Tag Archives: poetry

10 Questions for Kristina Moriconi

Kristina 124 (1)Kristina Moriconi is a poet and essayist. She received her MFA in creative writing from Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington. Her work has appeared most recently in Cobalt Review, The Schuylkill Valley Journal, Prick of the Spindle and Blue Heron Review. She is the author of a chapbook, No Such Place (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Kristina is currently the Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Her website is: http://www.kristinamoriconi.com/

Interview with g emil reutter 

mont

GER: You were recently selected as the Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. What are the duties of the office and what goals have you set for yourself as Laureate?

KM: As Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, I am reading at various venues, and I have also started The Traveling Poets Project that will bring art-inspired poetry writing workshops to places throughout the county. On September 27th, I will be participating in the One Hundred Thousand Poets for Change event at the Souderton Arts Jam. I’m very excited about this. I’ll be reading with J.C. Todd and Laren McClung, and I will be offering art-inspired poetry workshops throughout the day.

no suchGER: No Such Place was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. Judith Baumel said of this collection, “These wise poems portray the terror and menace built into the architecture of the world”. Tell us about the collection and your journey to publication?

KM: No Such Place is an important collection of poems for me, because it is my first chapbook and I was filled with excitement to know it was being published. And I am thrilled by the words of praise from poets whose work I admire. But I am also continuously learning from that collection. As I work on two different projects now, I am striving to let in more light, to see “the architecture of the world” through eyes less clouded by fear and pessimism. 

I keep asking myself: Is it even possible to write a happy poem? But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the poem is not so simple as to be defined by a single emotion. It is a many-layered thing, and the voice of the speaker in my most recent poems is one that both sees and responds to all of those layers. It is important to me to continue to learn and grow as a writer, to keep my eyes and ears open to everything around me, and to never stop thinking there is room for improvement.

 

Moriconi at Elkins Park

GER: You currently host the “Arthur Krasnow Poets and Poetry Series’, at Elkins Park Library in Pennsylvania. Please share with us how this came about and the interactions between poet and audience and the open mic?

KM: At some point, after Arthur Krasnow passed away, someone from the Elkins Park Library contacted me to ask if I would be interested in hosting the reading series. I was, of course, honored, and I still am. I want to keep these readings going in Arthur’s memory, with his vision always in mind. So, the format of the evenings has stayed the same; there is a featured poet who reads and that is followed by an open mic. I hope to continue fostering this sense of a poetry community. I think it’s so necessary for poets to have a place to read, to be inspired, and to join together in conversation.

GER: In addition to poetry you conduct workshops on memoir, familial, and other non-fiction writing. How did this come about and share with us your passion for teaching?

KM: The focus of my MFA at the Rainier Writing Workshop was creative nonfiction. I attended many of the poetry workshops in the program as well, but my thesis was a collection of short nonfiction essays. Once I completed it, though, I knew almost immediately that I wanted it to be something else. So, I put it aside and I started writing more and more poems. It helped so much that I had worked with mentors at RWW who were both poets and essayists—writers such as Judith Kitchen and Rebecca McClanahan and Lia Purpura. I came to realize that switching back and forth between the two genres was critical to the language and the structure of my writing. My work continues to evolve, pushing the boundaries of genres and focusing in more and more on the lyric quality of language.

kristinamoriconi-1

GER: What poets do you read for inspiration and how important is it for poets to read other poets, both major and minor?

KM: When I am writing poetry, I often like to read brief nonfiction pieces. The short lyrical essays online at Brevity help me to think about the sound and the cadence of what I write. And when I am writing essays, I turn to poetry for inspiration. Reading poems as I write prose reminds me how critical it is to think about every single word. Lately, I have been reading the work of Jenny Boully and Carol Guess. And the writers I return to again and again, for both inspiration and craft, are Brenda Miller, Lia Purpura and Judith Kitchen. They are my constant mentors. 

Moriconi at Fox ChaseGER: You have read your poetry at a number of venue. How important is it to your development as a poet to read in public and is there a difference between a page poem and performance poem?

KM: I have been writing since I was a young girl. Reading my work aloud, however, is something I have only done in the last eight to ten years. At first, I was very reluctant to stand up in front of an audience and read. I prefer the quiet, solitary process of writing. But, at some point, I realized that my poems needed to be heard. I had something to say and, even if it only reached one person, I needed to say it.  

GER: Many poets become disillusioned with the submission process, particularly if they submit to major publications. Bukowski is said to have stated if the biggies don’t want your work submit to the little’s.   Do you agree and why?

