Category Archives: book reviews

Asking My Liver for Forgiveness by Rob Cook

liverPaperback: 70 pages

Publisher: Rain Mountain Press; First edition (September 1, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 098970517X

ISBN-13: 978-0989705172

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Review by Dennis Daly 

 One part obsession, one part surreal, one part experimental, Rob cook’s new collection of poems, Asking My Liver For Forgiveness, delivers a consummate parable of medical terror. According to the book’s Afterword Cook contracted an obscure liver disease back in 2010 which in turn triggered the ravages of cirrhosis. Until an official diagnosis surfaced in early 2014 the poet and his world spiraled into a maelstrom of unpredictable physical pain, emotional ennui, and psychological denial. Through it all he kept writing.
 
Cook’s poems themselves leak pus, blood, and sweat off the page and into a syringe-fired dreamscape of alternating hopelessness and healing. At the same time the patient’s offending liver becomes independent, animal-like, and even sentient. Poetic order imposes itself on the havoc and illogic in a calming, almost climatic, way.
 
Early in the collection the poet objectifies his body parts in an effort to understand the disease darkening his consciousness. In the poem entitled Your Body That Led This Far Cook asks some pertinent questions,
 .
Is your sugar flu at least one moment’s
true loneliness? Is your liver a frightened
animal huddled near your tummy
that reads the notes inside the harsh breads
and chilis you send it? Does your heart
already know the direction of your grave?
How do you know which kidney
Can be trusted? Which arm?
Which leg? Which eye?
 .
Courting sleep at the Marion Hotel in his poem entitled Blackness Over Motel Country, the poet concocts a nightmare conversation with the dreamed up visage of a hospital nurse who once tended him. The coordinates of terror reduce “the best possible sleep” to a blend of anxious confession and jaundiced lunacy. Cook explains,
 .
“I got sick without once leaving my childhood,” I tell her.
 .
“The pine needles will not hurt you from there,”
the woman says through her conduit of ash tray static.
 .
It is not my own voice, the despair of the television
that doesn’t end. “I am always watching from
the livers that came before you,” she says
when the sleep creatures pass like a blur of doctors
and their searchlights of mist. Maybe she discusses
my elevated comet count with the man selling
 .
the letters left in the vacancy sign …
War metaphors monopolize commiserations on diseases. Cook’s immune system turned on its own vital organ, the liver, considering it an alien force bent on mischief. Brigades of soldiers were sent to destroy the offending party. The poet employs this battlefield metaphor in order to comprehend his internal chaos. He uses his title poem, Asking My Liver For Forgiveness, to reconcile with his former ally. Cook explains,
 .
… it’s taken
how many years  to remember you
slogging without faces
through my liver’s venereal swamps?
 .
To walk with precision
through my liver that cannot be
comforted from the snake-hard cold,
 .
its dark churches where monsters pray,
 .
the ones I let in who will never stop
stalking us, my friend, my liver,
my friend.
 ..
I will always be sorry—for both of us—
 .
The poem Cryptogenic Cirrhosis chronicles a very bad diagnosis. Cook’s persona spelunks his way through gothic caves of anxiety and medical unease. Facing the unknown of one’s mortality forces the artistic mind to focus and refocus its imaginative powers on the minutia of whatever is at hand, presumable scientific certitude (or not). The wording evokes a strange and soaring elegance. Cook opens his poem with dissolution,
not one doctor could diagnose
each day i wanted  
a different angel to die,
so they pillaged
all the terrors in my body,
which was a virus now,
though not yet pain.
“you have cryptogenic cirrhosis” –
meaning the hypothetical afterlife
will become, in the days of
the impending panic transplant,
more than just a child who nourishes a distant cancer.
 .
Still, one can feel dollars
Of damnation denominations
Pasted to the kidneys’ Egyptian ceilings
 .
End of days bring panic, religious fervor, and great expectations. Cook’s poem entitled 11:59 chronicles all three using a mixed combination of Christian and medical imagery. The result both impresses and scares the hell out of you. Here’s the heart of the piece,
 .
It is time to track god, digging
with his enormous cross in the wrong
direction, toward the thousand basements
of the last crucifix company between
jerusalem and the day after.
It is time for everyone to stay silent.
It is time to hear where the trees and the water
have stopped praying for us.
It is time for a hospital
without the cruel voices that arrive
from the center of the evening pills.
It is time for a breakfast without scalpels,
a nurse without tourniquets that monitor the liver’s fear,
a doctor without the elimination of names.
 .
Notice the repetition of the phrase “It is time.” Cook seems to work himself up to a crescendo of control and hope that greatly tones down the panic and pessimism created by earlier pieces.
 
Exceptional artistry originates from diverse experiences, many of them disconcerting and even degrading. One’s flesh follows its own genetic and environmental script in spite of our better, often antiseptic, angels. Wherever Cook may be on mortality’s time span, his poetic work inexorably advances before him with its surgical candor and its strange, unblinking imagery. If you harbor even a modicum of belief in the curative power of words, read this marvelous poet.

