature with others. Once I was invited to read my poems aloud at an annual Buenos Aires International Book Fair. Reading a book alone is a solitary pleasure, a gift from the writer to the reader one book at a time. Reading aloud to an audience is a public event, a gift shared with more than one person in linear time. I discovered by reading my own stuff aloud, especially while I practiced reading aloud to myself, I caught the glitches in the lines, the skips in the meter, the loss of the music I thought was there. Thus, by reading aloud, or preparing to read aloud, I was better able to edit my work.
Stephen Page reading at the Ernesto Sabato Foundation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3b-5YrHXe-U
GER: Your fiction and poetry have appeared widely in the small and electronic press. How do you deal with the submission process and how important is to you as a writer to be published?
SP: Writing and submitting are two completely different processes. They use different halves of the brain, different sections of the cortex. Synapses fire differently. In one process you are a creator—in the other you are a publicist, a promoter, a hand shaker, a delver, a researcher. Every writer should be able to have a secretary edit, another to submit, a publisher, and a promoter to get the work known. That way the writer could spend all of his or her time on his or her writing. Use the cerebrum only for creating. Anyone in any one of the arts may draw parallels with this. Currently, with the revolution of eBooks, many writers need not only to be a creator, they need to be their own editor, their own publicist, and in many cases, their own publisher. In any event, I handle the submission process by dividing part of my “writing” time each day into parts—part for creating, part for editing, and part for submitting.
Writing is immensely more important to me than publishing. Writing is the part I love, the fun part, the part I want to do—the part I need to do. Publishing, however, is a pat on my back, and it is one way I can share with others. I do love sharing.
SP: Yes, I turn to Gary Snyder because of his love of travel and his love of nature, (which I can relate to). I also admire his ability to write well. Snyder spent years meditating in Asia and studying Oriental forms of poetry. Judging by his writing, I think he felt the Oneness, the losing of the self that I feel. I often turn to Mary Oliver and Louise Glück for that same reason—for their apparent awareness of the Oneness (and for their quality of writing). I also turn to other writers and reread their books once in a while because they write well and capture the drama of human interaction, the strife of life, the struggles of relations and love—like Neruda, Cross, Hemingway, Machado, Vallejo, Borges, Plath.
GER: You have quoted Matthew Arnold, “Life is not having or getting, but of being and becoming”. Why this quote and can you expand upon it?
SP: It is easy to become a materialist. Materialism is something innate in all of us and is developed one way or the other depending on our socialization. Historically, we humans—modern Homo sapiens and early humanoids—especially in societies or groups, have almost always measured success by what we own, be it property, possessions, exchange (or even worse, other human beings). What we have or what we are getting—even when we were hunter-gatherers and vying over territory (not just for survival but to feel that a section of land is ours).
Today, we are brought up in a consumeristic world. We are driven, from the time we are children, to want to have things, to get more, to buy a new football, a new jump rope, a new car every year, a superfluous piece of jewelry . . . to be rich, to live in a big house, to own land, to wear new clothes styled in the latest fashion. More often than not we are striving to own more than what we need to survive healthily. I think Sixto Rodriguez said it best when he sang, “You measure your wealth by the things that you hold . . .”
Very few people are taught to seek spirituality, and not just religion, which is societally subjectivized (and there is nothing wrong with religion)—I mean pureness of the soul (if that is what you want to call it, a “soul”—this experience we all have of existence). Not the egotistical sense of existence—the I—but the Oneness. Not many people are taught too meditate, to walk alone in the woods—or participate in any other method that allows zoning into the Oneness. We, as adults, should work harder at teaching children how to be One with the Universe (the universe as we currently imagine it). We need to teach our children respect for land and nature, not only for their spiritual health, but also for their physical health. We also need to teach the kids how to be better people, how to share, how to be good to others, how to be calm in stressful situations. We need teach them to be rich in spirit, generosity, and kindness.
As for each of ourselves, we need to make conscious efforts every day to become a better person than we were the day before, a better human being, a more humane entity that functions well in society and becomes one with the One.
