- Tending by Laura Grace Weldon
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- A Walk Through The City: My changing landscape By Doug Holder
- Poets and Poetry in the News
- The Best Cheesteak in Philly- Joe’s Steaks and Soda Shop
- Ryerss Poetry Workshop – October 4th
- Modern American and British Poetry – Anthology- Louis Untermeyer
- Sketches From The Porch – F Omar Telan
- Reading Series on Break – But We Will Be Out and About
- Report from Poets on the Porch 2014
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Tag Archives: poetry
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/
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:
A look back…
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?
Next time we will have a look at the Brits.
-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia. You can find him at https://gereutter.wordpress.com/
Publisher: Red Dashboard Press
(February 28, 2014)
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,
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,
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:
-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.
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 Sultan of Sewers- William Burroughs’ anti-authoritarian vision
Gontarek awarded Community Service Award From PWC
Israel Horovitz: Heaven and other Poems
What’s Going on in Harrisburg?
Poetry: Who Needs It?
Word for Word: Poetry films the new way to go
Elder by David Constantine review – a new collection as the poet turns 70
Airman expresses self through spoken-word poetry
In Prose and Poetry: “Pageant of Youth”
Guilty Knowledge, Guilty Pleasures: The Dirty Art of Poetry, by William Logan
Pulitzer-winning poet Vijay Seshadri fuses the fantastic with the everyday
Words of praise for a praiseworthy poet
Poetry doesn’t always require panic attacks
Charles Wright will be named Poet Laureate of the United States today. He succeeds Natasha Trethwey.
Learn more about Charles Wright
Library of Congress Announcement
Charles Wright on Youtube
An Interview at The Paris Review
Announcement at the NYT
Six Poems at Blackbird
Books by Charles Wright
Translated by Rachel Tzvia Back
Publisher: Hebrew Union College Press
. University of Pittsburgh Press
Reviewed by g emil reutter
Rachel Izvia Back sets the tone for this collection in the first sentence of her introduction to this work by Poet Tuvia Ruebner. Loss defines the crossbeams and chronicles of Tuvia Ruebner’s life. His first collection of poems was published in 1957 and this selected poetry collection published in 2014. Ruebner at age 90, continues to write much as the American poet Stanley Kunitz continued to do late in life.
Ruebner as a teenager was on the abyss of the holocaust. In 1941 with a ninth grade education, (the Nazi’s prohibited Jews from attending school), Ruebner’s parents arranged and paid for his transport to Palestine thus escaping the death camps. His wave goodbye was the last time he would see them in this life as his entire family was engulfed in the flames of Nazi genocide. He would carry this heavy loss of family throughout his life.
He began in Palestine as a farmer in a communal setting. Loss again tagged him when his young wife was killed in a bus accident that left Ruebner seriously injured. After a three month recovery he returned home and due to his injuries, became a teacher in the local school. Ruebner focused on poetry and teaching, became a university professor, received early acclaim in Europe yet it wasn’t until the 1980s that Israel began to bestow acknowledgment upon the poet. Loss again hit the poet as his son traveling in South America disappeared never to be heard from again.
The poet, surrounded by violence and loss for almost a century found comfort in his art of poetry. He has taught us that creating brings comfort, no matter how heartbreaking the subject matter. His words sing from the page rescuing beauty from the horror that has surrounded him. A master of German lyrical poetry in his early years he turned to writing in Hebrew with the same intensity and attention to detail. His poems, his journey, his life are an inspiration. Tzvia Back noted Ruebner’s attention to language, form and sound in her splendid introduction. She has with great success brought this attention to the English translations of Ruebner’s Hebrew poems, no small task.
-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadlephia, Pa. (USA). http://gereutter.wordpress.com/