 

You can buy the book here: http://www.amazon.com/asking-liver-forgiveness-Rob-Cook/dp/098970517X

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Dennis Daly

Dennis Daly

-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/

 

Mechanisms of Desire by Rob Harle


HARLE 2 COVERMechanisms of Desire
by Rob Harle

Publishers: Spinning Spider Publications

PO Box 20182, Nimbin 2480, Australia

Year: 2012

Language: English, Pages 82

ISBN: 978 –0–646–57481-3

 

Review by  P C K Prem                                     

Rob Harle, an Austrian poet, artist and reviewer underlines anguish, traumatic pleasures of contemporary life born of longing and faith. Man’s destiny is an expansion of technology, its convolution and cerebral outlook, and mark of archaeology as an advent of digital techniques resolve man’s growth. “Mechanisms of Desire” is philosophic in essence.  Highly mechanized world does not instil hopes, for a programmed structure, and its movement in absolute stillness turns dreary. In nerve shattering routine, an individual barely feels relaxed. Upsets and tediousness, weariness and consequent blackout of thoughts assume deadly proportion disallowing time for joy.

An instinctive wish for joy abundant in man is alive but worldly encrustations hardly permit man to run wild, for a life of ennui in contemporary psychic scenario censures and disturbs. To ‘satisfy my primal desire for adventure / for life remains alive,’ for it signals extreme pressure to run away from the current boredom and go wild as words like ‘a shiny, red apple’ create stunning and graphic sensuous images in “Primal Desire.”   Harle reminds man of the original sin –Adam and Eve.   

A hunt in spiritual marketplace tortures since modern inner malady inflicts wounds invisible in “The Long Search”. A man goes back to gods, deities and gurus as if it were a forced flight from doomed living to clandestine and makeshift asylums but phony gurus assault as ‘the exponential abstractionists’ threaten. 

 preaching with uncontrollable passion

gathering blind sheep around him

flogging them with raging lies

 …              …

as they sat in the warm dust,

riddled with fear.           

    In vacillating faith, life appears a journey in a long dark tunnel, and search for survival and revelation distresses. Futility and immorality injure psyche of a modern man as a world of Cyborg machine, technology overwhelm, and if a man operates in a certain region, it is a dead mechanism, for ‘white laboratories’ and ‘contemplation’ speak enough.

 Hideous manifestations emerge

oozing from milky white laboratories,

a new concept for contemplation,

 …    …

Immortality

files in the cold steel fractured face of humanity.

                        (False Narratives)

Man understands innovative dimensions of morality the modern lords of society profess. Material growth and glossy lifestyles bring no joy as glitzy attributes characterize life and still man lives fetidly and refuses to look beyond fabricated glare. A saga of repulsive living in the contemporary scenario –

creates individuals by design

renewed with each flip over. (SuperGloss) 

 Unethical living disheartens and therefore, a poetic frustration and philosophic anguish fails to bring innovation as ‘Maggot-ridden fat of the long-dead body of god /oozed over me, stinking of stupidity.’ Poet regrets pretence and priestly demeanour of people in authority and thus, crucifies humanity.

The priests sodomize their young charges

forcing fear into their lives,

violating them again and again

until fear is all that’s left in once trusting hearts.

Nevertheless, life moves on with plenty of sodomy and solemnizing.

                                (The Scourge)

              Here, ‘the priest’ is a metaphor for the elite, the sophisticated, the educated and the ruler of contemporary life, for each one enjoys infringement of private areas of a person  and so sex and sleaze continue to guide the arbiters of society -a massive system.   ‘The Solar Oracle’ is a gloomy scenario modern gadgets create. Certain outrageous lines stun as lethal metaphors shatter faith.  

global voyeurism opens windows

change gender, trans-gender

cut – filter – distort – recompose

as virtual orgasm penetrates the digital twilight.

An apparently entertaining life in reality suffocates and destroys with classic impurity of soul and body. ‘The Dark Night of the Troll’ tells of perfunctory rascality, for ‘Hiding in seedy back-street alleys / intractable vagrants’ makes life of dwellers miserable and excruciating.  

We must have happy subservient trolls

we must help these tormented wretches,

help them emerge from their Dark Night.

   ‘AI and Joan’ forlornly derides acumen of a man as ‘Homo Electronicus’ reorganize contemporary life otherwise  ‘… the impression of an age’ would  emphasize continual ‘changing, turning, calculating’ for simulated astuteness works wonders while life in a society remains a crushing burden and nobody anticipates a ethical formation sans human beings. Defeat, collapse and delusion haunt modern transcript of man and creates a tedium and archetypal dullness. In “Time To Leave” lethal thoughts in devastating words restructure the entire edifice of thought sequence and so a hypocritical approach to life of ennui lengthens out infinitely while sanity and wisdom become irrelevant driving man to suicidal precipice. The thoughts that clones masturbate without ever ‘achieving orgasm’ speak of incapacity ‘in social intercourse,’ despite perception of ‘cultural theory.’  Insensitivity of man remains a frightening characteristic and he is least worried to guard man from imminent disintegration but relishes in killing finer instincts.

…revealing the wisdom inherent before the staining

before the dangerous assault of mind

before the destruction of creativity.