GER: What projects are you currently working on?
SP: Oh, I have at least 10 projects I am working on. Some are stories and some are poems I am compiling or fitting together into meaningful, coherent collections. Some are separate pieces of writing I am editing. Also, I am writing a new book
Seven Kitchens Press
Second printing: July, 2008 [100 copies]
19 pages, 4.625 x 6.75 inches
Reviewed by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
UNDERGROUND SINGING (Winner of the 2007 Keystone Chapbook Prize) contains seventeen detailed narrative poems framed within Girardville, Pennsylvania, an eastern coal town setting. These poems are mined together into the larger scope of a story.
Harry Humes’s pieces of memories are stitched together into one reflective whole, where the center holds. It’s inspiring to read for its honesty and brilliant attentiveness to metaphoric detail. There’s not a word left dangling, rather a crystal clear recollection – like an underground spring sparkling in discovery, as underground consciousness streams its way into conscious realism, through his words, through his poems, through his singing of childhood memories. Breath breathed from coal dust – into life – and then returning once again to dust.
This collection begins with “Man With a Yellow Pail.” The man is walking somewhere… up the hill / toward a house, maybe his own house. Planned or unplanned, what a great way to start a small collection, the arduous climb upward – life’s many hills and then the sound of the pail squeaking. The reader is drawn in to this first poem by sensory perception: visual, auditory, and tactile. The continuation of visual description plays on as Time has passed, It was late March, and a naturalistic setting with mallards or wood frogs quaking on the vernal pond. An enigma pursues as the contents inside the pail are unknown, dandelions or forsythia beautiful springtime yellows, these harbingers of spring juxtaposed with or fish worms? Yes, it’s fishing season and sure it could be worms. And then Humes adds his own personal adaptation (something that I as a reader had no former knowledge of, something uniquely Humes to his familial upbringing) – maybe animal guts for some cheerless reading. In addition, to adding the sensation of smell, that is, scent of flowers and stink of worms and animal guts, the reader may ask – Who reads animal guts? (The poet answers this question, with a different twist, his father a reader of pigeon bones in lieu of animal guts in “The Bone Reader,” which will be addressed later). For now, the reader is freed from that question, because in the next lines the man in Humes’s poem is raising …his free arm / into the sky, palm and fingers tilted upwards, / as if expecting something to land there. Again the reader questions – What would land there?
Then, the unanswered question, followed by rain as cleansing, rain as an breathed in, an olfactory sensation: The air smelled like rain pocking dusty weeds,/ and the moon floated low in the west, and the careful and perfect placement of the last line –
everything on edge, waiting to spill.
This is a hook of an opener, to a chapbook of poems loaded with detailed sensory perception, a lived-narrative of life in a rural setting. Another poem “Polka for Three Dancing Elephants” is about Polish women dancing together “The Beer Barrel Polka” or “The Pennsylvania Polka” …at wedding receptions / at Ranger’s Fire House or St. Vincent’s Hall. This is a throwback to receptions once held in fire halls, and there is no political correctness here, as there wasn’t any then. Just life for life’s sake, the way it was growing up in “Ash Alley,” Humes a survivor of those by-gone days, destined to sing its underground music of the days of freedom and despair, from “Ash Alley:”
… I know there was always coughing / and wasn’t there always someone calling our name.
to “Slush Dam:”
…You’ve been at that sulfur-stinking place, haven’t you, haven’t you? our mother would shout. If you sink in it, we’ll never find you. Mummies is what you’ll be. Do you hear me?…
There’s this romantic nostalgia of looking back in Time and realizing what kind of place it really was, while growing up, and that you lived through those days to come back years later in your mind and write about it, for others to understand where you have come from – the beautiful and the ugly, the pain and the joy, and that special something that was rather unique to you and your family, community. “The Bone Reader” (is the poem I referred to earlier) of which, the entire first stanza cannot be spared here for that reason:
Down in the cobwebbed dirt cellar
With coal bin, buckets of nails, crosscut saws,
Down there was a shoe box filled with pigeon bones
That my father would spill out on the kitchen floor
And read things in the tangle
Of breast bones, ribs wing bones, skulls
And then the final stanza:
But not a hint or click of movement,
and me remembering that moment my father
turned to us and asked if we had heard
and we said yes.