KM: I can honestly say that I have never been disillusioned by the submission process. I send my work out into the world knowing I have revised it and read it aloud (to myself) over and over until I am confident it is my best work. I do my research ahead of time, trying to find a literary journal that is a good match. And, then, off it goes. I look at rejection in one of two ways. Either the journal was not the right match for a particular piece or I need to think about further revision. I’ve been writing and submitting long enough to usually know the difference. So, there are times when I will hold onto a piece after it’s rejected, really scrutinize it, blow it up, turn it into something else entirely. But most often I will send rejected work right back out there.  

KristinaMoriconiWP4

GER: Tell us of your passion for graphic design and how it has impacted your poetry?

KM: My background in art and graphic design has impacted my writing in many ways. Foremost, it has intensified my interest in form. Art of any kind is composed of elements that become integrated or unified, and I am very fascinated by the process of discovery one goes through in finding the right form for whatever they are creating, whether it be a painting, a poster, a piece of music, or a poem.

Visual art also serves as inspiration for many of my poems. I often look at paintings and photographs to trigger memories or to prompt words or phrases that I will use in my poems.

GER: You have written several book reviews. How is this process different for you and after writing a review does the process have an impact on your own writing?

KM: Writing book reviews is an entirely different process for me. My creative writing engages one side of my brain while my critical writing relies entirely on the other side, the more analytical half. I am a voracious reader, so writing reviews is a logical next step for me. From reading so much, I have the vocabulary I need to express what I think works and what I think doesn’t work. I read every book twice—first for content, then for craft—and I take notes only on that second read. Compiling my notes and writing the actual review feels like a conversation I get to have with other readers out there.

KristinaMoriconi4

GER: Do you have another manuscript in the works and what other projects are you working on?

KM: I have one complete manuscript of prose poems right now. I have been working on it for years; it is actually the “something else” I wanted my MFA thesis to be. It just took a lot of time, a lot of patience, and many rounds of revision for me to finally know that. I am ready to send it out into the world, but I’m in the research phase now, trying to find a small press that is a good match for it.

I love to travel, so I am also working on some poems inspired by place. When I write, I prefer to have a specific project in mind, rather than just writing individual poems, so I am trying to figure out what these place poems will become in terms of a larger collection. But, for now, I’m just letting them sit beside one another. They look a lot like a map. A journey.

.

You can read the poetry of Kristina Moriconi in The Fox Chase Review at these links: http://www.thefoxchasereview.org/s14-kmoriconi.html http://www.foxchasereview.org/11WS/KristinaMoriconi.html

.

g emil reutter 2g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA)  http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

 

The Summer 2014 Edition of The Fox Chase Review is now live

Pennypack Creek between Veree Road and Pine Road- Philadlephia, Pa

The Summer 2014 Edition of The Fox Chase Review is now live for your reading pleasure

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

The Fox Chase Review can be found here:  http://www.thefoxchasereview.org/

In The News…

latest news

The strength of poetry

http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/the-strength-of-poetry/article6283878.ece

When poetry mirrors war

http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/08/05/poetry-mirrors-war/

Poetry drive launched to pray for Kaohsiung victims, families

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aedu/201408060011.aspx

American Life in Poetry

http://www.newhampshire.com/article/20140805/

NEWHAMPSHIRE02/140809640/-1/newhampshire

Poetry opens minds

https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/entertainment/a/24629910/poetry-opens-minds/

Poetry: Ashley Bryan, 91, asks: ‘Have you done your best today?’

http://www.providencejournal.com/features/entertainment/books/20140803-poetry-ashley-bryan-91-asks-have-you-done-your-best-today.ece

Hedd Wyn: poetry that echoes from the first world war

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/30/hedd-wyn-welsh-poet-first-world-war

TAKE HEART: A Conversation in Poetry

http://www.pressherald.com/2014/08/03/t-a-k-e-h-e-a-r-t-a-conversation-in-poetry-9/

Fighting the Power of Greed With Poetry: Poetic People Power’s Closed: NYC Shuts Its Doors to Artists

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ed-hamilton/nyc-shuts-its-doors-to-artists_b_5620651.html

Tending by Laura Grace Weldon

tending-by-laura-grace-weldon
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Aldrich Press (November 15, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615913423
ISBN-13: 978-0615913421
.
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.
.
.
g emil reutter 2-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) https://gereutter.wordpress.com/

Nude Descending an Empire by Sam Taylor

nudeSeries: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 104 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (August 9, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963043

ISBN-13: 978-0822963042

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 heaven
into the bare willows
and oaks, and cottonwoods,
over the vertical
exhaust pipes
of parked semis,
their white cabs
with painted blue
flames.
.
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

.
April 12, 2014 007-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA).  http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

Ryerss Poetry Workshop – October 4th

ryerss

As of 7/24 all spots are filled.