             In a disastrous cycle, fraudulence ridicules linguistic niceties a modern man often enjoys, who loves to live in vague connectivity and links, and howls about the framing of a new charter and guidelines but is conscious of annihilation.  Ultimately, nature as physician tells man to search meaning even in social despair and distortion as sickening spread of supermarkets squeezes human warmth in a grisly hurry but man wishes living in neurotic lifestyle and illusion and therefore, the search for green pasture proves futile. A contemporary man is stuck up in muck of frightening apathy and sham. In utter anarchy, inertia and perceptible stupor life is vile -

drugged, strapped down, electrocuted

incessant blurred nightmare.

today i realised i was still alive. (“Diary Entry”)

     Life appears mordant, diseased and onerous agony of hope amidst moral mayhem but man envisages a better life.  Art, dance, music, painting and sculpture demonstrate phony incline to social realities, and man in ignorance, struggles to forget anguish of living while avoiding straight encounter with finesse of arty aesthetics.   Man lives in a highly mechanized and computerised world and feels proud but inwardly a sad man, he does not know about tomorrow and so lives in tragedy.  “The Transfiguration Of Calliope” paints a dismal picture of life present and future and then, man runs back to past to re-energize present perhaps.  Realities of supermarket in “Paracetamol” prove nauseating, leading to a shocking finale when a man moves ‘to reach for the toilet paper/ and Paracetamol.’ No therapy or reprieve cleans an indistinct life in a mechanized version.

   A widely travelled artist/poet, Harle encounters scenes of mechanical comforts at Airports and aircrafts and finds people of arrogance and plastic smiles throwing bright glances with a frustrating towing. Ennui in expertise documents modern culture, and society cherishes chilling experiences.   A culture of fast food and artificial smiles chases in “Fat Duck Road” signals no acquittal since synthetic outlook determines life sans warmth.

  “A New Hymn” and “Kafka’s Prophecy” speak of modern intensity of agony, affluence, knowledge and misfortunes.  A man travels from one hugely dark area of knowledge and physical joy to death, light and joy leading to melancholy and desolation notwithstanding positive results of demoniac machines, for he rejoices in synthetic desires of material without faith. “Twitter –Twatter,” strengthens callousness in reiterating the terrible influence of contemporary mindset, technological progress and cold-hearted –

Surveillance, paranoia, cameras, Google Earth
spy force in disguise.

data base explosion, exploitation
profile
stop, buy, consume, be silent

  Supermarkets talk of challenging phenomenon of selling goods irrespective of the consequences and therefore, a man celebrates repulsive flaunting of retail mechanism signifying a terrific onslaught of science and technology.

I am so happy to be a marketing pawn,

even though the radical deconstruction of capitalism is nigh.  (“Retail Therapy”)

   Age of computers, electronic gadgets and science opens new vistas, and stir human beings to amass more amidst overwhelming inventions in science. Peace and exclusive space for lonely moments prove a mirage underlining man’s aspirations and ensuing disgust.  

the dark black-hole of our bio-quantum computer

is a mysterious worm-hole for neuroscientists

which reveals emptiness.

Squaring the measure of emptiness…

(“Sound and Fury”)

              A man discreetly enhances the enormity of calamity but fails to visualize.  A man keeps hopes and aspirations integral, lies embedded in time wishing to reconstruct dissolution as others make a choice and so, “Being” generates an artificial imprint. “Unfolding” is emblematic of detachment, a revelation of eternity if one comprehends the inscrutable scheme of nature, seasonal changes and perfection in cyclic movement, irrespective of hazards.  If “The Old Man and The Vineyard” speaks of surface shine, a subtle requiem also tortures, for past gives relief from a harrowing present.  

When a man forgets past, he is condemned, for ‘ignorance of the past is also a major cause of the troublesome human condition’ observe Leslie Stevenson and David Haberman in Ten Theories of Human Nature (Oxford University Press, 2004). One recalls words of Confucius when he says that ‘it is unfamiliarity with the Way of the sages.’ Going back is a faint possibility.  “Rainforest Diary” reinforces a link between nature and man as living appears appalling. Tweeting and fluttering of birds no longer delight a man. Guarding environment from pollution brings no definite transformation, ‘investments to neutralise smears of smog /and the hardness of concrete life, /images for vicarious indulgence.’

   Philosophic and yet realistic without tantrums of intellectual strings, in “White Birds,” the movement of birds in search of safe location with the change in season alerts and warns man as nature performs well in the cosmic plan of creation.   

Irony discomfits in “Becoming,” a philosophic journey to the mystery and ‘absurdity of time’ and life and then, a ‘moving downward into a rainbow vortex/ explodes into pure light/and reaches the end of eternity.’ Harle scrutinizes thoughts from various angles that elude definiteness and justify analogous thoughts in lyrics.  Philosophic thought inGrowing Old (Time)” carries rational strain, and symbolically when the river meets the sea, egos die out.  If life is in motions, it has purpose, as stagnation is death and here, the poet reminds of Indian philosopher Dr S. Radhakrishnan.  

 Old human vessels sail slowly,

sometimes silently,

egos are the only terminal events in history

and dissolve when the river becomes the sea.