Why lie, because Humes understood in innocence, in childhood wisdom, that his father’s dangerous and long hours of hard work, underground, in the darkness was one of life’s worst occupations, and because Humes respected his father, …and because he(Humes’s father) was a man skilled with darkness, / an underground man effortlessly finding his way / through coal veins…. His father told them…Oh yes, / I hear things down there / in creaking and drop of water, / we believed him.
That’s why; because this underground singing is a childhood memory and yes, Harry Humes lived on to read the bones of his father’s death with a beautifully sad innocence – with love – never sparing life’s darkness, never sparing America of its dirty coal dust lung: a sound of singing and/or coughing? This is “American Realism” …down there in the muck, / down there steadily finding its way.
The last four lines of the last poem in Humes’s prized chapbook, “My Ravine,” …putting my hand against the cool walls / for a kind of direction, maybe asking / one last dumb question, and eating / a little dirt so I would never forget.
UNDERGROUND SINGING, a written testament of a life, of a time, he remembers.
You can find the book here: http://sevenkitchenspress.com/our-authors/harry-humes/
The Fox Chase Review is pleased to announce the appointment of MM Wittle as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for the review. Ms. Wittle will begin her duties commencing with the Winter 2015 edition of the review.
MM Wittle is a professor of writing with an MFA from Rosemont College in Creative Writing. The play, “Family Guidance” had a reading at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA and was honorable mention at the 5th Annual Philadelphia Theatre Workshop’s Playwriting Competition. “The Education of Allie Rose” was a finalist in the Philadelphia Ethical Society Playwriting competition and was shortlisted in the Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama in England. The ten-minute play, “Done Deal” was part of Learning Stages’ Play in a Day. MM’s work has appeared in Nailpolish Stories, Transient, The Bond Street Review, Free Flash Fiction, The Fox Chase Review, The Lit Garden, Philly Flash Inferno, The Four Quarters, Decades Review, *82 Review, Thin Air Literary Magazine, and Emerging Literary Journal. Her Artist’s Book, Lessons Not Worth Repeating has been published with Lucia Press. Follow MM Wittle on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MMWittle.
-g emil reutter
Jerry Paxman, a judge for Britain’s Forward Prize for poetry said in a recent article at the Guardian “I think poetry has really rather connived at its own irrelevance and that shouldn’t happen, because it’s the most delightful thing,” Paxman continued, “It seems to me very often that poets now seem to be talking to other poets and that is not talking to people as a whole.” The full article appears here: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jun/01/jeremy-paxman-poets-engage-ordinary-people-forward-prize
There has been much said and much written over the last two centuries about the relevance of poetry, yet it remains. Poets are the great observers of the world around us and while many don’t read poetry or attend poetry readings on a regular basis, most folks like to know there are poets around. While the Guardian article is Britain specific I believe it could apply to any nation. It seems to me that poets are the only one’s concerned about this for in the end poets write, it is what they do, relevant or not, sales or none, poetry is written. So we asked a few poets to let us know their thoughts on the matter..
Doug Holder, Lecturer in Creative Writing at Endicott College and publisher of the Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene said: “Just because we are poets doesn’t mean we are not ordinary people. I for one am an everyday person who happens to write poetry. I write poems about life–the everyday stuff–love, loss, death the whole gamut. All poetry addresses this I think. That being said sometimes poetry that is being written today maybe too conceptual.
Holder believes in solid grounding, “You need to have some concrete detail. As William Carlos William said, and I paraphrase “Not in ideas, but things.” A poem must be grounded first–solid ground- and then you can float off after this point. Perhaps this would be a way to engage with more readers.”.
Holder may be right. Conceptual poetry may hurt poetry as a whole, grounded may be the way to go..