A poetry workshop will be held on October 4th by Poet in Residence, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, at Ryerss Museum and Library. There are only 10 spots available, of which 4 have been filled. For more information please visit:

http://www.ryerssmuseum.org/2014/07/13/adult-poetry-workshop/

 

Modern American and British Poetry – Anthology- Louis Untermeyer

mod

A look back…

American

 Untermeyer begins the foreword of this anthology first published in 1922

“Modern” is, perhaps, the most misleading adjective in the dictionary. There is no term more fluctuant and elusive, that shifts its meanings with greater rapidity, that turns its back so quickly upon those ardent champions who defended it most stubbornly. The present merges so swiftly into the past that today’s definition of modernity may seem, after the shortest of intervals, an apology for some safely enshrined tradition. 

In the preface Untermeyer offers a look at the changing American literary landscape, defining when American poets came into their own, reflecting the nation in words as opposed to the literary establishment that failed to embrace the changing nation and remained tethered to England. This history highlights the revolution that was Whitman and Dickinson to Sandberg, Amy Lowell, H.D., Langston Hughes, Frost, and western frontier poetry that enchanted the nation by the likes of Bret Harte, John Hay, Edward Rowland Sill and Joaquin Miller.

This first half of this anthology contains the work of 83 American poets with two distinct threads. The shooting stars and those who faced harsh criticism, endured, who even today influence poets. Untermeyer offers up a history of each poet prior to a set of poems. This in itself is worth the read, as history is a good thing to know.

I picked up my copy at a used book store. It is in very good condition although well read. You can find a copy at Amazon for a whopping $.074 for a hard copy. An anthology and history of poets for under a buck, how can you beat that?

http://www.amazon.com/Modern-American-Poetry-British-Anthology/dp/B000HI34UI

Next time we will have a look at the Brits.

IMG_9390-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia. You can find him at https://gereutter.wordpress.com/

 

 

My South by Southwest – A Cast Iron Tempo Recollection by Elizabeth Stelling

soouthPaperback: 130 pages

Publisher: Red Dashboard Press

(February 28, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1494475456

ISBN-13: 978-1494475451

.

Reviewed by Dennis Daly


I rode in with a posse of northeastern elites ready to make short work of any outlaw poet espousing a “cowboy” perception of all things human. Reckon us artsy-fartsy, highfalutin folk can’t abide shit-kickers, firing their guns in the air after writing a poetic memoir extolling the timeless and utterly personal importance of beans and cornbread.
 
 Days after discarding the unused hangman’s rope and reading My South By Southwest, Elizabeth Akin Stelling’s collection of poems set in rural Texas, in its entirety for the second time I became a believer in, if not cowboy poetry, at least Stelling’s version of this genre.
 
Stelling writes with an odd poetic cadence. She mixes the expected caricature of popular movie legend with realistic country diction and then infuses it with jaw-dropping moments of complexity. The book’s front and back covers and its illustrations unabashedly build on the cartoon look. But through it all Stelling’s honesty blasts onto the pages with the withering candor of a west Texas sun.
 
The book begins with a prologue poem entitled Texas Skies.  The piece is pure enchantment. White clouds shape themselves into dessert plants like mesquite and prickly pear, and then reform themselves into a woman encountering her universal cowboy. Flirtation follows with the predictable “scoot across a sawdust dance floor.” The poem ends transitioning from the messy personal to big picture beauty,
 
at night’s end,
morning light exposes a scene,
of rustled bed sheets and blankets
in a musky room
            filled with far-flung recollection.
 
Down the road,
a prettier site to behold:
a backdrop of a country town,
under a big top called Texas,
            a blue one
dotted with pretty white clouds,
scattered and taking on shapes,
always reminding
            of so many boundless things.
 
In Stelling’s poem, There’s A New Sheriff In Town, she describes her chemical makeup as a toddler in pretty funny terms and how it matches her Texas surroundings. The poem opens this way,
 
I drove my mother crazy
with my finger-sucking
(left-hand index barrel).
She would place me in a crib jail
and look down.
My “nasty habit” she called it,
crossing her chest
as if  praying to ward off evil.
 
Her sister advised her
“buy really hot sauces”
like mustard, green chilies
dip my finger in them,
then when she lay me down
to sleep, guaranteed,
I wouldn’t touch them.
 
Aunt Grace was wrong.
The hotter the better.   
 
Emotions attach themselves very readily to food I’ve noticed, remembered emotions from childhood even more so. Stelling makes good use of this phenomenon in her poem Corn-bread and beans. The poet details a family going through tough times. A mother prepares poverty’s breakfast in a cold house. The ending tugs at one’s heart,
 
Tears streamed.
            Each felt the sting—one, two, three
cutting of onions,
a front door slamming
and a father gone.
 