  Happy future appears phony and chases man even as he listens to raucous cheers in a computerized life. The word ‘troll’ in many lyrics looks as if  stacking bare necessities for transitory pleasures driving life like a trolley to gloom, cynicism and negativity as it throws side glances with a counterfeit smile.  Modern centres of joys and pleasure are in fact, “Places of Hell” one realizes. “Bags checked on Exit!” & “Security cameras in Operation!” express doubts and suspicions as market-fluctuations determine awareness. Many lyrics overtly reveal class struggle, a subtle transition from feudalistic thought pattern to industrial misery and capitalistic trends. Ultra-sophisticated markets and commercial swiftness scarcely permit man to live in grace.

I ponder the complexity of the future of evil,
having no part in its creation

with nerve cells of revelation.

                    (“X21 Reflects”)

 Now disturbed, uncertain and ostensibly confident intellect governs, directs, and makes life miserable amidst happiness.  In “Transition”, machines determine dirty, mucky and gloomy flow of life as baptising with doable piety continues.

 the shaman vanishes

into the musty dirt

of the lamp-black tunnel,

 …     …

in the collective post human transition. 

            In modern mechanism of restraint and control, freedom and liberty of man suffocates and virtually ends up in shackles of mortifying purported rulers of destiny of humankind.  A rebellious spirit surfaces and it refuses to obey any command of social, political, religious or philosophical authority, for it distrusts and rejects man’s independent identity.  Man-dictated dictums or diktats with strings of self-interests and perpetuation are unacceptable to a reasonable man.

 My right to life and love and death,

is carved in burning stone,

religious mythological falsity is no judge,

yet daily the puny God impostors

bring down their judgements,

acting as supreme false magistrates         (“The Bell Tolls”)

 Harle highlights a common human failing. A man knows he destroys nature, brings pollution, acts dishonestly, relishes corrupt practices, loves modern gadgets and behaves disingenuously but still talks against such human shortcomings. An offensive and unenviable situation it is and Peter Stoterdijk, a German philosopher terms it as ‘cynical reason’ or what he calls ‘enlightened false consciousness.’ Perhaps, a modern man is victim of this irreversible location and even if a man is positive, he fails.

He is aware of social and political realities and believes that art has a purpose in life. Enquiries into fresh areas of ethics and environment throw light on modern life. Impact of hypocritical lifestyle creates spectral existential situations.  Philosophical backdrop and construction exhibit unease of post modernistic cultural and literary trends.   Rob appears skeptical but is conscious of the social realities and truths where quixotic thoughts prove futile.  He is deeply experiential, and pragmatic aspects with a leaning towards structuring temperament, varied intellectual variations, and experiences with a tendency to contextualize originate. Evolution of life is multifaceted and therefore, interlinking of desires automatically constructs a mystifying framework where the formation confuses, for material concerns over weigh human element

pckAn author of more than forty books in English and Hindi, P C K Prem (p c katoch)   post-graduated in English literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh in 1970, taught in different colleges before shifting to civil services and then served as a Member, Himachal Public Service Commission.  With three books on criticism in English, seven novels and two collections of short fiction, he has brought out nine volumes of poetry.  Katoch Prem (a winner of several awards) is a poet, novelist, short storywriter and critic in English from Himachal, India

                                                            

 

catalog of unabashed gratitude by ross gay

catalog of unabashedSeries: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 112 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (January 7, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963310

ISBN-13: 978-0822963318

 

Review by g emil reutter 

Born in Youngstown Ohio, raised in Levittown Pennsylvania. College in the foothills of the Poconos, and City of Yonkers, suburban Westchester County New York and Temple University in Philadelphia. Ross Gay writes of where he has come from, his working class roots and his travels through this life of his. He is a poet on the run, always moving forward. His poetry consists of beautiful metaphors and startling images. Such is the case with this excerpt from to the fig tree at 9th and Christian

.

I was without a

sack so my meager

plunder would have to

suffice and an old woman

whom gravity

was pulling into

the earth loosed one

from a low slung

branch and it’s eye

wept like hers

which she dabbed

with a kerchief as she

cleaved the fig with

what remained of her

teeth

.

Gay writes of his father in the poem burial. Wanting to coax him back to life he takes, the jar which has become my father’s house, empties it into two fresh plum tree holes, …splaying wide their roots, casting the gray dust of my old man evenly throughout the hole… His father now will live through the plum trees bearing tender fruit.

 

In the poem feet, there is the girl, Tina, and her gaudy, cement maker, Levittown accent. And this beautiful line in the opening stanza of c’mon

.

My Mother is not the wings,

nor the bird, but the moon

across the laced hands

of the nest.

.

Ross Gay is a fresh voice in American poetry. His poems are fast paced, carefully crafted with great attention to detail of those he writes about and the images that surround him.

You can check out the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Catalog-Unabashed-Gratitude-Poetry-Series/dp/0822963310

 

Poets @ Pennypack II 004-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. He can be found at https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

Do Not Rise by Beth Bachmann

do not riseSeries: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 72 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (January 19, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963280

ISBN-13: 978-0822963288

Review by g emil reutter

 Some folks are comfortable with war as a basic function of humanity. There has never been a time when a war wasn’t going on somewhere. In fact when people are not engaged in war they normally turn on each other fighting over property, sex, love, glory, and greed. Humanity masks our jungle with the cover of civility. How civil? It may depend on what each individual considers civil.