Poet J.C. Todd viewed the article a bit differently. She takes issue with Paxman and his premise. “Jeremy Paxman has the noun wrong. If there is a problem, it is not with poetry but with poets or, more likely, with publishers of poetry or, could the problem be with his taste as a reader. Blaming an art form? That’s a bit of fuzzy thinking since art is made by humans. Blame the humans–poets, publishers, readers? They are responding to culture. Blame the culture? You can see this is leading down a weedy garden path.”.
Todd also takes issue with Paxman as a judge and celebrity. “Paxman was reading poems as a judge, his primary motive to assign selective value instead of appreciating them or grappling with them. Could the process of choosing “the best” have tainted his engagement with the art? He was paid to judge and now he’s double-dipping making a celebrity or pundit of himself by blaming poetry. Oh, dear. And poetry, having no legal standing, can’t sue for defamation or libel or slander. The perfect victim and cause célèbre.”
So is Paxman the guy to take this position? Is Todd correct in her premise,” the problem lies with poets or more likely publishers of poetry, or, could the problem be with Paxman’s taste as a reader?”
Poet and Editor of The Fox Chase Review, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri agrees with Paxman on some points. “Poetry can appeal to all levels of life and should be read as widely as bestselling novels; and therefore poets writing poetry should not discount people, who are not poets, yet enjoy reading poetry. Although poetry takes on numerous forms and voices (including but not limited to language, surrealism, experimental, and realism) there has always been a need for poetry that speaks directly to the masses, the everyday reader, and the “non-poets.”
Sahms-Guarnieri continues, “The problem is they’re so many cliques, factions, and élite groups of poets that demand that other poets (not in their group) write the way that they write. These groups of poets truly believe that they hold the “truth” and poetry has to be written their way, as if the world of poetry exists just for them and those who drink with them from their “limited” well of water.”
She is concerned about the impact of this institutionalized exclusion and agrees with Paxman that poetry should relate to the people as a whole. “ My friends, exclusion is not what freedom of expression is all about, that is, you cannot and will not harness the muse into one little holding cell. Poetry is by nature for everyone, from every walk of life, and the muse will always allow for variation and freedom. Poems will always be written by and performed by many different poetic voices. Poets should echo the human experience with poetry that relates to “all” people, touching and re-touching lives.”
Sahms-Guarnieri agrees with Paxman that poetry should reach out beyond poets. Poetry written and read for the people as opposed to a select group of poets would seem to make sense. As she states, “poets write to “echo the human experience”, to touch all people.”
Poet and publisher of Book Inq. , Frank Wilson believes Paxman’s premise is more applicable in the U.K. than in the U.S. “… where poetry seems to be flourishing at readings in bars, galleries and parks.” Wilson stated he was just finishing off reviews of three poetry collections, “They have much in common, but are still quite distinct.”
He points to the internet, “The internet abounds with poetry, and most of it is not at all academic. Some, I have no doubt, will have quite a long life.”
Poets write poetry often without recognition or profit. Paraphrasing Stanley Kunitz, “poetry is the last uncorrupted art… there is no profit in it.” Commercialization as Paxman calls for is not the answer, it may be a very simple answer indeed, writing poetry people will read. Poetry rises and falls with the changing cultural ocean. It is as natural as the rising and setting of the sun. Let nature take its course, reach out to people, go out and write a poem.
Related post at FCR: Poetry in Decline- Is a Revolution Needed?
-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) http://gereutter.wordpress.com/
Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of the innovative novels Haywire, Tetched and Roughhouse. He teaches literature as an adjunct at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York and fiction writing at the Writer’s Voice of the West Side YMCA in Manhattan. You can read his fiction and poetry in The Fox Chase Review at these links: http://www.foxchasereview.org/12AW/ThaddeusRutkowski.html http://www.foxchasereview.org/09AW/11-TRutkowski.html and http://www.foxchasereview.org/09WS/09-ThaddeusRutkowski.html
and visit him at: http://www.thaddeusrutkowski.com/
Interview with g emil reutter
GER: Tell us about the Unbearables, The Unbearables Manual of Style, your experience and how that experience manifests itself in your current writing?