Leaving them—one, two, three, four
            frail bodies for eternity,
with a smell,
the burning aftertaste,
and a craving
for cornbread and beans.
 
Hearing the N Word In 1966 breaks through the surface texture of this collection. This poem delivers complexity, pathos, and a bit of thought provoking irony, all in five stanzas. The poet hits all the right notes. She has to. The poem begins harshly,
 
My father said nigger under his breath
toward some boys, coloured, and both
walking with scraps of lumber. They were dragging
wood along the school fence.
Huckleberry Finn did this jig,
And had fun.
 
Asking if daddy knew them,
supposing he worked with their fathers—
I was told to shut up
to remember  my place.
 
Here’s another brief selection from the same poem, highlighting childhood pathos,
 
Sandra and I came walking down the street.
In a rage Momma flew out our front door,
telling me to go into the house. Watching
through the screen door, I saw my friend’s tears.
Her unkempt afro swung around, then
she had to walk back four blocks
to an empty school.
 
Not only does this poet have a good ear but she understands the times and how societal bigotry infests otherwise decent people. It’s not that the poet’s persona is throwing her parents under the bus, but rather she seems intent on presenting an honest picture and setting up an ironic twist in the final stanza.
 
Kit Carson’s name graces a stray boulder and Geronomo metamorphosizes into a wooden Injun in Stelling’s poem Outlaws Still Border Texas. Tourism pleads its case from desolation. On a family road trip the poet notes a number of these incongruities. The poem ends not unreasonably,
 
“Goyahkla” means “The one who yawns”;
it is one of many trading posts
and totem pole—
riddled smoke shops
along the old Chisholm trail.
When I listened to the wind blowing through my long
auburn hair as Daddy drove,
 
I thought I heard the Great Spirit
call out: How
on earth did this blasphemy
make it this far?”
Wasn’t this supposed to be
a new frontier?
 
Beginning her poem, History Calls Out, “A Bullet Gone Wild, Stelling quotes the gunfighter Bat Masterson, who said, “If you want to hit a man in the chest aim for his groin.” I know a bit about Masterson. He later became a sportswriter in New York and railed against the barbarity of football. Somehow that seems appropriate. Stelling mixes a dreamed up meditation with gross reality. Here’s the heart of the poem,
 
When a man walked out into the street,
his gun packed as tight as possible,
in his belt and not far from his crooked
finger, it might have appeared aggression
looked you square in the eye.
Walk and draw was still a dream.
 
Civilized men kept a one shooter
deep in the pocket of his trousers.
To prosper, whiskey, and boredom
Brought out the best in a man
In the wilds of the frontier.
 
Together, the blend of honesty and humorous caricature charm these poems of cowboy sub-culture. Try ‘em out. You’ll like ‘em. Maybe you’ll like ‘em alot. And, dagnabbit, keep your spurs on and watch your back. 
.

You can check out the book here: 

http://www.amazon.com/South-Southwest-Elizabeth-Akin-Stelling/dp/1494475456

 

dennis-Dennis Daly has been published in numerous poetry journals and magazines and recently nominated for a Pushcart prize.  Ibbetson Street Press published The Custom House, his first full length book of poetry in June, 2012. His second book, a verse translation of Sophocles’ Ajax, was published by Wilderness House Press in August, 2012. His third book of poems entitles Night Walking with Nathaniel was recently released by Dos Madres Press. A fourth book is nearing completion. 

http://dennisfdaly.blogspot.com/

 

10 Questions for Stephen Page

stephen 3

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

The Interview 

stephen-page-ii

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.

StephenOnHarley4

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. 

stephen-out-reading-on-ranchGER: Many have said writing is a lonely art. You have said you have experienced bouts of isolation.  How do you break out from these bouts?

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.  

stilldandelionsbookcoverphotosmall-copytimbreGER: You have published two collections, Timbre of Sand and Still Dandelions. Share with us the development of the collections?

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

stephen page 1

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.

StephenPage (1)GER: You have said you turn to Gary Snyder for inspiration. Tell us why and what other writers inspire your work?

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.

StephenPage

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

.

April 12, 2014 007-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA)

http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

Underground Singing by Harry Humes – A book review for Father’s Day, 2014

Humes-Underground-Singing-coverPublished: December 21, 2007 [125 copies]

Seven Kitchens Press

Second printing: July, 2008 [100 copies]

19 pages, 4.625 x 6.75 inches

ISBN: 978-0-9820372-0-1

.

.

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 readingIn 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/

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri-Diane Sahms-Guarnieri is the Poetry Editor of The Fox Chase Review and Publisher of The Fox Chase Review Broadside Series.

http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/