Beth Bachmann is not comfortable with war. This collection is an honest reflection of the effects of war without any hyperbole. Bachmann reveals a beautiful compassion in these poems. There is no doubt in these poems that there is a cleansing coupled with the disturbance of war. Bachmann throughout this collection utilizes line breaks and pauses to breathe life into each of these poems.

Bachmann is very adept at utilizing language yet it is in the basic realism of her poems she draws the reader in:

.

meal 

Who belongs to this dead? Its leg

Is confused with another leg. Toss it

In the pile for sorting. Something’s missing.

Don’t let the dog walk off with my bones. Who

put out the red bowl of water? I need that

fire. The wood for gripping. The twisting

bandages. Barber, there are rabbits in my tulips.

Hand me the bag of human hair. Keep the teeth.

In this heat, too much blood burns.

Bachmann conveys the violence and survival of war in this poem that says so much in just a few words. In war too much blood burns, there is a sorting of body parts when collected. It is just a brutal fact. Pick up a copy of Do Not Rise, you may not be comfortable with it, but comfort is not what this book is about.

You can check out the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Not-Rise-Pitt-Poetry-Series/dp/0822963280

g emil reutter 2-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. He can be found at https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

HOUR OF ANTIPATH Y by Dr D C Chambial

cover Hour of AntipathyPoetcrit Publications, September 2014

Maranada -176 102,

Himachal, India

ISBN; 978 -81 -87656 -07 -4

Review by P C K Prem  

C. Chambial, the most prominent voices in Indian English Poetry is genuine, innovative and powerful.  With nine powerful collections of poetry, he also edits Poetcrit, a journal devoted to poetry. His latest collection of verses, Hour of Antipathy signals a potent return of a poet of images and philosophic thoughts after a gap of two years, and offers moments of stimulating pleasure and fulfillment. Chambial’s poetry has subtle surge and warmth, and its pithiness and nimbleness in flow of images with rainbow like haziness and beauty amidst silent grey clouds stuns and mystifies. Love of man and humanity is a subject very dear to the heart of poet. Whenever, he feels upset with the wayward conduct of men, he forgets identity in the lap of nature. He loves its swift breeze, icy chillness, snow-clad mountains and tall deodar and pine trees. Just imagine when he asks mouse to keep quiet, he takes out a pen, scribbles a few lines, twists lips, smoothens wrinkles of a seemingly matured face and ushers out, climbs down and goes to the little garden and talks to plants. If nothing else happens, he shuffles pages of many books nonchalantly and sits quietly to start anew.

It gives a strong kick to understand the beauty of Chambial’s latest tiny verses. Not a poet of long lyrics, he does believe in legendary romances, or romance with nature like Wordsworth, Keats or Shelley but loves to create images and interprets life. He infuses a sense of serenity when one imagines a little hut like temple with a red piece of cloth tied to a bamboo on a hilltop.

In a vaguely different refrain, the poet celebrates beauty, charm and magic of nature in rhythmical flowing tuneful lines –

Soft breeze pregnant with heavenly fragrance,

The yellow fields spread to horizon for…

Summer comes tickling with its heat and drought,

Winter sits deep on senses; chill and snow

Spring many a hope in heart with spring’s glow

 (The Sun 45-46)

If nature is unsympathetic, it also proves beneficial to humankind, for it has lessons to teach. If nature is blissful, forgiving, generous and benevolent, compassionate and life giving, again it conveys a message of goodwill and tolerance, humanism and harmony. Without wanting, a seeker gets divine blessings and the poet is quite positive and optimistic. An allegory startles as he tells the tale of a mad man, who shouted, ran hurriedly, entered the little hut like temple, and after bowing before the statue, sat quietly and after moments in deep silence, emerged as a real human being. Ironically, he tells that a man engaged in routine affairs rarely behaves like a human being.  Images of hilltop and a man running to find solace, speak of the eternal cravings for peace and harmony even if no god exists.

Nature’s fury presents a grand sight. Rising smoke astonishes people watching intently the splendorous nature. Heavy rains turn into a huge bang.  An earthquake causes another stunning manifestation, and a breathtaking canyon takes birth. Man is helpless before the marvelous charisma nature performs.  ‘An Escapade’ is a painting in words where the spirit of youthfulness and vivacity, careless courage and scary guts determine the movement of young minds. In ‘Wingless’ and ‘Beauties of this World’, the poet again takes us to the charm and magic of nature –

Sit, meditate upon

this LILA in awful wonder

 as ‘Sweet songs

stir the chords

of heart and mind.           

Poet loves to enjoy a few moments in the garden. ‘Soft’ is meaningful. If the soil is soft, plants grow and roots go deep, a natural phenomenon. Soft voice and words make deep impression –

Soft is what one need:

Soft sentiments, soft moments…

To avoid hurts and bruises

For copious growth

Of stout relations and roots. 

(Radishes and Turnips 15)

A wholesome outlook towards life and its complexities stuns. Life is simple why make it complicated the poet says after immense experimenting with impassive and astounding images. In nature, he enjoys glimpses of eternity: ‘Full of fun/I longed /For shower…Sun and shower /In chase since /Eternity.’ (Chase 17)

Man is often a harbinger of disturbance and panic within and without. Strange and calculated acts of man instill fears even in birds. ‘Where is gone the Song’ 14 is a sad lyric as nature faces the onslaught of modern culture of innate yearning. Poet feels loss of sanctity and godly smile of cowherds and shepherds. Feelings of love and warmth appear frozen, and nature is hurt. Such a mental state indicates impending dreariness as warmth evaporates like ‘Water in tea-pan.’