TR: The Unbearables are a group of writers based in New York City. They might be known for their literary activism; they “sat in” at The New Yorker to protest the editorial policies of then poetry editor Alice Quinn. She came to the sit-in and talked to them, and as a result some poems by the Unbearables were published in The New Yorker. The Unbearables have also staged parades and “happenings,” such as a chain of poets reading in a line across the Brooklyn Bridge.
The name Unbearables comes from a longer version, The Unbearable Beatniks of Life, which is based on Milan Kundera’s title The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The group was formed, I think, in the mid-1980s. They were neo-Beatniks, reading at the Life Café. Beatniks of Life! There are hundreds of Unbearables, with a core of about 50 people.
I had to look up The Unbearables Manual of Style on the Web. It is an objet d’art that looks like it was hit by bullets, based on the Chicago Manual, put together by writers who worked as proofreaders, typesetters, etc. I wasn’t a contributor. I don’t know why. But I am a contributor to several Unbearables anthologies. I’ve often written on an Unbearables theme, e.g., “the worst book I ever read.” Doing the assignment gives me something to write about.
I edited a selection of work by 20 Unbearables in the current online issue of Many Mountains Moving, at http://mmminc.org
TR: I felt like an outsider in central Pennsylvania. There were no kids of color in my high school, except for my brother and sister and me. I didn’t even know what it meant to be “of color” until I was about 12. That’s when I could “see” race.
Of course, the response to me by other kids and adults was subtle. Only a few kids would start speaking in mock Japanese when they saw me. Girls would talk to me, but dating was another thing. What would their parents think? A date with me was an interracial affair, though “affair” is the wrong word. An interracial experience.
My immediate goal was to move away. I had visited New York as a child (World’s Fair) and on high school field trips (Whitney Museum, Broadway musical). Before I got to the city, I went to college in Ithaca, N.Y. (which seemed like a big town compared to Hublersburg, Pa.), then to grad school in Baltimore. At the end of grad school, I could have stayed on at the university press (to continue my work-study job), but instead I moved to New York and found work, like a good Unbearable, as a production editor in the journals section of a scientific publisher.
GER: Your write novels, short stories and poetry. Where do you get your inspiration and when crafting your work what is the difference when you write fiction or a poem?
TR: Fiction is the form that seems most natural to me—which is not to say it’s easy. I form sentences in my mind. I seem to say what I want to say in relatively few words. I call my short prose pieces “stories,” and I call a collection of them (united by voice and arranged in sequence) a “novel.” However, my stories and novels aren’t conventional. I start with an idea or a strong feeling, and the form it takes is secondary. Sometimes (rarely) it takes the form of a poem—a work in free verse.
I took fiction workshops when I was in school, with great writers like John Barth and Alison Lurie. I’ve also studied with great poets—Richard Howard and John Yau. I have respect for them all. At some point, though, you have to find and develop your own voice.
My inspiration comes from my experiences in life. I select and distill—I even make things up—for dramatic effect. I hope the subjects of my writing are more exciting or interesting than my daily life.
GER: Your father was a visual artist and teacher. You also dipped a toe into visual art. How has this contributed to your development of images in your writing?
TR: Right, my father was a visual artist. He taught calligraphy and silk-screening at the craft center at Penn State University, and he had a small business silk-screening Penn State images on T-shirts and other objects. For his own work, he made paintings and drawings of landscapes and antique things. One reason he moved his family to the country, I believe, was to rediscover an older way of life.
I began college as a fine arts major, with a focus on painting. To finish the degree, I took studio courses in drawing, sculpture and printmaking (etching). I also had to take 18 credits of art history. Meanwhile, I was studying English literature. I was a dual-degree major. The two disciplines came together in my mind. I’m conscious of visual detail in my creative writing.
GER: You have traveled the United States and overseas to read your work. How important is it to you to perform your material in front of a live audience and are there differences between audiences in the states and overseas?
TR: I was talking with friends yesterday about visiting a high school in the New Territories of Hong Kong in 2012. In public schools in Hong Kong, all of the students wear uniforms. In the classroom, I tried to encourage the students to express themselves. I gave a prompt, and all of the students wrote at their desks, but few wanted to share their writing aloud. From what I could tell, their English was good, and they were in this class voluntarily. Do uniforms act against self-expression? Or are teenagers by nature shy? Was the exercise (about a personal victory) not interesting? Maybe it was a combination. In any case, I was able to engage with a couple of the more extroverted students, girls and boys, and that made the visit totally worthwhile. The teacher gave me a letter opener as a present, and that weapon-like tool got me into trouble with customs later, but that’s another story.
Anyway, no, I don’t think there are essential differences audiences in the U.S. and elsewhere. In countries like Germany and Hungary, I was lucky to have a translator. I would read in English, and the translator would read the piece in the local language.
Aside from the barrier of language, people have much in common. I always like meeting new audiences—people who haven’t heard my material before. I’m usually able to make a connection. I remember reciting a piece on the top deck of a boat on the way from Hong Kong to Lama Island. Two people were listening, one from Australia and one from England. We were just lying there in the warm air. I was interrupted by our cruise host, but after the host left, the Englishwoman said to me, “Do the rest of it. I want to hear how it ends.”
Thaddues Rutkowski in Hong Kong: http://asiasociety.org/video/thaddeus-rutkowski-white-and-wong-hong-kong
TR: I teach literature at CUNY and lead a fiction workshop at the Writer’s Voice of the West Side YMCA. The main change that I see is, I’ve become a better teacher over the years. I’m better able to communicate with people and encourage them. Earlier on, I might give an in-class exercise, and someone would sit there with a blank sheet of paper and write nothing. That hasn’t happened for a long time.
I don’t know about the “writing landscape” I don’t know if there are more or better writers out there. I believe the writers who succeed are the ones best able to motivate themselves. These writers (or writers in the making) have something to say and the means to say it, and they’re not going to let anyone stop them. In fact, they are going to win people over with their words.
TR: As I said, I write short fiction. But I always have the idea of a book in mind. This is common sense—first spelled out to me by my friend Paul Beatty. If you want to be writer, you have to write a book. So while I’m making these short pieces, I’m thinking about how they might go together in a longer, coherent work—a work with a beginning, middle and end. That’s how I put together Haywire and the two books before it. Sometimes, a short piece doesn’t fit anywhere, and it is not in the book. Other times, there are big gaps, and I have to add “chapters.” I’m not too worried about little gaps—I trust the reader to fill those in.
I reread Haywire last summer for the e-book edition, and I thought it held together pretty well.
TR: All three books share a similar approach: snapshots or vignettes connected by voice and theme. I think there’s an evolution in form, since the books were written over a couple of decades. Roughhouse is the most minimal, but that doesn’t mean it has less value or less to say. I wanted a smoother narrative as I went along, more exposition, more commentary. I can’t say, though, that those elements are clearly developed. I’m still a minimalist.
GER: You have said some of your influences were Barthelme, Brautigan, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and that you had an admiration for Mad Magazine. How have they influenced you and are there others you would like to mention?
TR: I don’t recall my references to Chaucer and Shakespeare, though I don’t doubt I said that somewhere. I have great respect for those authors. They are, along with Milton, the giants of English literature, and their works are what we study here in school. We could just as well study the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West, featuring the Monkey King. Or we could study the Hindu epic The Ramayana. They are all important.
I grew up reading Donald Barthelme and Richard Brautigan. They were experimenting with form, and their experiments worked, as far as I could tell. What they were saying affected me. I’m not saying they should be imitated, but they should be considered, taken seriously. Their stuff, especially the early stuff, is worth rereading.
Yes, I liked Mad Magazine, and Cracked magazine, too. Nothing wrong with a little satire and parody. I can still partially recite a Mad Magazine parody of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, ” which begins “Whose woods these are I think I know.” The Mad Magazine parody read:
“Whose Buick’s this? I think I know.