Everything looks indistinct. Even in unqualified fright, people enjoy an ostensibly little victory as tricksters and swindlers drive away the fruit of truth and honesty in a web of bewilderment and ambiguity (Panic 19).  He speaks of vague fears while treading quite familiar paths and roads, nevertheless feelings of presence of a hidden enemy and betrayal haunt. Man inflicts persistent wounds, and injures nature to satisfy greedy instinct. If man fails to correct erroneous ways of life, he would encounter deserts, waterless future and sky disfigured and so, shall be deprived of the natural blessings and when he goes through ‘Shades of Solitude’ it offers an entirely different experience of silent and solemn hope

At times, man sits alone and thinks of flaws and imperfections, for guilt of sins committed surfaces. If he rationalizes, sins overweight efforts. Even if a man apologizes for the negative drifts, it is again a basis for a ‘stinking sod /for the surviving soul’ –

Sometimes, somehow even angels

mislay their sanity

to enter the devils’ dungeon.

 (Remorse 33)

Man spurns truth and wants to adopt ways of a coarse and uncivilized world. Poet is deeply conscious of the prevalent corruption, greed, dishonesty, political iniquity, inequality and economic exploitation and fall in ethical values. Living among the corrupt, the violent and the hidden terrorists, the sophisticated without resentment and resistance, makes life difficult. ‘We are Living’ 43, is a scathing denunciation of double standards a contemporary man –

We’re living in a land

that abounds in

wolves, hyenas, and jackals…

when morals, ethics and virtues…

love and compassion banished,

jealousy and hatred rule the roost.  

Talks of wrongdoings and felonious acts of times appear brutally right and a man laments loss of truth and righteousness. He condemns rulers and bureaucrats for the unethical and dangerous conspiracy –

 If hopes were horses, everyone would ride.

What queer times!

Masters have to beg for bread!

Yet they say: hail democracy!

 (Masters …Beggars 50)

Poet is aware of corruption, immorality and violence prevalent in the society. In “My Country is great’, he is dryly eulogistic. He feels intensely agitated when sleaze, greed, loot and corruption in private and public life bring miseries and dishonour. He looks at rulers, the rich and the powerful with anger.  He cannot do anything, for whistleblowers face elimination. He is conscious of frauds and scandals besmearing the faces of the influential people, who eat everything from sand, coal, fodder, coffins to guns and choppers.  He understands the gap between the rich and the poor, and knows the questionable conduct of the rich.

With coal their faces all black to pate,

Rolling in the mire of fraud, who guess?

My country is indisputably great!

The wealth, they keep away from the State

To show the sheep, nothing do they possess.

 (My Country is Great! 61)

Untruths, lies, and unconstructive qualities never make a good world, and so a strain of penitence visits man: ‘Man prefer matter; Platonic love spurn. /Changed values; human behaviour distorted /…Man rebelled, strayed away for doing damage.’ He sums up destructive attitude of a modern man, who makes social life disturbing.  Poet exhibits anxiety about the man’s fate in present-day scenario and touches not only the material proclivities of an unscrupulous man but also demonstrates man’s deterioration in general conduct and reprehensible fall in ethical quality of life and thus, makes irreparable dents in life of meaning and purpose. He exploits man, nature and unsympathetically misuses natural resources. Mammon worship is the theme of life one infers as poet leads us through a flow of images.

Man has meddles not with morals only,

Dug deep into the bowls of Earth as well;

Has made vulnerable Earth, life, a hell,

In his blind quest for Mammon selfishly.

(Man for Mammon 37)      

He is worried about the deliverance of man if he continues to roll in the quagmire of sickening wealth and power and therefore, theory of karma of Gita comes alive in his mind.  He is aware of the rash and reckless life where none waits for the right moment, and each one wishes to excel.  He wants peace, but remains worried and so jumps beyond capabilities, and stress fills life.  He lives in illusions, and hopes prove meaningless.

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The poet recalls life, he enjoyed in the salubrious beauty of nature and rural surroundings. Serene living it was that provided nectar like taste of contentment and delight abundant. He still boasts of life of values and ethics, and sits cozily witnessing the pleasure of city life without a touch of its anxieties. Now, everything looks like a fantasy, a dream of life past bereft of hope of revival. It is difficult to link thoughts to better life. What remains of a philosophy of man when he finds –

The rainbow is lost

in the cacophony

of debates futile;

man has grown fangs to bite man;

love is lost in the human heart,

sits like a vulture on the carcass

digging tones of his own demise.

(There was a Man 59)

A thought of disillusionment overwhelms when not very contented and expectant today, presents a dismal picture of future ahead.

If one side of the hill appears dried out and barren, memories continue to go back and tell tales of charm and magic, for tales bubble within young hearts longing for the divine and so try to reach the pinnacle of glory. Curiosity forces an inquisitor to go beyond the reach of eyes. Man’s intrusiveness visualizes it when he hears that everything merges into ‘one integrated whole.’ All animate and inanimate beings move towards the destination ‘A Harmonious whole’ that is not culpable and innocent, for when a man goes beyond, he is one with the eternal and forgets feelings of ‘all the warmth and all the chill.’ At this moment, ‘self’ realizes the ultimate reality.

Deathless is the light

That shines beyond the end

Where all the tides

Of all the oceans rest and cease…

 (Beyond the Yonder Hill 42)           

Poet is disgusted and disillusioned at the massive and thoughtless destruction man causes to nature and so, he wants to escape inherent torture.  In ‘Live with  Winning Thunder’ 51, he talks of affectionate parents, who take care, rear up and make childhood and adolescence lively and meaningful and make it a point that children grow healthy in life with an objective –

 God’s been so kind to grant this far last.

Let’s save with sense we’ve got what

True, ‘Life is a nine day’s wonder’,

Live it, live with winning thunder.   

If thoughts of perseverance and endurance remain alive, life gets meaning. One need not think much but should think of a myna. After satisfying its hunger, it perches on a dry tap and waits for a drop of water. It tries many a time and when satisfied, flies away silently. It does not complain, laments not, and no cribbing ever disturbs but sincere efforts continue to guide the bird. It conveys a great lesson to man, and the poet also appears to tell philosophically the secret of a happy and contended life. After the bird satisfies its thirst, it –

…flies away, unlike human beings:

greedily helpless, helplessly greedy

by their nature; care little for those

who fail to get a day’s square meal.

will man ever learn to live

like these creatures of nature

who do not boast of Man’s slyness?

 (Will Man ever learn to live…66)

Contentment and lack of hunger for more teach lessons of life, and encourage man to think in right perspective. Selfishness and ulterior motives do not permit man to live a life of grace and honesty. ‘True Happiness,’ 64, 65, ‘We Frolic & Frisk with the Waves,’ 67 and ‘Tsunami Memorial, Andamans’ 68, 69 are beautiful lyrics that sing hymns in glory of the island, nature and man. He philosophically remarks that life is a mine of tranquility, pleasure and enjoyment on Earth, only if a man has time ‘to look around and care.’   Dancing, frisking and frolicking of waves around convey an eternal message that hard work gives inner and outer pleasure. On the other hand, he laments over the immense tragedy Tsunami brought. Standing before the memorial, he thinks agonizingly of the destruction and huge natural disaster brought to man. When calamity and death visit and disturb man, he looks up for help, and offers prayers. To this extent, the poet thinks on existential self and reality.

External reality appears chaotic, disturbing and unsystematically arcane and he tries to elucidate with images but cannot justify adequately. An inner struggle continues and in intensity of creative upsurge, he feels free and sincerely gives expression to experiences with the help of images again. One observes consistent efforts where the poet tries to find fusion between the subjective and objective and as a formalist, wishes to go beyond the normal range and import of words and images, he uses and at this stage, he beautifies the text and the art of poetry.

****                                    

pckA trilingual author of more than forty books in English and Hindi, P C K Prem (p c katoch)   post-graduated in English literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh in 1970, taught English in colleges of Punjab and Himachal before shifting to civil services and then served as Member, Himachal Public Service Commission.  With three books on criticism in English, seven novels and two collection of short fiction, he has brought out nine volumes of poetry. A bureaucrat turned academician, Katoch Prem (a winner of several awards) is a poet, novelist, short storywriter and critic in English from Himachal, India

                                                             ****

 

 

No Ghosts In this City by Uddipana Goswami

cover page (1)Paperback: 128 pages

Publisher: Zubaan Books (October 27, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 9383074078

ISBN-13: 978-9383074075

Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches

Review by Ananya S Guha

Uddipana Goswami’s  collection of  short stories entitled : ” No Ghosts In This City” are a remarkable collection for their sociological imagination, a dip into Assam’s diverse culture, compassion and pathos. These stories turn fact to fiction: facts about society caught in web of changes, facts about the common man caught in the vicious cycle of militarism and militancy. The stories show the trauma of individuals, the complex currents of ethnicity, inter community hiatus and most of all the need to understand- empathy. What happens when an Assamese girl falls in love with an impoverished tribal boy, who changes, but not before he has actually witnessed his mother killed by armed people? His ‘change ‘ arises out of anger as he accuses the ‘others’ of  treating his community with contempt. Again and again the stories reflect on this- unleashing of a painful divisiveness, which is the brutalization of society. The pain and the brunt is borne by a young mentally debilitated girl, or an educated lady coming back to her village in search of her roots.The girl had seen her father brutally killed by army men. Perhaps this was the cause of her silence and trauma. The story ” The Swing” ends on a tragic note with the girl dead.

These stories take you to a dark world, a world experienced by many. They speak of ghosts and stories. They take one  to an ethos of rural life, where suffering is silenced or hushed. They are beautifully but simply crafted and the last two stories : ” The Hills Of Haflong ” and ” The Rains Come From Behind The Curtain ” take us into the world of poetry and abstraction. ” This Is How We Lived” is an example of living with the times, getting so used to brutalization, and desperately trying to forge peace. Somewhere deep within these stories is an yearning for peace and nostalgia is evoked, as for example in the story ” Andolan ”.

Also, in these stories is the question of the fateful why. Why cannot a Hindu get married to a Muslim? Perhaps there is no answer. The stories also give a glimpse of the wave of immigration in Assam since the British hey days.All these including the migration of tea workers, mainly from Central India are part of historical processes, leaving unfortunately sharp cleavages in society.The stories recur with historical migration and communities once at peace with one another, now divided.Yet this is Assam’s vibrant and colourful culture. The hills and the plains must co-exist, must fraternize. ” Melki Buri” is an exquisite story of an old lady known for her loquacity who suddenly dies. The villagers who avoid her like a plague, feel that veritable and proverbial lump in their throats when she dies. This story is a vivid portrayal with mythic and religious  elements.

The stories are cognizant of historical processes which have shaped Assam. They are a coloration of folk culture, history and social realities. They are marked by pathos and compassion, and  use the language of prose and poetry. In fact the  stories talk of the prose and poetry of life. Goswamí’s fictional world is the town of Barbari. What happens there can happen anywhere in Assam, India and by extension the world.

This is a collection of deeply moving stories etched in shades of darkness, grey and light. They do not portray violence, but characters who are a product of it. At the base of them lie a finely tuned moral question. The protagonist in at least two of the stories, feels that he/ she has been responsible for killings in the wake of ethnic clashes. The individual conscious  or conscience  becomes inseparable from the collective.

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You can check out the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/No-Ghosts-This-City-Stories/dp/9383074078/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421519242&sr=1-

1&keywords=No+Ghosts+In+this+City+by+Uddipana+Goswami&pebp=14215192

45775&peasin=9383074078

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ananya-Ananya S Guha works at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) as a Senior Academic. His poems in English have been published in International / National Journals and e zines. He also writes for newspapers, does book reviews and writes on matters related to education. His recent works appeared in the Harper Collins Book of English Poetry edited by Sudeep Sen. He also writes book reviews, articles for newspapers and articles on education, distance education and vocational education.

 

 

 

The Spirit Bird by Kent Nelson

spiritSeries: Pitt Drue Heinz Lit Prize

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (September 19, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822944367

ISBN-13: 978-0822944362

 

Review by Robert Hambling Davis

Like Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America, Kent Nelson’s collection, The Spirit Bird, features birds, or at least one bird, in every story. Each story is set in a different location, including Alaska, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Washington, and California. Many of the characters are avid birders, but the stories themselves explore the lives of lonely men and women trying to resolve their cultural and racial differences, or to overcome the isolating effects of past traumas by seeking a connection with the human community, or the natural world, or both.

In “Alba,” Último Vargas runs his own door-to-door movie business in the New Mexico desert, where he is forced to live and to compete with Netflix. “The Hotel Glitter” portrays a single Hispanic mother who commutes three hours a day to work at a hotel spa near Telluride, and must choose where her loyalties lie when her childhood friend shows up unexpectedly and creates a scene at the spa. “Who is Danny Pendergast?” features a man who can turn into a donkey, and Hakim, the Middle Eastern protagonist in “Race,” is a glassblower and runner who alters his priorities after surviving a clinical death in a marathon.

The fourteen stories are character-based, and most of them have open-ended conclusions, as if stand-alone first chapters of novels, leaving the reader to speculate over possible sequels. The metaphoric “spirit bird,” which thematically ties these stories together, shows what its different characters have lost, usually through emotional trauma, and what they must struggle to overcome to rectify their impoverished lives and feel a sense of community.

An avid birder, Nelson has identified more than 757 North American species. Birding, he says, has made him more “aware of looking,” and this practice “has meshed nicely with [his] writing.” He is a world traveler, with a doctoral degree in Environmental Law from Harvard, and one of the pleasures of reading The Spirit Bird is its detailed descriptions of wildlife. Nelson is also a mountain runner, a sport he’s trained in since 1996, and he’s run the Pikes Peak Marathon twice. Several of the characters in The Spirit Bird search their inner selves in ways reminiscent of the willpower and endurance of long-distance runners. Nelson’s short fiction has appeared The Best American Short Stories, The Best of the West, the O. Henry and Pushcart anthologies, and The Best American Mystery Stories. He has also published two novels, Language in the Blood and Land That Moves, Land That Stands Still.

His prose is well-crafted, and the collection won the 2014 Drue Heiz Literature Prize, which offers a cash award of $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press. David Guterson, who wrote Snow Falling on Cedars, was the judge.

The Spirit Bird will appeal to readers who like stories featuring complex characters who seek new personal horizons amid natural landscapes.

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You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Spirit-Bird-Stories-Heinz/dp/0822944367

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rhdavis-1- Robert Hambling Davis is a fiction editor of The Fox Chase Review. He has published in The Sun, Antietam Review, Memoir (and), Philadelphia Stories, Santa Monica Review, and elsewhere. He’s been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and received three Delaware Division of the Arts grants, two for fiction and one for creative nonfiction. He was a fiction semifinalist in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Contest in 2002 and 2012, and a creative nonfiction winner in 2013. Robert helps direct the Delaware Literary Connection, a nonprofit serving writers in Delaware and surrounding areas. He is a member of the Delaware Artist Roster, and has given writing workshops and readings in the Mid-Atlantic.