The keys are here. Hop in; let’s go.
… The road is clear; the hour is late,
so speed right past that turnpike gate.
They may jot down our license plate,
but what care we? It’s not our crate.”
TR: I’m working on a number of short fictions and gathering them into a book. I have a manuscript that’s almost complete. It’s about my experiences, my memories of experiences, and my subconscious perceptions of experiences. It covers a lifetime. I hope the writing is clear, and does what it needs to do.
Thaddeus Rutkowski is reading at Ryerss Museum and Library on June 29th. You can find more information on this reading at: http://foxchasereview.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/rutkowski-and-smith-in-fox-chase-june-29th/
You can check out his books at this link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Thaddeus+Rutkowski
-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) http://gereutter.wordpress.com/
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: University of Michigan Press (January 1, 1982)
Reviewed by Stephen Page
While I was reading the introduction of Living Off the Country, I thought, Oh no!, this is just another treatise by an egotistical writer filled with ego-driven philosophy; but I soon changed my mind. By page seven I knew I was reading a good book. Haines’s perception of the evolution of language is keen: “one of the consequences of having a language and a culture is that these begin to exist for themselves in place of the original things we once lived by.” Our minds manipulate language, but mostly, language is manipulated by the powers-that-be to take on meanings other than the idea or thing. “Go West young man,” or “conquer the last frontier,” are a couple of examples. The statement is also an introduction into the main theme of the book, that is, place. For Haines, place is Alaska; moreover the land, the natural world, the things in the natural world. We must get back to nature and be a part of it. This is sound advice, for the natural world is important and the human race has lost sync with it. We build cities that wall out animals, and make noise that scares away more. We give names to things so they fit our conception of the world (reminds me in a parallel sense of Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines). Haines believes we must get into the “spirit of place.” Try not to let the names of things block our perception of the world nor our sense of being one with the world. And most of all, we shouldn’t allow our culture or leaders to manipulate our thoughts and feelings about things and ideas. The natural world is where the spirit of the universe can be felt best, and since people are natural beings, they should try to “be” with nature in order to “be” with themselves. All places have different characteristics, different versions of the spirit. Haines goes on to say in other essays: not everyone is in love with nature, nor can he or she be in tune with it all the time, the world has progressed and changed too much for that. So a writer must be in tune with his surroundings wherever he may live. A writer’s job is to write literature that takes on place. Place must be in the writing. I also liked how he emphasized in the latter half of the essays, especially in “From the Beginning,” that writers should be concerned about concepts larger than themselves. He says that poets today lack grand ideas because they are only inwardly tuned, catharsizing and thinking that is all they need to do. Writers certainly need to be inwardly tuned, to get in touch with themselves, but they should also be concerned about larger principles. Worldviews that concern humanity and the environment are some examples that poets might tackle today. I still dislike introductions of books written by the authors, and I felt Haines’s autobiographical sketches at the end only turned the book around to himself again, which is defeating the purpose of many of his essays. In all though, the meat of the book is informative and world encompassing, and I am going to return to it many times, and recommend it to other writers.
You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Living-Off-Country-Essays-Poetry/dp/0472063332
Stephen Page is from Detroit, Michigan. There he worked in factories, gasoline stations, and steel-cutting shops. He always longed for a vocation associated with nature. He now lives in Argentina, teaches literature, ranches, and spends time with his family.
The Summer 2014 Edition of The Fox Chase Review is in production and will be released on line June/July 2014.
Poetry by: Vinita Agrawal, Andrea Applebee, Jose Angel Araguz, Peter Baroth, Mike Cohen, Erin Dorney, Zach Fishel, Kristina Moriconi, Ariana Nadia Nash, Salvwi Prasad, Zvi A. Sesling, Kimmika Williams Witherspoon
Fiction by: Katie Cortese, Beverly Romain and J. Erin Sweeney
Until then visit our Winter 2014 Edition at: